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Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction

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WARNING: This video game may impair your judgment. It may cause sleep deprivation, alienation of friends and family, weight loss or gain, neglect of one's basic needs as well as the needs of loved ones and/or dependents, and decreased performance on the job. The distinction between fantasy and reality may become blurred. Play at your own risk. Not responsible for suicid WARNING: This video game may impair your judgment. It may cause sleep deprivation, alienation of friends and family, weight loss or gain, neglect of one's basic needs as well as the needs of loved ones and/or dependents, and decreased performance on the job. The distinction between fantasy and reality may become blurred. Play at your own risk. Not responsible for suicide attempts, whether failed or successful. No such warning was included on the latest and greatest release from the Warcraft series of massive multiplayer on-line role-playing games (MMORPGs)—World of Warcraft (WoW). So when Ryan Van Cleave—a college professor, husband, father, and one of the 11.5 million Warcraft subscribers worldwide—found himself teetering on the edge of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, he had no one to blame but himself. He had neglected his wife and children and had jeopardized his livelihood, all for the rush of living a life of high adventure in a virtual world. Ultimately, Ryan decided to live, but not for the sake of his family or for a newly found love of life: he had to get back home for his evening session of Warcraft. A fabulously written and gripping tale, Unplugged takes us on a journey through Ryan's semi-reclusive life with video games at the center of his experiences. Even when he was sexually molested by a young school teacher at age eleven, it was the promise of a new video game that lured him to her house. As Ryan's life progresses, we witness the evolution of videogames—from simple two-button consoles to today's complicated multi-key technology, brilliantly designed to keep the user actively participating. As is the case with most recovering addicts, Ryan eventually hits rock bottom and shares with the reader his ongoing battle to control his impulses to play, providing prescriptive advice and resources for those caught in the grip of this very real addiction.


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WARNING: This video game may impair your judgment. It may cause sleep deprivation, alienation of friends and family, weight loss or gain, neglect of one's basic needs as well as the needs of loved ones and/or dependents, and decreased performance on the job. The distinction between fantasy and reality may become blurred. Play at your own risk. Not responsible for suicid WARNING: This video game may impair your judgment. It may cause sleep deprivation, alienation of friends and family, weight loss or gain, neglect of one's basic needs as well as the needs of loved ones and/or dependents, and decreased performance on the job. The distinction between fantasy and reality may become blurred. Play at your own risk. Not responsible for suicide attempts, whether failed or successful. No such warning was included on the latest and greatest release from the Warcraft series of massive multiplayer on-line role-playing games (MMORPGs)—World of Warcraft (WoW). So when Ryan Van Cleave—a college professor, husband, father, and one of the 11.5 million Warcraft subscribers worldwide—found himself teetering on the edge of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, he had no one to blame but himself. He had neglected his wife and children and had jeopardized his livelihood, all for the rush of living a life of high adventure in a virtual world. Ultimately, Ryan decided to live, but not for the sake of his family or for a newly found love of life: he had to get back home for his evening session of Warcraft. A fabulously written and gripping tale, Unplugged takes us on a journey through Ryan's semi-reclusive life with video games at the center of his experiences. Even when he was sexually molested by a young school teacher at age eleven, it was the promise of a new video game that lured him to her house. As Ryan's life progresses, we witness the evolution of videogames—from simple two-button consoles to today's complicated multi-key technology, brilliantly designed to keep the user actively participating. As is the case with most recovering addicts, Ryan eventually hits rock bottom and shares with the reader his ongoing battle to control his impulses to play, providing prescriptive advice and resources for those caught in the grip of this very real addiction.

