Red Flag- Gamers

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This is one of my favorite Red Flags. I’ve been looking forward to getting to the letter “G” for some time. But what started as a funny poke at socially awkward gamers took a sad turn as I began looking into the world of gaming addicts. So just a word of caution, this one is more serious than funny.



Here are some stats:

  • Americans spend $25.3 billion each year in video games.
  • 61% of games in America are played by adults.
  • The average American man spends 6.5 hours a week gaming and the average online adult gamer spends 8 hours a week. Teenage boys are spending between 16 and 18 hours a week.
  • By the time a boy is 21, he’s played 10,000 hours of video games.
  • Between $200 -$250 million will be spent in the U.S. on virtual goods alone this year. So while people are actually going without food and clothing, this is being bought:

Here’s the deal, it’s not just about the time and money. Have I spent an average of 6.5 hours watching crappy TV and wasted money on vices? You bet. It’s not just that women don’t get it, because we don’t. There is a lot about the world if gaming that is simply a mystery to us. Unfortunately, a quick browse at video game covers (if that’s what they are called) showed me the industry has changed quite a bit since my days dabbling in duck hunt.

If you have 9 minutes to spare, check out this video on the effects of gaming called, “The Demise of Guys?”

Great Expectations

I’m not saying all guys who play video games are addicted or that every game has bad material. I just think there are some things to be aware of. I wonder, how much time is spent in a fantasy world (ladies, that goes for excessive romantic movies, too) before it starts changing your perception of reality? Some of these games go a step further by offering players the chance to customize who they are. One game I found advertised that players, “can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images they wish to “engage” and then watch in crystal clear HD clarity as the video game “persons” have sex in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of.” This can’t be helping men learn how to start and keep healthy relationships with real women.

If you want to watch a fascinating talk on what online addiction is doing to men, click here. Gary Wilson, who is responding to Zimbardo, submits that our brains literally can’t handle the hyperstimulation excessive internet use provides. Brain scans show that eventually the structure of the frontal cortex changes and addicts experience a, “numbed pleasure response, hyper-reactivity to porn, and willpower erosion.”

Each of those symptoms could be a blog post in and of itself. Brain studies show that given enough time, the real thing won’t be good enough. Turns out the dating red flag isn’t that women don’t like it; it’s that men who go too far with it stop liking real women.

Arousal Addiction

A hidden danger in excessive gaming and porn is that it creates an addiction to change. Kevin Kelly, a technology guru and executive editor at WIRED magazine, says ,”Technology’s first agenda is to expand the possibility for difference. Technology’s goal is to bring us diversity, options, choices, possibilities, and freedoms.”

This world of opportunity can be great, but when someone becomes addicted to change itself there is a big problem. If you watched the video above, you heard Zimbardo say online gaming and porn create a special kind of addiction, arousal addiction. “In a drug addiction, you want more. In an arousal addiction, you want different.”

Just think about that in the context of a relationship for a moment.

If what he really wants is choice, freedom, possibilities, options and diversity; he wants the very opposite of a relationship. A relationship is committing to one person and closing the door to options. I think looking into his level of fantasy interaction, be it porn, gaming, movies, or any other escape, is one way to tell what you are getting into.

I’ll admit, figuring out what “too much” means has been difficult for me. I imagine it’s hard for a guy to identify when he has a problem, too. All I know is after spending far too long in a relationship with someone addicted to some of this stuff, finding someone who isn’t is important to me. Never again will I date someone who isn’t grounded in reality. I don’t understand the power it has over men or why so many become addicted. I can only speak from what it’s like to be on the female side of things and say it wasn’t worth it. I’ll take a caveman or staying single over an internet addict any day.

Technology is what we call an ‘infinite game.’ … A finite game is played to win, and an infinite game is played to keep playing.” -Kevin Kelly

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15 responses to “Red Flag- Gamers”

  1. This article is so right on. The addiciting power of this medium has warped too many minds already. God’s changing power and grace can set men free, but it begins with wanting to be set free!! Courageous article!!

  2. jenni says:

    Preach it!! I absolutely agree. I am always shocked at video games! I can’t even believe what is out there! It makes me really sad especially when kids play these awful games. It really is so damaging. I really miss the Oregon Trail too! Great blog:)

    • Thanks, Jenni! It’s definitely an unknown world to me so I was hesitant to criticize. But the more I looked into it, the worse it got! Tony brought up the obesity side of it last night. I’m sure you know some interesting things about that! …Thank goodness the Johnson boys never got too into it:)

  3. Keri Bender says:

    i love this! i recently read the book, churchplanter, by darrin patrick and in the preface he talks a lot about what online gaming and all of this techno stimulation is doing to a generation of men…. it’s tragic- he hit most of the same points you did. i’m with you- i’d rather be with my non-technology worker man than someone obsessed with a fake life. :)

  4. […] ← Red Flag- Gamers November 19, 2012 · 6:45 pm ↓ Jump to Comments […]

  5. I love how this started out funny… because let’s face it. As girls, we’ve all cringed at the “…but he’s a gamer” line. It’s just not good. One time I was shown the “lair” of a “gamer” and I wanted out asap. It was filled with posters and tv screens and speakers and headsets and beer… ughhhh I am thankful every day that Greg plays Fifa once a year with his brother. I am glad you’ve pointed out the bad aspects and that you have the stats to back you up. Just like porn, it’s a scary thing people are becoming addicted to. I think that the wrong kind of Gamer is definitely a red flag!!!!

