I have to start this post with a caveat: I think a lot of people who are called video game addicts simply have a hobby that they enjoy, not an addiction. I also think I may have been addicted to World of Warcraft for a while, so I may not be the most objective person when it comes to this topic.

That said, people have been linking video games to negative personality traits, mental illness and other social issues since I was in high school, if not earlier. A recent study found that people with OCD — along with people who have ADHD, depression and anxiety — may struggle with video game addiction.

“Excessively engaging in gaming may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, underlying psychiatric disorders in attempt to alleviate unpleasant feelings, and to calm restless bodies.” explained lead author Cecilie Shou Andreassen, doctor of psychology and clinical psychologist specialist at Department of Psychosocial Science, University of Bergen.

On the one hand, video game addiction can cause a lot of problems. It can cause people to ignore school work or let their job performance slip, it can encourage disturbed sleep cycles (a major issue for people with mood disorders), and it can keep people from seeking mental health help and facing anxieties.

However, that doesn’t mean that video games are terrible and should be avoided. Like everything, they’re fine in moderation — in fact, they can be a very positive way to relax. Video games can be incredible sources of visual art, and symphonies have been created with pieces of their soundtracks. The storylines can be every bit as engaging as any book or television show, and they can encourage us to use strategy and mathematical skills.

They can even be used for educational purposes. Developer Brian Adam Douglas created a game based on OCD called, of course, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In the game, the player’s goal is to leave their home, but before they do, they have to complete a number of compulsions.

The secret, of course, is the same one we learn in exposure therapy (spoilers, if you want to skip the rest of this paragraph): There’s always another compulsion that will slow you down. You can’t win until you can learn to ignore them, even if it makes you uncomfortable and seems counter-intuitive.

“I suffer from it to a certain extent, and the impetus for this game came one day at work, years ago, when a friend of mine kept coming back into the workspace over and over and over, checking to make sure a candle was not lit,” Douglas told Hyperallergic. “It was at that moment that I was aware of the absurdity of it all.”

So back to that study. These kinds of studies are important, because they warn us to be careful of video games. Because of how our brains work, and because it’s easier to distract ourselves than to sit with our anxieties, we have to be careful to enjoy mediums like video games in moderation. We can use them to relax, but we can’t use them to replace the world around us.

We also have to be careful of spending too much on our gaming hobbies, and be sure to get up and tear ourselves away from the screen after an hour or two.

But as long as you can enjoy them in moderation without getting sucked in, there’s nothing wrong with loving and playing video games.


Photo by foeock