April 5, 2018
What I’m about to share with you falls under the category of “The Times They are A-Changin.” Otherwise known as; “I sound more and more like my father every day.” This morning I was watching the sports news on my computer. There are various articles and videos of major sports happenings… mostly of the sports that are in season. The Pirates for example are the only major league baseball team still undefeated… 4-0. That will likely be corrected by the time you read this. Anyway, in the midst of all the articles came a video about a young woman who is the first female… “first” mind you (that should impress you)… “professional” video game player. I think the appropriate wording is “gamer.” The report went to great lengths to discuss her excellence at manipulating the characters on the screen. Um… Uh… VIDEO GAME PLAYERS ON A SPORTS CHANNEL? Seriously?!?! Video games are not sports… period! The people who are immersed in them are useless couch potatoes who push buttons really well. (Hmmmm… did that sound harsh?) If she is a professional then she gets paid for pushing buttons. Pretty soon we will call pool shooters athletes! “Excuse me, let me move my belly out of the way so I can pocket the 8 ball.” Don’t get me wrong, video games can be fun. I have played them myself on occasion. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night or when I wake at 2:00 a.m. I’ll play solitaire on my phone… a more simplified form of “gaming.” But professional button pushers? I think I’m going to be ill.
And honestly what I just wrote has little to say about the hundreds of thousands of young people and adults who are literally addicted to video games…. Just like alcoholics or drug abusers, or porn addicts. In this case they spend hours and hours of their lives pushing buttons. It’s bad enough that it’s a monumental waste of time, but it’s a waste of life! Get that? A WASTE OF LIFE. I can’t imagine one person will EVER go to their grave saying “I wish I had spent more time pushing buttons in front of a television screen.”
I asked a friend of mine recently who knows way more about addictions and the treatment of them than I do, “What is an addiction? How does one define it? I mean, is there a difference between a ‘casual’ beer drinker and an alcoholic?” I know that we are inclined to say, “Of course there is!” I agree, but try defining the difference. Addicts tend to define addiction as “something they are not.” For example an alcoholic might say: “An alcoholic is someone who drinks hard liquor not beer like me.” Or, “An alcoholic drinks earlier in the day than I do.” Or, “An alcoholic drinks more than a 6 pack a night… I only drink one 6 pack.” Get it? We rationalize our addictions by defining them in a way outside of our own behavior. My friend said (among other things) that an addiction is “the consumption of something that you cannot refrain from consuming.” “Consuming” does not necessarily mean “taking into one’s body.” We discussed a friend of his who was “addicted” to exercise. It controlled his life to the exclusion of other essential things and people important to him. The difficulty with this definition in terms of bringing clarity to “addiction” is that an addict will say, “Well, I can do without _______. Just watch me.” They will give up their addiction for a short while and then say, “See? I’m not addicted!” After having made their “point” they are right back at it.
The fastest growing addiction that I am aware of is video game addiction. Video addicts are just like any other. They rationalize their behavior and define addiction in a way that does not include them. But truth be told, their addiction consumes their lives. Even when not pushing buttons, they are thinking of pushing buttons. They fantasize about strategies that can allow them to be more successful at their game or games of choice. Meanwhile essential or even non essential activities in their lives go unaddressed. Relationships become problematic… well unless we are talking about the invisible addicted button pushers on the other side of their endless games.
The other thing that many addicts do is hide their consumption. Do you know someone who plays video games until all hours of the night in a dark room by themselves? They struggle to get up in the morning for work or school? Every time you walk into the house they are pushing buttons? Their weekends or days off are consumed with… you got it… manipulating controllers. It’s an addiction! It will not serve them well.
I watched several videos the other day of parents taking their children’s video games away from them or destroying them. The videos were very disturbing! You’ll get the idea if you can imagine for a moment flushing an addict’s opiods down the toilet, or breaking all of the bottles of whisky, wine or beer in the home of an alcoholic. You would get similar violent, angry reactions. Watching 15 year old video addicts reduced to weeping, out of control 3 year olds who just lost their pacifier was sad.
At the end of the day I don’t know what to tell you about all of this. Well maybe one thing. If you live with an addict… of any kind… DO NOT ENABLE THEM! Do you know what that means?
- It means you don’t make excuses for their addiction. Let them live with the consequences of their actions.
- It means you don’t cover for their addiction, i.e., calling your son’s boss to tell them that “Johnnie cannot come into work today because he is not feeling well.” When in fact Johnnie can’t drag himself out of bed because he spent the night playing video games.
- It means you tell the truth to other people when appropriate, i.e., “My son is a video game addict.”
- It means you don’t assist them in their addiction. Today ought to be the last day you ever buy a game system or a game for a video addict. If you do then you take some responsibility for their addiction.
Do you know that AA is only one of many organizations who treat Alcoholism? They just happen to be the most successful. Below are their 12 steps. How might these apply to a video game addict?
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditations to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Am I over reacting? If you think I am it’s because you have not been around an out of control “button pusher.” Or you are an addict yourself. Most of you know that I am not wrong here.