Further Proof Mainstream Media Doesn't Get Games

Every year or two it crops up again: stories of internet addiction. The latest program to shine a spotlight on those afflicted and the clinics that try to treat them is SBS's Dateline, and it's being broadcast nationally tomorrow night.

Addiction is a serious problem, and it should be treated as such. But gaming is a serious industry too, and it would be bloody nice if the mainstream media appreciated that distinction.

The pitch is straightforward. It's a story about the rise of internet addiction in South Korea, a country where one in ten teenagers is addicted to the virtual realm of the internet. One neurophysicist at Seoul's Gangnam Eulji Hospital said around 90% of addiction cases in South Korea were related to online gaming, and the government introduced a law a few years ago to prevent those younger than 16 from accessing gaming sites from midnight to 6:00 AM.

It's a problem. A very real, very serious one with life-changing consequences if not treated. Let's not beat around the bush on that.

But an addiction to the internet and an addiction to games is not precisely one and the same.

For more context, here's the trailer for Dateline's program tomorrow night.

"It's rehab for gamers," the promo says.

No, it's not.

It's called the Internet Dream Village and it was established by the South Korean government to tackle the rise of addiction cases to the internet and smartphones. Online gaming is understandably a part of that — this is the country lovingly referred to as the Mecca of esports, after all — but it's not rehab for gamers per se.

The village is four hours from Seoul and doesn't have any internet or Wi-Fi. Those sent to the camp are usually done so because they've been spending 14, 16, 18 hours absorbed by their phones, entranced by some MMO or addicted to some other facet of the online world.

Most of the activities at the camp are social: going outdoors, exercising, eating meals together — and, as you'd expect — games. Lots of them. Card games. Table tennis. Board games. Just not online games.

"Korea has more children who lose their ability to control their internet use compared to other countries. Our aim is to help the young to rebuild their ability to control their own lives so they can grow properly," Yun Yok, a consulting professor for the Dream Village, told the BBC's Click last year.

And there's the rub. The problem is these people have no self-control over the internet, over their exposure to the online world. Their problem isn't with games so much as it is interacting with the physical and virtual space in a balanced way. There is no balance, really.

But what the Dream Village isn't is a rehab for gamers. Gaming isn't the problem, and as a lifelong gamer I feel pretty aggrieved that Dateline are promoting it as such.

Nevertheless, I'll be watching tomorrow night to see how the show pans out. Hopefully the line between video games, games in general and internet addiction will be drawn a little more clearly.


    Gaming can become addictive and it is indeed for many people - a large chunk don't even realise it. Addictions can be a problem, therefore gaming can be a problem for some.

    This initiative is excellent. Like any other addiction, gaming addiction is screwing people's lives. It should be diagnosed and taken seriously like substance abuse or gambling.

      I think gaming addiction probably follows the same track as obesity or hoarding, most would be unwilling to admit they have a problem and side with their rights as a life choice or excuse it for a passion which inevitably make people who do come forward as a niche perhaps even spectacle addiction based on rarity alone.

        This makes it impossible for a gamer not to be an addict.

        I can either say "I'm addicted", or it's an excuse? Rubbish.

          I never made that assumption? merely saying that people who game to toxic levels tend to hide how much it is effecting their health and aspirations?

            But it is commonly said, albeit about the more common addictions. Take casual smokers for example. To them, they aren't addicted, to everyone else they are kidding themselves if they think that. But yes, fair play.

    i think it's important to note that addiction to anything is a crippling illness and all cases are related. it will be interesting to see how it all goes when it airs. i'm suspicious.

    I mean, why wait until the episode has aired before having your rant? You wouldn't want to have something real to talk about...

      I'll watch. But it'd be nice if the promo didn't generalise gaming in that fashion, since more people will probably see the promo than will watch the show.

      I mean, why wait until the episode has aired before having your rant? You wouldn't want to have something real to talk about...

      Shouldn't we wait to see the impact of a Trump presidency before we rant about it?

    Every time there's a close-up of a pair of glazed-over eyeballs, DRINK.

    But seriously, if we want games to be viewed as less of a cultural outlier and instead be more accepted by the wider community, you don't necessarily get to pick and choose how that happens.

    Bad promos are bad promos, that's it. SBS has enough channels open to allow people to make it aware of that, but that's pretty pointless without having seen the show yet. Dateline is the Q&A of SBS right? Or is that Insight? Needless to say, if they get online lynch mobs after them because of this, then it's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    'Games are only legitimised in ways I personally approve of, and only in ways that reinforce MY thoughts about them'

    This is the same chestnut that certain pockets of people on the internet use - daily - when they want an excuse to harass, abuse and generally troll those wanting to to cast a critical or sociological eye towards the medium. You may know some of them from this very own website's comment sections.

