While it's easy to find mainstream media attacking video games for no reason, it's also undeniable that video games can be an addictive hobby, especially for young children.
Tagged With game addiction
Remember Barrie, Ontario? It's the home of Brandon Crisp, who ran away after his console was confiscated, and was later found. It's also home to a teenager who ran away to meet his 42-year-old "soulmate" from World of Warcraft.
The head of Europe's first treatment centre for gaming addicts has revealed that 90% of young people who seek counseling for compulsive gaming habits aren't actually addicts at all.
Keith Bakker of The Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam explains that while a gamers who show other addictive behaviours such as drinking or taking drugs have been successfully treated using traditional abstinence-based treatment models, the vast majority of compulsive gamers have a social problem, rather than a psychological one.
"This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today," Mr Bakker told BBC News. "Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication."
Dr. Phil loves the video games, or rather the amount of attention gamers give him when he talks about them. In today's episode he tackles the dangers of computer game addiction, with the entire show dedicated to people who play games when they probably shouldn't be. The show starts with a virtual Dr. Phil complete with a sword and hair talking about how virtual games let you escape from reality before launching into the story of l34-year-old Fred, who sits at home and plays World of Warcraft all day while his wife supports their three children.
"Apparently he's got you supporting him and taking care of the house. I wonder what level that is in the real world," Dr. Phil quips.
Henry Jenkins, an MIT professor who was at the International Games and Learning Forum in Shanghai earlier this month, has some very interesting general and gaming-specific observations on his blog - perhaps most interesting of all were his thoughts on the issue of addiction, social obligations of game companies, the piracy issue and a lot more - his somewhat-lengthy roundup is a great little synopsis of what I imagine were some really fascinating discussions. The connection between the one child policy (and the attendant 'little emperor' syndrome) and fears about gaming addiction among Chinese youth is not one I'd really thought of before:
Video game obsession is what lead to the beating death of 17-month-old Alayiah Turman, an Assistant District Attorney said yesterday in the closing arguments of Tyrone Spellman's murder trial.
"(Spellman's) entire life and daily routine is about playing (Ghost Recon).
"What do you think someone with that kind of obsession is going to do when it gets knocked over? What do you think is going to happen?
"The skull fractures on that baby are what happened."
Prosecutors say that Spellman was obsessed with video games, that he played them up to six hours a day. They say that in September 2006 Spellman beat his daughter, Alayiah Turman, to death after she knocked over his Xbox 360 while he was playing Ghost Recon.
Spellman's defense attorney cast blame on the child's mother and said that the confession was coerced. The case was handed to the jury yesterday afternoon, but they had still not reached a verdict last night and were set to return today to continue deliberation.
The latest Aberrant Gamer column over at GameSetWatch is an interesting summation of a challenge Leigh Alexander extended to herself and her readers: abstaining from gaming for a week. Any kind of gaming. Some dutiful readers were successful, Leigh was not - but it does raise some interesting questions on why and how we game:
... it did feel like my world was a bit smaller; there were emotions, impulses and dreams that had nowhere to travel to, that languished amid the everyday. It's true that I learned perhaps gaming has cultivated in me a lack of long-term patience, a need for more regular stimulation, a poorer attention span. It's also very possible that I zone out with games to avoid dealing directly with things that cause me frustration or sadness. But I'm now certain there is a singular fashion in which games engage both mind and emotion - not only for the purpose of play, but for personal reasons both creative and therapeutic - that no other form of media approaches. It's a quality unique to gaming, it speaks to the power and responsibility game developers have assumed, and it makes sense out of the intense, often perplexing personalisation we feel toward the games they make.
I frequently go weeks without picking up a game - my PS2 has languished since August or September, I think I last turned on the 360 sometime before the new year, and the last time my poor DS got my undivided attention for more than half an hour or so was back in June, on a long haul trans-Pacific flight. Still, I know my games are always there for the taking (if only I had time!). I suspect if I locked them up or told myself I couldn't play, I'd be pretty anxious in no time flat.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, a columnist for Canada's National Post, recently wrote a scathing exposé on the dangers of video game addiction. And in this provocative piece, de Souza explores his own troubled past with his own dark demon... known to some as Tetris.
I learned the truth about video games the hard way, and so this is the lesson I offer for free: Don't play video games. Don't own them. And for the sake of all that is good and holy, don't buy them for your children...
Since I have never played another video game. It's too dangerous. Video games take what is most precious - time and thought. And they are making kids fat.
It only gets better...
Way I see it, there's two ways to curb Korea's rampant obsession with online gaming. One is to ban all players, destroy all computers and shoot those who don't tow the line. Which would be effective, but also a little drastic. Onto plan B, then: boot camp. The NY Times has an interesting article on the "Jump Up Internet Rescue School", a military-styled camp where kids addicted to online gaming can be sent to get acquainted with friendship, routine, the outdoors and hard (physical) work. Computers are banned, online contact is banned and phone contact's restricted to one hour per day. Does it work? Maybe! One participant/inmate, Lee Chang-hoon, says:
I'm not thinking about games now, so maybe this will help. From now on, maybe I'll just spend five hours a day online.
Only five hours? Success!