Game Over- Addictive Hobby The Catalyst For Breakdown of Relationships

Have you seen that YouTube video where the girl goes crazy and smashes her boyfriend’s Xbox? She’s lying on her bed and speaks into the camera, “It’s 3am and he’s nowhere to be found. I don’t know where my boyfriend is. Let’s try and find him, I have an idea of where he might be. He’s probably on the couch, where he’s been for the past couple of months, doing nothing but playing his f**king video games”.  She walks into the sitting room and there he is, lying up on the couch engrossed in some game. And then BAM! The Xbox gets it.

He can’t believe it. What has possessed his girlfriend to do such a thing? It was completely over the top, totally unjustified!

Or was it?

A recent survey by One Poll found that over 5% of 1,500 gamers polled confessed that their hobby cost them their relationship. Over half of the women polled admitted to being jealous of the amount of time their significant other spent playing games, and in America, 15% of divorces are blamed on video games. While these statistics may be relatively low in the grand scheme of things, is it cause for alarm? And while it’s no secret that playing your Xbox too much is going to grate on your girlfriend, what are the other ways in which it can ruin your life?

First things first – we need to get to the root of the problem – which is the addictive nature of video games. What is it about them that has both men and women all over the world glued to their television screens for hours on end?

According to a Panorama investigation in 2010, a simple technique based on a 1950s study of rats has been adapted for use in gaming and is feared to encourage addiction. The 1950s study gave rats a lever to press down on and it would randomly give them food, so they kept on pressing it. They became obsessed. The technique, called the ’variable ratio of reinforcement,’ is thought to be one of the reasons people become addicted to slot machines. If you keep on putting money in, you’ll win eventually.

Phil Gormley, a counsellor from Access Counselling in Crumlin, thinks that video games may act as a gateway drug into other addictions such as gambling. Having come through an addiction to gambling himself, he explains how he came to this conclusion, “I think I was going to get into something anyway, and I had to start some place, and video games were where it started. I’d say I was as young as 12 when I started playing games, and it was years ago so there were no Playstations or anything. It was video games and arcades in the shop that you had to pay to use. I would have had no money but I would have stood at a machine watching other people play for hours, or stole money from my parents to go and play them.”

Phil says the reason he used to play the games was because they acted as a release from the stresses of home life. When he was playing the games he wasn’t thinking about anything else only the game, “My mind wasn’t working, I was just focused. As a child I didn’t want to be thinking about the troubles at home and at school so that’s why I played the games, and that’s why I was so good at them, because I was 100% with the video game.”

One of the biggest problems with being addicted to video games, according to Phil, is that there are no obvious problems, “If you’re addicted to gambling there are serious consequences because you lose all your money. But if you’re addicted to video games, you don’t start struggling for money because you have your €300 machine and €50 game – that’s it, financially there are no other problems – but there is huge trauma there. You’re not interacting with human beings.”

It seems that video game addiction is a big problem in Asian countries because competitive gaming is really popular. In 2005, a 28-year-old man from South Korea collapsed and died after playing a game called Starcraft at an Internet cafe for 50 hours. In September 2007, state media in China reported that a man died of exhaustion after playing video games for three days straight, and just this year, a 23 year old man from Taiwan was found dead in an internet cafe after a marathon gaming session. The people who worked in the internet cafe only realised he was dead when they went over to tell him his time was up, and at that stage he had been dead for ten hours and no one had noticed. He was rigid on a chair with his hands stretched out towards the keyboard and mouse.

These are frightening happenings, but not really surprising. In today’s world of over-consumption, addiction is something any of us could fall victim to. The disease is more prevalent in men in general, but especially when it comes to video games. Kirsty Mawhinney from Riot Games, a leading developer and publisher of online games, says that this is because video games tend to be marketed to men more than women. Take Tomb Raider for example, the main character was an attractive, scantily clad woman. Even the colour scheme of most video games is dark and gloomy, something that doesn’t really appeal to a lot of women. Also, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine did a study that shows that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than in women when playing video games.

Video game addiction may not be a recognised illness just yet, but it’s something that we should be aware of. Though it sounds trivial, it can spiral out of control quite easily. Some of the physical effects experienced by gaming addicts include carpal tunnel, migraines, sleep disturbances, backaches, eating irregularities, and poor personal hygiene. If you or someone you know has become a bit of a recluse since the release of the latest Call of Duty, there are websites which give information and advice on how to deal with the situation, and there is even a gaming addiction clinic in the UK called Broadway Lodge. They have a twelve step abstinence programme tailored specifically for gaming addicts. The main thing to remember is that there is help out there if you want it, and if you don’t want your girlfriend to take inspiration from the aforementioned YouTube clip, it might be an idea to put that control pad down and face up to reality.

By Pauline Dunne

    • shea
    • April 10th, 2012

    women need to learn to be less selfish. men get jelous if women are around other men. thats over the top and something some men need to learn to be less possessive about.

    women get jelous if men watch football, hang out with there mates, families, go for a drink, and now this. thats fucking mental.

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