Pokemon brings gaming addiction to fore
You collide with lampposts, parked cars, and/or pedestrians at least once a day. On your ACC claim, you write ‘‘head on collision with a parked car, chasing after a Pokemon’’.
On the same ACC claim, you write under the section ‘‘if sporting injury, name sport’’, the word ‘‘hunting’’. You are late for an appointment because you got lost in discussion with other ‘‘PoGos’’ (people who play Pokemon Go), showing off their recent Squirtle catch. You seethe with jealousy when you hear about someone’s Squirtle catch.
Satire aside, I’ve healed myself from more than 25 years of video game addiction, which started in 1988 in the times of Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System. The rapid popularity of Pokemon Go is a bit alarming, particularly because this augmented reality game (putting digital images onto reallife scenarios) has thrust video gamers into our public lives, creating walking hazards, inadvertent trespassing and even dangerous driving.
Video games were normally confined to a chair in solitude or among friends also sitting in their respective chairs. However, on a recent Sunday morning I watched a skateboarder coast through a busy footpath with his iPhone up and scanning for Pokemon. He was a collision waiting to happen.
Video games were already a growing problem before augmented reality showed up. We used to think of a gamer as a stereotypical teenage male frantically clicking his mouse in World of Warcraft or aiming his sniper rifle in Call of Duty. Yet it may come as a surprise that even before Pokemon Go the number of gamers had grown rapidly among all demographics.
So how would you know if you might be gaming too much? The following three measurable signs may indicate you need to hit pause and reflect to see if there might be a problem.
Gaming for longer than you sleep at least once in the past month. If you ever play video
games for longer than you sleep, it’s definitely a problem as you’re either losing sleep or playing too long. If you game six hours, yet sleep five (or less), then you’re losing sleep. If you sleep eight hours, but game for nine (or more), that’s a lot of video games in one day.
Gaming more than 14 hours a week or more than two hours a day. This is a part-time job’s worth of video games. If you game this much you fit my definition of a heavy gamer, which I based on the Centre for Disease Control’s definition of heavy drinking. Though you can’t call someone an alcoholic based on the number of drinks they have, counting the number of hours video gaming per week is a good indication to have a closer look to see if there’s a bigger problem.
Gaming for more than four hours straight. That fits the definition of a binge gamer.
Take these signs seriously then have a look if there are other signs of destructive behaviour that indicate an actual addiction to video games.
Just to be clear, having fun and being able to stop are very different from an addiction, where the behaviour becomes destructive to oneself, others, or one’s surroundings, and one can’t or won’t stop despite the destruction left in one’s wake.
The word ‘‘addiction’’ in association with video games is frequently met with hostility and defiance, either from those who play video games or from members of the addiction community who don’t see video games as a real addiction. Fortunately, there is help available.
Sam Shay is a video-game addiction coach based in Wellington.
Are you a Pokemon Go fan or an addict?