To restrain gaming addiction, find the solution within yourself

I have lost count how many times I’ve uninstalled my favorite video game from my laptop, only to find myself reinstalling it within days, sometimes hours.

Today, more than two years after I first attempted to quit my addiction to Counter-Strike, this first-person-shooter game still haunts me, tempting me to indulge in its simulated slugfest as I bathe in the glory of n00b-pwning.

Yes, I am finally coming clean. I used to be, and still am to some degree, a nerdy gamer addicted to my craft.

No, I am not proud, but at least I have admitted to having a problem and have been largely successful in my efforts to curb my addiction.

Whenever my game-quitting progress backtracks a little, I take solace in knowing that gaming addiction is a widespread problem many young people face today.

Video games have never enjoy such immense popularity as they do today, covering themes from war-simulation to sports to music, and available on gaming consoles, PCs and Macs, and handheld devices.

World of Warcraft, the most popular massive multiplayer online role-playing game, has claimed arguably the most addicts among video games worldwide. According to a Jan. 22 news release on its official Web site, WoW had reached 10 million subscribers earlier this year.

WoW addicts, or “zombies,” are so prevalent in our society that most of us have our own stories about losing a friend to the game’s dark arts.

One of my friends, a full-ride scholarship recipient at UK, was first introduced to WoW in high school and began playing the game unconscionably freshman year. He later admitted to clocking double-digit hours per day while skipping almost all of his classes. It was no surprise that when sophomore year came, he no longer had his scholarship.

Fortunately for my friend, he came from a well-off family and therefore didn’t have to worry about paying for college expenses. For students of modest family background, however, losing their scholarships due to gaming addiction could mean an early termination of their college education.

Why are people addicted to gaming? The complete answer would qualify for a doctoral dissertation. There is not a single explanation for the question, and the answer varies to each individual addict.

A brief survey of the current video games shows us why they can be so attractive to so many people. A video game can span and unite the past and the future, blur the line between fantasy and reality, be cerebrally challenging or purely motor-control based. Through video games, one can vent anger and frustration, fulfill dreams that are impossible in the real world, and interact in a virtual yet devoted community.

However, I am convinced that the ultimate problem, as well as the solution, lies not within the games but the addicts themselves. In other words, many gamers are not addicted to the games — they are addicted to burning their time on gaming.

Whenever I go through periods of Counter-Strike withdrawal, I cannot make myself focus on the serious tasks at hand even without the distraction of gaming. Instead, I often elect to find alternative ways to waste my time, such as surfing videos on YouTube, watching B-minus movies on TV or even playing mind-numbing, sophomoric free games online. That’s how I came to the realization that Counter-Strike is but an excuse for me to procrastinate — a deliciously entertaining excuse, yes, but an excuse nevertheless.

The problem for me, as well as many others, is the lack of motivation coupled with slack self-control.

Identifying life’s priorities and regaining self-control are the corresponding measures to the problem, though this is often easier said than done. Taking one step at a time and staying persistent are the keys to a successful recovery.

For the most part, I am now in control of my gaming addiction. Sparing gaming is now just another form of recreation, and that’s the way it should be.