One great thing about the holidays is the time off, and when we’re not prepping for, or attending family events, there’s time to catch up on our favourite games, as well as any new ones that may have been under the tree. The freedom of the holidays also provides ample opportunity to develop or worsen an issue many gamers face.
I am of course talking about the issue known as “game addiction”, which has cropped up in the news recently thanks to a statement from the World Health Organization and the backlash they have received from the Entertainment Software Association. To be clear, I think there is an issue surrounding games and the capacity to get really hooked on them, but I don’t necessarily agree with the rhetoric the WHO used.
Of course, I also acknowledge I am not the first to examine this issue, but as far as I’m concerned, the more opinions on the subject the merrier, as this is something that could at the very least affect public perception of our favourite medium, if not worse.
Yes, I think it’s a good thing that an issue that plagues a percentage of the gamer population is now being acknowledged. I just don’t like how it’s being acknowledged, or more importantly, what the consequences will be.
Some gamers do have a problem. With the size of my ever-growing collection and my impossibly-large backlog, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time gaming, and I do acknowledge that maybe I’ve been a tad too busy gaming lately to so much as write another article. However, while I think most gamers are prone to sometimes getting fairly hooked on one title or another, there’s a big difference between gaming a lot, and letting it derail one’s life. I for one still go to work and attend all of my social groups and volunteer periodically, in addition to attending church every Sunday. Gaming does take up a lot of my free time, but I have a life outside of it.
Someone who has a problem might not be able to accomplish much at all in a given day, or may hold down a job but fail to fit much else into his or her week as the majority of time not spent at work or fulfilling personal needs is spent in front of a PS4 or other device. Even still, that may not be an indication that the person has a problem as he or she could merely be an introvert who just happens to love gaming and does not let their hobby get in the way of tending to everyday tasks. Maybe one should look for signs such as skipping meals or not getting enough hours of sleep.
Ok, I never majored in psychology or medical science, so I’m not the authority on what constitutes a problem, and as I have established here, it’s difficult to draw a line in the sand. The point is, not all gamers who play a lot of games are “addicts”. Heck, let’s swap out the term “addiction” for the term “compulsion” as it is true that gamers can get really hooked on games, but not in a physiological sense. I mean, there are no foreign substances being inserted into our bodies in any way, shape or form.
Besides, if videogames are determined to be akin to a drug, we can expect adverse impacts to the retail of games which could manifest itself in tighter regulations. I mean, we already deal with sometimes mind-boggling restrictions as it is, such as the systematic ban of all Adult Only rated games by all distributors in spite of the M rating being ok due to a one year difference on who can play those games, or content being censored in certain countries because someone might be offended. We don’t need more regulations.
I don’t actually think the statement by the WHO will lead to videogames being treated like a literal drug, but it does once again shine the spotlight on them, in a way that generates negative press. It may not make things worse, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the effects of public perception, as easy as it may be to just condemn the “general public” for just not understanding our medium like we do.
I do firmly believe that some among us do have the capacity to turn their hobby into a problem, but here’s hoping the uninitiated don’t become the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to making that call, given that even us core gamers would be hard pressed to make it. Granted, if another gamer were to call out one for having a problem they may in turn be accused of the ‘pot calling the kettle black.’
In any case, games can draw one in to the point of compulsion, but if games can do that so can other things. We currently live in a society that is obsessed with Netflix, and I’m sure some people are more prone than others to engaging in long and unhealthy binge-fests on a regular basis. I can’t imagine what makes that any better than being hooked on a game and spending the same amount of time with a controller in hand.
Perhaps “compulsive media consumption” is a much better term for an issue that’s clearly not exclusive to gamers. I only used Netflix as an example, as it’s equally possible to get hooked on other forms of entertainment, especially now that it’s all so readily available. This particular sub-argument isn’t that game compulsion doesn’t happen, but that games and gamers in particular shouldn’t be called out.
The main counter-argument however, is the one I’ve been making all along: only a percentage of people take it to an unhealthy extreme. Netflix should not come under fire because some people might binge-watch too many shows on a daily basis, but neither should games.
Anyone who enjoys any form of entertainment is human, and we are not perfect, but most of us can enjoy something without letting it take over our lives in a detrimental way. It’s not the medium’s fault if some individuals lack restraint. A problem exists among a portion of the population, but that does not mean the thing they enjoy is in any way akin to a physical drug. So, it’s good that the issue is being acknowledged by the WHO, but here’s hoping it won’t be to the detriment of passionate gamers who can exercise restraint when need be.
What do you think of this issue? Are you glad it’s being acknowledged? Do you think the rhetoric used by the WHO is problematic? As always, feel free to leave your comments below.