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

No nuts were grown in Almond Gardens

Place Names: Grand Forks neighbourhoods, Part 2

Blooming judges coming to Trail

Trail is participating in the CiB Class of Champions next week

Montrose seeks funding for age-friendly project

Council has committed $120,000 for renovations to facility

Rossland Legion supports youth activities

Legion members donate to Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program

Trail Sk8 Park Celebration

The all-wheel park is in a scenic location near the Gyro Park boat launch

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Most Read