THE American Medical Assn. recently announced that it might recommend declaring video-game addiction a "formal diagnostic disorder," listing it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders alongside schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and alcohol dependence.
In our house, this news merited interest. My husband spends about four hours a day playing "Sid Meier's Civilization IV," a computer game that lets him choose which leader he wants to be — say, FDR, Hannibal, Mansa Musa of the Malinese Empire — build a civilization from a single village and, if all goes well, dominate the world. Think of it as Risk on steroids.
"Civilization's" clanking swords and New Age tribal chants have become the soundtrack of our life together. Over the course of seven years, we have dated, married, moved across the country, bought a house and had a son. In addition to these trivial accomplishments, my husband has built the Taj Mahal, Mount Rushmore and Chichen Itza — not just once but dozens of times. The other night, he was distraught when Catherine the Great shot down his ICBMs before they could lay waste to St. Petersburg. As I am typing this, I have just learned that his Zulu grenadiers have routed the Aztec pikemen, conquering Xochicalco.
A report to the AMA policy committee suggested that excessive video-game use can cause seizures, family and school disruption and isolation. We haven't suffered any of that, but I worry that I have become an enabler. Addicts often find they need increasingly powerful fixes to satisfy their cravings. So it was with my husband as he gatewayed from "Civilization II" to "Civilization III" to "Civilization IV" to the "Civilization IV Warlords Expansion Pack" — which, he told me, was "the best anniversary present ever."
In the end, the AMA decided not to recommend making playing video games a formal addiction. All we can say is: whew!
In his defense, my husband does still manage to work, eat, bathe, make our dinners and help care for our baby. We have substantive conversations, as often as any busy married couple can. He even shaves, every once in awhile. We'll keep him away from those psychiatrists yet.
At least until Sid Meier invents "Civilization V."
Eryn BrownCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times