Gaming addict failed uni after spending 12 hours a day playing World of Warcraft

A former video gaming addict says he used to "fall asleep on his keyboard" and forget to shower during daily 12-hour sessions.

Lee Chambers failed his year at university and eventually lost his job as a result of his lifestyle, but now works as a life coach giving others advice.

"Gambling addiction takes your finances away, and drug addiction takes your health and social life away," he told My London.

"But gaming addiction steals your time and your personal development, and it can set in at such a young age, and you can't get your youth back."

At the peak of his addiction, Lee would spend 12 hours a day in his university dorm playing World of Warcraft and not doing much else.

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"I wasn't showering, I wasn't eating properly, I was falling asleep on my keyboard," he said.

It was only after Lee met up with fellow gamers at a convention that the impact of excessive gaming dawned on him.

"To my surprise, I met these adults, but they were living like desolate students," he said.

"You could see that the game had taken over their lives, but the difference was they were 30 years old, they hadn't really moved anywhere.

"I saw that and thought 'this is me in 10 years if I don't sort my life out'."

The World Health Organisation recently endorsed an initiative entitled #PlayApartTogether, encouraging people to stay indoors and play video games during lockdown.

  • Gaming addiction takes grip on UK as thousands seek professional help

Since then, the number of teenagers playing video games around the country has soared.

The NHS clinic for gaming disorders has seen more than 80 young patients for sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, with 20 parents attending support groups, in a concerning surge over the coronavirus pandemic.

Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Rebecca Lockwood said: "A majority of our young people would wake up and start gaming through the day.

"We started a support group for parents during the beginning of the pandemic, to help them understand the emotional and neurological effects of this."

With the birth of online gaming and the introduction of player headsets, gamers have the tools to interact and communicate online.

The social elements that once protected gamers, like crowding around a Gameboy in the school playground, have disappeared particularly over lockdown.

  • How to spot signs of gaming addiction – and what to do if you find them

Dr Phil Parker, a lecturer at the School of Psychology, London Metropolitan University, thinks there's a similarity between the behaviour of a gaming addict and a gambler.

"The thing that tends to be showing up in most studies around addiction is impulsivity, which is the inability to consider the consequences when making decisions," he said.

"It's about immersing yourself in a world, which is often a world where you have the things that you don't feel you have in the real world."

However, an anonymous London-based video game programmer has suggested fears of widespread addiction could be overblown.

"It often gets assumed that anyone who plays any video games could be subject to this disorder and it's just not true," he said.

"Would you say someone who trains eight hours a day on the tennis court has tennis disorder?

"We socially accept someone who's driven to athleticism and being the best in a sport, but we reject people who excel in virtual sports.

"Considering the potential after-effects of Covid-19, I think you might see perceptions change."

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