Reading the video game reviews around these parts always gives me mixed feelings. I feel really out of the loop when it comes to games, because I’m a bit of a recovering addict. It’s like a reformed alcoholic checking out the martini menu at a restaurant. I rarely do it because I always get sucked in again. While the concept of video game addiction is still not fully acknowledged (the DSM-V won’t include it as a mental illness), it’s something that more people are paying attention to.
I took a look at a few of the signs of substance abuse or addiction, according to health website Helpguide.org, and found some parallels to my experience:
You’re neglecting your responsibilities. Um, roger that. Cleaning, errands, staying fed and hydrated; I would tend to ignore just about everything in favor of playing games. It would start off small: “I’ll just play for an hour.” Much the way a boozy night usually starts off with one drink. But many games, especially the role-playing variety that I like best, create forced milestones like bosses or save points that make it impossible to adhere to a time limit.
Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships. Years ago, when Grand Theft Auto III came out, I was still with my ex-boyfriend. Granted, we had other problems as well, but I found that, night after night, I’d either want him to leave or drive me home so I could get back to robbing hookers. Healthy, right? In adulthood, I’ve watched relationships nearly crumble when WoW Widows and Widowers got fed up with being put second to the games.
Your life revolves around drug use. Yes indeed. I used to schedule my socializing, sleeping and eating timetables around getting to play as often as I could. Especially since I was still living at home at the time, I tried to hide how much I was playing from my parents, so I’d do most of my playing late at night after they’d gone to bed.
Also from helpguide.org are signs for loved ones to watch out for. While not all of them fit, I have to cringe at a few that hit close to home, and marvel that no one has staged an intervention:
Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual. Totally. When I went through a particularly intense DS-playing phase last year, it actually affected my ability to focus my eyes for about an hour after I’d stopped playing.
Changes in appetite or sleep patterns/Sudden weight loss or weight gain. Again, I find that excessive gaming, even outside my parents’ house, lends itself to a somewhat nocturnal existence. And when you can’t take your two hands of a game controller, your food choices rapidly deteriorate. (HEY. Doritos are made from corn. Which is a vegetable [no it’s not]).
Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits. Hey, that’s part of what’s so great about video game characters: they are incapable of judgment. I don’t need to brush my hair, let alone shower, in order to save the world. Again. It’s not that I don’t want to stop and take a shower, but I can’t. The People of Spira need me.
So what’s a girl to do to keep the balance toward enjoyment rather than addiction? What works for me is taking a long break in between games. I’ll be obsessed with a game for a few weeks, but once I beat it, I don’t rush out and buy another one. This helps me not only get some control over how much I’m playing, but it helps me break the cycle of always needing the newest game. (Hence, my references to old PS2 games. Hey, they’re new to me!)
Has anyone else struggled with the concept of being a game addict? What do you do to keep it under control?
Image credit: Vator