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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Protest calls attention to opioid ‘pandemic’ in Cowichan

Four reported overdoses and two deaths of Cowichan Tribes members over the weekend helped spur rally

Craft crawl coming to Cowichan

“This helps out our local arts and crafts vendors while craft fairs and vendor shows are not running”

Feds fund safe drug supply pilot program for Cowichan

The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises

Not enough opposition to halt new Cowichan RCMP detachment borrowing

Municipality received 1,364 response forms by deadline on July 14

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

B.C. businessman David Sidoo gets 3 months behind bars for college admissions scam

Sidoo was sentenced for hiring someone take the SATs in place of his two sons

PHOTOS: Inside a newly-listed $22M mega-mansion on ALR land in B.C.

The large home, located on ALR land, is one of the last new mansions to legally be built on ALR land

Thousands of dollars in stolen rice found in B.C. warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

COVID-19 gives B.C. First Nation rare chance to examine tourism’s impact on grizzly bears

With 40 infrared cameras deployed in Kitasoo-Xai’Xais territory, research will help develop tourism plan with least impact on bears

NDP wants Lower Mainland MLA removed from BC Liberal caucus for alleged homophobia

BC Liberal leader, some MLAs apologize for Christian magazine ads but Laurie Throness doubles down

Most Read