When I signed on to Twitter yesterday morning, I saw Stoove tweeting and ranting about this article about game addiction from the BBC and heartily agreed with everything he was saying in regards to it being damaging to people with genuine problems with very little actual fact to back up what they are saying. It is by no means the first article on this topic, and it will not be the last, but it was read by Stoove and affected him enough to type up a series of tweets which then affected me enough to read the series of videos he linked (part 1, part 2, and part 3) which thus affected me enough to sit down and write this post and a follow up as well.
You see, the first problem with this article is the use of the word ‘addiction’ in regards to gamers. Addiction is the wrong word to use. Nobody becomes addicted to gaming. However, gaming can become a compulsion. Gaming gives us worlds beyond our wildest imaginations to escape into when we need it, and for some of us, we go a little too deep to escape our demons.
The trouble is that sensationalist media loves a good story, and a story about people damaging their lives over video games because they fill some kind of void in their lives, whether it’s mental illness, grief, or a sense of not quite belonging, doesn’t create the hits and sales that a story about gaming addiction does. Games themselves are not addictive, but the feeling of accomplishment they produce can be compulsive. Particularly when life becomes a grindwheel or throws rejection after rejection at you. They reward us when life doesn’t always seem to.
This is why people get so annoyed when people say, “It’s just a game.” Because it isn’t. Not really. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that it is in fact a game that we are playing, and that those guild members making your time online miserable don’t have to be a part of your gaming experience, those dailies you don’t want to do but feel that you have to, you really don’t have to do them, when something becomes unenjoyable in a game, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is a hobby and we have the power to change that. But it is never just a game. The people we play with affect us. We form relationships with them and so it is important to remember that they have emotions and feelings to consider behind the pixels. The things we do in the games that we play shape us as human beings, and whilst there aren’t any dragons coming to ransack your town, the teamwork you pulled together ingame to defeat it is a valuable life skill. Games can be a crutch when things get hard. Games can give us a sanctuary when life sucks. And games create memories to be cherished.
Game compulsion is not a problem to be snivelled at. It is a real social issue that should be treated with respect before it becomes an even bigger problem.
Later Addition: It has been brought to my attention that my post comes across as though I am saying, “My opinion is fact.” I never set out to come across this way so I decided to add in a little more. The problem is, the BBC article I linked in my first paragraph is saying that gaming firms need to do more to tackle addiction and citing researcher’s opinions as fact (this is the BBC’s source, thanks to Stoove for the link). As I say, this isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last, but these sorts of articles are damaging to gamers in general, the opinions of non-gamers on gamers, and gamers who do and have struggled with gaming compulsion. Particularly the latter who become ashamed of themselves when perhaps they need help and support to get through it. Okay sure, many gaming developers add in grinds to keep people logging in, which can lead to compelling behaviour as players will sit and grind instead of something else, but there is an underlying factor that gets these gamers hooked. Whether they aren’t receiving much praise for their efforts in the real world, are suffering from mental illness, wanting to escape from grief.. these games give players a way to focus on something else that does reward and praise them and I firmly believe that it is this that can become a compulsion, not the game itself. Even if it’s only subconscious.
Check back tomorrow for my story. In the meantime, if you’d like a little further reading, Stoove’s post, Oh the Humanity! Game “Addiction” and You. is an absolutely fabulous read. He goes into great depth to really convey the problems with the way society looks at gaming addiction and makes you think. It’s a good one, folks. I highly recommend it.