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Is Gaming as Bad as Cheating?

Some compare video game addiction to infidelity.

By Kristin Wong Jun 11, 2012 3:23PM

Photo: Jamie Grill/Getty ImagesWe all have our vices, and when you hear that cliché, you typically think of someone's penchant for alcohol, their soft spot for gambling, or something equally addictive that causes one to lose control. But for millions of people, that vice is gaming, and some believe the addiction may even be detrimental to relationships.

A Harris Interactive Poll released in 2007 showed that 8.5 percent of youth in the United States are addicted to video games. While the statistics aren't out on adult video game addiction, I think it's safe to assume it's not just restricted to kids. Overall, people spend three billion hours a week gaming.

It seems like an innocent enough hobby, but renowned therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil believes gaming can be dangerous to relationships.

"Anytime someone spends more time with something or someone else than with their loved one, that's an affair," Dr. Bonnie said in a statement. "In this sense, gaming can be an affair—it can take the place of love and romance."

I'm not sure about the spending more time argument, just because that would mean we're all cheating on our spouses with work, but Dr. Bonnie says the idea behind addictive gaming is escapism.

"This escapism can easily take the form of a video game; the alternate worlds and experiences lend themselves to thrill-seeking behavior. The problem is that it's a vicious cycle."

She encourages people not to sacrifice their personal relationships for a hobby. Her solution? Couples need to have more fun together—exercise together, have sex more instead of gaming, and cuddle. According to the statement, these things apparently cause the same adrenaline release people get from gaming. I, for one, can't wait for Playstation to release Xtreme Cuddling.

On a related note, one study found that people who cheat in gaming might be more likely to cheat in a relationship. Earlier this year, North Dakota State University polled over 1,200 adults in the US and UK and found that about half of those who admitted to cheating in a game admitted to cheating in a relationship, too. They also found that cheating in gaming can result in being 3.5 times more likely to cheat at everyday things in the real world.

“It’s not surprising that online cheating parallels real-world cheating, even if people are just experimenting with the possibilities,” said Dr. Mia Consalvo of Concordia University. 

But as one commenter put it:

"They make it sound as if the in game cheating leads to real life cheating. The most likely scenario is that these people were already cheaters, and the in game cheating comes easy to them because they're used to it."

Back to the addiction issue. For adults, some signs of video game addiction include neglecting to eat, sleep or bathe; calling in sick to stay home and play games; and lying about video game use.

"The key to avoiding such destructive behavior is communication," Dr. Bonnie says. She also advises couples to set boundaries with the gaming.

Not to say that I don't think gaming can cause issues in relationships, but I think I'd be a bit more hurt if my spouse cheated than if he took up a video gaming hobby. What do you think—have you argued with your spouse about gaming? Can gaming "be an affair"?
Photo: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

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Jun 21, 2014 2:08AM
I know exactly how this feels...he wakes up and goes straight to the game....doesn't feed the kids doesn't wash or brush his teeth...and stays on the game all day all night.  I argue with him about doing something with me and the kids its always hold on or its nothing to do with y'all.   Worse, we both lost our jobs and the very part time job he has doesn't pay a lot but enough for gas, one of our phones to be turned on and us to go out once at least.  BUT you know what he does with the money?  SPENT IT ALL ON THE GAME!!! OVER $50.  And you guys are saying that gaming can't hurt a relationship? I beg to differ.   I do everything to get him off.  I'm really at the end of our engagement nd relationship.  Him playing a game over his family is hurtful.
Apr 16, 2014 9:01AM
I'm curious how speedrunning tricks and glitches fall into this. Most often these break the rules of the game, but require practice and patience to use. Some people consider that cheating but it's more an elaborate technique that you need to get good at. 
Oct 4, 2012 12:01PM
This Post did indeed provide readers with cancer.
Oct 3, 2012 1:59PM
I'm not sure about the whole being addicted to computer games is cheating per say.
I've been addicted to games in the past however have never and would never cheat on my fiance. For me, there is a clear separation between cheating in a game and infidelity. 
As for the time issue, whilst I recognise that time spent away from your partner and on a virtual game may be seen as some as a poor choice, it has to be put into context. For example, a guy playing games with his mates over the net or say a console,  is this any different to women catching up with their friends over coffee? 
As already stated, the issue is the amount of time you choose to do something over other things. Just talk with your partner about gaming before you start getting into something and see if they have any issues with it is my suggestion. 
Oct 3, 2012 12:30PM
So playing a game with your significant other is 'cheating on them' ? Relationships differ per couple; One couple has a date night, the other has a video game night. Just because some "study" happened to claim that gaming is bad for relationships doesn't mean it really is. 
Oct 3, 2012 12:16PM
I've been playing a lot of Lego Batman with my wife. Does that count as a threesome?

Utter pisswaffle.
Oct 3, 2012 6:58AM
Oct 3, 2012 2:23AM
80% or studies show that people are addicted to reading (Not true, nor do I have any idea. Though reading is awesome)... it's not addiction it's more of a fantasy.

Do we ban books, TV, art just because we enjoy a little/ lot of time with these mediums of escapism?

Yes there will always be those who do become addicted to things, But it's not fair to single out games. How about you write an article on addictive personalities instead of fear mongering and gossip.
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