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World of Warcraft addict fights back

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Ryan Van Cleave felt sweaty, antsy, and anxious after not playing World of Warcraft during his 2007 Christmas vacation in Chicago.

After returning home to Washington, D.C., Van Cleave, 38, and his wife returned to their usual argument about his addiction: “Stop playing that freakin’ game,” she pleaded.

“Shut up. I can spend my free time how I choose,” he countered as they began screaming at each other.

Pissed at his wife and suffering from World of Warcraft withdrawal, Van Cleave walked out New Year’s Eve night.

He walked along the Arlington Memorial Bridge, looking down at the Potomac River. He thought about his life: out of control, crappy in every way since he lost a tenure-track teaching job the year before at Clemson University.

“This was never what I wanted to be. And this is quite frankly never who I wanted to be,” he recalls thinking. “I might as well jump. Or change my life.”

Van Cleave had played WoW since its release in 2004. He thinks the amount of time he spent playing adds to two calendar years. But he doesn’t know the exact total of playing hours. He doesn’t want to know either.

Van Cleave just knows he was addicted for two decades to the video gaming technology he grew up with, starting with Atari, then Nintendo and Playstation, later gravitating toward role-playing games.

He defines addiction as an activity or behavior that someone persists in despite significant negative consequences with family, friends, work, or health.

But if you have problems in those areas, and you still persist in this behavior, then yeah, I think that’s probably something that you might call a video gaming addiction,” he says.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported in 2008 that 53 percent of all American adults play video games, 23 percent playing almost every day.

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