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Gaming Addictions


Are you addicted to video games?

Recently I accepted a writing and market research assignment for a major gaming network. I traveled through dozens of states speaking with people who are wrapped up in a virtual world brought to life with consoles, game discs, and accessories. Gamers are meeting up with marvelous dramatic play, involved actions and greater excitement. However there are serious complications for those who cannot detach themselves from their real lives to made up personas.

All of these are comparative to creepy soap opera’s mixed in with some reality. There is a lot of backstabbing amongst a set of people who are strangely enough seeking family. I suppose that is not too much of a stretch. Sounds like a typical American family to me – backstabbing liars, jealousy, war and chaos. The innocent are booted from their clan, made into patsy’s taking the blame. The evil ones feel they have won the game. This vampire hides in wait for her next victim. When the computer play ends at sunrise, the blood sucker travels up the street teaching Sunday School to a group of young children.

Irony? Yes, there is a twisted satire in there somewhere. Back at home, the “incognito vampire” enters a favored chat room preparing for playtime in a dark, wicked world where children cry and death surrounds all. Cursed! Believing their powers online are brought into the real world, they attempt to break up families, steal money, lie and make everyone miserable. She goes online typing out her fantasies for hours while her husband languishes unattended with painful bedsores. Gaming, regardless of circumstances, is more important to the immoral.

The devilish human in real life seeks others for help with food, home or car repairs – never mind that the sick person they are using is also dying of cancer. Revolting! The vampire lures her prey by “paying” a known addict a large handful of strong opiates in exchange for home reconstruction. The victim of this controller, knowing his weakness, delivers drugs instead of much needed cash for his hungry family. Villainous and in authority of others ignorance and addictions, tomorrow she could be sitting next to you on a church pew. The vampire’s domination has no limits. She is ugly and nefarious.

Watching those around a made-up “town” you might find a player who’s character is acting unusually blue and needing a shoulder to cry on. Tempted to ask, and I did, “is this a real situation/person you are reacting to, or are you upset with someone who is an avatar in this game?” It is ghoulish to read back the answers. People are living in a synthetic world where they believe the company they keep online are a representation of the real life around them.

People have become one with their alter ego in fantasy land. They perceive the experiences as real. Transporting themselves and communicating online with Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo and a plethora of gaming discs, chats and other websites. Many games are played online with or without any software. Sometimes a simple download gives away free trial offers for so many hours of game play. Others you need a computer, internet service and purchase of the game. However with most chat rooms hosted online there is usually no money involved. This is where the above described vampires burrow themselves into their beastly lair.

Those who can afford consoles and packaged games, saddle themselves up with headsets, visually stunning graphics, lovely piped in music and adventuresome quests. The theme is ready for the ultimate escape that unfortunately some lose their existence in. One interesting college student told me he often dreams in his avatar and the animated universe he created. Interviewing gaming people from across the United States, I found this “dreaming oddity” fairly common. It is a game world so tightly wrapped into their psyche they cannot tell when they are playing or sleeping. When they are in battle, attacked or betrayed, experiencing this game as authentic and true to life, some fall into a pit of depression and torment. Characters are falling in love with other players. When the doomed relationships end their online incarnations, suicide of their humanly body is not unheard of.

I am not slandering those who play. Gaming is a stress reliever for many. Those who are dealing with alcohol, tobacco, drug withdrawals or other addictions, and seeking a solution with their idle hands can find these games extremely therapeutic. The problem is when someone does not distinguish themselves from true reality and make-believe.

Back in the early 1980’s I remember hearing of a board game called “Dungeons and Dragons” also known as “D&D.” Preachers, Church Leaders, traveling Evangelists, Psychiatrists and night time TV news programs all warned that the game was dangerous. Pastors said this game was demonic and harmful to youth. As a teenager I thought that was the silliest notion I had ever heard of. Fortunately none of my friends owned the game and I did not see it played until many years later.

While dating my soon to be husband we had a discussion on the subject. He played this game as a kid and terror swept through me – along with a bit of curiosity. He assured me this was an imagination game and that many people made too much out of it. He promised that playing the game would not make you worship the devil or have demons chasing you or ghostly images appearing before your eyes. He explained role play to me though it made no sense, it seemed boring and somewhat ridiculous. To understand I had to watch the game being played and not long after marrying I had the opportunity.

