"Playing `World of Warcraft' makes me feel godlike, I have ultimate control and can do what I want with few real repercussions. The real world makes me feel impotent ... a computer malfunction, a sobbing child, a suddenly dead cell phone battery – the littlest hitch in daily living feels profoundly disempowering." - Ryan Van Cleeve, video gaming addict
Van Cleeve, is like many men we have counseled in the past few years. Professional, intelligent, family men with responsibilities. These men are lured into the fantasy world of real-time warfare, linked through the internet with gamers just like them around the world, taking on fantasy alter-egos to battle against evil creatures. They suddenly become heroes, conquerors, kings of their universe.
And in so doing, their wives and children in the real world are left behind, as clever computer graphics take priority over them. Not only does an addict waste hours of his life by neglecting his job and family, but when real life interrupts, it's common for him to fly into a rage and even attack the ones he loves. Just days ago I saw the bruises and cuts on the wife of a gamer who did just that.
For those who have no interest in gaming, this type of addiction can seem ridiculous. Of course it's ridiculous, just as any other addiction is. But it is very real and very destructive. Men, as we can expect by the nature of the game, are those who are most taken in by games such as this.
Ryan Van Cleeve's explanation says a lot. The need to feel like the hero, to be recognized for his achievements, to feel the thrill of a hunt, a quest, a dangerous mission, is all part of his biological wiring. This is an innate part of maleness. If a man is constantly ridiculed by his wife, is put down and overlooked on his job, is unappreciated for the accomplishments that he does have, he can easily feel like a failure, and the drive to find some way to eradicate that feeling can be overwhelming. Often affairs are a result of that unresolved need. Drugs and alcohol can be an escape from his low self-esteem. But a beautifully designed game where he can imagine himself to be strong and in control of his life, can become irresistible.
As a mom of two boys, video games are nothing new, yet never has any game become an addiction in our household. Frequently games that they buy or receive as presents, end up being sold or given away because of a fast, or left behind as we leave for a new location. And always, every game has to be screened and approved by Dad, who has no interest whatsoever in playing them. Sure some benign games can be entertaining, can keep rowdy kids quiet for a while, and can pass the time. There are silly ones, "educational" ones (I have my doubts about that), violent ones, and like World of Warcraft, ones that have a life force of their own, that suck you into their universe, and never let you go without a determined fight to break free.
Just yesterday a friend of mine told me about a family in her church who's eight-year-old tried to stab his own father with a kitchen knife when his game was taken away at bedtime. Gaming addictions are no joke, there is often a very evil spiritual side to these games, that do far more damage than create distractions. People who try to give up World of Warcraft, World of Starcraft and others like those, often find themselves dreaming in that virtual world, waking up with a jolt of adrenaline, and desperate to get back on the computer for one more quest. For those who don't understand the power of evil and the need for deliverance, only sheer willpower can keep them away from it - for a while.
If you have a husband, child or any other loved one who you fear is addicted, if you know that World of Warcraft is a part of their life, seek out help for them immediately. Realize that perhaps you have contributed to this feeling of impotency that they feel, this low sense of self-worth. They need freedom, and an understanding of who they are before God, that they are not failures, but can become the heroes of their own lives as they learn to become warriors for Him.