Most of you probably know what I think about the so called “video game addiction”. If you don’t (and you are to lazy to click on that link that I just posted) I will summarize it here: it is plain old FUD and pseudo-psychological quackery. Even though IANAP I always said that obsessive gaming is a symptom of a more serious problem, not a problem in itself. But not all people share this belief.
Quite a few people seriously believe that you can get addicted to video games the same way you get addicted to crack. It sounds ridiculous when I say it like that, but bunch of real psychologists did stake their careers on this theorem. Some time back in 2006 bunch of these people actually opened a clinic in Amsterdam for treating young people afflicted by video game addiction. That place still exists and it is called Smith & Jones Center and they have been working with video game addicts ever since.
After over two years of working with young obsessive gamers, and analyzing their results, treatment strategies and case studies they realized something that quite surprised them. Over 90% of their patients were not actually addicted.
From the article:
Using traditional abstinence-based treatment models the clinic has had very high success rates treating people who also show other addictive behaviours such as drug taking and excessive drinking.
But Mr Bakker believes that this kind of cross-addiction affects only 10% of gamers. For the other 90% who may spend four hours a day or more playing games such as World of Warcraft, he no longer thinks addiction counselling is the way to treat these people.
“These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies,” he says.
“But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers – this is a social problem.”
In response the clinic has changed its treatment programme for gamers to focus more on developing activity-based social and communications skills to help them rejoin society.
Only people who were already prone to addictive behaviors and already developed alcohol/drug dependency could be classified as video game addicts. Other patients turned out to have deeper underlying problems that drove them to obsessive gaming. Which is what I have been saying all along. Didn’t I say it?
I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO!
And I’m not even a Psychologist. It was common fucking sense! But then again common sense is so rare these days we should really re-name it to un-common sense.
Not surprisingly, most of the young men treated at the clinic were actually hooked on the social aspect of online games. That’s where they sought support and acceptance:
“This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today,” Mr Bakker told BBC News. “Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication.
By offering compulsive gamers a place where they feel accepted and where their voice will be heard, the clinic has found that the vast majority have been able to leave gaming behind and rebuild their lives.
Let me put this into perspective for you. I’m pretty sure most of my readers are familiar with online gaming culture. Would you seek meaningful relationships and social acceptance and/or support in the Barrens Chat or on some CoD server where “U R ALL FAGS!” is considered a tame and rather polite greeting? You have to imagine how badly someones real life must suck if they choose to socialize in places like that. Yes, these guys need help – but detox is not the right treatment here. They need counseling and/or group therapy or something among these lines. They need a social support system. Hell, I’d even venture a guess that once their social problems get resolved most of these people could easily return to gaming on casual basis without the danger of relapsing.
I especially liked the closing words of that article, so I’m going to quote them here:
Mr Bakker sees a time when addiction centres like Smith & Jones could close down if parents and adults in the community took more responsibility for the habits of their children.
“In most cases of compulsive gaming, it is not addiction and in that case, the solution lies elsewhere.”
Yup! Amen to that! As with many other problems, the best solution here is to educate parents, teachers and community leaders about these things. Video games are an easy target – you can make them a scapegoat and blame them for your child’s problems. But as it turns out, they are relatively harmless. If your kid is playing WoW for 12 hours it is not because Blizzard made an addictive or psychologically destructive game. It is likely your fucking fault. Take some fucking interest in your kids life and talk with him. Ask about his problems. Make sure that at least at home these kids are getting the support and acceptance they need, so they don’t have to seek them in online gaming communities.
I officially consider this topic closed. Conclusively I might add. The very people who came up with the idea of opening a video game addiction clinic have admitted they were wrong. Not only that, but they said that obsessive gaming is a social problem can be effectively eliminated or snipped at the bud by attentive parents willing to put effort into communicating with their kids. If the addiction bullshit comes up again in the future, I’m just going to link back to this post.