Back in reality, Dr. Phil explains that computer games are supposed to be fun, but when a hobby turns into an addiction, virtual fantasy worlds can wreck real lives and ruin real marriages.
Thirty-four-year old Fred says that his World of Warcraft video game takes his mind off other things, but his wife, Juli, says that's exactly the problem; Fred's constant gaming is at the expense of their family.
In a videotaped segment Juli shares, "My husband plays video games from morning to night. It's affecting all of the relationships in the house. My kids are out of control, and we can't pay our bills, it's just a lot of things. They all circulate from the game. He hasn't worked in nine months. He says it's because he can't find another job, but he's not even really looking for another job, he's just fiddling away on the computer."
According to Juli, Fred oftentimes won't go to bed because he plays his computer games throughout the night. She's fearful of the growing separation that Fred's gaming is causing within the family.
"Sometimes you don't realize, because you get so involved with something, that time just kind of flies by," says Fred, with ambivalence.
"We've spent New Year's Eve with him on the game, Christmases and birthdays, one anniversary," Juli continues, "There's very minimal interaction. I've always felt like I am alone in this marriage. I feel like we're just coexisting in the same house."
[AD]"I'm trying to deal with the game and the relationship. The game is kind of winning though. I'd like to not play as much. I still want to play the game. My fears are that yeah, I'm probably going to lose my wife eventually, if I stay on it, for sure. If I lose my wife, she'll want to take the kids, but I don't want to lose my kids, so yeah, it's a fear," says Fred.
Juli believes that the computer games are taking Fred's attention from the couple's 5-year-old and 3-year-old sons, Justin and Sean, respectively. She says that Justin is picking up bad habits from playing computer games alongside Fred, while Sean is oftentimes left unattended.
Household chores are also neglected, including dishes piling in the sink, toys everywhere, laundry and sometimes even food lying all over the floor. According to Juli, Fred doesn't clean the rooms that he doesn't mess up.
"I don't do, like, a ton, because she'll do whatever I do, over," explains Fred.
At one time, Fred was a successful graphic designer with a good income, but now that he spends his days at home in front of the computer, Juli is solely responsible for financially supporting their family of five.
Another videotaped segment shows Juli with a handful of bills, many of which are past due, or checks that have bounced. She explains how their mortgage payments are constantly paid late and accumulating late fees, and she fears they could lose their house.
"We are beyond our means now. No matter how much I work and make, there's just no catching up," shares Juli.
Fred concurs. "We're kind of in a pinch as it is," he adds, "I mean, I don't spend anything playing this game," says Fred.
[AD]When the video clip ends, Dr. Phil asks Fred how it feels to watch his life on camera.
"Scary, actually. It's pretty bad," Fred responds.
"Are you addicted to these virtual world games?" asks Dr. Phil.
"Yes I am. I'm on the game a lot," says Fred.
When Fred admits to spending six to 10 hours a day playing video games, Juli clarifies that it can sometimes be up to 80 hours per week. She describes a typical day for Fred as getting up at noon and staying on the computer, sometimes until 2:00 a.m., and maybe getting off the computer for an hour in between.Dr. Phil addresses the fact that Fred is a skilled graphic designer who could have a career but is not working. "How do you feel about the fact that you're not working and your wife is working? You say it's not costing you anything to play this game; it's costing you your paycheck. It's costing you a career."
"When I play the game, I never really thought of it that way, because I'm like, focused into the game," Fred admits.
Dr. Phil asks Juli, "Why are you putting up with this?"
"Because I love him, but I'm getting really fed up with it," she says.
"How do you know you love him? You don't ever see him. Do you just remember you loved him?" Dr. Phil asks sarcastically.
"Because when he does get off of the game and focuses on us, I remember the person that I married, and so that will get me going for a while. And then he goes back and spins back into the same cycle of just sitting in front of the game," she laughs.
[AD]Dr. Phil asks Fred to turn around so that Juli is looking at the back of Fred's head and asks, "So what you're looking at right now, that's what you see?" Juli confirms and Dr. Phil continues, "So, that's what you're in love with, the back of his head?"
While the mood is light, Dr. Phil addresses the serious problems that arise when people become over-involved in inanimate and non-human things, "It's regressive. It's lazy. You regress to a really low level of functioning where you just virtually don't have to do anything. And virtually is the problem here."