By Cameron Warfield, 13, Wildwood School
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Cameron challenges you to play him online (his Wii number is 8883 8753 2225 2178).

I love playing video games because I get to do things I could never do in real life, like jump off a 20-story building or punch it to the ground. I love sports games such as Madden NFL and NBA Live and online games like Zwok and World of Warcraft. Sports games are fun because you can build your own franchise and make it a dynasty, drafting players, signing free agents and winning the Super Bowl. Online games are fun because I can play against people all over the world.

If I’m in the middle of a game and my parents say it’s time for dinner, I say “no” and keep on playing. Then I have to eat dinner alone. I never thought one of my favorite things would turn into an addiction and almost mess up my life.

I have been playing video games since I was 5. My uncle, who lived with us, was 19 when I was born and has always been a kid at heart. When he was playing I was playing. When I got older, video games were the only thing I could do at home because I didn’t have a backyard. So every day when I got home from school I’d play Pokémon Stadium and NFL Quarterback Club on my Nintendo 64. When I was out I would play Knockout Kings and Pokémon Gold on my Game Boy. I thought that everyone was staying up until 1 in the morning playing like I was. I would wait for my parents to go to bed. Then when I saw their light go off, I would sneak upstairs to play in the loft. I even memorized the squeaky spots on the floor so I wouldn’t wake up my parents. The games got so intense I couldn’t press the off button.

Too tired for class

Illustration by Raymond Carrillo, 18, Polytechnic HS (Sun Valley)

All those late nights made school a blur. By sixth grade I spaced out in class so much I would have no idea what the lesson was about. I’d daydream about games. What if they made a game with people who could fly or be invisible? My teachers talked to my parents because I couldn’t pay attention in class and I wasn’t doing my work. I was failing. I don’t know how many times I was lectured by my parents and people at church about my grades, but I didn’t care because I was hooked.

One night I was playing and my PlayStation 2 broke. It sucked! After about two months my dad finally took the game system to the repair shop. I had time to do extra credit work and I got my grades up to As and Bs.

In seventh grade, I still didn’t care about school or doing my homework. My mom didn’t know how much I was playing because I was so sneaky.

I got Ds on all my Spanish tests. I was assigned a project to create a timeline of Holocaust events. I didn’t have anything ready so I got a timeline off the Internet instead of doing one myself. I got caught. It didn’t go on my record, but I still feel bad because I am not a cheater but I acted like one.

Then, the game before the last game of the football season, my coach kicked me off the team for having two Fs and two Ds. I felt so horrible. As captain, I let my team down, but my grades didn’t change.

Later in the year, I was grounded with no electronics. I was mad at my mom, but I took my anger out on my work and passed most of my classes. That’s when I noticed the pattern—that something at the end of each school year would happen that forced me to stop playing and I would pass.

The final sign for me was when my mom told me that a family friend was kicked out of college because he wasn’t doing what he should have been doing. Whoa. He had everything planned out and he got kicked out? My mom always told me I’d get kicked out of my school if I didn’t do well but I never believed her.

The hardest thing for an addict is to admit that they have a problem. I had tried to ignore it but I couldn’t anymore. I had to do something.

I came up with a plan. Beginning in eighth grade, I could play only on weekends and as long as I wanted except on Sundays. On Sundays I could play until 6 p.m. so that my mind was not stimulated with violence or action. Luckily I had my mom there saying, “Cam stop.” Now she lets me monitor myself. Like if I don’t have homework, I’ll play but I watch the time and stop by 7:30 p.m.

Weekends were game time

I missed my video games during the week but on the weekends I went wild. I’d start playing at 9 or 10 p.m. I put the sleep timer on the TV so it would go off after two hours so when I did finally fall asleep it would automatically turn off. When there was one minute left I’d add another two hours. I’d stay up until 5 a.m. on Saturdays and until 1 a.m. on Sundays, because sometimes I respected the fact that I had church the next morning (but sometimes I didn’t).

Now I pay attention in class and my mind is focused on school. I had convinced myself that I was an athlete not a scholar. Now I can see myself going to college, getting a degree, becoming a lawyer, opening up my own restaurant … even becoming president.

After writing this article I realize that what seemed logical when I was under the influence sounds outrageous now. It’s funny to sit here and admit that wow, I was really addicted to video games. Now I can step away from a game and not be so caught up in it. I still take my PlayStation Portable with me and on the weekends I play Super Smash Bros. Brawl with my friends online. I’m still a gamer but I’m not an addict.

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Crash and Burn. Kat, 17, tried to get into the whole video game thing, but it didn’t work for her. (March – April 2006)