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When gaming duties call, husbands become MIA

Published December 14, 2010 6:19 pm

Addiction • Video games such as "Call of Duty" beget insatiable players and irritated significant others.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Colby and Trina Lambourne have only been married a couple of months, and already he is having something of an affair.

The object of his fling isn't another woman. It's the new "Call of Duty: Black Ops" video game.

"I've wanted to break the game, throw it into the street and back my car over it," said 22-year-old Trina Lambourne, a medical assistant from West Jordan. Her husband is a self-proclaimed "Call of Duty" junkie who will spend at least five to six hours every day playing the first-person shooter.

Activision's billion-dollar-selling war game franchise is creating a subset of victims — known as "Call of Duty" widows — who have been suffering since "Black Ops" was released a month ago. Like the multiplayer role-playing games "Everquest" and "World of Warcraft," the "Call of Duty" games are the crack du jour for the video-game addict.

When it debuted in stores Nov. 9, "Black Ops," which sells for $60, broke the first-day sales record for any movie, book or game. The game amassed $360 million in sales in its first 24 hours on the market across the United States and the United Kingdom. It went on to smash the five-day sales record with $650 million in revenue, according to Activision chief executive Robert Kotick.

Since the vast majority of "COD" gamers are male, the annual release creates 21st-century versions of "football widows," who share tales of woe in Internet forums.

After the game was released, "it was like pulling teeth to get him out of the house," said Jamie Sievert, 25, of Taylorsville. Luke, her husband, "didn't want to go anywhere or do anything. It's all he wanted to do when he got up in the morning. He didn't want to get off it."

While the game has a single-player campaign, the most popular way to play is via the multiplayer version, in which gamers compete on a virtual battlefield, sometimes with teammates in a squad. Players run and gun their way through war-torn maps while barking orders to each other through headsets connected to their video game consoles. The latest game can be played on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Nintento Wii.

"It's just an addiction to playing games," said Colby Lambourne, who says he has become obsessed with every iteration of the COD franchise. "I can't tell you what draws me to it. It's so hard to put them down. I get in a zone, it's just crazy."

So-called video game addiction has not been officially recognized as a disease, according to the American Medical Association. The American Psychological Association doesn't consider video game addiction "to be a mental disorder at this time." But "psychiatrists are concerned about the well-being of children who spend so much time with video games that they fail to develop friendships, get appropriate outdoor exercise or suffer in their schoolwork," an association spokesman wrote earlier this year.

The average age of a video game player is 34, according to the Entertainment Software Association. But Trina Lambourne says her 22-year-old husband exhibits habits of a cartoon-addicted kid when he plays "Black Ops."

"He says, 'I've got to get my COD on.' "

Lambourne and Sievert seem to take their husbands' video-game addictions in stride, arguing the obsession dies down a month or two after the game is released. That is until next year when a new version comes out.

Video games have caused a few fights in the Sieverts' first year of marriage, Jamie Sievert said.

"But if it was damaging our family or our lives, then he would stop," the newlywed said. "If it came down to it, and I said, 'Luke, it is me or the game,' then he would give it up."

vince@sltrib.com. Twitter: twitter.com/ohmytech.