'I'm so obsessed with my smartphone game I have no time for my husband and son'

PHOTO: The Straits Times

This woman gave up sleep, stopped doing household chores and lost her temper at her young son over a mobile gaming app.

Lately I have been tossing and turning, and having restless nights. Some nights, I would creep around the house, on high alert and stressing about missed chances and wrong decisions. Sometimes, I would even leave the house past midnight to walk around the neighbourhood. It was a matter of capture or release, fight or run, victory or defeat… and no, these were not real life situations.

It all started harmlessly with my 10-year-old son, Kyrian*. Like many kids of his generation, he grew up playing digital games on smartphones and tablets. My hubby and I made it a point to inculcate a love of the outdoors by bringing him out on sporting activities and day trips, but would also reward him with digital game downloads whenever he did well at school.

I blame my hubby for what happened next. In a bid to help me relate to Kyrian's obsession with these new-fangled games, he introduced me to some of the more popular online gaming apps. At first, I was hesitant and irritated, being neither knowledgeable nor interested. Most of the time, I simply watched my hubby playing, and even when I got to try, I was really all thumbs. "It's okay, dear," my husband would say, "women are not good at gaming anyway."

It was meant to be comforting, but it somehow sparked off a stronger interest in these games. On my own, I started catching on to a few of the more popular games, and spent my leisure hours trying them out - during lunch hour, on the trips to and from work, while doing the laundry; I even found them interesting and fun!

Then came a game which was so popular, you cannot go out without encountering someone playing it. This game involved catching little 'pocket monsters' everywhere, growing your collection, and levelling them up, and finally fighting others to see whose monsters are stronger in various locations. Needless to say, I was hooked. I could not stop playing it from the moment I downloaded it.

I became obsessed, I started sleeping less, playing into the wee hours and waking up grumpy to work. I spent inordinate times in the bathroom, more pressured to catch creatures than relieve myself; I skipped out on household chores and had my hubby do them on the excuse that I was too busy with other chores… like "levelling up". I was lying and skiving on my family commitments on the justification that it was all part of a day's gameplay!

Read also: Could sleeping late be the reason behind your relationship problems?

My family did not realise that I was spending so much time on the game. When out shopping, I would tell my hubby that I needed to shop for 'women's stuff' at the mall and then disappear to go and try to catch more monsters. Worse still, I tried to cover up my craze by scolding both my husband and my son when I saw them playing. I would discipline my son by restricting his playtime or access to his digital gadgets if I felt that he had spent too much time on the game, while I continued with mine…

Then, something happened which made me realise how bad my fixation had become. While we were dining out, I was distracted by a "catching" session of a rare monster at the table, and was frowning at my phone's screen and ignoring my family. A curious Kyrian tried to grab my phone to look but fumbled and dropped it, disrupting my gaming progress. In a moment's folly, I screamed at him. Everyone at the restaurant turned to look, and Kyrian left the table in tears.

My gaming interest had indeed become an unhealthy obsession, and steps were needed to correct it. That evening, I apologised to both Kyrian and my hubby. We then decided that as a family, the three of us would play digital games only at certain times of the day. As for the rest of the time, we should get back to putting "family" at the centre of all our "playing".

In real life, we will all have our own private obsessions - in my case, an ongoing battle with my new-found addiction of smartphone games. But I do so now with the realisation that our family is not a game than can be reset, and it is the only activity that all of us really needed, and be team champions of.

7 signs your relationship won't last

  • Signs of a break up #1: Is the relationship turning mean?
  • While "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" may sometimes attract that special person, if you've been with your loved one for a while and you're still being treated mean then it's unlikely that your partner's objective is to keep you keen.
  • While most couples tease each other by being 'mean' in a playful/flirtatious way, if their main intention is to hurt or demean you then the respect has evaporated from the relationship and it's going to end in tears.
  • Signs of a break up #2: You choose not to spend much time together. Relationships thrive when both members of a couple create the right balance between spending time apart and spending special time together.
  • If you find yourself spending a large amount of time without your partner and you're not even missing them, there's a good chance you're just not that into them and your relationship is probably headed for the rocks.
  • Signs of a break-up #3: You're not introduced to family or friends. When you've met that special someone who you really love, you have butterflies in your stomach and you want to shout about your romance from the rooftops.
  • If you've been with someone for a good few months and they still haven't introduced you to their family or friends then you've got to question why they aren't making your relationship public information.
  • Signs of a break-up #4: They're controlling. Does your other half want to know your exact whereabouts and exactly what you're up to at all times? While you might enjoy the attention to start off with, this can become pretty annoying after some time.
  • Signs of a break-up #5: Where's the commitment? If you've been seeing each other for a while and your other half has shown no signs of wanting to commit, it's worth wondering why.
  • Of course, some romances take a long time to develop by nature, but make sure you don't end up being strung along by someone who doesn't see a future with you.
  • Signs of a break-up #6: You have nothing in common. Yes, we know that opposites attract but when you're so opposite that you can't even have a decent conversation because you have nothing in common, we're pretty sure that polar opposites repel.
  • Of course, you don't want to be with someone who is exactly the same as you (yawn!) - having different interests can be exciting. When it gets to the point where your conversations are boring though, we can pretty confidently say that this isn't go
  • A relationship where one person wants to commit and the other doesn't seem interested is destined for disaster.
  • Signs of a break-up #7: Too busy to call. Of course, it's normal for people to be too busy to call their partner a lot of the time - life is busy! However, if the phrase "I'm too busy to call" is becoming all too familiar, then your other half....
  • ...needs to prioritise. If they can't do that, you're going to end up feeling pretty rubbish. Everyone needs to feel special and if your other half doesn't make you feel that way, it's time to ditch them for someone who does!

*Names changed to protect privacy.

This article was first published on Singapore's Women Weekly.