- Mental Health
Video Game Addiction: Reality or Fantasy?
The Video Game Industry at a Glance--BILLIONS of $$$
Unless you have been buried under rock for the past ten years—and then, I’d wonder what you’re doing here or how you got here—you are no doubt familiar with the growing popularity of both video games and online games. The video game industry boasts an estimated revenue of $15.9 billion in 2007. The numbers have been steadily increasing for the past several years and are only continuing to grow. Experts are saying that projected sales for 2008 are between $17 and $18 billion. That’s not as steep an increase as previous years, but much of that can be attributed to an expected decline in hardware sales (The China Post states this could be wrong, as sales for the expensive Playstation 3 are expected to climb this year).
Traditionally, entertainment has been big business. And, the video game industry is as international as they come. So, no recession here in the States should be reason for these numbers to drop. As technology reaches ever-higher standards, prices will continue to climb, just as with any other industry.
Games, Games, Games
Just a Video Game?
The recent worry about these sales is not who is spending their money where, but whether these games can cause addiction or not. This has been a concern since a boom in online and video gaming in 1998. In 2007, the American Medical Association met to discuss putting pressure on the APA (American Psychiatric Association) in order to have video/internet gaming addiction added to the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (most commonly referred to as DSM, followed by a Roman numeric, indicating revision). They decided not to move forward with the proposal at this point in time, but instead to research it more. The AMA says that video game addiction may be added when they meet again in 2012.
Advancements in the Gaming Industry
This is NOT Your Grandad's Video Game
The video and internet games of today have come a long way from good ol’ Pong. Walk into any gaming store, and you will see titles of games that allow you to play as a member in an elite special forces unit, a criminal trying to settle a score, dressing up dolls, or taking part as a fantasy character in a world populated not by computer generated baddies but rather by other players from all over the real world. Video gaming technology has brought us fighting games, where one can move a character around a screen and complete a series of hermetic button/keystroke and directional combinations to thoroughly trounce our enemies; first person shooters (or, FPS) which put us behind the eyes and controls of a character with a vast array of weaponry at his disposal and a vaster array of targets; adventure/scrollers, where we control a character and pilot them through a series of obstacles (mainly bad guys) to reach an end goal; flight simulators and racing games; role-playing games (RPGs), where players typically command a number of characters with near limitless potential fighting to save the world from impossible forces; and, the almighty MMO—short for Massive Multi-player Online game, these allow us to create one or more characters and delve into a fictional world somewhere on cyberspace to interact with not only computer challenges, but other players from around the globe.
Video Game Addiction as a Disease
There are several reasons to consider video game addiction as a disease and understand the importance of treating it. Proponents of this decision indicate that video game addiction is just as serious as any other form of addiction such as pathological gambling, alcoholism, and drug addiction. The more startling revelation is that the majority of victims are teens and young adults. Gambling is actually considered a form of an impulse control disorder, whereas alcoholism and drug addiction have both mental and chemical foundations.
BBC Report on Video Game Addiction
Example of Inappropriate Behavior as it Relates to Video Game Addiction
Study on Video Game Addiction
Experts & Witness Testify to the Dangers and Damages of Video Game Addiction
The director of Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants in Amsterdam, Kieth Bakker, tells us in an interview with CBS that too much time gaming can lead to social issues, as teens and preteens may fail to develop other skills they normally would from hanging out with friends, partaking in extracurricular activities, or completing school assignments.
One mother, Joyce Protopapas, tells MSNBC the horrific story of her son’s gaming habits. A night versus day transformation in his academic and social behaviors became apparent within two years of starting his gaming repetoire. She likened the boy’s antics to that of he alcoholic father. She is cited as saying trying to intervene caused curses and threats of violence from her son.
The BBC reports on a South Korean man who died from what was most likely heart failure after playing a game for 50 hours straight, taking only short breaks to rest and use the bathroom.
Researchers believe that video game addiction can also be blamed for such tragedies as what is reported in this Salon.com article.
Something as Seeming Innocent as Video Game Can Lead to Violence
What Studies Don't Tell Us...but, They're Starting To
Currently, studies on video game addiction center on the psychological causes and issues. Treatment follows the same lines, including individual and group therapy and counseling. Many studies have been done to show the brainwave activity and chemical influences in one’s brain when doing everything from having sex to eating chocolate to solving a mathematical equation. Have these same types of studies been done to active gamers? Perhaps there is a chemical correlation there as well. It is possible that there is more than counseling and therapy that could be done for these individual. It is, in fact, possible that a proper medication could assist with treatment.
