Hitting the news lately is the fact that there is a new growing cause of divorce, gaming addiction, at least in the UK. The video game Fortnite was listed in 200 divorces so far in 2018 as being partly to blame for the demise of the marriage. While we in New York have “irretrievable breakdown” as grounds, what exactly causes the breakdown is not usually something we discuss in mediation or negotiated divorces.
While attorneys and mediators normally include questions on our intake forms regarding alcohol, drug use and gambling issues, gaming addiction is a new problem that those in the divorce professions are now seeing — sometimes for the first time. While we may not think to ask about whether or not gaming addiction is an issue, sometimes it is apparent from day one when a client clearly has a limited attention span to the point where they are paying more attention to their smartphone than the discussion. Much like it is difficult, if not impossible, to mediate when one party has a drug or alcohol addiction, gaming addiction also impedes the person from being able to fully participate in the process. Just like with a chemical addiction, it may be impossible for a gaming addict to reach an agreement with their spouse as they may be agreeing in the moment just so that they can leave the room and get back to their game.
According to several recent articles on the subject many people who already are dissatisfied with their life turn to gaming as a way to cope, or avoid dealing with their problems entirely. Many of the games online involve playing against other players who are real people also signed into the game. Gamers not dealing with their relationship and spending most of their time, sometimes to the exclusion of sleep and other activities, is bound to result in a less than stellar relationship with their real life spouse. The spouse may resent the gamer’s time spent in the game in the same way as a spouse who is having an affair. Gaming addiction can also lead to money issues as sometimes the gamer purchases items in the game to help them succeed or they may start slacking off at work to play. There have also been reports of people meeting other gamers in the game that they then meet up with in real life.
The real question is which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was the person dissatisfied and would rather spend time playing their game, or did the game make them realize that they were not happy in the marriage? Either way, when it’s game over, it’s time to deal with the reality of ending the marriage.
Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516