Video game addiction tearing families apart

Reported by: Leslie Bohl Jones

Email: LeslieBohlJones@woaitv.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Video games used to be known as child's play. But now, more and more adults are getting hooked. They're sacrificing their jobs, families, and friends to spend all of their time online.

Janet Hunt loves spending time with her husband Don. But a year ago, he had no time for her, only his video game.

"Sometimes he could play up to 20 hours straight," Janet told us. "He could be on there by 6:00 a.m. and by the time that 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m that night rolled around, he could still be sitting there playing."

"It's just total immersion into the game, as your reality, instead of the real reality," said former video game addict Donald Hunt.

The addiction got so bad, Don lost his job and Janet filed for divorce.

"It was lonely. It was real lonely," recalled Janet. "And it felt like I was like a widow, that I had lost my other half and just, I felt alone all the time."

Janet's story is all too familiar to Ryan Van Cleave, author of the video game addiction book "Unplugged." He says more and more adults are becoming consumed by the games, and the consequences can be grave.

"They're killing careers, they're killing families, they're killing relationships, they're killing health," explained Ryan. "And, literally, now we're having people killing others and themselves over video games."

How bad can it get? Police removed six children from the home of a mother in Pennsylvania after finding them living in filth and animal waste. The kids' stepfather says the mom was too addicted to games to care for the children. A Denver mother admitted she was playing an online Facebook game when her one-year-old son drowned in the bathtub.

"Relationships fail and divorces happen," said Douglas Gentile, Associate Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University. "And I've even heard of people - they don't want to leave the computer so much, that they take every meal at the computer and then they wear diapers, so they don't even have to go to the bathroom."

Janet's husband was finally able to break his video game addiction, and they got back together. They are now working to get back on track, both emotionally and financially.

"Life now is good. I have my husband back. I have my best friend back," Janet told us.

Games like World of Warcraft and Halo aren't the only ones causing a problem. Experts say even so-called casual games like those you might find on Facebook can become just as addicting.