Video Games Are Tearing Marriages Apart

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) — If you ask most parents, they will admit it can be hard to limit the amount of time their kids play video games. Now some adults are having trouble pulling themselves away from these games, and that addiction can tear families apart and ruin marriages.

Donald Hunt had a tough time curtailing his playing time as he was drawn to intense games around the clock. “It’s just total immersion into the game, as your reality, instead of the reality,” he explained.

Don played so much he lost his job and ruined his marriage.

His wife Jane felt horrible. “It was really lonely,” she said. “And it felt like I was a widow; that I had lost my other half.”

Although the cliché is that teen aged boys are the most likely candidates to get addicted to video games, that is not the case these days according to Ryan Van Cleave, author of “Unplugged”. He says more adults are now hooked.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports.

“They’re killing careers,” said Van Cleave. “They’re killing families. They’re killing relationships. They’re killing health, and literally now we’re having people killing others and themselves over video games.”

Across the country there have been cases of children being neglected while their parents played video games. In one case, a one year old baby drowned in the bathtub while his mother got caught up in a game.

Psychology professor Douglas Genitle has studied how video games affect the brain. He considers video game addiction and impulse control disorder.

“You know you should go to bed, but you just want to get one more level,” explained Dr. Gentile. “And you’re not able to actually control those impulses to play. And what those people need to do is get that back into balance. “

One problem is video game addiction isn’t recognized as a medical diagnosis which can make it more difficult to find help.

Gentile said, “You’re probably going to need to find a therapist who is used to dealing with people with impulse control disorders or with substance abuse disorders because they have a lot of ways to help people who start getting things out of balance in their lives.”

Spouses also need to tread on this issue carefully so they don’t make matters worse.

Van Cleave advises, “The number one thing to do is not confront them while they’re playing the game. A calm, clear conversation with them at a moment when they’re not gaming is a great way to start things moving in the right direction.”

Don finally broke his habit, and life with Janet has returned to normal. “Life is good now,” said Janet. “I have my husband back.’

It doesn’t take an intense game like “Call of Duty” to become addicted. Therapists say adults can become addicted to those innocuous games on Facebook just as easily.

More from Kate Merrill
  • Dawnmarie

    sorry but i would much rather my hubby be at home parked on my couch playin video games rather then out with the guys or messin around..atleast hes home n u kno what hes doin n where he is and hes HOME

    • emom

      Dawnmarie AGREE….. My husband would play video games , I didnt mind,,, since it was far better than , drinking, going out with the guys getting drunk, doing what ever else he could do, ,,, Besides I use to play video games with him… it actually made us closer… we loved the arcades and had fun from time to time… and we are still married,,,,,,, 21 years now… I guess it all depends on the couple and how they handle it together…..

      • Staying Strong

        U’ve been married 21 yrs so that tells me u played the older games together which didn’t require u to stay on for 12 hrs at a time. My husband is hurting hos relationship with me, our children and he also idolizes it before God. He’s on the verge of losing everything over this. It’s more important to him than ANYTHING right now. Your situation sounds a bit different. By the way congratulations on a lasting marriage, I pray the same happens for me.

      • Staying Strong

        Oh and I don’t mind him playing. It’s the fact that he needs to find balance. I do appreciate he’s home instead of out drinking, doing drugs, or cheating but he also puts his game before the extremely good career he has and acts as though he’s willing to lose it all for the game.

  • sally

    Are you all serious? Just figuring this out? I see people who cannot put their I-phone down for 2 minutes, afraid they will miss a message. Families out to eat adn they all have their own phone and no one is talking to each other. It goes way beyone video games folks.. Pretty lame story. I guess with the Royal Wedding and Bin Laden dead, and the media has pretty much talked about ‘rising gas prices’ for 6 months until your sure it will hit $5/gal by July 4.. Get real

  • buildmeister

    How is this different than a dad from decades past who would ignore his family at the dinner table because he’s caught up in reading the evening paper? Or a housewife who can’t put down that romance novel? It’s not anything new, as people are just trying to escape their lives using more modern methods. I would hear stories from my wife talking about how her grandfather would go out to the bars after work and corrouse and cheat. It’s just another method of escapism.

  • taylors

    I agree with Sally. It is pathetic how people are so addicted to their electronic devices. Children being ignored at restaurants while the parents text and play on phones. I’ve even seen couples both separately playing on devices while out together. I was at a concert on friday night and one guy in front of me texted the entire night while checking facebook. Maybe people read newspapers and romance novels, but they sure weren’t killing people on highways while doing it, or walking into people on the street because their head was down playing on a phone. Nobody speaks anymore, as everyone is too busy being into themselves. Instead of chatting at a park with the person next to you, everyone sits and plays on phones. I think it is sad. I’m 36 and when I was in my 20’s I was into the cell phone thing, but now having children I keep only a tracfone and use it only when I really need it. I never use it to chat while driving or out in public. I think that is completely obnoxious.

