Social Consequences of Gaming Addiction

Your cell phone starts to ring and you look over to see who's calling. It's your best friend. He probably wants to hang out. After all, it is Friday night. You think about picking up the phone, but you don't. Instead, you tell yourself, "I'll call him as soon as I finish this fight.” You promise yourself that you'll call him because, even though you go to the same school and have most of the same classes, you haven't really hung out in a while. You've just been too busy. So you promise yourself, "as soon as I finish...”

People who are addicted to gaming encounter situations like this all the time; situations in which they have to choose whether to interact with the real world or continue living in their virtual one. Sadly, the real world rarely wins.

Social consequences are a very real part of gaming addiction. Addicted gamers spend so much time playing that their personal relationships get neglected and sometimes disappear altogether. Among addicted gamers who are married, up to 50 percent report a strain in their marriage as a result of their addiction.

A quick search online for information about video game addiction yields multiple stories about detrimental, and potentially harmful, social decisions people have made because gaming takes priority above all else. One such story was about a man who installed an online gaming program onto his laptop so he could play at work, even though he knew that getting caught would mean getting fired.1 Yet another told of a wife whose husband had begun playing "all the time” because he said it took his mind off his problems.2

It's not just neglect that costs addicted gamers their relationships. Some of them talk so much about their game of choice – to the exclusion of everything else – that people no longer want to be around them. They can't, or won't, engage in real world conversations or be a source of support or encouragement to friends and family. Because their friends talk about other things, they begin to feel left out, which in turn causes them to feel irritated or offended. It doesn't occur to them that they've chosen to be left out by devoting all their time to gaming.

Some of the physical consequences of video game addiction can lead to social consequences as well. For instance, an addicted gamer who loses sleep because he's playing so much simply doesn't have the energy to invest in relationships. Lack of sleep may also make him irritable and difficult to be around.

The lack of social interaction that results from obsessive gaming can have long-term social consequences. An addicted teenager won't develop effective social skills, which will hinder his ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships in college and beyond. Suddenly, he's 21 but has the social skills of a 15-year-old. He doesn't know how to make friends, talk to girls, or just "hang out” and enjoy people's company. The social awkwardness created by the isolationism of gaming addiction, unfortunately, feeds the addiction. The gaming addict will likely retreat back to his online world where relationships are easier and already waiting for him.

Gaming addiction is serious. Though there still is much debate about whether it is a diagnosable disorder, there is clearly a segment of our society for whom gaming is more than just a casual pastime. These people need friends and family members who care enough to intervene and try to help them break the addictive cycle.



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