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Video Game Addiction: Is It Real?

October 15th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

As someone who’s been around since the dawn of time (I.E. The Atari 2600 years) I’ve seen technology advance to new bounds every year. Granted, not all of those advances were great (Sega CD, I’m looking at you), but they were significant and life changing nonetheless.

You’d better beware…..NIGHTRAP!!!

Video game addiction…Is it real and if it is, does it really matter?

Webster defines addiction as, “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful”.

Are video games a compulsive need? As someone who’s played video games for about twenty-eight years of his life (I spent roughly two years trying to figure out how to get ALF to crash into my garage) I can safely say I had a compulsive need to play when I was away from them. When I was grounded for being too smart for my own good, I felt the urge to pick up that controller when my parents weren’t looking because Contra needed to be beat for the tenth time that month, no exceptions.

Why Contra? Because…Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start, that’s why Contra.

Psychological withdrawal? Check. Keep in mind, this was just the 1980s, companies have had plenty of time to perfect addiction since then.

Take World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that was released in 2004. It’s 2011 and the game is still going strong at roughly eleven million subscribers. What makes the game so successful? Some claim it is the lore, some claim it is the satisfaction of leveling their characters, some claim it is for the player vs player and trying to mold their player into the biggest badass there ever was to walk the plains of Azeroth. Some raids (dungeons that require a group of ten players or more) take days to complete, broken up into a few hours every night. The ability to form friendships and to work together to defeat difficult bosses has an incredible appeal to the MMO player, along with the added benefit of pulling the plug from his virtual life when things become to dramatic without any real life consequences.

Companies don’t come right out and admit it, but they WANT their games to be addictive. Imagine that you are a video game company who recently marketed “World of Duke Nukem Age of Empire Pegglecraft”, the world’s first FPSRTSMMORPG (First Person Shooter Real Time Strategy Massively Multipl…Oh forget it). What if your customer base came up to you and mentioned how much fun they are having and how addicted they are to it? What would be your first thoughts?

Mmmm….Monnnneeyyy….

This brings us back to the main question, are video games addictive? Yes, they are.

Are they harmful? At what point are you an addict, or just someone who enjoys playing games because that is what you prefer to do for entertainment?

Honestly, I feel that is a case by case basis. Let’s say that behind door #1, we have a 22-year-old male who is going to college, single, good grades, but doesn’t go to parties and spends about four hours a night playing online games. Behind door #2, we have a married father of three in his thirties who works ten-hour days and comes home to play video games for four hours a night. Same play time between both subjects, but different circumstances. A case could be made that the guy behind door #1 isn’t addicted because he’s getting good grades and has all of his responsibilities in order. Not everyone enjoys going out and getting drunk, nor of the mentality that you have to get hammered to have a good time. However, the guy behind door #2 would barely see his family under those circumstances and could cause a resentment to form from his wife and kids, even though the bills are paid. Are both subjects considered addicts and are they harming themselves and those around them?

Not pictured: the wife asleep upstairs.

Some who hate video games period would say that both subjects are addicted and that both should be doing something else, anything else. There are those that may side with both subjects, saying that how they spend their free time is their business because they are taking care of things and deserve to unwind. You can see how answering the question about where addiction draws the line may be considered difficult.

There’s another side to this that we should consider. Why are we singling out people who play video games when there are other people who are immersed in other hobbies for hours at a time? Would you consider the guy at work who browses sporting statistics and manages his fantasy sports team for three out of the nine hours he’s working an addict? I would say yes. Just because something like sports is more socially accepted than video games doesn’t mean that the standards of recognizing addiction should be any less ignored.

For the record, that is snow behind him. Addict…Yay or nay?

In 2005, a certain news story spread that a four month old girl who was left alone at home suffocated while her parents were playing World of Warcraft in an internet cafe’ in Korea. In May 2011, a father dropped his daughter at a baseball game so that he could attempt to catch a baseball coming his way. No matter which form of entertainment you single out, there’s going to be others that have serious tragedies that involve people doing stupid things in the name of extremes.

Perhaps there is one word out there that will solve most of these problems…Moderation.

Webster defines moderation as “the process of eliminating or lessening extremes.”

Common sense will tell us that if we keep all things in moderation, including sports and video games, we will have a healthier life. As parents, we are the ones responsible for keeping our kids in check in regards to such things. As adults, however, we are not infallible and on occasion will fall victim to extremes and not realize that we may be hurting the people around us. I know, because it happened to me, multiple times.

Only you (and your loved ones) can determine if you are able to handle ALL of your responsibilities (including social interaction with your family) and your full-time hobbies successfully.

Is addiction real? Yes. Can it be harmful? Yes, if taken to extremes.

What do you think?

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