Everyone needs downtime, time to relax without being bogged down by day-to-day pressures, according to experts like psychologist Stephanie Hutcheson, who wrote about it in an article on maintaining good mental health. But major problems can arise when downtime begins to take the place of real life.

That can be particularly devastating in a relationship.

Video games play a bigger role in divorce this year than they did last year, the Daily Mail reported today based on a study conducted by Divorce Online.

Last year, Divorce Online reported that men paying more attention to their video games than their spouse was the cause of 5 percent of divorces. The number jumped up to 15 percent this year.

The reason for the 10-point increase in video-game-related divorces could be the recession, which causes people to stay indoors more because of job losses and decreased budgets to go out, according to Divorce Online Dr. Mark Keenan, in a comment to Eurogamer.com.

According to the Daily Mail there are few specific gaming culprits. One is World of Warcraft, where gamers create virtual avatars to carry out adventures in an online mythical land. Other popular games believed to play a role in divorce are Call of Duty and Halo.

In a WOAI News report on the effect a video-game addiction can have on a family, Donald Hunt, a former video-game addict said, "It's just total immersion into the game, as your reality, instead of the real reality." In the same article, his wife Janet said Donald would play upwards of 20 straight hours at a time.

According to WOAI News, it's not just the in-depth video games causing problems, but also games found on Facebook, that may seem more casual in nature.

Those in the gaming world disagree with the study's results, according to Spong.com and ComputerandVideoGames.com. Spong quoted Divorce Online's Keenan, who said video games are "used by men in particular as a means of escape from an already unhappy relationship," and said that video games shouldn't be blamed for previously rocky relationships.

EMAIL: awhatcott@desnews.com