Can video games instigate a divorce? According to a study by the website Divorce Online, the answer—in a small but growing number of marriages—is apparently yes.
The study found that 15% of women filing for divorce cite their husband’s compulsive video game habits as a reason for dissolving their union, a number that’s up from 5% just a year ago.
Jessica Ellis, a 24-year-old from London, said of her husband’s gaming compulsions, “He was addicted to World of Warcraft but played other games now and then. The amount he was playing gradually increased until I could not take it any more. When it became serious he was playing up to eight hours a day. I was constantly trying to get him to cut back but he didn’t think he had a problem until I told him I wanted to leave. But by that time it was too late.”
In addition to Warcraft, an online fantasy role-playing game that’s been described in addictive terms so frequently over the years that some have sarcastically dubbed it World of Warcrack, the study singled out popular console shooters Call of Duty and Halo as damagingly addictive.
Video game addiction expert Ryan G. Van Cleave said of the study’s findings, “The problem spouses encounter with video game addiction is that the non-gamer doesn’t appreciate that it’s an addiction. This means it’s not a choice to spend so much time in a virtual environment versus time with the spouse and family. It’s a compulsion.”
For his part, Divorce Online managing director Mark Keenan commented, “I was surprised by the result at first, but I would expect the number to be even higher next year. The increase could be a consequence of people staying indoors more because of the recession, or it might be being used by men in particular as a means of escape from an already unhappy relationship.”