Video game addiction has been recognized by the World Health Organization who estimates that three per cent of gamers will become addicted. (file photo)

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

Jeff* was 11 years old when he started online video gaming in the mid-1990s, but he never thought the activity would become a problem.

He was wrong.

“I used to say that if I were spending four or five hours a night working on a model train hobby, no one would criticize me, and I was taking a lot of flak just because it was video gaming,” Jeff, 34, said.

“Looking back, I realize that was just rationalizing the behaviour. If you’re doing a hobby, you can stop. I couldn’t.”

Jeff said his real life took on secondary importance.

“I’d be at work and all I could think about was when I could log onto World of Warcraft again. Everything else I was doing seemed like a waste of time.”

Video games are enjoyed by millions of people around the world without any harmful effects. Most players will never have to worry about it becoming a problem.

But for a small number of people, what starts out as a fun hobby becomes a debilitating habit.

Cam Adair founded Game Quitters in 2014 as a support group for gaming addicts, and the group has connected with 75,000 people worldwide. His experience mirrors Jeff’s and he said it’s common to many addicts.

RELATED: B.C. treats mental health and addiction

Adair began playing games when he was nine years old, but by the time he was attending the Hockey Academy in Penticton, he had graduated to online gaming – an activity that took over his life.

“I dropped out of Penticton, never graduated high school, quit hockey … all the while thinking that the gaming world was more important than anything else. I suffered from depression, contemplated suicide, and the only place I found solace was in the games.”

He added that the games are designed to feed that addiction.

“People who are addicted start to identify more with their online persona than with the real world. When they are asked to leave that world, it’s like they’ve experienced a break-up. It can rock their world.”

That experience sounds very familiar to Jeff.

“In the game, I could earn recognition and respect. In the real world I felt anonymous, but when I logged on people would be messaging me and asking for my help. I was seen as a valuable asset … an expert and someone important.”

RELATED: Gaming can destroy lives

The issue is the focus of a new documentary by filmmaker Laura O’Grady, entitled Game Over.

The film recounts Adair’s story and delves into the issue of video game addiction by speaking to those who are trying to beat the condition as well as some success stories of those who have managed to leave gaming.

“About three percent of the gaming population will develop this condition,” O’Grady said.

“The thing we try to get across is that these are great people and it’s really hard to predict who will become addicted. That’s why it’s important for us to be aware of the condition and watch for it and help when it happens.”

In January 2018, the World Health Organization listed gaming addiction as a mental health condition for the first time.

Jeff, who now has three children, the eldest whom is discovering computer games for himself, explained that despite his own negative experiences, in today’s world, it’s impossible to stop children from experiencing online gaming.

“You have to know what’s in the games your kid is playing and be aware of the dangers. These games allow people to create a second life and it’s important that parents make sure that, for their children and for themselves, that second life doesn’t replace your real life.”

*Name has been changed



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RDN adopts new bylaw to prevent backflow

Board wants to avoid legal liability

Former Parksville Generals player lands head coaching gig in Norway

New position is a dream come true for Henry Acres

Parksville resort fire caused by flammable gas used to extract oil from cannabis

Investigators detail reasons for explosion and blaze that destroyed building

Suspect arrested following gunpoint robbery in Qualicum Beach

Stop and Shop Grocery was robbed June 5; man now in custody

UPDATED: Wildfire burning near Taylor Flats in the Alberni Valley

Fire is located close to Highway 4 near Sproat Lake

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Most Read