Escaping video game addiction: Cam Adair at TEDxBoulder


Translator: Géraldine Géraldine
Reviewer: Queenie Lee For over ten years,
I was addicted to playing video games. This addiction affected
many areas of my life, including being a major
influence in my decision to drop out of high school
at the age of 15. Eventually, my parents got on my case
to get a job, so I got one. I say “got” because I pretended
to have a job for months. Every morning at 7 a.m.,
my dad would drop me off at the restaurant where I was a prep cook. After he drove off, I’d walk across the street
and catch the bus back home, sneaking in through my window
and going to sleep. I’d been up all night playing video games. The truth is I didn’t want
to do these things – I just did. The addiction controlled the behavior. Three years ago,
I decided to make a change. I just moved back home to Calgary, Canada,
from living on Vancouver Island, and I couldn’t get over this feeling
of immense disappointment in myself. I moved to Vancouver Island
inspired to take on new challenges, only to be left playing video games
16 hours a day for five months straight. I felt like a failure, and unfortunately,
this was a feeling I knew too well. So I did what anybody would do: I Googled it! And the answers I found – (Laughter) (Applause) and the answers I found
were incredibly frustrating. There were suggestions
like “study more,” when the whole reason I was playing
video games was to avoid studying, or to hang out with friends
when all my friends played video games. Not knowing what else to do,
I decide to quit cold-turkey, and after a few months, I learned key lessons that led
to major breakthroughs in my recovery. And knowing others
were struggling with this addiction, I decided to share my story. I wrote a blog post online titled
“How to quit playing video games forever,” and the response: overwhelming. But is video game addiction
really that big of a problem? I mean, we are talking
about video games here. Sure, I had my own
personal experience with it, but did this problem scale,
or was I just one of the unlucky ones? Current research suggests
that 97 percent of youth play video games, which equates to 64 million kids,
in the US alone, between the ages of 2 and 17, with the fastest-growing age
were kids aged 2 to 5. In the UK, 10% more kids aged 2 to 5 know
how to operate a smartphone application, then know how to tie their own shoes. Unfortunately, the debate
surrounding video games focuses on whether you should play or not, when that’s like saying
should you drink or not, if you can do it
in moderation, that’s fine. But what if you can’t, what if right now
you are stuck at home playing video games, and you want to stop and don’t know how. Imagine for a second
how this makes you feel. Do you feel a sense of pain? What about feelings of guilt, shame,
do you feel confident, anxious, depressed? Now, this wouldn’t be a good TEDx talk
unless I shared the lessons I learned and how you can use them to help yourself or someone you know
overcome this addiction. It’s not about the games;
it’s about why you play the games. If you can understand why you play games,
you can move on from them. There are four main reasons
why you play games. First, they are a temporary escape. After a tough breakup at the age of 18, playing games online
gave me the perfect way of not having to deal with the situation. I could simply get absorbed in games
and play for hours and hours. Second, games are social. Staying home on a Friday night
doesn’t seem so bad when you are at home playing games
with your friends online. Not only that, but games offer
a clean slate on the social ladder. Being bullied when I was younger didn’t exactly leave me feeling
very confident in my social standing. I felt misunderstood, unaccepted,
and unsure how to fix it, even though I want it too. Playing games online
gave me this opportunity; I could be who I wanted to be;
nobody knew my history, and I was judged based
on my ability to play the game and not on my current social standing. Third, games are a challenge. They give you a sense of purpose,
a mission, a goal to work towards. This is an achievement paradigm, achievements multiply the opportunities
to experience success. Finally, you see constant
measurable growth. This is a feedback loop.
You get to see progress. When you are at school, you struggle
to improve your social standing, but online you are able to see rewards
for the efforts you’ve put in. Consider how it feels when you’re finally
able to see progress in something; consider how it feels when you are able to see that the goal
you’ve set out for is achievable; combine these four areas,
and you have a very addicting process. So where do we go from here?
How do we fix this problem? Video game addiction
is a habit developed over time by becoming your go-to activity
whenever you’re bored. So parents, it starts with you. I’m sorry to say, but the iPad
is not the new babysitter. They need interaction, not entertainment.
Next, game was played for various – (Applause) Next, games were played
for very specific reasons. Identify their motivations and help them
find these in other activities, help them with their social skills. The truth is they struggle
to make friends. Lastly, don’t punish them
for their desire to play these games. Come from a place of compassion
and encouragement, not judgment. We are so caught up in asking
whether this is a real addiction or not that we’ve lost sight
of what truly matters: How do we help these people
stop playing video games? But there is another way. The truth is this is about the idea of feeling trapped in something
you want to move on from. It’s about the freedom
to live the way that you want and on your own terms, and sometimes all you need is permission. Permission to move on from something
you want to move on from. Permission to stop playing video games. So if you’re out there, whether in the audience
or watching at home, I want you to understand one thing:
you have permission. Thank you. (Cheering) (Applause)

Danny Hutson

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