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?”
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.
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