Geek Factor CEO Chance Le Prey met his girlfriend at a gaming convention. “Gaming is one of the facets of our relationship,” Le Prey said. “We game together. I’m the assault player and she’s my support; we’re a tag team duo.”
Le Prey started playing Pokemon as a child for fun. “You catch monsters, raise them and then compete with them,” he said. “You get really attached to these monsters; it’s like having a virtual pet.”
When Le Prey’s parents divorced, gaming found a different role in his life. “It was a way to cope and deal with my emotions,” he said. “I could disconnect for a while and focus on something beyond my own issues. I could get lost in the story.”
Today, gaming holds that same spot for him. “It’s a relaxing thing to do, but it has also transcended and evolved to where I play with my girlfriend and as CEO of Geek Factor, it’s even become my career.”
Geek Factor is a digital media company catering to geeks, gamers, nerds, comic book lovers and pop culture aficionados.
But beyond catering to fandom, the company also sponsors charities, including Millie’s Princess Foundation, which provides financial support and awareness for local children with cancer, and Extra Life, a similar foundation that helps hospitalized children through fundraising and providing healthy and safe gaming for kids.
“Gaming does for them what it did for me so long ago,” Le Prey said. “It helps them to dream, to build imagination, to get away from their issues and believe in something bigger than themselves.
“Many of these kids don’t know if they’ll make it the next day; all they know is they have to defeat this giant snake in front of them. It makes them smile. And that’s what I want to do as a company, as an entity: to showcase everyone’s bliss.”
But can something good be taken too far? Game player, Tyrone Post thinks so.
“I hate admitting this,” he said, “A lot of people would never guess this about me now. But I used to be a video game addict!”
Post said he once game played more than 40 hours a week, in addition to working full time. “I would actually think about video games more than sex,” he said. “That’s mind blowing to me now.”
He used many excuses to feed what he calls an addiction: he stayed physically fit to maintain military standards; he was exceptionally good at all the games he played, placing in the top one percent of many; he didn’t get any intellectual stimulation from his partner; he liked dominating a world that felt more fair than the real world; and he enjoyed praise from teammates and the sense of accomplishment and gratification.
When he stopped gaming, Post channeled his energy into learning guitar and swing dancing, riding a motorcycle, becoming more social, traveling the world and training a new puppy.
Shannon McKailey said her former spouse also took gaming to an unhealthy level. “We met our senior year of high school, and for our first Christmas I bought him Everquest, a 3D fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which is what he really wanted,” she said. “But then he started playing all the time.”
He first gamed while going to school and working part time, but as he moved to full-time work, his gaming didn’t slow down, she said. When he was home, she felt like she was only seeing the back of his head where the computer was set up in the living room.
“If we had a family event or activity, we couldn’t leave until he had completed his mission, which could take another hour or two,” McKailey said. “I have no problem with games you can pause, like the Nintendo games I grew up with. But these games you play with strangers somewhere, people you can’t let down – I really think is a problem.”
Like Post, McKailey’s husband eventually sold his gaming account for several hundred dollars. He bought a bike with the money, but a week later he was starting over on his game with a fresh account. “He couldn’t stay away,” she said.
Steve Eastmond, a counselor, said that anything taken to an extreme is really about dysfunctional thought processes that manifests in behaviors.
“Shame is almost always central to the issue of any addiction,” Eastmond said. “They just don’t feel like they’re good enough. That’s the underlying root of it. They don’t want their flaws to be seen and rather than face their demons, they escape into something else, which doesn’t really work. And if they think, well, I’ll just stop, but they don’t do anything about the triggers they have, or the thing that’s causing them stress, they’ll typically just move to another dysfunctional coping mechanism.”
Eastmond recommends establishing healthy boundaries for all activities, and for everyone to allow themselves to be more vulnerable and accountable for areas of weakness.
“The way we connect with people is when we’re being real, not perfect; that’s how we relate to each other,” he said.