Video game addiction is just as real as any other addiction. While it might not be as physically obvious like drugs or alcohol, or carry quite as many health risks (though there are some risks), video game addiction can ruin a person’s life.
GQ has a fascinating story about a young man named Callum. His addiction to World of Warcraft was such that he actually had to go to rehab. Yes, there’s such a place as “video game rehab.”
First, Callum’s backstory…
His problems began in college but got worse after he failed out and moved back in with his mother. His mom’s boyfriend got him a job at his firm. That’s when Callum’s life really went off the rails. The work environment fostered his video game addiction.
Each morning, after coming into the office, Callum would spend 20 or so minutes reading depositions, maybe, or running errands to the courthouse. Then, with the door closed, he would play World of Warcraft. His fingers hovering over the keyboard, ready to switch to another program if a manager came near, he would play until the last of his colleagues went home for the day at 7 P.M.
Which is to say that before World of Warcraft became Callum’s disease, it was something like his job. He adhered to a schedule; he trained; he joined a guild (his in-game team, the spell-casting mages and ax-wielding warriors that doubled as avatars for friends he’d never met). In free moments he would study the keystrokes of his rivals, angling for efficiencies. At one point, in one aspect of the game, Callum was—of the more than seven million people who play World of Warcraft—ranked seventh. (Upon learning that he cracked the top ten, finally, after years of effort, he stood up, realized he had no one to celebrate with, and sat down.)
Eventually, Callum stayed way past 7pm, sometimes until dawn the next morning. He was living on a steady diet of McDonald’s and six Monster energy drinks a night. He’d go home, get 2-3 hours sleep, and return to the office to “get more work done.”
Just like every other addiction, there’s rock bottom.
He adjusted the resolution on his office computer to the point where he could barely see the game, hoping to free up more processing power and thereby afford himself a few extra milliseconds of responsiveness. When this didn’t work, he ordered, with the last $2,000 in his savings account, a souped-up Origin gaming laptop.
Then one morning, like a scene from Intervention, Callum found himself in his living room and face-to-face with every single person in his life.
On January 5, a Monday, Chris walked into Callum’s office and told him that his mom needed help at home. Callum drove the five-minute route, thinking nothing of it. But when he walked into his living room, he found his entire family standing, waiting: Callum’s divorced parents, whom he hadn’t seen in the same room in he didn’t know how long. Two of his three elder sisters. Chris. Callum took a seat, and one by one his family members sat down and read aloud letters they’d written to him. I hate what these games are doing to you, I’m so worried for you, I hope you’ll get help. Every person cried. Callum sat speechless. And then a fifty-something bearded man named Scott stepped forward, flown in at Callum’s parents’ behest from a place in Redmond, Washington, called ReSTART, the nation’s first residential center for digital addiction. Operating closely with local 12-step addiction-recovery groups, ReSTART aims to take young men like Callum—broken-down, computer-obsessed—and make them once again fit for society.
The rest of Callum’s story is just as fascinating and I’m going to urge everyone to go read the rest over on GQ.