  • Sue Eskenazi Sweeney

    Not only video games, but Face Book is tearing families apart.

  • Denise

    Just like anything else – to much in excess is bad! It would be nice if the whole family would play the games… If you aren’t doing what you should be doing because of video games or anything else – then shame on you! The kids want to grow up to fast.. then when they’re adults they want to be kids again!

    And if a guy or gal is going to cheat on their significant other – then get the hell out! Who needs video games … you’re going to end up w/ less than 1/2 if you get “caught”… so be smart and GET OUT FIRST!!!!!

  • emom

    This story brings up one important topic,,, LACK OF COMMUNICATIONS between couples and famlies.. If couples lack in the communications department then they are doomed… and if they should have children and still lack in this, they ultimatly teach their children the same. That avoidance is what it is all about. Me and my husband did many things together and I try to teach my child the same. I will play video games with my child but there is a limit,, Just like the texting, twittering, facebooking and what ever other mode of communication of a voiceless world is… with my kid the car is a perfect place to talk, dinner gives a chance too. weekdays are busy so we squeeze as much time together… Its a fine balance, sadly many havent a clue on how to do it, since their upbringing was of the time of dad reading a paper, slugging down beer in the back yard or at the bar, playing poker with the guys in the garage, while mom was to busy , cleaing the house all day, cooking, tending to the babies, and then playing gin rummey and drinking highballs with her lady friends.. Yeah those where the days,,, I am greatfull my family DID spend time together,, maybe thats why my child Knows what its like to have a parent ….

  • DAVIDthisisforYOU!

    I know a husband addicted to WOW, so much so he ignores his wife, children, yardwork and his HEALTH!! He is a diabetic and while going into a low sugar,diabetics go into a epileptic type state . Was more concerned about his WOW CHARACTER DYING!!!! Yelling at his wife to play his character while he was kibbying on the floor!! HE IS NOT THE MAN SHE MARRIED! Partners in life and love do NOT ignore each other for a video game, or other things you guys mentioned! If he was out with the guys, atleast he comes home THEN pays attention to the wife! These addicts are on these games 7 or more hours a night EVERY NIGHT and even MORE ON THE WEEKEND!! She and the kids are being cheated outta life and I’ve been trying to get her to divorce him for years! And the kicker is he was MY best friend before she ever met him!! These games are RUINING LIVES !!!!! SHE DID NOT SIGN UP TO BE AN ADULT CAREGIVER BECAUSE OF A VIDEO GAME!!!

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  • RetroPam

    I think that if you are addicted to ANY piece of technology whether it is a smartphone, iPad, Facebook, or video game then you are a LOSER who needs to get a f****** life. What is wrong with our world when so many people are this unhappy that they need a cold, hard piece of electronics to make them full fulfilled? Do something with your life!

  • Wife lost

    Two years ago my wife started Mafia Wars on Facebook. She was recovering from a work injury and I thought it was a good way for her to enjoy her day. This turned into 10 to 16 hours a day. I was her caregiver doing every chore in the house. I would ocasionally ask why so much time and she would get very defensive. When family would come over, she couldn’t stop playing. Some days while I was at work she would forget to eat. She went 7 days without a shower one week. The game controls her life. A few weeks ago a guy in Texas she met while playing the game bought her tix to fly down and stay with him. I found out the night before she left that this was going to happen. She says she needed to get away. She was supposed to return a week later. The day she was supposed to return the guy calls me and says she doesn’t know when she’ll be home. She is an addict and can’t put it down. So there in Texas she doesn’t have me asking her about the games. Lies, deciet, secret email addresses, spending money on the games and hiding it….it’s real. Mafia Wars on Facebook took my wife away. 18 years of the most beautiful marriage anyone could ask for. Very few conflicts and those were always resolved peacefully. In the last 6 months, she had very little time to talk with me. I have been very lonely in my own house with my wife right there ignoring me. You can read more stories just like mine on the web at Online Gamers Anonymous. Even when she was watching her grandchildren, she was playing the game and spending little time with the 3 year old. These game are destroying families and friends. She doesn’t talk with her local friends anymore. Her friends are all online. “Friends”? If you see signs of long hours gaming, don’t ignore them.

  • NattyS

    It’s only a matter of time before someone sues the game developers for their addiction. I could see EA or Activision on trial for sure.

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