Ryan G. Van Cleave – Unplugged: My Journey Into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction (HCI, 2010). Video game addiction is the new global epidemic–China and South Korea already call it their #1 public health issue. Once the US looks at their own numbers, we might want to do the same. Unplugged is a memoir detailing my own experience with video game addiction, though it also includes interviews with video game designers, other video game addicts, and parents of addicts.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m from the Chicago area, and I originally studied philosophy and music at college. I’ve been writing for nearly 2 decades. This is my 16th book (though if you add in my work as a ghostwriter, that number is much higher).

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote the book to better understand how a smart, well-to-do kid from the suburbs could fall victim to video game addiction. I published the book when I realized that despite millions of others suffering this same addiction yearly, no one had published a memoir about it. Someone had to.

How did you choose the title?

The title came to me before the book did. It’s about the process of unplugging from the virtual world. The subtitle got changed a few dozen times but my editors really wanted the subject matter to be clear, so this is what we went with.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

A lot of editors liked the book though they weren’t 100% sure of audience, so they passed. This economy has many editors gunshy about taking on anything except surefire sellers. HCI is the #1 self-help publisher going–they understood not only who would read this book, but why it was important that this book existed.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I was writing stories and poems in middle school. I really got started professionally in college after sending some poems out to small literary journals and getting a few acceptances. I was hooked immediately.

Do you have any writing rituals?

No. I’ve been a freelance writer for more than 10 years. I don’t have the luxury of needing rituals.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

The characters are real which made this easy.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I had never published in the literary nonfiction arena before, and it’s clear that it’s as tough as other areas.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would’ve done more outlining up front. I had to throw out over 100,000 words because I avoided writing about the real topic for the entire first draft.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald, though I read in all genres fairly equally. That’s one huge plus of teaching literature and writing and a college–you get paid (and are expected) to read widely.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m writing the followup to Unplugged which will be a book that clearly outlines 12 of the best strategies for helping someone break free of video game addiction.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Find a mentor. Someone who’s been there before can really help you navigate the pitfalls.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Video game addicts. Friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers of video game addicts. And while my book is primarily about video game addiction, it’s also a memoir about self-empowerment, overcoming adversity, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and finding one’s true purpose in life. Those are some fairly universal things.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?