As the most popular game on general release at the moment, Call of Duty: Black Ops is certainly one of the most engaging titles to date. The console extravaganza had massive pre-orders and was sold out within hours of its release; such was the hype and anticipation surrounding it.
It is believed that the gaming industry is now bigger than its movie brethren in the entertainment family and developers work extremely hard to keep gamers coming back for more. Celebrity voice overs, stunning visuals, immersive worlds and continual updates with new content are just some of the ways companies keep their audiences’ attention.
The dark side of gaming
There is a darker side to gaming though, one which is damaging and, in some cases, even deadly. A fast growing number of gaming addiction cases are coming to light and is now being taken seriously as a new form of addiction, ranking up there with alcohol, drugs, nicotine and gambling.
The next revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will have a comprehensive section on video game addiction, or, video game overuse.
Deaths attributed to extreme gaming addiction
Devin Moore from Fayette, Alabama was addicted to Grand Theft Auto and reportedly played the game constantly. He was arrested and detained at a local police station after an alleged car theft. During his detention he grabbed a 9mm gun from an officer and shot him several times in the head. Moore was sentenced to death and is still awaiting the results of an appeal.
Mr. Qui from Shanghai, China was sentenced to life in prison after killing his friend Mr. Zhu with a knife. Zhu had sold a Dragon Sabre from Legend of Mir 3 which Qui had lent him in the game. Despite Zhu’s efforts to calm his friend and offer the money he made from it, Qui stabbed him to death.
In 2007 a 13 year old called Dinh murdered an 81 year old woman for subscription money to a game. He garrotted her then buried her body in a pile of sand outside the house. He was too young for prison and was sent to a re-education camp where he is still currently held.
Daniel Petric, 17, unlocked the family safe where his parents had hidden his Halo 3 disc and with it he found a gun which he used to shoot his parents. He told them to close their eyes because he had a surprise for them. When they did so he shot them both in the head. His father survived but sustained critical injuries and his mother died instantly.
Tyrone Spellman, 27, was utterly addicted to his Xbox. His 17-month-old daughter pulled his console onto the floor when she grabbed a cable, and the console was damaged as a result. Spellman was so enraged with her that he beat her repeatedly around the head with his controller, cracking her skull several times which killed her.
The dangers of gaming
These cases are extreme but they do highlight the dangers of an increasingly widening addiction. Video games are a very real threat to many people’s lives. Many women have started referring to themselves as gaming widows and many marriages have ended as a result. That said, almost as many women are addicts as men.
Addicts have also lost jobs, real life friends, their health declines and they often isolate themselves to indulge in a world that, although seemingly full of reward, only rewards those responsible for creating them. Further more, the actions taken in the gaming world have no bearing on real life – nobody outside the gaming community cares because it’s not real.
Symptoms of gaming addiction and help
Gaming addictions are similar to gambling addictions and addicts display very similar psychological behavioural patterns. Symptoms include:
- Obsessive about games or compulsions to play them.
- Neglect of friends and family to game.
- Neglect of personal responsibilities (calling in sick at work).
- Playing down the amount of time spent gaming.
- Irritable when not playing (withdrawal symptoms).
- Game is centre of attention, even when not playing.
- Neglect of personal hygiene and health (including lack of sleep).
- Headaches, backache and RSI, mostly Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Becoming extremely defensive, often aggressive, when it is suggested they have an addiction.
Help is available though and there are groups on the internet who deal specifically with video game addictions, such as On-Line Gamers Anonymous who are constantly helping people deal with, and overcome their addictions. If you know someone who sounds like they might have a gaming addiction or you feel you have a problem, visit their website for more information.
The Betty Ford Clinic is another organisation which helps addicts through recovery, read about them here.
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