FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, November 28, 2005

When Gaming Hurts Relationships

Ladies, you might want to think twice before buying your boyfriend or husband that new Xbox 360 for Christmas. A growing body of anecdotal evidence suggests that some young men are becoming so preoccupied with video games that it is hurting their relationships.

For some, playing video games mirrors the addictive behavior of drug and alcohol abuse, with players going on "binges," ignoring everything and everyone around them, and reporting symptoms of withdrawal when they try to quit. In response, female students at Kansas State University have started a support group, Girlfriends Against Video Games. One member, Megan Hoffman, says of her boyfriend's obsession, "I think the biggest issue I have is how much money he spends on it... He has a campus job, and campus jobs don't pay very much at all. Then he gets his paycheck and spends it all on video games." For his part, Megan's boyfriend says that he has begun selling plasma to pay for his gaming habit.

This appears to be more than the typical "battle of the sexes" scenario. Something so powerful that college-age men prefer it over relations with the opposite sex is a true force to be reckoned with! If we were talking about a chemical substance here, there would surely be calls for its criminalization -- after all, the driving forces in the Temperance movement of the early 20th century that led to Prohibition were women fed up with their husbands coming home drunk from saloons.

But this example begs a broader question -- are we entering an age where we prefer interacting with technology over relationships with other humans? At what point will young women give up on gamer boyfriends and look elsewhere for companionship (Older men? Men who have actively sworn off video games? Amish men?) How often is the situation reversed, with "girl gamers" forsaking boyfriends? As video game junkies grow older, will their addiction further hurt their ability to form relationships with either men or women, maintain families, hold jobs, or participate in society at large? At what point could a broader backlash set in?

We may only be seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg if video gaming -- and technology in general -- drives an irreconcilable wedge between men and women.

RELATED: For years, psychologists have theorized that Internet addiction is as real as addiction to any chemical substance. Recently, at least one hospital reports admissions of patients suffering from obsessive computer use, and experts now believe that one in 10 Americans has a technology-related dependency.

Sources: MTV.com, Joystiq