Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don't Nuke the Ant

There has always been a lot of controversy around the 'addictive nature' of computer games in general. The topic recently flared again in the country I live in and once again about half the population screams for more warning labels on games, clinics to treat the afflicted, extra warnings in games and more of the same.

Games are addictive. There is no question of that simply because the definition of addiction includes statements like 'The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.'

So in that line I can honestly say I am addicted to games as others may be addicted to exercise, french quisine, writing in their diary, singing in the shower, playing an instrument...

Frankly I'd be quite happy to be a bit of a compulsive when it comes to exercise but alas. Still... all this just goes to show that it's not so much the 'addiction' itself that represents the problem but how it's affect your life and the lives of the people around you.

After all, just because you get a new game once in a while and then play it for as much as you can for a week or two or maybe even longer isn't representative of someone whose dangerously addicted and in need of treatment. It becomes a problem when this game takes over your life and your work/school performance starts to go down the drain and your loved ones only know you as that zombie that sits in front of the computer all day.
A recovery from that kind of situation is hard no matter the chosen addiction and definitely requires some serious kind of pro-active measure. But while everyone seems to be setting the stage every few years for a massive 'game addiction' intervention I sit here and wonder if we're not just trying to drop a nuke on an anthill.

I am sure there are those dangerously addicted to games, and they should receive adequate help but wouldn't it be simply enough to put the information out there? Burn a few million tax money on an add campain that runs for a little while that tells you the symptoms and a place to fix it and I think most people would get the gist. If not the overzealous gamers themselves then surely a friend or family member will be able to connect the add to the situation and make 'the call'.

On a side note: when your child has been playing the computer for so long you actually have to check if he/she's still sitting there it might be time to take the keyboard away for a few hours; There's no crime in that.

Instead we end up with rules and regulations that add nothing to the problem but making it cost money (regulations need to be enforced) and do very little.
Worse, If I start seeing games with warning labels that would represent glaring advertisement to me. The game is so good it has a warning sticker on it? Sweet...

But what really needs to be done? Do we not have to first determine the size of the actual problem? How many people are there really dangerously addicted to say: WoW?

You can't just see how long someone is on a day and then call it a problematic addiction after x hours simply because it doesn't take into account people that share accounts or just have a game binge and then stop playing alltogether.

In fact if you would've measured my average ultima online time for an average day about 5 or so years ago you would've come out with a staggering 18/hours a day for months due to various macro programs (*disclaimer: only did that on free servers).

The simple fact is the figures I've heard over the years from the dozens of studies don't match up even in the slightest and that's simply because there is no reliable way to measure those that are indeed dangerously addicted.

They don't turn themselves in, they're too busy playing a game and the rest of us either do not recognize the problem as a problem or wouldn't know what to do about it if we did.

So how about some decent information before we decide to nuke the ant. In fact, please don't nuke the ant at all because us ants aren't cockroaches.


Anonymous said...

Very nice post, Cpn. First. Well thought out.

I've seen people take a strong dislike to video games because it absorbs the players and they appear to be very focused and concentrated, and annoyed when repetitively interrupted ... much like the effect a good book has on people, but I don't see people wanting to ban books or put addiction warnings on them.

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