It was like any other evening with newlyweds. After dinner we walked over to another apartment occupied by people we had went to school with. We happened to drop in by chance to find this group of friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. They were already passionately involved in the game, my husband and I watched quietly and said nothing. I waited for any key words to find a reason to make a dramatic exit but heard none. They were pretending, okay, I got it then, no different than a child like game of “house.”

Someone picked up the dice and what was said next sent one of the players sobbing uncontrollably from the room. I thought it was part of the game. Everyone was quiet except for the screamer who ran to her bedroom and locked the door. I looked at my husband who shook his head. Being the talkative person I am, I whispered to the group, “Is this part of the game?” My question was met with answers of “no” and “she always does this when she loses” and “I hate playing with her!”

I was baffled as her fiancé begged her to open the bedroom door. She was crying so loudly everyone could hear her. She was threatening to kill herself. No one was on drugs or alcohol. There was no explanation for her behavior. I began to wonder if this was a joke played on me (the newbie D&D person), it was not. After about 20 minutes of pleading with her, everyone left, game over, she wasn’t coming out of that room. It took her fiancé two hours to get her to open the door. The next day she was completely back to her old self as if nothing had happened. She seemed cheerful. Maybe she wanted attention? She certainly got it. This was 1987 and I clearly remember every detail, unforgettable.

On the way back to our apartment I had hundreds of questions for my husband. I was a little ticked bringing up the date we had a few years prior when he said D&D was not a dangerous game. I consider someone threatening to kill themselves by jumping out an apartment window because of a board game as something not to mess around with and definitely a danger. My husband said he had never seen that happen before but also admitted he had never played with her or any other girls. Women can be a little hormonal at times, however the other women/girls in the game were not acting out as she did. And the thousands of card games we played with this gang of late teens/early 20’s (most married) never resulted in her (or anyone else) running away in tears. Why was this game different? Why did she put on such a performance? I decided to never play Dungeons and Dragons and should we walk in on one being played, we would leave, both in agreement.

Despite that we spent a lot of time at these people’s apartment, the game was never played there again. It disappeared off their shelf. I have no idea what happened, though I strongly suspect the fiancé trashed it. We saw their last weekly game, which had went on for years, that very night, and what a sight it was! Maybe the Baptist in me scared the nasty old “dragon” away, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Chat rooms, computer or console games, involving murder, rape and other suggestive themes, I find repulsive. While it is not always the game, when dealing with someone with a screw loose, this is a potential disaster. Many people I spoke with are playing 14+ hours in a single day, sometimes more. This is excessive, no one should be gaming that many hours a day.

One console game I find particularly disgusting is Grand Theft Auto where you drive your car around, steal other vehicles, buy drugs, pay prostitutes for a romp in your car (the car moves to the motions) and then the player murders the hooker and steals her money gaining extra points for her death and theft. That sums up GTA fairly well. Do you find this acceptable?

You may find this surprising but the military and others have been gaming for decades. The use of flight simulators aid in the use of their work. For those in these workplaces, gaming is mandatory and a teaching tool of great importance.

General public purchased games have ratings just like films. READ THEM before giving to your children or anyone else, regardless of age, especially if they have specific mental issues. See why they were given the score, the box will give you that information. Use your best judgment and keep in mind that the majority of violent people are also strong gamers with a large collection of games they should never have access to. Again, it’s not always the game, it can be the gamer. Ask questions, research online, read the boxes and pay attention. Anything with a rating of ” E ” means this game is for everyone, all ages.

Assuredly there are plenty of wholesome games with Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo Wii. Wonderful sports activities providing actual exercise including weight checks to help the user get fit that doubles as a tool “scale” to weigh your pets. Many great options out there with thousands of games such as learning to play electric lead guitar, bass guitar, sing, dance, aerobics, cheerleading, all good and healthy outlets.

Consider this – if gaming addiction is in the way of your relationships grasp some self control and limit yourself. Relationships are ending. Believing that you are your character or possessing special powers because of gaming is not healthy. Ignoring your spouse, partner or children is cruel. Not paying enough attention to a loved one makes them feel unseen, invisible. Eventually someone else will see, making them feel appreciated again, and you will lose this person(s) from your life. Have the maturity to stop and speak to someone or call your doctor before it climaxes to a full stop. There is a real world filled with beautiful experiences and genuine love. Make sure you are a part of them.



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