30 review for Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brett Mciff

    While this book is about video game addiction, and I do agree that there are addicting elements to gaming, the book is more of a cathartic purge for the author for his many other issues. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, but I could relate to it. What I can't relate to is the personality of the author as described by himself; his issues seem more based in anger and other disorders that may have predisposed him to game addiction rather than the title disorder as the cause of his problems. Ove While this book is about video game addiction, and I do agree that there are addicting elements to gaming, the book is more of a cathartic purge for the author for his many other issues. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, but I could relate to it. What I can't relate to is the personality of the author as described by himself; his issues seem more based in anger and other disorders that may have predisposed him to game addiction rather than the title disorder as the cause of his problems. Overall, the book was at the same time whiny and arrogant, not a good combination for a reading experience.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kayla

    Inadequacies abound. Decent read, mildly insightful, but I wish it would've touched on positives of gaming in healthy doses. Though, I did recognize some things in myself when I first starting playing CoD.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz Steyer

    I acknowledge that video games can become an addiction for some people, but I was slightly disappointed that much of this book didn't seem to have much to do with video game addiction. Van Cleave spends so much time trying to right all the wrongs in his past that a lot of the descriptions I was hoping for got pushed to the side. Van Cleave's story is definitely compelling, but perhaps it should have been called something like, "An Apology to Anyone Who Ever Mattered in My Life: How Video Games P I acknowledge that video games can become an addiction for some people, but I was slightly disappointed that much of this book didn't seem to have much to do with video game addiction. Van Cleave spends so much time trying to right all the wrongs in his past that a lot of the descriptions I was hoping for got pushed to the side. Van Cleave's story is definitely compelling, but perhaps it should have been called something like, "An Apology to Anyone Who Ever Mattered in My Life: How Video Games Proved to be More Enticing than Reality."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sims

    I don't know when I've read a book as unflinchingly self-exposing and honest as this one. Van Cleave's account of his life and circumstances leading up, into, and through, his years-long video game addiction was riveting to me. I've barely played video games, not finding them compelling. But this memoir WAS compelling; I see how the addiction works, and my blood runs cold to imagine what's going on with millions of gamers right now. I highly recommend this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Teeny Katt

    If not WoW, this guy would have found another addiction. (I was pretty impressed by his drinking, too.) He warns you that you won't like him, and you don't. Every time you start to feel sorry for him, he gives you another fact about himself, like how he dumped the love of his life because she got diabetes, or how he enjoys the music of Creed and Nickelback. I'm glad I read this book, though. I can see some parallels with my own use of social networks. I'm happy to say I've never gone on a 24-hour If not WoW, this guy would have found another addiction. (I was pretty impressed by his drinking, too.) He warns you that you won't like him, and you don't. Every time you start to feel sorry for him, he gives you another fact about himself, like how he dumped the love of his life because she got diabetes, or how he enjoys the music of Creed and Nickelback. I'm glad I read this book, though. I can see some parallels with my own use of social networks. I'm happy to say I've never gone on a 24-hour jag like this poor guy! WoW sounds like a fascinating universe that I will never visit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Grant Cousineau

