Video Game Addiction: When the Fun Ends

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy admitting that you’re a gamer in most of our real-life interactions. Over the years, I have found that a majority of the people I meet in real life have an issue with me being titillated (heh heh) by so many random pixels. It doesn’t affect them on any fundamental level, so in the most eloquent of seasoned terminology: WTF?!

Just a Standard Citizen

I hold down steady work and pay my bills. Shit, I’m even one of the first people that turns up at the office once tax season kicks in. I just happen to play video games in my rapidly disappearing spare time.

Unfortunately, there’s always a few bad apples in every community that give the others a bad name, but is that really a correct assessment?

That would be akin to a person who is wronged by a member of a specific subset of fellow humans (race, color, religion, etc.) who then goes on to develop an ongoing negative stereotype revolving around that community as a whole, as opposed to holding the single person who wronged them accountable.

It’s a pretty shitty deal when someone makes a snap judgment about us once they discover what we do for fun based on a previous negative experience, huh? So, again, what is it about gamers in general that make these people absolutely crazy?

The joke’s practically write themselves!

“You’re All the Same!”

Negative stereotypes are extremely damaging, and lead to the development of preemptive assumptions on how different people within a community will act in various social and personal situations.

Perhaps many of those who harbor these negative stereotypes view all gamers as out-of-shape, dirty, smelly individuals who covet junk food, have problems with personal finance, and are socially awkward (the tired “no boyfriend/girlfriend, sexless existence” theme).

Or maybe they’re just mad at that one guy who said that Candy Crush sucks and declined your Farmville invite! Honestly, who even knows?

“Then I 360 No-Scoped that bitch right the fuck out of my mentions!”

I would be lying if I said that I’ve never met a gamer who displayed those negative traits, but I will say that if a part of them craves self-improvement and a positive change to their current situation, they should totally do it!

Case in point: I had a roommate once who also happened to be a gamer/collector, but one who had an extremely bad temper, especially when he started losing. How bad, you ask? In the 6 months that we lived together, he had:

  • snapped two Nintendo DS’s in half,
  • punched two defenseless PS2’s to death,
  • smashed an unknown number of computer mice to bits, and
  • thrown at least two monitors into a glassy oblivion!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed talking video games with this guy, as his unbridled passion matched mine, but whenever he’d start losing, talking to him was out of the question, lest you enjoy having your face crudely removed from its moorings. And that level of intense anger would go on for hours at a time.

I, myself, am guilty of rage-quitting a game when I’m getting my ass handed to me (Castlevania Adventure ReBirth on Hard Classic comes to mind), but it has never gone beyond simply turning off the console and walking away.  During those heated moments, I never forget that I would like to be able to try again later and for years to come.

So When is Gaming Not Fun Anymore? 

Image courtesy of Ashwood Recovery

During conversations about life in general, my roommate would mention that he would enjoy having a girlfriend, which then devolved into why he didn’t have one in the first place, then ultimately burying himself in whatever title he was playing, thus continuing the cycle of self-destruction.

In-game, he would blame his small, ant-blown dwelling on why no girls ever wanted to date him, but I don’t think that was accurate. Perhaps his bad temper? His social awkwardness, which was crippling at times, especially when interacting with the opposite sex?

In the interest of helping him out, I agreed to ask about him to prospective love interests that he talked with regularly. What I found out wasn’t particularly alarming, but enlightening nonetheless.

I asked a total of three different ladies what their personal assessment of him was after their initial interaction, and almost all of them were able to pick up on the fact that he had a short temper, though they claimed that he never snapped on them, and even added that his tendency to stare gave them “the creeps”.

Is it possible that on some intuitive level, we as humans are able to sense potential danger?

Lynda sure didn’t.

Do I feel that video games have contributed to some of his maladies? Absolutely, as much as it pains me to say it.

For many gamers, getting the chance to play is a form of escape from the bullshit real world, and allows them to express themselves in a medium that they are comfortable with, whether that be murdering Simon’s Quest‘s face off in 39 minutes, or beasting Super Meat Boy in 20 minutes totally deathless.

However, when the escape becomes a compulsion that takes over every other aspect of life, such as paying bills, maintaining their personal hygiene, and even forgoing eating or going to the bathroom, it becomes a problem.

For example, some people enjoy social drinking, but it becomes a problem when a person becomes a full-blown alcoholic who passes out under a bridge on the wrong side of town, alienates their family through bad behavior, and/or financially destroys themselves in order to feed their addiction.

I feel that this has happened to my former roommate, who began playing video games as a means to escape, which is good, but then the hobby soon became a destructive compulsion that resulted in damaged property, self-resentment, and a withered nub of a temperamental constitution.

Keep it Fun, Dammit!

So as a public service, I would encourage you, my fellow gamers, to remember that life is too short to allow your passion to consume your soul and turn a once fun pastime into a poisoned well of anger and self-resentment. If you know that you have a problem, seek help and work on the problem instead of avoiding it through a medium that’s supposed to bring you joy.

Whether it’s yourself or someone you know, some red flags to watch out for that may indicate that playing video games is no longer fun include:

  • The destruction of private property and subsequent damage control through constant repurchases.
  • Ever-growing amount of play time despite real world responsibilities.
  • Growing distance between family and friends.
  • A marked lack of personal hygiene.
  • Always broke and/or asking for money.

If you or someone you know are displaying the above behaviors, I’d encourage you or them to get help. The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery actually have counselors specifically trained for video game addiction identification and treatment, so give them a ring if needed.

As for big media that perpetuates the collective mentality that all gamers are angry, murderous basement dwellers in the name of clicks, I see you.

Your loose handling of the truth merely to stir controversy pisses all over those with real addiction problems, pumping up your average mouth breather into a frothy frenzy, and all for what? A viral Facebook post? Even the courts think you’re full of shit, so why not put a lid on it and do something noble for a change?

And you, mouth-frothing gamer hater. Just stop. I’m sure you have a few habits of your own that others may not enjoy, so why not try to either see the good in other people, or just let them do what they enjoy doing as long as it’s not hurting others? Is needlepoint your bag? Good, keep doing it. I hate it, honestly, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it, and I’d be an asshole if I bagged on you for doing so because it’s not impacting me in the slightest.

And gamers? As a final note, we shouldn’t be ashamed of the very thing that brings us so much joy, because in the end, it doesn’t matter if every one you talk to understands your passion for gaming or not. Just be true to yourself, and everything will be fine!

Does it really matter in the end if Maude at the hairdressers’ think you’re weird because you enjoy playing Donkey Kong into the wee hours of the night? Will that truly stop you from doing so? I thought not…

Game on in good health, I say. You have my support. Lumpz the Clown OUT!

Did you know that Manhunt and Sneak King are practically the same game? Watch the video here!

Do you enjoy community-wide retrogaming challenges? Peep out some of the community submissions for classic NES titles like TMNT and Batman!

Clowny links below!