Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Hello my game is....and I have a problem

I know my last blog was only yesterday; though last night I watched a documentary that really made me want to write. So here I am again rambling, though this time actually rambling about a viable argument. You see the programme (Panorama, BBC) was talking about gaming addiction. Is it real? Just who are the people affected? I found myself, now a person selling videogames as well as attempting to make them (with tenacity :P) getting rather engrossed in the programme and wanting to take some kind of responsibility. I mean I love games, I wouldn't be in everyday determined on 3dsmax if I didn't, although after a few hours on Sacred 2 I can put the controller down...So what makes an addict an addict? Just how much is too much?

Yesterday at GAME the main release was World of Warcraft Cataclysm (released last night at 11pm), and I managed to get quite a few pre orders (along with Wii remotes...seriously they LOVE the Wii-motes) though for two of the case studies mentioned in the documentary this was the worst game for fuelling game addiction. Leo, 20 calculates that he's spent 12hrs a day for 2 years on the game, clocking experience to get to level 70. He's lost touch with friends and family and his university work is failing. Also, Joe from Notts. only stopped playing when his dad threw his Xbox 360 out the window after he was expelled from university. Now thousands in dept, he stopped going to lectures and couldn't psychically move from his bed. Finally, Chris' Mother recalls how he started via refusing to go to school, playing the game throughout the night. More scary to this particular story is how when the internet went down he remembers shaking and sweating also becoming violent - anyone else think heroin addict sympts? To be honest when i saw these guys I thought of this video -

Joking aside, if it is this severe what are people doing about it? And is it the gaming industry or the individual who is to blame?

Gaming addiciton is not recognised as a medical condition; and companies believe it is a product of media histeria. Within the documentary Ian Livingstone from Eidos Interactive argued that "People say they are addicted to football or television, they probably have addictive personalities - there is no formal published medical evidence saying games are addictive." Listening to him I did kinda agree - I mean didn't they say the same about dancing and rock'n'roll in the 50s? After all isn't it your choice whether you play the game?

Above are some of the pictures 
taken through the screen by Robbie Cooper - 
The child directly above concentrates so much 
on game-play he has lost the blink reflex.
He openly cries while gaming.

Evidence from Ukie the industry body says games develop intelligence, are valuable learning tools and reduce stress - the latter of which I can relate to I mean who hasn't had a blast on a game after a bad day, and felt great when they get that headshot? I know I have. On the other hand the World Health Organisation describes some addictions to games "a serious threat to the mental health of young Europeans." Prof. Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University also says that "People display signs and symptoms of more serious addictions." 

Next the programme looks at South Korea and the impact their brilliant high speed broadband is having on the people there. Looking at the moving maps and walls looking like Picadilly Circus everywhere I immediately thought this was awesome! I was completely in awe of the brilliance of the technology. In S.Korea 85% of the people have fast broadband, and more than half the population play games. Though this dazzling technology hides a population of gaming addicts. There are horrors like people actually playing themselves to death with blood clots and starvation plus the tragic story of a couple who actually left their own child to starve to death while playing a game where you save and protect a virtual child! In this last case the mother was taken for psychiatric review and was found to already be mentally unstable and of low I.Q. which supports the argument of it being the gamer not the game. A solution to the numbers of gaming addicts sees S.Korea holding bootcamps where the aim is to try and establish new bonds in the real world over the virtual. This really seems to work as a S.Korean child speaks at the end saying he really feels better playing outside.

So what makes the games so addictive? With S.Korea warning Britain will soon end up the same way and stories already of a woman having her children put into care over gaming addiction; Adrian Chon, Chief executive of Sixtostart explains why - "Games are designed in a manner so you don't want to leave. Using variable rate of the enforcement games are powerful tools. It is the slot machine effect."

So are games addictive? Are we all just crack addicts waiting to happen? I myself think they are to a certain extent. They use scientific tools and marketing devices to keep the consumer coming back. Although I personally think, looking at this documentary, like smoking, drinking and drugs it depends on the individual. Some people are stronger than others and some are more vulnerable to the triggers of gaming addiction. Within the case studies above I think they just needed more to do - watching the film, after quitting so many video games Joe is now working as a freelance film maker which is more inspiring for him. Boredom is really the killer, to me anyway. Disagree? So you can make your own conclusions i've added both parts of the film below - leave me a comment if you like :D.

So yeah, if you're bored games are cool, I myself love them....just don't get like these guys...PUT DOWN THE CONTROLLER!


Panorama - BBC 6th Dec 2010



  1. I love how video games have replaced TV as this addictive/soul sucking device of evil :/
    This doc isn't good news for us really, it was pretty biased against the games industry. For Panorama I expected more depth and research.

    The whole thing about researching the addictive properties of games seems a bit misdirected? Perhaps they should be researching what causes young people to introvert to online games in the first place. [But that would be too much work, its much easier to blame Blizzard]

  2. yeah I thought that - that's why I went on about the individuals...sometimes also I think it's the parents. my mate read this and said what about the parents that actively just shut the kids upstairs with a game to shut them up? I did try to make this balanced, but to be honest there's gotta be something in the kid to make them play so much I think - to the extent of losing uni etc. It's like they're escaping something x

  3. Don't you think it was actually a cunning advertising ploy for Warcraft?

    Also, I'd much rather warcraft addicts were locked in their bedrooms drooling than wandering around the streets or trying to get on the course.


  4. Do they really try to get on this then? lol and yeah the amount of times they mentioned W.o.w it makes you wonder :)