So when my boyfriend told me that Skyrim was coming out November 11 and that I shouldn't expect to see him for three months, I was like, "Oh, ha ha, funny joke about how time-consuming games are. I get it." But then I started reading horror stories about "gaming widows" on totally serious news sites, which are the ultimate authority in telling us what to be scared of. ("Could Illegal Immigrants Be Giving You Cancer?" etc.)
So that got me properly scared. Furthermore, I found out the so-called "experts" have refused to classify video game addiction as a real addiction, so I decided to keep a daily journal of Mike's actions, hoping to capture a real case study of a descent into video game addiction that would finally wake them up, and maybe win me some kind of science prize.
Day 1: 11/10
8:57 pm -- I ask Mike to help me change out the cat litter box. "OK," he says, winkingly, "but only if it takes less than 3 minutes." He gets to start playing Skyrim at midnight Eastern time, which I guess is 9:00 here. Already he's watching the clock like a hawk. His pupils might be dilated. I think that is something you are supposed to measure when you are assessing addiction. I saw it on CSI once.
9:02 pm -- How can cats not tell when their butt is not in the litter box? "Gee my ass feels kind of high and my back feet aren't touching any litter, but I sure see a litter box in front of me so I must be in it. Aaaahhhhhhh."
Yeah, I'm talking about you, you little asshole.
Well, it's cleaned up now. Mike saunters over to the computer and checks on the game. It's ready to go. I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the ordeal to come. I may not see him again for months. I must be brave.
9:45 pm -- Mike wanders over to the couch and passes out. It could be from the 10-hour days he's been working on his feet with no breaks, or it could be from the ton of Benadryl he just took to deal with his allergy symptoms, but I think the most likely cause is just emotional exhaustion after the excitement of the moment he's been building up to all week. His gaming obsession must have run deeper than I thought to make him this tired.
9:50 pm -- Well, now I have nothing to observe and a ton of time to kill. People say that Angry Birds game sure is a lot of fun, maybe I'll check it out.
Day 2: 11/11
6:30 pm -- On my way home from work. Bracing myself for the way the house is going to look when I get home -- messy dishes, lights off, probably forgot to let the dog out. I'll have to remember to keep an eye out for poop.
7:00 pm - No poop on the floor. Mike has a full three-course dinner ready. While we're eating, I can sense him itching to get back to the computer. He's not hurrying or flighty or showing any outward symptoms at all actually, but you know. I've got a sixth sense. He keeps asking me why I am staring at his pupils.
I can never remember whether dilated means bigger or smaller. I hope that doesn't impact this experiment.
7:30 pm -- At last, I'm getting a chance to fully observe him absorbed in the game. He's got his headphones on and is completely focused on the screen. I bet he won't even hear me if I talk to him. I'm going to test that theory out.
7:31 pm -- I tested it out with a "Hey." He paused the game after an almost 1 second delay, turned to me and said, "Hi." I gave him a hug and he hugged me back but I don't think he was giving it 100 percent. I would assess the hug at 75, maybe 78 percent. Clearly the game was already draining his focus.
8:05 pm -- Tracy Morgan, our fattest cat, has been sitting in his lap for the past 15 minutes and he hasn't even noticed.
I hope I don't damage her kitty body image with this comparison.
Some studies have shown that activity decreases in certain parts of the brain when playing video games, specifically a part responsible for decision-making and some higher cognitive functions, maybe like noticing a cat has climbed into your lap. If he can't even notice something that fat jumping on his lap, soon enough he will be just like those gaming addict couples that neglect their starving kids. It's scary to see what these games can do to your brain.
8:10 pm -- Lost all my research links about video games and brain chemistry. Somehow my cat got into my lap while I was typing that last paragraph and she just now rolled over onto the keyboard. She's a sneaky devil.
10:25 pm -- No new observations here. He's still scarily absorbed in that little world. I've downloaded some more iPhone games to kill time in between pupil checks. Plants vs. Zombies is awesome! I've been playing it for the past hour and didn't even notice. Good stuff.