    • hahahaha. I want to hear more about this lair! I died laughing when I read your comment! I pictured you still trying to be nice without sitting down anywhere or touching anything haha. I’m glad you got yourself an outdoorsy type. Safer bet And I’m glad you mentioned he plays a little b/c I think a lot of it is fine. It’s like anything else- moderation is key.

  6. Thank you for posting this. The statistics are shocking and a strong warning to the male population. We need it. This is a problem and the solution starts with the men reading this article.

    The problem is that criticism will most likely do nothing. Part of the reason why these virtual worlds are so compelling is that there is no true failure. Within this virtual world, a boy can feel like a strong and heroic man who takes risks. Should these risks not pan out… he simply starts the level over. In essence, one can feel the accomplishment and pride of heroic risk while not actually risking anything. Thus, if somebody is telling me that I’m living my life poorly and need to change, rather than take the risk and try to live differently, why wouldn’t I retreat to a world where all I do is good and right.

    The stakes are high. These are future fathers, sons, husbands, and boyfriends. Thus we need men who will step in and lead. To show them what it is to be self-confident, responsible, kind, and generous. And to do it in a way so that they can pass it on.

    On another note, I think there needs to be a similar posting for women with items like “PInterest” or “Facebook.” I am amazed by the level of expectation that is now placed on every party/wedding/Christmas photo/nursery/diet/everything! On top of that, the level competition this now places on friends who love each other. I wonder what cerebral hard-wiring Pinterest is doing.

    This is not to pass the buck. It is to remind us that the problem is never one-sided. At the end of the day, we are all trying to figure out different ways to feel okay with ourselves. We want to feel safe. We want to feel like we belong. Any time you place your hope for these things in the wrong place, it will have destructive consequences.

    … crap! this got deep. I’m gonna go play angry birds.

    • Thanks for taking some time to get into the deep stuff, Greg! It was very helpful and well said. (Plus it made me feel better for writing this thing haha) I was worried maybe I’d come down too hard.

      Anyway, I have to admit, hearing more from the male side has made me feel sorry for men more than anything. Rather than looking at it as a bunch of guys wasting time and acting like kids, there is a lot of pressure and failure driving them to escape to these worlds. It made me question what women are doing and communicating to men that exasperates the problem.

      As for Pinterest…I love it! Don’t take it away! Precious!! Just kidding. You make a great point. While I still think there is a certain… let’s say anatomical response eh hem, going on in the online stuff that Pinterest doesn’t provide (at least that I’m aware of;)… it does lead to a lot of competition, self-doubt, self-criticism, and envy that we women don’t need any more of! Thanks for the warning. We need it

  7. CR says:

    Not gonna lie the subject of gaming bores me so much it was even hard to read about it. I so don’t even relate to that world.But if in the end you are telling girls to avoid gammers I say good call.

  8. Alecia says:

    Bravo, Cindy for a timely word! Passing on the TED link to guys I know in position to influence young guys sucked into the deception. Bravo, too, to Greg for calling out the girls on Pinterest and Facebook. Way too much time wasted obsessing about the perfect EVERYTHING! Idols either way.

    • Thanks, Alecia! I’m glad you passed those on to some men in our life. Weren’t they fascinating? So much better coming from a man as much as I hate to admit it. You are right about the Pinterest and Facebook- it’s easy for us to get obsessed with that non-real world, too.

  9. Laura says:

    Absolutely, Cindy! Wow, I knew the statistics would be shocking, but not THAT shocking! It is so interesting how something like a video game in all its color and dimensions can actually have a physiological effect on the brain! wow. Those points are definitely things I worry about with our society, and future society, but also the violence. The violence in these games – wow. I think my stepbrother has a game where you can shove a bomb up someone’s butt and blow them up from the inside out. Are you serious?? These kids (and men) are becoming immune to violence. News about terrorists attacks, military deaths, and local violence has no effect on their emotions. Mehhh, no big deal. Their compassion for mankind is deteriorating.

    Also, coming from a speech pathologist point of view that deals with kids’ social skills and sentence structure, pragmatics is almost non-existent in kids’ worlds today. Syntax and sentence formation – TERRIBLE. It’s because these kids are plopped down in front of a tv screen and/or video games all afternoon. They are not outside PLAYING with kids – using social skills, making friends. They’re not having to communicate and form sentences with their peers – it’s all shooting and killing on a screen. (and text messaging) It’s an epidemic, really. I see it everyday, as I’m sure all teachers do.

    I know there is no way to reverse it. I wonder what’s to come.

    • WOW! Thanks, Laura. I hadn’t thought of how it trickles down to something as important as speech development. It makes so much sense, though. We are so formative in those early years…It’s heartbreaking to think of kids struggling in school over something they could’ve learned at home had someone been intentional about the way they spend their free time. Thanks for bringing this important angle in to the discussion.

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