As it turns out, the folks who wrote the groan-inducing 1980s song Pac-Man Fever were on to something.
In 2008, former Colts defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock retired from the NFL to a video-game addiction. Specifically, the addiction was a manifestation of depression and ADHD, very real illnesses that continue to have unfair social stigmas attached to them.
The fact that Pitcock would walk away from an NFL career because of these problems demonstrates how real they are.
Pitcock, according to the Orlando Sentinel, has overcome the addiction and the depression and is now playing football again, for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.
For Pitcock, the popular series Call of Duty unleashed the illness.
“I couldn’t put it down,” Pitcock said. “If I visited family or friends, I timed it down to the last second where I could still play another game.”
His routine was simple. “I’d go to McDonald’s for breakfast, order a bunch of food, come home and play for 18 hours into the next day, then crash, sleep for seven hours and do it all over again,” Pitcock said.
And so, after one season in the NFL, he walked away. “I didn’t want football to be a part of my life,” Pitcock said. “It wasn’t just football. I felt like doing nothing.”
The situation got worse after he retired.
“I broke about four games in half, burned them, microwaved them, put a torch to them, letting my aggression out to get rid of them,” he said. “But the next day, I was at Target buying another game.”
Pitcock eventually got treatment, and he’s doing well. His journey should provide hope and inspiration to the estimated four million Americans who are addicted to video games.
Though he has tried a few times to get back into the league since being cured of his addiction, it makes sense with 90 roster spots for someone to take another look at whether he can get back to the form that made him a third-round pick only five years ago. Especially since giving Pitcock another shot would be another small step toward recognizing that mental illnesses are no different than physical injuries.