    If anything, gaming websites should actively work to balance 'media bias' towards gaming like this themselves. Here's the first idea, for free: "I'm A Gaming Dad Putting My Own Restrictions On My Children's Gaming. Here's How to Start".

    When do we EVER see something like THAT on prime-time TV?

      That's not the point. The point is that they have taken a story about internet addiction and misconstrued it as a story about gaming addiction.

      If it WAS a story about the negative sides of gaming, I would be all for it. Hell, Kotaku has included a bunch of stories about the whole gamergate thing, which is a seriously negative portrayal of the wider gaming community. This isn't a site that shies away from looking at the nastier aspects of gaming culture, but I fully agree that SBS is the one in the wrong in this instance.

    The dateline episode does actually cover the topic as 'internet addiction'. It should be an interesting episode!

    'Internet Addiction' in this specific cultural context I should say.

      Is there a phone number for the Korean addiction doctors or centers?

    But it's not generalising? You're literally leaping at shadows and proving a really obnoxious gamer stereotype of frothing at the mouth for even the smallest errors made by mainstream media when it portrays games. Dream Village is quite literally the exact setup as any rehab centre and to refer to it as 'Gamer rehab' is reasonable for a freaking promo; did you expect them outline your argument in a 30 second ad? How about as someone suggested you watch the freaking program?

    So what exactly is the problem here? The health effects of spending the majority of ones day infront of a computer are minimal at best (minor eye eye and muscle strain are about it since lack of exercise or poor diet are not mutually inclusive of a computer centric lifestyle). Heck, I've done coding runs during crunch time upwards of 30hrs nonstop but somehow if it's work related then it doesn't seem to count.

    The real issue here is the prejudice being displayed by the anti game crowd with such levels of intolerance that they're willing to commit someone to what is effectively a prison/boot camp for minors. And it *is* prejudice - if they spent all day reading books or playing sport, these people wouldn't consider it a problem despite it being functionally equivalent.

    If anything, spending a large amount of time behind a computer is benefitting young people more than anything, and in many cases could be considered more sociable (like being part of a huge online community) than those who limit themselves to interactions offline. The parents are the ones that need to be sent away to camps to teach them to be open minded and tolerant of things they clearly don't understand.

      I think the problem is that they've seen a story out of South Korea about internet addiction, gone 'oh hey, a story about addiction, they're in front of computers, they must be addicted to gaming, let's report on that'.

      Sure, the story is about internet addiction, but that promo is entirely focused on the gaming aspect of it.

      The health effects of spending the majority of ones day infront of a computer are minimal at best

      The health effects of spending the majority of ones day infront of a computer can actually be huge if one doesn't balance it out with some form of regular exercise for an hour or so. Unfortunately, for those (like I used to) of us who had to spend 12 - 14 hours infront of a desk working, that's sometimes the last damn thing you wanted to do when you had a home, a kid or two, a partner, duties to take care of.... ergh. I know it's easy to say "well it's your choice", but when you're trying to cram 26 hours into a 24 hour day, somethings got to give.

      From RSI, to deep vein thrombosis, it's all a risk as you get older. While you're young and invincible it doesn't seem a worry, but when you head into your 40's, shit starts getting real and all these issues pop up.

      The Mayo Clinic alone did a long term study on the risks of staying seated for long term periods of time for instance, hardly a place of disrepute.


      This is just from those who stay seated for up to 4 hours at a time. While poor diet and exercise aren't solely exclusive to the sitting issue, the fact is the less mobile you are during the day, the less active you are and the less you burn, meaning weightgain etc aren't as unrelated as they may eventually seem.

      Last edited 12/04/16 9:08 am

    I'm not really sure how I feel about this.

    On one hand, yes there are plenty of people online until wee hours of the morning. Every night, forever. And "thats bad". In some ways (and directly related to gaming here) they're socialising, working as a team, problem solving and having fun without hurting anyone but themselves. Plenty of other examples of much more harmful activites to both yourself and others.

    On the other hand, gaming until 4am then getting up at 6 to drive a forklift or a bus or neurosurgery is causing that "addiction" to be harmful to others, which I can understand.

    What about the other gamers though? Those that are up til 4am playing single-player games, immersing themselves away from a life they can't stand. Away from people and social interaction. Wouldn't that be more harmful?

    I'm one of those gamers that plays to escape. Pretend I'm off in some other world to explore and interact with. Sometimes I'll forget the time and (more often than not) stay up late as I don't want to sleep and wake to another day, which is the same as someone who might indulge in a whole season on Netflix, or read a fiction novel overnight, or lie in the tub for several hours just listening to music. Games are definitely my coping mechanism, and I get cranky if i don't get my game fix, but no more than the next person who can't read a book, or relax to a show or a bath.

