Video games enter into the realm of 12-step programs

By Christopher Rogers
November 12, 2004

Conor McLaughlin

When was the last time you played a video game? Students, adults and children have all fallen victim to an entrenched behavioral aspect brought forth by computers. Though many have found a “healthy” balance to their consumption of this underground epidemic, others have initiated themselves in a vicious cycle of Russian roulette.

“Wait one more second till’ I finish this one game,” Leigh Nielsen said, as his friends impatiently waited his return back to reality from a 3-hour long Halo spree.

Much like Nielsen, people are swiftly drawn into their own little bubble, as the long hours of a boring afternoon vanish into the glowing reflection of the television screen. Regardless of such, many perceive video gaming as a means of fun and distraction, neglecting the consequences present at the root of this time-consuming addiction.

“I would put off my work ’til later, just to play an extra game,” Nielsen said. “I didn’t have much of a social life during that time. Just wait ’til Halo II comes out.”

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, video game addiction is similar to that of alcoholism or drug dependency. In this case, the computer has replaced family and friends, as the source of a person’s emotional life, thus substituting loved ones with a “feel good” illusion.

However, many behavioral symptoms are characteristic to addiction, and accordingly, should not be taken for granted in or around the household. For instance, if a loved one is spending most of non-school hours playing video games and falling asleep in school, chances are he can be addicted. Other characteristics are often affiliated with worsening grades, and deteriorating moods as a result of withdrawal.

Such traits became ever so apparent to Liz Wooley, mother of a victim to video gaming; as she contemplated her son grow deeper into the gory world of “EverQuest.” Never did she perceive the red flags pointing towards the degradation of her son, Shawn.

“I found out that gaming addiction is an underground epidemic,” Wolley said. “A lot of people were going through the same thing, and there was no place to go for help.”

As a result to the sudden death of her son, Wolley jumped on the occasion to help educate people of the risks involved with video games. In a successful attempt, she founded Online Gamers Anonymous in 2002, as a way to help the growing number of victims, as well as provide a refuge for the needy.

According to Maressa Orzack, of Computer Addiction Services, “the population of adult gaming addicts in the United States could be significantly high, though exact figures are difficult to ascertain.”

Consequently, it is with hope that many will realize the dangers involved and accordingly, choose to drop their remote controls. The world surrounding us is a quest of its own, filled with difficulties and challenges unknown to any computer in existence.

Posted to the web by Paul Nasella

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Christopher Rogers

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