“Whenever there’s a conversation around gaming there’s a natural defensiveness that’s extremely high,” Cam told me. Some people don’t like hearing the idea that others might want to stop gaming. Every couple of weeks, Cam receives hate mail, harassment or death threats because he runs GameQuitters. Six months ago, someone told him he should walk off a pier with cement tied to his shoes. Sometimes, he says, when the public conversation around gaming addiction resurfaces, the subreddit he moderates, /r/StopGaming, is raided by mobs of trolls.

“All the threads were people screaming at and harassing us. I can handle that. It doesn’t get to me. I understand it,” said Cam. However, he said, it can impact people on /r/StopGaming whose entire lives and identities have been tied to gaming for as far back as they remember; it can further alienate them, make them feel guilty for seeking help. “The 13 or 14-year-old in the Reddit community who feels vulnerable, just quit gaming, he’s feeling like he’s no longer part of his community and all these people come and say they’re embarrassing and their addiction is not real—people read that and feel ostracized,” he said.

The main upside to the official classification of gaming disorder is that it might help some people get their lives back in order. It can be a buoy for gamers who can’t figure out why their friends are okay putting down the PlayStation 4 controller after only two hours, while they have to keep going. “I thought that to be an addict you needed to have a needle in your arm, be lying under a bridge, or be drinking from a paper bag,” said Benjamin. He eventually sought help for his addiction after moving back in with his parents. He’d been seeing therapists since he was seven, but none had ever diagnosed his gaming addiction. He’d never heard of that himself. One source, Jacob, said that when he sought help for his gaming addiction, a professional addictions counselor told him that the real issue was that he was forgoing social connection. Offline games were the issue, said the counselor. He should game online. So Jacob binged on Starcraft 2. The problem got worse. Without proper guidelines, professionals didn’t take him seriously. They might today.

Online, Benjamin and Jacob began attending text and voice meetings with other recovering gaming addicts. Now, they help lead Computer Gaming Addicts Anonymous, a grassroots 12-step group for gaming addicts. “I’m just trying to let people who have a problem know they they can get help,” he said. CGAA’s recovery program sets boundaries for hundreds of problematic gamers. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, its members teach gamers that games aren’t the sole problem; their mental health is. However, abstinence is the only way for gaming addicts to uncover the roots of their self-destructive behavior. It’s a philosophy widely shared among the recovered gaming addicts I interviewed.

Cam’s new hobby is surfing, which, he said with a laugh, he simply can’t do for 15 hours a day. Progress isn’t as measurable as in WoW. Rewards, like catching a good wave, aren’t consistent. “Yesterday, when I went surfing, I caught a wave. I was fully immersed in that moment. I wasn’t able to focus on anything else,” he said. But the crucial thing, he added, is that when he surfs, he always has to come back.

*Asterisks indicate names changed to protect anonymity.  

Update, 12:52 PM: An earlier version of this story said Cam’s human hunter in World of Warcraft was level 70. That is incorrect and we have updated the article. Additionally, a portion of this story that discussed suicide has been slightly edited since its original publication. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).