    What I find substantially worse than any of these scenarios is Facebook addiction. My better(?) half will often completely ignore my kids when they talk to her because she's Facebook, which pisses me to know end the example she's teaching them. Our "together" time means me, her and her phone. Maybe I should fire up a game on my phone during such moments, but I don't. Not being able to update status, or check messages or reveal intimate details about your family to hundreds of strangers sends Facebook addicts out of control. Watching these people at a party all standing in groups huddled around their phone is hilarious, and sad at the same time.

    Should definitely be more support groups for those people. Also TV shows for those TV addicts that watch TV shows about addiction until 4am every morning.

      I was gonna reply with pretty much the exact same thing you wrote, but in a much snarkier way, so I'm glad you go there first!

    Addiction lol

    As if the majority of people even understamd what it means. Try getting injured, being given Oxycontin for years and then having to be put on Methadone for several more years. All due to accidentally being physically dependant on Oxycodone.

    And THEN enduring weeks of withdrawals, feeling like you're dying. Not being able to sit still but not move. Sweating night and day while you chuck your guts up, having the runs 24/7....For weeks on end without relent.

    Does internet addiction cause this? No. Its called self control. Blame yourself and fix your core issues. First world problems. Irresponsible parents.

    They need to harden up these kids and parents. What a load of crap. Anyone who thinks this is a REAL issue needs to get real. What dumb, idiotic kids does this world produce?

    Addiction lol. Please. Go see what its like for people who steal for drugs or have to detox from Methadone due to a horrible mistake, then talk to me about "addiction".

      This sort of thing can actually be addictive, although you're right that it's unlikely to be as addictive as methadone, tobacco or alcohol. (Most people are not actually addicted to alcohol but when it happens it's not pretty.)

      Essentially the brain drugs itself with seratonin hits via the addictive activity, habituating itself to certain behaviours rather than certain substances. Pretty much exactly the same thing happens with gambling. Dismissing it as not being addictive misses the point that with both substance abuse and addictive behaviours, it's basically brain chemistry going haywire; a matter of degree, not of whether there is any addiction at all.

      There are those who think that recovering from substance addiction is just a matter of self control. While going cold turkey from many drugs can kill, which is pretty unlikely with behaviour addiction, addictive behaviours have ALREADY messed with your head and so recovery isn't necessarily all that straightforward.

      I don't think you know how the brain works, why do you assume that only drugs can be addictive. It's a disorder of the brain's reward system. So basically anything you can do, could possibly be addictive if the conditions are right

      Last edited 12/04/16 7:04 am

      You're so cool Brewster.

      We've all seen Trainspotting.

      I've cut two people out of my life who murdered someone due to a heroin addiction in the 90's. Does that make me cool too? I mean can I join the dicksizing club? I'll flop it out...

      Like @dr_neeson said (apt name for the comment I might add), you obviously don't know how the brain works. The basic characteristics of videogames work with a risk v reward situation often like Poker machines do, a 'one more go' situation. Combine this with constantly rewarding game features that stimulate the brain in a way that, in many cases, leads to addiction with symptoms similar to those associated with cocaine use.

      Brain chemicals, particularly one called dopamine, is central to this. Don't kid yourself, companies spend big bucks figuring out shit like this, when gamers will reach 'peak pleasure' in a game, when their 'reward center' will be triggered etc. Brain imaging in recent years has shown patterns of dopamine occurring during gaming sessions, especially competitive multiplayer online gaming sessions is very similar to that of gambling and infact reaches highs almost equivalent to, in some gamers, not all, that of cocaine and other addictions.

        I wish I could upvote this twice - once for the quality riposte, and once for the Fright Night quote

    As gamers we are on the inside looking out towards everyone else. Why do we always go on the offensive every time someone does an "anti-gamer" piece? I swear we are as bad as the NRA sometimes. I look forward to tonights dateline ep. I love having my views challenged, although it might be all puff to get some gamers irate, better check the comments here :)

      Wholeheartedly agreed. I tell my students all the time to be open minded and to listen to the other sides arguments before disregarding them. I'll be watching for sure.

    Shrug. Wouldn't be surprised if for the majority of cases it's one and the same. Industry insiders and hardcore enthusiasts might be annoyed by the blurring of the lines, but for all intents and purposes, whatever is causing these kids to be addicted to internet would - if 'cured' - likely transfer directly to video-gaming anyway. Might as well kill two birds with one stone.

    The Media is run by old people. Old people don't like new things. case etc

    They keep making episodes like this because but hurt gamers like you give them so much exposure with your nerd rage that they end up being high rated entirely out of hate watching gamers looking to get angry at something.

    if you stopped giving them exposure they would disappear.

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