Luke with baby Francis 2009
When I married my 21 year old (at the time) husband whom I love very dearly he was addicted to video games. It didn’t bother me much. It seemed like an okay hobby.
Most guys have hobbies and most guys love playing in some way or another. Whether it be sport, games, watching youtube, shooting or fishing.
Before our first child was born we even played games together. We had video game parties with our friends that often lasted all night. I didn’t love to play games but quality time is my love language and completing a game together was a fun way to spend loads of time together.
We even hired a new game on the Nintendo Wii to play when I was in labour with our first baby to pass the time before we had to leave for the hospital. I remember pressing pause on the game while I had a contraction. It’s so funny to think back on that now!
But during the first year of our sweet little boys life something began to change in my husbands heart about playing games now that the was a father.
Luke wants to share his story of how he went from a full on video game addict to getting rid of them all – including the TV!
The hope of us both is that his story may inspire other men (and women) out there who are wasting their live’s away playing games.
Over to Luke…
Thanks Peta. This all began WAY back when I was about 6 or 7. My parents knew I had a propensity to draw towards screens. Whether it was at friends houses where I grew up enjoying their Super Nintendo’s and playing Super Metroid, or if it was my keen eye that found any arcade gaming cabinet in any room we were waiting in and wanting to throw some change in it to blast away at some Galaxian or Super Street Fighter – I just loved screens. No matter where I was, if there was a TV or screen there, I was down to jump over to it! The first real computer my parents ever bought me was an old computer that hooked up to your TV via aerial ports called a Tandy TRS-80. It played cassette games on it, and also cartridge games in the side, and I even created artwork on it using code. NERD! However, my love for this thing led my parents to buy me a Sega Master System 2 for a present. This was mind blowing for me. And I was addicted. I would literally play this system for entire hours on end, and even throw ridiculous tantrums when I had to turn it off. And I remember these to this day! The trouble with my addiction is that it appeared okay at first. I would “clock” or finish a game, then get a sense of accomplishment, but when I awoke from my fantasy land – I had done absolutely nothing to benefit anybody!
This is the literal strangle hold of video games: they promise that you’ll traverse terrain, see vast worlds, explore dense hills and forests, then when you rise from your slumber, you’ve actually just drooled over a keyboard or controller for a few hours, making your body slip into a trance that you cannot break, and essentially turned off your mind and entered into a diverse world that hoodwinks you into believing you’ve actually accomplished something. But you haven’t.
You’ve sat, you’ve been sedated, and you’ve also made yourself incredibly angry. Your mind is being conditioned by these games, not only by the way they shape your morality, but in the way that they hook you into them so that you “have” to finish them. This is why there’s so much money to be made in the downloadable content market – because gamers want their games to never end, and when they do, they want to relive the nostalgia time after time.
Now, fast forward to high school, and already I’m playing video games for about 3 hours or more per day, sometimes entirely on my own, and I’m not communicating with anybody. I’m not planning my career, I have literally one friend, and I’m socially awkward. And I’m also completely derived of any confidence at all. This leads me to colossal failure in school social circles, and my education, and even my aspirations as a male in the workforce. Because all I wanted to do after school was play Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 until tea time, whilst my parents let me, I was trapped and chained to my television, instead of branching out into making friends, planning my job hunting and sorting out my finances. I literally had my brain stumped and squished by the weight of gaming for 3 entire years of high school, right up until my marriage. I thought I was OK playing video games well into the night or sometimes all night, but I could’ve been writing letters, planning trips, speaking to friends, making music, recording songs, learning singing and just being happy. I was depressed, antisocial, a wreck and certainly not fit for the workplace. I constantly arrived late, would daydream about finishing the game Killer 7 for the Gamecube instead of concentrating on my tasks at hand, and would even not get to work at all sometimes purely because I was tired and I would sleep in.
Looking back on all of this, I can see the pattern of how this became worse and worse over time, even spotting everything I’d missed out on during school as a Christian in a closet unwilling to show anyone my true self. In year 11 and 12 I missed out on the following things due to my gaming addiction: Chapel guitar playing and worship leading, music as a subject because I was too nervous about it, debate classes, making friends with someone who’s now a videographer who actually wanted to be my friend, writing sermons and preaching them at assembly, writing books, entering into an I.T. course at TAFE to gain a secure job, leading prayer group at the recess and lunch Christian meetings, writing for the school newsletter, doing graphic design as an online course, finishing school with good marks, and finally – setting myself up for success as an adult.
It has been a LONG road to today where I now have absolutely no video game consoles, no television and no game parties.
But coming back to why I think this is all destructive for men and especially husbands and Dad’s – video games are not an innocent hobby.
