Straight Talk Advice

Jul 26, 2006

Former gaming addict says it was like being “dead”

Dear Readers: Two weeks ago I printed letters in defense of video gaming. Today the other side has the floor.

Dear Straight Talk: I’m 17 and I suspect that the people who wrote in favor of video games have been gaming from such a young age that they can’t really compare how they would be without it.

I know the difference because I grew up media free. Then, at age 14, my brothers and I were given unlimited access to Xbox and computer games and we became hugely addicted.

Two years later, I got off it. It was a struggle because my life revolved around it, but I forced myself. My brothers, however, kept playing non-stop. They both had huge personality shifts. My older brother used to be very social and now he’s not. He gets annoyed easily and has no motivation. My younger brother used to be calm and steady and now he’s wound up and angry.

My dad refused to set limits. Then I found Dr. Mori’s research on “game brain”, about how gaming two to seven hours a day causes loss of beta wave activity in the front brain—resulting in anger, lack of concentration, and socialization issues—exactly what my brothers had.

It woke my dad up and he has declared a full moratorium on computer games. He removed the Xbox controls and took away the keyboard to the computer.—Folsom

Dear Straight Talk: I was a computer game addict for three years. When I look back, it was like being dead. It does affect you, regardless of what the game addicts like to say.—Been there, UC Davis

Dear Straight Talk: Since my brothers got an Xbox two years ago, I hardly see them. “Joe” who is 15, plays a lot of violent games and he is always angry. “Zach” who is 17, plays the same games and it doesn’t make him angry, but he used to always have friends over and now he doesn’t. It’s like living in a before-and-after picture. I wish my parents would set rules so my brothers could go back to the “before” and be themselves again.—“Emma”, 13

Dear Straight Talk: Computer games are fun, but I know they’re bad for me. I get snappy when I play a lot. It’s partly from staying up too late and eating garbage, but I used to have lots of ideas and energy and now I can’t think of anything except gaming.—Age 15

Dear Straight Talk: I suppose computer games are an outlet for kids, as two letters defending video games stated, but alcohol and drugs are outlets, too, and I no more support kids frying their brains on computer games than I do letting them fry on drugs and booze. I’m a high school teacher and it’s not hard to identify the kids who do a lot of gaming. Remove this medium and kids will seek healthy outlets like athletics, politics, art, music, drama.—No name please

Dear Straight Talk: My son, “Nick”, started playing video games at 12. By the time he was 15 he hardly did anything else. His grades had dropped, he was fidgety and rude and had developed an anger problem.

I do honestly believe video games were responsible for my son’s change in behavior—it was not just an easy thing to blame, as one letter in favor of video games suggested.

While Nick was showering, I came through his room looking for laundry. Instead of dirty socks, I threw his computer into the basket and dumped it into the deep end of the pool.—M.L., Auburn

Dear Straight Talk: I handled the problem by throwing my sons’ Nintendo out the window and down the hill.—Cathy, Lincoln

Dear Readers: There really are 50 ways! Thank you all for writing.


  1. By Tristan, age , from Seattle on 08/01/2010

    I think it’s important to distinguish between a hobby and a pathology. Yes it is possible and common to use video games pathologically, I’ve done it, I know all about it. But there is a very healthy way of using them that I think actually improves quality of life.

    Once I read David Sirlin’s book “Playing to Win: Becoming the Champion,” my life turned around. I began to view games not as a substitute for challenge, but as a genuine challenge and a path of continuous improvement, the same as learning a musical instrument. I have some authority to say that, I’ve played music for much longer than I’ve played games.

    Playing a game the way you would play a sport or an instrument is a very positive, life affirming act, on par with the most fulfilling things we can do. But it requires presence of mind and a particular approach, a refusal accept the easy rewards of pathological gaming, and an awareness that the only reward that matters is genuine self improvement.

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