Video game addiction: some psychologists say it’s real

With Nichole Luchaco

You blink, and the scratchiness of your eyes is almost overwhelming. The alarm clock is going to go off soon, but you haven’t even gone to bed yet. You rub your eyes and glance back at the television screen, the “Dark Souls” pause menu staring back at you tauntingly. You’ve been playing for eight hours straight, and you don’t plan on quitting until that alarm goes off in 15 more minutes.

If this sounds at all familiar, chances are good that you might be addicted to video gaming.

According to The NPD Group, a market research company, 59 percent of Amercians aged two and up were playing video games in 2008. In 2010, the NPD Group reported that 4 percent of the U.S. gaming population are considered “power gamers,” players that rack up an average of 48.5 hours gaming every week.

That’s more hours a week than a standard full-time job.

“Some people do it in their free time, and that’s cool, because some people have more free time than others; but it reaches a point where it starts being detramental, like if you give up a hobby you once loved to game instead,” said Rebecca Deisher, a senior English education major at UAA.

Deisher experienced the often joked of issue of being considered second behind video games while in a romantic relationship. Her ex-boyfriend, “John,” played an average of 40 hours a week.

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“We fought about it all the time. He would say things repeatedly, that he would give it up, that he would quit cold turkey,” said Deisher. “But then he would start gaming again.”

Deisher isn’t alone. Jessica Reza, a senior English literature major, was roommates with someone she believes is an addict as well.

“I knew somebody who would sit in their room and just constantly be playing games,” said Reza. “You’d never see the person, but all of a sudden in the middle of the night you hear this cackling laughter and you knew they were playing their game.”

Both Deisher and Reza noted commonly described symptoms of video game addiction in their relationships. Among them were loss of interest in former hobbies, denial, lying about their gaming habits, and even quitting their jobs to game more.

“He started quitting jobs because he didn’t like them,” said Deisher of “John.” “He always complained about not having any money to go on dates with, and then turned around and bought a $50 game.”

It got so bad for Deisher that “John” ditched her on her birthday to game, despite promising to spend time with her.

“He said he had chores to do, but I found out later that he did absolutely nothing but play on the computer all day,” Deisher said. (sponsored by the CRC Health Group), describes several other symptoms of gaming addiction in both teenagers and adults. The website also claims that the average age of a video game addict is 35.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey in 2007, one in five adults play video games every day, and that adults tend to be more “avid” players than teenagers and children.

Despite the increasing popularity of video games among both minors and adults (whether online, on a mobile device, or on major consoles like Xbox), the U.S. has very few programs specifically geared towards aiding those who suffer from video game addiction.

Video game addiction is not currently recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edition) as a legitimate addiction or mental illness, but is up for debate to be included in future editions.

UAA Professor of psychology Phil Jordan, like many other professionals, believes that video game addiction is a real problem.

“When someone is addicted they become greatly non-responsive to society because they are so entrenched in a game,” said Jordan.

Jordan went on to explain his opinion that those who become addicted to gaming forget how to deal with real life, and when stressed return instead to the familiar world of the games they play. He believes that without intervention, gaming addiction leads to more reclusive tendencies and that those afflicted with the problem can eventually find it impossible to interact with large groups of people without feeling overwhelmed.

“Addiction to video games is definitely a real issue,” said Jordan.

Professionals who believe in the danger of gaming addiction often treat it as they would other compulsory addictions, such as gambling. Adults, according to the Pew study, tend to play games on their phones and on the Internet more than consoles, so their treatments often deal more with responsible computer use and time management than simply quitting cold turkey.

Deisher, having witnessed the futility of quitting cold turkey with “John,” feels similarly.

“When they accomplish something and play as a reward for accomplishing something, I think it’s okay. It’s when they spend hours beating a level and earning game accomplishments, and thinking they’ve honestly accomplished something worthwhile that it’s a problem.”