Episode 248: Computer Gaming Addiction

Scott’s Story

Scott J. was attending AA meetings for seven years and was sober, happy, and doing well. In fact, his life improved so much that he didn’t think he needed as many meetings. Eventually, he stopped going altogether and began playing computer games. Initially, his gaming wasn’t a problem, but this changed when he started to use gaming to cope with stress. In time, he became obsessive about gaming and spent an increasing amount of time with it. He spent so much time gaming that he would be embarrassed if anyone knew the truth, so he did what he could to hide it from other people. Today, Scott is abstinent from gaming and is actively involved in Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous (CGAA). In this interesting and informative episode, you will learn more about Scott, computer gaming addiction, and CGAA.

CGAA and the Twelve Traditions

CGAA traces its beginning to an online forum that was started in 2004 by problem gamers. These gamers supported one another as best they could, and some achieved long-term abstinence for several years through the principles they learned at AA and NA meetings. In 2010, the group started having regular online meetings, and in 2014 they formed a new Fellowship that they named Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous.

The fledging Fellowship had a rocky start and made a lot of mistakes that slowed their growth. It wasn’t until they adapted AA’s Twelve Traditions for their own use that their membership grew, and things stabilized.

CGAA, Secularism, and the Twelve Steps

Many of the founding members of CGAA didn’t hold monotheistic beliefs, so the Fellowship was secular from its start. When they adapted AA’s Twelve Steps, they wanted the language to be more inclusive, which is why you won’t find “God” written in any of the Twelve Steps at CGAA. However, the principles of the Steps are intact and anyone who is familiar with AA’s Twelve Steps would recognize them.

COVID Spurs growth

In 2020 when COVID sent the world went into lockdown, membership in CGAA doubled or tripled. There are multiple factors for this, but one of the more interesting is that as people spent more time at home, a person’s gaming problem would become more noticeable by their family.  Often people who become addicted to gaming will get help after their family confronts them with the problem.

Recovery process and the 12 Steps

Recovery in CGAA is abstinence-based, which means no gaming at all. The fellowship is a mutual support group and there is no set program or rules. Like all Twelve Step Fellowships, the Twelve Steps are suggested, not required and most CGAA members are helped by other members who have achieved long-term abstinence.

Addiction to Screens and Internet Use

Outside of computer gaming addiction, some people become addicted to screens, and Internet use. In fact, there is a separate Fellowship called Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous (ITAA). Some gamers also have had problems with internet and technology use, but not in all cases has it become a full-blown addiction. Internet and technology addiction is a real problem, but it’s not the same problem as gaming.

Family of Gaming Addicts

In January of 2020, a group for the family of gaming addicts was created called Gamer-Anon. They use Al-Anon literature and principles and there is a lot of good experience being shared among family members. It can be a heartbreaking experience to have a loved one with a gaming addiction. When given the choice, some gamers will choose gaming over their family.

How do you know that you have a problem with gaming?

Anyone can have a problem with gaming, but if you go through withdrawal symptoms, that would be more indicative that you are an addict. Trying to stop for a time will help you determine if you are an addict or just having a temporary problem. Feeling impulsive and trying to find other ways to cope, only to go right back to gaming is typical among those who are addicted to gaming. There is a list of questions on the CGAA website that could help you determine if you are an addict. You can also attend CGAA meetings and listen to others to see if you relate to their stories.

Scott’s view of addiction

Scott believes that addiction is a singular mental health disorder.  He thinks there should be a single diagnosis of addiction rather than classifying addiction based on the substances or behaviors that are used.  

Links

Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous Website

Self-Test for Gaming Addiction

Gamer-Anon, a program for the loved ones of compulsive gamers