Another lesser discussed addiction for autistic people is gaming. Video games offer an escape from the real world, with minimal health consequences compared to other addictive escapes such as substance use.
Gaming addiction can be an easy trap to fall into when you are looking for an escape from the world. In fact, when I was using drugs, I was also gaming for 18 hours a day. I was so depressed in the real world, and video games offered me an acceptable break from my grim reality.
What’s the appeal of gaming?
Online gaming allows for socialisation without the pressure of in-person interaction. You are speaking to people over a headset, usually about the game you are playing, which is likely a special interest. In this medium, it is acceptable to infodump and talk about the video game at length, as opposed to other scenarios where this might be penalised.
For autistic people who have immersed themselves in the game story and lore, and developed expertise in things such as the loot systems within the game; this knowledge is actively rewarded with social standing amongst other gamers and more positive outcomes in the game.
Video games offer structure and logical rules that can be easy to follow. In a world full of chaos, gaming allows for some semblance of control. It is not surprising then that so many autistic people feel more comfortable in the digital world than the real one.
Many video games offer a rich story with thousands of hours of background (also known as “lore”) that one can become completely engrossed in. In my game of choice, Destiny, there is so much lore that in nearly 7 years of playing, I still haven’t read it all.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how the rewards of escaping into video games may cause Autistics to fall foul of addiction to them. Like any good thing, there is such a thing as too much.
Some of the signs of gaming addiction (from my own experience) may be:
1. Inability to walk away from the game
2. Excessive use of the game, to the point that it is affecting relationships.
3. Skipping work or school regularly to play the game.
4. Excessive anger or violence when the game is interrupted.
Gaming addiction is now recognised in the International Classification of Diseases, and as such, there is a growing base of support for this phenomenon.
If you think you may be addicted to gaming, and are looking to stop, please consider speaking to a mental health professional. Addiction is a complex condition, which can move itself from one medium to another. If the root causes of addiction are not addressed, then the likelihood of relapse, or the addiction transferring to another medium are more likely.