Are you addicted to gaming?

Does your life revolve around videogames? Do you pine for your darling console when you're away from home? If so, then perhaps you have a problem. Doctors are currently campaigning to have videogame addiction recognized as a "formal medical diagnosis," according to an article in the LA Times, and to ensure that gamers afflicted by the habit get the right treatment.

Now, we all know that videogames are addictive - just like TV, gambling or Facebook. The tragic casualties in Korea should be enough to convince anyone of that. But how do you know if you've got a real problem, and not just an overactive evening hobby? Well, here's a few questions you should be asking yourself, some inspired by the LA Times article and some from our own veteran experience.

Do you struggle to turn off, regardless of how long you've been playing?
If you're someone with a naturally "impaired impulse control," or just can't help yourself setting out on yet another Oblivion quest, then you're likely to succumb to addiction easier than others. If the dawn chorus has started and you're still sitting where you were at lunchtime yesterday, then something is obviously up.

Do you regularly lose your cool and rage at games or other players?
Anger can be a symptom of addiction, particularly if you continue to play despite your face turning purple with rage. Convincing yourself that things will get better, that in the next round you'll stop being slaughtered by the opposition and will finally top the league table is akin to a gambler's classic faith that a winning streak is just around the corner.

Have you ever missed a meal because of videogames?
Skipping dinner to make sure you don't miss out on the next WoW raid is bad enough. But Dave Taylor, quoted in the LA Times article, reckons he'd regularly play for 24 hour stretches - missing whole sequences of meals. The Korean man whodied in a cyber cafe in 2002 had played for four straight days without proper food breaks. If any of this sounds slightly familiar, it's time to step away from the console. Even for just a sandwich.

Do you prefer RPGs, MMOs or RTS games?
Let's face it, you're much less likely to find yourself addicted to games like platformers, racing games or beat-'em-ups. But role playing games or strategy games - like World of Warcraft, Medieval II: Total War or WorldWide Soccer Manager - have much less obvious breaks in play, meaning it's easier to just keep playing without noticing the progression of time. If these are your favorite games, watch out. Of course, if you're finding yourself playing a banner-ad game for 24 hours, there's something seriously wrong with you.

Do you keep a bedpan within reaching distance?
Ick. We'd like to believe that this disgusting practice is just reserved to horrible characters like Cartman in South Park's WoW episode. But the law of inevitability suggests that at least one person (most likely male) has opted to use a bucket rather than tear themselves away from a game. If that person is you, please get help. We mean it.

Do you struggle to find anything else interesting?
We know the scenario. Your beloved other-half is talking about "relationship issues," but all you can hear is the "schwing" of another level gained. And, in the office, you'd much rather close your eyes and enjoy the image-memories of past videogame adventures that are burnt onto your retinas, than actually do any work. But, if you struggle to find anything interesting outside of videogames - friends, sports, hobbies or even sex - then you're probably already addicted.

If you answered "Yes" to a couple of these questions, then you're obviously a keen gamer. But, if you find yourself giving an affirmative to three, four or more, then we'd advise you to cool your videogame jets and maybe get some fresh air or something. Either that, or fly across the Atlantic and check yourself into the Smith & Jones center in Holland, the first clinic to professionally address videogames addiction in Europe.

June 22, 2007