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Alex is a member of one of my cyber recovery groups. He is a 23-year old with a very high IQ, but whose life has gone nowhere. He has been booted out of numerous living situations, lost jobs and alienated friends and family, mostly due to his obsession with multiple aspects of video games. Peeling back Alex’s “screen persona,” however, illuminates a young man with big dreams that he still longs to fulfill. The group is helping him take steps to do just that. The interview below takes you into an addict’s mind and, hopefully, helps humanize his situation.

Kevin: Alex, your obsessive video game behavior is impossible for most to comprehend. Can you describe what it is about your games that so engages you?

Alex: I am drawn into RPG’s (Role Playing Games) because, for some reason, my mind seems to merge with them. I become part of the action, just like some people with a good book. When I was ten years old, I started reading Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s writing transported to me to another dimension. Video games took me into it even further.

Kevin: When was the first time you remember feeling a heightened intensity with video games?

Alex: I remember the day well. I was six years old and played Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time. It appealed to me in so many different ways: the feel of the game controller, the music, the fantasy land scenery. It made me feel alive in a way I had not theretofore experienced.

Kevin: You have a lot of passion for helping younger gamers avoid your fate. What could the adults in your life have done differently to help you?

Alex: Rather than always dismiss my gaming as a problem, I could have been guided to computer and gaming camps that might have helped me develop a unique skill set. I am not blaming my parents, just to be clear. I was a handful, and they did an incredible job trying to help me manage my many issues.

Kevin: I maintain that addicts, like you and me, find in the cyber world a less-than-completely-satisfying fulfillment of dreams and desires they long for in the real world. What dreams do you still long to attain?

Alex: I was just talking to a friend today about how I wanted to learn Japanese and live for a time in Japan. Something about that country and culture has always fascinated me and I want to experience directly instead of observing from afar. Obviously, I am not going to make this happen if I am sitting in my chair playing games all day long. My dream job would be to work for the Nintendo Corporation.

Kevin: What piece of advice would you give to the addicted gamer out there who, unlike you, is still not admitting he or she has a problem?

Alex: There’s more to life than a computer screen. Get out and find some adventure and excitement in the real world. Find some real friends, because cyber buddies stay in the cyber world.

Kevin: Thank you, Alex, for your candor. I hope you come back again and wish you much luck in your recovery process. I believe in you wholeheartedly.

  • Do you know anybody like Alex?
  • Is your cyber behavior preventing you from reaching your dreams?
  • Please let your voice be heard!  LEAVE A RESPONSE.

24 Responses to “Stagnant Spirit of Adventure: An Interview with Alex”

  1. joel wilson says:

    Great subject Kevin. Talked about a lot but when you see yourself in print concept it leads to more thorough introspection.
    Joel

  2. juli kubicki says:

    Kevin and Alex,
    Thanks for bringing this issue to light. I have a little guy who is also obsessed with Mario. I will be keeping my eye on him.
    Juli

  3. Michael McBride says:

    Kevin, it is clear you are someone who can make us a difference in people’s lives. You are an inspiration! Please keep up the good work. The world is truly a better place with you in it!

  4. NickyTickyTalky says:

    It just goes to show you, everything should be taken in moderation or it becomes a problem.

  5. Maureen says:

    I knew a few kids that I thought were addicted to video games. I think this is a great topic to bring to people’s attention. They may think it’s harmless, but you are showing how it can really alter someone’s life in a negative way.
    Keep up the good work!

  6. David A says:

    An online RPG is particularly insidious. Not only do you have a vast, virtual world to inhabit, explore, and adventure in, you have a huge community of people to do it with. Knowing that there are thousands of people on my server playing at the same time as me makes it seem normal, not so bad.

    But I’ve recently come to truly see how shallow and hollow these in-game relationships are. Not that this is true for everyone. Plenty of people can play in moderation and have met spouses, etc. through the game. Just as not all drinkers are alcoholics, not all gamers are addicts. But for some of us it’s definitely not a “normal” or healthy hobby. The in-game socializing comes to replace the real thing, and it creates a cycle: social skills stagnate, leading to social anxiety, leading to further retreat into the game.

    • kevin says:

      David, you not only have vast knowledge on this subject but you bring a decidedly philosophical spin as well. Would you consider writing a guest blog?

  7. Michael McBride says:

    My apologies, Kevin, if I am traveling slightly off course. But, isn’t this video game thing just another illusion we create for ourselves? For example, I am an avid viewer of professional sports. Often, I see commercials of a man giving his wife a fancy car for Christmas or her birthday or whatever. I do not know many people that could afford such a gift, but this has somehow become the norm, or what we should be. If I realize that this is not what I can become, what does that make me? Someone that is outside of the norm of society?

    • kevin says:

      Michael, I think it makes you normal. Our consumer culture bombards us with messages that we should be something other than what we are. Video games, and the cyber world in general, play into this by giving us less-than-satisfying facsimiles for the adventure, excitement and connection we long for in our real lives.

  8. Jeff says:

    I like what you’re doing here Kevin. Have you seen journalism about the internet addiction camps in China? What’s your stance on those.

    • kevin says:

      I have seen them, Jeff, and I certainly think that in extreme cases they can be very useful. As you well know, China and Korea both see video gaming addiction as a national crisis.

  9. Jerry Conroy says:

    Kevin, I have been trying to get my daughter to take this issue seriosuly with my grandchildren. She lets those kids play for hours on end. Can you give me some advice on how to help her come out of denial so that she actually takes this seriously?

    • kevin says:

      Jerry, I hate to be shamelessly self-promoting, but I think it might be good to give her a copy of my book. She needs to learn the destructive side of excessive cyber behaviors.

  10. Brian says:

    “Video games have never been my thing”, with the exception of Age of Empires and a couple others that managed to swallow up weeks here and there. I guess I’d be a cyber-binger.

  11. Brian says:

    Video games have never really been my thing, but I relate. Like Michael, this post makes me think of lots of things I’ve wasted time and energy on that have kept me from doing things that would ultimately be more fulfilling. I like the interview format to the post. Will you have more of those?

    • kevin says:

      I think we will be having more interviews, Brian. I want this blog to be about people telling their stories, from which, I hope, others might benefit. Consider yourself lucky that video games are not your thing. It is interesting how many times I have resisted doing things that are good for me, then forced myself to go, and had an excellent time. In spite of this sort of thing repeatedly occurring, I still resist. I suppose, even though I am an extrovert, that part of me wants to isolate and hide away in my cave. Thanks very much for being part of the discussion.

  12. Michael McBride says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for this interview. After I read it, I began to take a closer look at myself. Although I am not a video game addict, I see “pieces” of Alex inside of me. Upon reflection, I realize that I have put up “barriers” throughout my life that have prevented me from having the relationships that I wanted, and staggered the path to my my dreams.

    • kevin says:

      Thank you, Michael. And video games, and other offerings of the cyber world, are not unique. Many behaviors and substances keep us from feeling what we need to feel so that we can move on with our lives. Some of us choose escape over confrontation, and the world is filled with so many opportunities for escape, whether it comes from the cyber world, working too much, or just having so much pain inside that we do not have the strength to deal with it. Please stop by again Michael!

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