“Reser, why are you still up?”
I barely hear my mother over the screams of my friends blaring through my Turtle Beach headset. I frantically glance over to the white analog clock hanging on my basement wall while situating myself in a Zombie-free corner. It’s 2:00 a.m.
“Sorry, I lost track of time I’m in the middle of a Zombies game, I can’t get off, Mom.”
This used to be my weekend nightlife in elementary school, and recently it has taken up more of my time. Ever since I discovered the game Fortnite, it has become a mainstay on my weekend afternoons. One night after getting pestered for retiring for the night in our Fortnite snap group, I read on CNN that my nightly routine could classify me as having a mental disorder or addiction, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). I think this is outrageous.
As I was reading, the possible symptoms of a video game addiction seemed off to me based on the simple explanation behind every single one of them. The WHO cites the following symptoms: video games being more important than your social life, avoiding eating to keep playing and not sleeping and staying up playing. All of these seem reasonable to non-gamers, but are much simpler than what it looks like.
How on Earth am I supposed to leave my squad when we are 30 rounds deep on Kino Der Toten and go to bed? Sorry, but I can wait another hour to go to sleep. We have to beat our record on the leaderboard or else nobody will believe that we actually made it to round 40.
It’s not all black and white like the WHO thinks it is. It’s not that I need video games and refuse to sleep, it’s the comradery and competition involved with playing that brings me back. I could care less about losing an hour of sleep in exchange for sitting atop the Zombies leaderboard for weeks or months. Sure, I might be a bit drowsy the day after but that isn’t the sign of an addiction, its a side effect of staying up too late. Simple as that.
It’s the same idea for eating. If I’m in charge of making my own lunch on a Saturday and my friends and I happen to be running a lobby of Team Tactical, I can wait the extra hour or two to eat. It’s not like we skip meals to strictly play COD. It’s hard for non-gamers to understand why we might push our meals back to strange hours, but starving ourselves was never on the menu.
It’s also important to note that when I started playing Xbox Live in fourth grade, that was my social life. My first true group of friends and I would get online, play hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 all while talking about what is going on at school and in life. It’s not like video games aren’t a social activity. Instead of sitting around watching movies, my friends and I would play Xbox together. That was my life.
But it never got in the way of any of my obligations, not then and not now. Despite logging 25 days playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer over the course of two years, I still got all of my assignments done for school and made it to every sports practice. That still remains true today. Video games don’t keep me from seeing friends and family or doing homework assignments.
There are exceptions, of course. When I read stories of people dying after a three-day binge session of video games, I tremble. Those, however, are isolated situations. Those people have addictions and needed help. The vast majority of gamers might lack self-control, but that doesn’t mean that you are addicted to video games.
The same principle could be applied to people who binge watch Netflix. Obviously it’s not the most productive thing to do, but it’s not like you are addicted to whatever hot TV show you are watching. What about people who can’t miss a game of HQ? Are they addicted to trivia? The term addicted is becoming too loose — and in this context — takes away from more serious, life-threatening addictions, such as drug addictions.
The WHO’s possible symptoms for addiction to video games are easily explained from a gamer, but probably seem foreign to non-gamers. But when I inevitably get trapped in the Juggernog corner on Kino and die, that is what will cause me to get off, not a certain time on my white analog clock.