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January 20, 2006
Five Ways To Avoid Gaming Addiction

In November, we ran a poll on this site asking what kind of electronic crack you're addicted to. The results were shocking:

Video games - 9%
PC games - 14%
Online multiplayer games - 15%
Instant Messaging - 5%
Web surfing - 18%
Online pornography - 7%
E-mail - 14%
Cell phone text messaging - 3%
Mobile gaming - 2%
None -- I'm not addicted to any of the above - 13%

You'll note that somewhere between 15 and 40 percent of you are addicted to some kind of gaming, according to this poll. That's probably a little higher than the general population, but, then again, this is Personal Tech Pipeline. It's also a self-description -- we didn't list symptoms to look for.

Gaming of course isn't all bad, and many "addicts" don't really have a serious problem (the real problem starts when playing games stops being fun or when work or loved ones are neglected). Although concern about gaming addiction has been around for more than two decades, a raft of services and sites have sprung up recently around the idea.

Some are designed to help addicts. Many mimic services designed for drug addicts. China has been at the forefront of opening game addiction rehab centersk, although Korea has had a number of highly publicized cases of people playing themselves literally to death.

Recently, a new Web site called has been created by Sherry Myrow, is a 23-year-old newlywed in Toronto, Canada. Her new husband ignores her in favor of online gaming, so she started what she calls an online support group for people neglected by their gaming-addicted significant others.

The whole gaming addiction phenomenon is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The reason is that -- unlike drug addiction, compulsive gambling or compulsive eating disorders -- gaming addiction is fueled by the inescapable reality of Moore's Law. Games are getting better -- and, yes, more addictive -- every day. (Imagine if the quality or appeal or addictiveness of drugs or alcohol doubled every 18 months!)

I'm no expert on addiction or psychology, but here's my list of five things you should do to avoiding gaming and computer addiction:

1. Decide in advance how many hours you intend to spend playing games (or surfing the Web or whatever), and be hardcore about sticking to it.

2. Establish a day (I do this on Sundays) on which you use no computer or electronic device -- unplug once a week, all day.

3. Ask your significant other from time to time if they feel you ignore them in favor of the computer.

4. Separate your work and play spaces, if possible. (If you play on your work computer, then you'll be tempted to play while working.)

5. Monitor yourself: Are you playing more than before? Are you still enjoying play or is it merely a compulsion? Are you thinking about playing games when you're doing other things? Are you neglecting other areas of your life in favor of playing games?

Also: Let me know how YOU cope with gaming and computer addiction. After all, only 13 percent of you said that you're not addicted:

PS: This blog entry was taken from today's issue of the Personal Tech Pipeline newsletter, the column for which is normally exclusive only for subscribers. If you'd like to subscribe, GO HERE. It's free!

Posted by Mike Elgan at 12:38 PM | Permalink

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