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Behavioral specialist warns of video game addiction after release of blockbuster game

Playing Red Dead Redemption II

A West Michigan behavioral specialist warns too much video gaming could be almost as damaging as drug addiction after a blockbuster game released at the end of October.

Gerald Brooks is an avid gamer himself, but is also a therapist and works with clients who, while not exhibiting the same physical symptoms of drug addiction, are experiencing the same relational and mental problems as someone who are hooked on drugs.

"There is a line between what's normal and then when it becomes abnormal," Brooks said about people glued to games like Red Dead Redemption II.

Red Dead Redemption II was released October 26, and in its first weekend made over $725 million, which is more than the worldwide opening of biggest blockbuster movie, Avengers: Infinity War.

Rockstar Games made the hit game and claims it's the second biggest entertainment opening weekend ever, second to another game they made, GTA V, which grossed $1 billion in its first week when it was released in 2013, according to a report by CNET. CNET also points out Red Dead Redemption II was released on a Friday, so that $725 million is a three day total, where GTA V was launched on a Tuesday and that $1 billion number includes those extra three days.

Bottom line, a lot of people have bought and are playing Red Dead Redemption II.

"There's a lot of different aspects to the game," said Jerry Ready, a worker at Glitch Gaming Lounge in Portage and whose gamer tag is @beserkerdood.

Ready said it's been very difficult to put the game down.

"It really kinda sucks you in, like, the story... the characters themselves," he said. "It's just a really beautifully made game."

Red Dead Redemption II has taken over Ready's life, but not enough to be considered a problem in his view.

Brooks said some people have trouble preventing their love for the game, or gaming overall, from getting in the way of normal daily life. He said he has had many clients whose lives are falling apart because of video games.

He said video game addiction is like any other behavioral problem. Addressing the issue is not as easy as just putting the controller down.

"Starting with yourself and understanding, 'I have to be honest, is this affecting my household? Me?' You know? Are there other priorities, because, yeah, it does impact relationships, but at the same time, it's not all or nothing," he said.

Brooks said there are people who find themselves missing work, being less productive, getting depressed, divorced, neglecting their children, and many other things because they're playing too much. He said children and teens aren't the only ones hooked on games.

He shared some numbers that show the average age of a male gamer is 32 and female gamer is 36. He feels adults who play and can't put the controller down don't reach out for help as often because they're ashamed to admit they're enjoying an activity society may be considered childish.

Brooks said he tells people struggling with playing too much to set limits. Setting alarms that tell you when you've been playing for too long is one way he said people can get control of their gaming problems.

Ready said that's how he stays on top of his priorities.

"I work at 5, I have an alarm go off at 4:30 telling me no matter what I'm doing, stop get ready for work," Ready said. "That's all I can say, just try and pull yourself out of it."

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