In a recent study from Stanford University, brain image testing has been done. The study concludes that men are more likely to be affected by the experience of gaming due to “the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings…”
What if Someone Told this Guy he was Addicted to Math and Needed Help?
There is Always Another Side
While I have talked about video game addiction, what it is, and how to treat it; I also want to encourage my readers to look at the other side. There are people who spend 4+ hours a day reading. Some do this for work—they may be editors, writers or researchers. Some do this for simple enjoyment. There are those out there who spend 4+ hours a day solving math problems—professors, engineers, and inventors come to mind. Some are students or just really interested in math (sudoku anyone?). There are artists who spend far more than 4 hours a day on their work, which may be paid or may simply be a labor of love.
Do we then need to start treating these people? Are they sick? Do they need help? What if someone walked into Albert Einstein’s office, erased his chalk board and dragged him off to a mental institution for 6 months of treatment (aka de-programming). What if someone convinced Winston Churchill he was too obsessed with the war and needed to take some time and focus on other things? These examples may be extreme, and I am not saying that the cure for cancer or world peace will be found while playing a video game. However, at the same time, there are many possibilities—especially with what are considered the worst culprits, MMOs (Google it). Imagine being able to settle disputes at work or the street with a battle in the virtual realm? I’ve seen it happen. Games such as Second Life are being used by corporations to host conferences and training on a global scale. In essence, some things are not as broken as they may appear to be.
There May Be Other Options
This may indicate that we need to look at a number of supposed illnesses, and what they really are and mean. Psychologists will agree that we still have very little idea of how the brain works. We’re only beginning to gain a glimpse. And, it wouldn’t be the first time we have had a need to redefine a diagnosis. In 1980, the DSM III relegated the disorder of neurosis archaic. This comes after steady research and insight, and in the words of more than one psychology professor, “by definition, EVERYONE is neurotic.”
So, the question begs to be asked: is it possible everyone is addicted? The defining characteristics of addiction are as follows:
- The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.
- If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.
Any standard psychology book or class will tell you that an addiction (or any mental deficiency) is not an issue until it becomes a stumbling block in the individual’s personal, social and professional life. So, drink as much as you want; as long as you make it work, bring home the check, keep pace with the family, and enjoy time with friends, you are fine. Stay up a slate as you want playing that video game, just make sure you get up for school/work in the morning. You’re a millionaire, you can afford to bet another grand or two on that horse. I know these statements sound like absurdities, and they are meant to. When and where do we draw that line?
More Questions and More Choices
Choices & Decisions: They Are Ours to Make
How do we distinguish true genius from insanity? How do we determine what is best for someone else, especially if there are issues in our own life we can’t handle? Video game addiction is very much an issue, but I think we need to reevaluate who is making these determinations, and when enough is enough. There are pilot programs springing up everywhere. While the problem does need addressed, are we educated enough to combat it? Are there enough resources available? Should we be focused on other, potentially more important issues? And, finally: should we be investigating more positive ways to capitalize on people’s love of video and internet games?
- American Medical Association
The official home on the Web for the AMA. Keep up-to-date on their press releases and other info as it pertains to video game addiction.
- American Psychiatric Association
The "ruling" authority on addictions, including video game addiction and other mental illnesses. For anyone who wants to know more about addiction or mental health issues, this is a good place to start.
The National Institute for Mental Health (Not NIHM, that's a movie). They are an offshoot of both the AMA and APA, but are actually a part of the federal government. More great psych resources.
The Entertainment Software Association--an independent firm who handles complaints, investigation, and reviews into the video and Internet gaming industry as well as other, similar avenues.
A website currently undergoing a face lift. They promote themselves as an organization dedicated to tracking the happenings in relation to video game addiction.
Mothers Against Video Game Addiction & Violence--a advocacy like MADD or SADD--this is a lobbying group battling to win against their chosen cause.
A layman's guide to medical terminology and illnesses of all sorts. This stocking of data is readily recognized a s an authority throughout the health realm.
- The Survey
This is the survey conducted to determine is video game addiction was an actual issue. The overview has some nice information. You can draw your own conclusions.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board. These are the people behind the ratings on video games, like movies. Wouldn't be too far fetched in the future, if games have a "addictiveness" rating....
If you think it's all a bunch of hooey and just want to know where to get the latest and greatest video games, take a look at IGN.com. They are considered by many to be one of the highest authorities in the industry.