    As I read this book, thinking about how I might review it, I kept telling myself that video game addiction was a very real thing. Because it is. We've all known people. We've all had games we can't put down. I believed that until the very last Q&A of an interview stuffed in the back of the appendix made me rethink that whole idea. A video game developer suggested that it's not so much single-player games that people get addicted to. Those have beginnings and ends. It's the social ones, where the As I read this book, thinking about how I might review it, I kept telling myself that video game addiction was a very real thing. Because it is. We've all known people. We've all had games we can't put down. I believed that until the very last Q&A of an interview stuffed in the back of the appendix made me rethink that whole idea. A video game developer suggested that it's not so much single-player games that people get addicted to. Those have beginnings and ends. It's the social ones, where the challenges change and the competition and social engagement are what keep people coming back. And that's when it hit me. Video games themselves aren't universally addictive. It's one part the internet itself (think Facebook, WoW, Farmville, Twitter, Google, etc.), which is ultimately just a digital enhancement of face-to-face interactions. It's also one part the concept of gamefication itself. Games are inherently addictive, like Bingo, or scratch-off lottery tickets, or Dungeons and Dragons. Setups of achievements and tests of skill, prowess, and luck, and competition is too irresistible for many. And lastly, it's old fashioned storytelling. Stories are the key to engagement and just about everything. And video games are one of the few mediums in which all of these components can be combined to lure a person in and keep them coming back. That said, this book is somewhat important in starting a dialogue about these topics; however, the structure of the narrative is muddled. It begins with Van Cleave considering suicide over his addiction, and at no point does the story revisit this scene. We never know what moment pushed him to that brink. In fact, as he talks about WoW--the only game that sounds like it truly addicted him, while the rest were just games he just really loved--he tells us about his addiction and what he did, but the "showing" part is lacking. There's one scene where two crying kids compete with his attention after he's been kicked from a server, which is refreshingly manic, but other than that, he only describes the hours he logs, the money he invests, and the way he feels when he plays, but outside of that once scene, we never really see it impact his real life. He says he argues with his wife. He claims it distracted him from being a better writer and professor, but it's not really shown through vivid anecdotes or through the reactions/eyes of those most affected by it. I guess it's part voyeurism, but also because if you're going to tell me you have a story about how video games ruined your life, and all I get is various metrics and metaphors on how it did, I'm going to miss that story. Last thoughts: he tells about his childhood in an odd way, about games he loved as a kid and in college, but these seem largely irrelevant and like non-addictions. He also talks about being adopted, being passed over for several jobs, and of being "sexually assaulted" as a kid as these facts might have some impact on his addiction, but again, the connections aren't there. In fact, he (intentionally and fully aware) comes off as a bit of an asshole throughout, to the point where talking about being sexually abused feels less like a shameful, terrible thing but almost a humblebrag. Not saying that it was, but he found the woman attractive, willingly visited her several times (without being directly lured), and was sad when she finally ended it. All in all, the components of an addiction story are there, but this doesn't quite read like one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I had read this book a few years back and held on to it. It definitely warranted a second reading. Absolutely fascinating!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book was very eye-opening. There is language and sex in it for those opposed to reading about such things. It's the authors ideas on what lead him into video game addiction, and how he has worked to get over the addiction. Though it still calls to him and he constantly wants to start playing again. I find the arguments about whether video games themselves are addicting, or if it's a symptom of other mental issues like depression. This man had enough outside 'problems' (can't think of a bett This book was very eye-opening. There is language and sex in it for those opposed to reading about such things. It's the authors ideas on what lead him into video game addiction, and how he has worked to get over the addiction. Though it still calls to him and he constantly wants to start playing again. I find the arguments about whether video games themselves are addicting, or if it's a symptom of other mental issues like depression. This man had enough outside 'problems' (can't think of a better way to describe it) that I think video games became his escape and then the nature of the games, designed that way, sucked him in deeper.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Unplugged is a somewhat disturbing memoir about one person's struggle to overcome his video game addiction. I chose to read this book after my dad brought home a copy from a professional training where Ryan G. Van Cleave was a guest speaker. If you are skeptical about the validity of video game addiction being on par with gambling, food, sex, and exercise addiction, read this book and Van Cleave will change your mind.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stan

    I picked this up since all of my other books I wanted weren't in the library. It's a nicely-written (though somewhat rambling) peek into the emerging category of addiction concerning video games. Cleave takes a really long time to finally get to actually describing his addictive behavior but the journey is still interesting, anyway.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Andrie

    This is an excellent insight into the dark world that is so easily snaring those who game. It is an addiction that people don't recognize but that destroys lives just as easily. This book gives excellent advice and practical ways to help. Thanks Ryan.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Neal

    A good story about addition, illustrating the most memorable definition of addiction: a choice between short term gratification n long term deleterious effect.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wagner

    I think this is a huge problem in our society and I look forward to reading this book

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tim Wu

    He has a talent for prose style and storytelling.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kinweng

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ciarvella

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick R

  20. 5 out of 5

    Frederick S. Hagen

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ted K.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Renee

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Truman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Gonzales

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ran Yamamoto

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  29. 4 out of 5

    Victor

  30. 4 out of 5

    Blake Reichmuth

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