As an admin for a rapidly growing Facebook Group called Destroy Your Digital Distraction And Get Primed For Life, who’s purpose is to help provide support and refuge for people who are struggling with video game addiction, I have come to learn that there is a growing trend of parents who are themselves the ones becoming addicted to video games in addition to the children.
As a recovered video game addict myself and a parent of two teens, I still enjoy playing video games from time to time, both with my kids and by myself. I have learned firsthand the consequences of losing track of what is important in life. I have learned the importance of living a life built on a foundation of values and I educate my kids to live the same way.
I mention this because I know how easy it is to lose track of what is important, especially when it involves video games. We all know that video game addiction is on the rise. According to Statista, the number of active gamers worldwide will rise to more than 2.7 billion people in 2021, up from 1.8 billion in 2014 and 2.3 billion in 2018.
But when we think about video game addiction, we immediately think about our kids and young adults who have conveniently labelled themselves as a “gamer” thereby justifying their gaming habit. If a bus driver must drive a bus to be a bus driver, then a gamer must then play video games to justify being a gamer right?
But this article is not about our young gamers, in fact we are headed the exact opposite direction. I will be addressing a new growing problem that is emerging within the gaming demographic, and that is the gamer parent.
On one hand it’s horrible to see a child throw their life away as a result of their video game addiction, but it’s worse to see a parent fall victim to it because it can destroy the entire family.
Adults generally don’t have to do what they’re told. When I was a kid, I swore up and down that when I became an adult, I would do whatever I wanted because I was sick and tired of doing everything that I was told. I couldn’t wait. In my mind, this is the first problem.
Next we have justification. When an adult is gaming, they can say anything they want to justify why it’s OK to game as much as they do. When they begin to feel the need to start justifying why they are gaming so much to their partner, understand that this is a sign that they are becoming addicted to gaming.
They can come up with many “reasons” why they can continue gaming as much as they do but one reason that is coming up more and more is the excuse that it’s their hobby. If you ever hear this excuse, it’s time to clarify what a hobby really is.
A hobby is an activity that is done regularly during leisure time for pleasure. Some examples of hobbies are sports like Tennis, Cycling and Swimming. Others can be like Painting, Singing, and Writing. I have always considered a hobby as something that people did as a form of output meaning energy being used for movement or creativity. Creation vs consumption so to speak. But when I have this discussion with my kids, they will argue that reading is a hobby as well, and if I consider reading as a consumption activity, then I must then accept that watching Netflix should be considered a hobby as well and if watching Netflix is a hobby then playing video games must be a hobby too. It’s hard to argue with my kids, especially when your gaming energy output is creating something digital that can be shared within a community. I get it.
But this is where the line must be drawn. A hobby is an activity that is done during leisure time. This means when a person is not fulfilling all of their other obligations and responsibilities in life. Using the noun ‘hobby’ does not justify extended video game play. The moment that game-play begins to overtake a person’s usual routine, it is then detrimental to the quality of their life and the quality of their family’s life as well.
After justification we have what I like to call Osmosis. In an effort to protect their now growing gaming addiction, parents will often try to invite their family into their experience so that they can continue to be a member of the family without losing their growing video game addiction. This usually means bringing young children into the gaming experience with them and then justifying the action as time being spent with them. This is in my opinion, incredibly irresponsible and extremely dangerous to the kids because if this behavior continues unchecked, the children will then learn all of their values from video game culture and not from their parents.
Now the other parent who isn’t gaming is ostracized and is then responsible to maintain all of the family’s responsibilities by themselves. This leads to anger and frustration which then usually ends up with an ultimatum that takes us to the next stage, Offensive Protection.
This is where the adult then goes on the offensive and takes on the behavior where they will say and do anything to protect what they value because they are beginning to truly feel that their “hobby” is being threatened. You will hear statements like, “Go find something to do yourself, this is what I enjoy doing”, “I don’t enjoy doing anything else, nothing else is fun”, “This is who I am, if you don’t like it, leave”, “I deserve to enjoy something in life, my whole life has been shitty” and I don’t think I need to go on.
When this happens, families are usually then torn apart.
Again, most of the attention regarding video game addiction is focused on our “gaming youth” however there are growing outliers to the epidemic that are going unnoticed, much like how a cancer cell grows unnoticed until it’s possibly too late to stop the disease.
Now there is something that can be done to help mitigate the chance of video game addiction in your family and it starts with a family conversation. Everyone has the right to enjoy a hobby regardless of what it is. But it should be recognized by every member of the family that a hobby is something done during leisure time when all other family/household responsibilities have been taken care of. Once a hobby is starting to cross that threshold then that’s a sign that an addictive behavior is developing and it’s time to address the issue to ensure the problem does not grow.
I would be remiss to not mention that the inherent design of today’s video games have been intentionally created to be extremely addictive and at a level unmatched by all other hobbies. I encourage you to always be aware of the potential pitfalls that come with today’s video games.
As parents, we have the responsibility to raise our kids with our values and we have the power to create and control a healthy loving environment for them to grow and learn in, but as adults and parents we must also be aware of how our own freedoms can allow us to fall victim to our addictions as well. It’s easy for a hobby to become a potential career, but don’t let the illusion reinforce the addiction.