When your video game playing is the better part of your day (and night), it may be time to admit you have an addiction. Maybe I’m still in denial. My husband says without question that I am addicted to video games. My son refers to me as a “light gamer.” He is not referring to how much I play. He simply dismisses the games I play as a low level of difficulty.
The games I play aren’t necessarily for challenge, though some are. They are mindless, mind numbing, and keep my hands busy while I am thinking about or listening to something else. I hate just sitting still. I like to call my passion for gaming a “controlled addiction.”
I come from a long line of gamers. My father is a gamer. My eldest sister is a gamer. And I have been a gamer since I was a little girl. Card games, board games, role playing games, arcade games, computer games, video games, handheld games, all have a gravitational pull.
I’m comfortable with my “light gamer” status. I have nothing to prove. I enjoy a healthy competition now and then, but am not insecure in my limitations. I play to play. It relieves stress, helps me wind down in the evenings, challenges me to beat my best scores, and gives me a break from the otherwise mundane and routine daily chores.
There was a time when I would get lost in gaming. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that I was addicted. Just like any other addiction, it filled a void in my life and allowed me to escape. Unfortunately, along with that escape, other aspects of my life suffered as a result. The real challenge was disciplining myself enough to set a time limit and keep balance.
In order for me to achieve that balance and still enjoy gaming, I put in place a reward system for myself to manage my addiction. I am a high achiever and like to keep busy. My downtime of playing games is my reward for performing tasks. When I’m preparing a meal for my family, for example, I’ll utilize the time in between flipping the meat on the grill playing one of my games. Call it rationalization or justification, but no one can call me unproductive or lazy.
Like pushing an unfinished plate of food away when you recognize you are full, I can now turn off a game with a high score without saving or completing it and go to bed at a reasonable time. I can turn away from a game to interact with my family or leave the house to run errands. Games no longer rule my life.
I know for others, video game play can be destructive. It can and does affect relationships, jobs, and even health. My husband recently brought to my attention an article about a 20-year-old man that died from a blood clot that had formed after playing a marathon session of video games on his Xbox.
I have a nephew that would play into the wee hours of the morning. He would then sleep until early afternoon the next day. Upon waking, he would resume play. He rarely showered, did not work, and lost a full scholarship to a prestigious private university, all because of his addiction to video games.
There have been no complaints from my husband or my son, regarding the amount of time I spend gaming. But that could be because they have their own “passions.” My husband reads and comments on articles and online blogs, argues with newscasters and reporters from our living room sofa, and subscribes to countless newsletters. My son, an “avid” gamer himself, spends his “reward” time playing games while interacting with his friends online. You could say we’re a family of co-dependent addicts or enablers. I think we’ve achieved balance and are mindful of not tipping the scale the other way.