Health

Video Game Addiction

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My name is Cam, and by the age of 21, I had been addicted to playing video games for over ten years.

I was a normal kid— happy, smart, and friendly. That all changed in 8th grade when I experienced intense bullying, both at school and on the hockey team. The less I went to school and the less I played hockey, the more I played video games. They were an escape for me— a place where I had control over my experience.

Eventually, I dropped out of high school, and for the next year and a half, I was depressed, living in my parents’ basement, and playing video games for 16 hours a day. Unfortunately, games didn’t fix my depression. One night, I wrote out a suicide note. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it, but it made me realize I needed to get help. I started to see a counselor who gave me two options: get (and keep) a job or start taking antidepressants. So I got a job.

The job gave me structure an opportunity for a fresh start—I could make this new life anything I wanted it to be. I knew if I was really going to do this, I couldn’t play video games anymore. I quit cold turkey and didn’t touch a game for two years. Then, I relapsed. I had just moved to a new city with new roommates. During my first night at the house, one of my roommates and I discovered that we used to play the same game: Starcraft. I told him I quit gaming and didn’t feel like playing anymore. He laughed it off. “Just one game,” he said. I agreed, and he absolutely destroyed me in the game. Humiliated, I committed to doing everything possible to improve so he could never beat me like that again.

For the next five months, I played for 16 hours a day and did nothing else. Eventually, I realized my gaming was out of control again. I took time to reflect on why I was drawn to games and realized there were needs gaming fulfilled for me.

Needs Gaming Fulfills:

1. Temporary Escape. When I was feeling stressed, I could game and forget about it.

2. Social Connection. Gaming is a community where you feel welcome, safe, and accepted.

3. Measurable Growth. Gaming gives you a feedback loop of immediate growth and progress.

4. Challenge. Games give you a sense of purpose and a goal. You have to beat this villain, get this weapon, and achieve this level. You always know what to do next— “real life” isn’t as simple as that.

I figured that if I struggled to quit playing video games, surely there were others who had trouble with it. I looked online for advice, and instead of finding anything that actually helped, I saw things like, “Hang out with your friends instead of gaming.” The problem was, all of my friends played, too. After seeing that, I needed to share what I learned through my journey. In May 2011, I published my story, and it went viral. Every day I woke up to new comments and testimonies—some from gamers as young as 10 years old.

In January 2015, I launched Game Quitters. Today, it is the largest support community for people who struggle to overcome video game addiction. We have a YouTube channel with more than two million views, over 75,000 members in 95 countries, and a forum with over 40,000 entries where members can share their journey and support their peers. I’m seven years clean and my life has never been better. My dream is to ensure that anyone out there struggling with a video game addiction has the best support available for them.

Cam Adair is the founder of Game Quitters, the world’s largest support community for video game addiction. Named one of Canada’s Top 150 Leaders in Mental Health, his work has been published in Psychiatry Research and is featured in two TEDx talks, Forbes, BBC, the New York Times, NPR, CNN, and ABC 20/20, amongst others. He’s an internationally recognized speaker, entrepreneur, and YouTuber with over 2M views.

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