Your children look up to you, and know what you’re doing. If you play games for hours at a time with children, they’re going to know that daddy plays games when they’re in bed, or at night, or when he has free time, and they’ll likely think this is fine and do it themselves because you do.
I can safely say that video games effectively ruined my preparation for a secure job and study life, a relationship with more than 10 different people I missed out on knowing in school, a career and even a solid foundation for marriage.
I played video games so much when I had about 5 consoles, that I literally dove into a fantasy land and achieved absolutely abysmal amounts of real life success because of it.
It is a foolish hobby for grown men.
Seriously. It makes you think you’re doing something productive or even helpful, but in the end you’ve simply wasted precious time you could’ve been praying, reading scripture or building relationships, and preparing for your next exploits as a family or a husband. And it’s hard enough to be those things without an unhealthy addiction.
Video games actually hinder many things in men that men need to be progressing in. Such as Godliness, missions, witnessing, writing, commenting on social issues, feeding kids, growing closer to your spouse and just being a present Dad for your children. None of these things are possible if you’re hooked on anything, let alone an 8-bit platformer that you love so dearly you cannot live without it. It’s exactly the same as having a hobby where you do it solo and push everyone else out. Sure, you can game together, but gamers never EVER have the desire to simply play games together, then the ability to simply switch their mind off of playing them alone. There’s always a need to go back, switch on that Sega Mega Drive and bash up some more baddies in Streets of Rage 2. Games really are that addictive, and careful study of the brain clearly shows a decline when gaming addiction has taken hold. Here are some alarming quotes from actual studies on young gamers in the real world:
“In a volunteer sample, 41% of online gamers acknowledged that they use gaming as an escape. In the same sample, 7% were viewed as “dependent”. These gamers possessed several behavioral attributes that are related to more well established forms of addiction (e.g., mood modification, tolerance, & relapse).”
Hussain et al. (2009). Excessive use of massively multi-player online role-playing games: A pilot study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 7, 563-571.
“It is possible that excessive video game play is caused by poor time management skills and an avoidance of other problems, rather than inherent addictive qualities of the games.”
Wood et al. (2008). Problems with the concept of video game ‘addiction’: Some case study examples. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 6, 169 – 178.
“Regions of the brain associated with cravings in substance abuse also appear to be activated in gaming addicts when they view images of video games.”
Ko, C. et al. (2009). Brain activities associated with gaming urge of online gaming addiction. Journal or Psychiatric Research, 43, 739-747.
“Gaming addiction is not yet classified as a mental health disorder or “true” addiction like gambling or alcohol addiction. However, some gamers clearly struggle to keep their playing habits under control and may place more importance on their gaming accomplishments than their happiness and success in the real world (e.g., academic achievement, friendships, relationships, career advancement, health, etc.).”
Dr. Brent Conrad, 2017, “Gaming Addiction Statistics, Facts, Articles, & Research,” viewed online October 2, 2017 <http://www.techaddiction.ca/gaming-addiction-statistics.html>.
There is a direct link between underachievement, avoidance of real world problems, escape and denial of reality present in video gaming. And I’ve been a victim. I’ve also seen it with other friends, who simply had Super Smash Brothers Brawl parties to avoid their life issues, rather than drink heavily. But the truth remains – the damage of video game addiction begins with a fixation, that sense of achievement, and a true connection with the games themselves, even though they’re inanimate and don’t care about you.
The very last point I need to make here is that marrying a forgiving, gracious and merciful woman helped me to see the error and selfishness of my addiction. Soon after our marriage I began to get convicted by the Holy Spirit that these titles were a ridiculous waste of time, especially once putting my kids to bed and then hopping on to play Red Faction on the Gamecube for 2 hours, whilst Peta also makes some biscuits. I was simply escaping and jumping into another controlled world where I had the power, called the shots and was the man. But in reality I was a tired, scared boy with nowhere to run, and was escaping into another world to ease my pain. And it was harmful.
When I got rid of every title one day at a video games store I felt like I’d taken a huge weight off my shoulders that was crippling me. I took it off regrettably, but knowing that it was the right thing to do for my kids and my precious wife. I then, funnily enough, turned my hand to video editing, music production, writing, podcasting, reviewing and graphic design almost immediately after this event, and I’ve never looked back since. There are times, yes, when I enter a building and hear the buzz of a mall arcade that I want to dive in and start gaming, and I’d play air hockey with my kids any day, but that addiction has been killed, squashed under foot and shot, because my family deserves better than a scared, escape artist with no friends.
I pray that you, too, can be free from video game addiction, because the time and money you invest in it simply doesn’t yield good returns. Use your creativity wisely, and cherish this short life you’re given. It’s over in a breath. And God will then call you home.
God bless, Luke