Video-Gamers Anonymous?   

The subject of an email discussion currently happening in my inbox at work: Is video-game addiction a mental disorder?

Some highlights of the discussion:

  • Is this just a new way for parents to blame someone else for their lack of control over their kids?

  • Will this open Pandora’s box in our justice system allowing people to blame their “video-game addiction” for their own lack of responsibility? (Paris’ name came up here – does she have a well-known habit of playing video games?)
  • Should this issue be considered differently depending on the age group involved and is labeling addiction as a disorder merely obscuring the more serious depression issues?
  • Hey, educators should consider this “great” news! (Clarification: Referring to games that are used as teaching/training tools.)
  • It’s a disservice to dismiss this as merely poor discipline (see the first bullet above) as the gaming industry actually embraces the term “addiction” and often uses optimal reinforcement to reward long gameplay and frequent play. Whether those two are related or not is not fully known but the question of whether optimal reinforcement in operant condition produces a psychological addiction seems worthy of examination.
  • Gambling addiction is classified as a mental disorder and Internet addiction has been debated since 1995.
  • How widespread of a phenomenon is addiction?
  • Looking beyond the psychological semantics, do the consequences of this behavior warrant particular attention by us as a group? Are we all harmed by these actions and is that harm severe enough for our society should deal with it? If classifying the behavior as a “mental disorder” can mitigate the damage of this behavior, why wouldn’t we classify it that way? And, if it doesn’t mitigate the damage, why would we?
  • Regarding Internet addiction and the way the Internet has become more and more integrated into our daily lives and whether there will be a time in the future when someone who rarely goes online is the one is more culturally and socially dysfunctional than the person whose use of it is unusually high: When does a disorder become the norm and the norm a disorder?
  • Games can have an extremely compelling sense of setting one’s own goals and meeting them, making it easy to get caught up in them and not stopping until some outside force becomes more compelling than the feeling of accomplishment you’re getting from the game.

For your reference, we are a training institute and some of our research focuses on using gaming as an educational and training devices. Something like this is a double-edged sword, good because it will encourage people to support this type of research but bad because it reflects negatively on the idea of gaming.

I’m not really sure why I’m sharing all of this except that I found it to be pretty interesting and it seemed like a topic of interest to many of you. I haven’t contributed to the discussion because I’m not really sure on how I feel about the addiction thing. I mean, they’re pretty much talking about me here. You want to know why the only PS2 games I currently own are the various versions of DDR?

It’s because I know I get addicted. I will spend hours in front of the TV (hmmmm) trying to beat a game and trying to get to the next level. I will skip meals and lose track of time. When I first got my Dreamcast system, I lost days to Sonic Adventure and only broke away from it when my eyes were driving me crazy with the swelling and the twitching. (And you thought I was exaggerating about my addictive personality!)

So, you see, I feel a little too close to the subject but I’m actually more interested in whether addiction itself is a disorder, regardless of what you are addicted to. Do our bodies have chemical reactions that would explain it? Or is it really just lack of self-control? I consider myself to be a pretty normal, functional adult. I can recognize when I’ve begun to step over the line and, yet, I consistently keep going. Is that due to some chemical response I’m having or because I suck at policing myself?

These are the reasons I’m interested in this type of research. Not that it’d make much of a difference (for me). I take responsibility for the consequences of my various addictions and I’m unlikely to ever take drugs for the times when I can’t stop myself, but I can see how someone who has my problem and other mental issues that make it twice as hard to control would need some kind of outside help to fix the problem.

And I should stop now because otherwise I’ll keep going and going… it’s kind of addictive.

4 Responses to “Video-Gamers Anonymous?”

  1. 1
    spectralbovine says:

    Let’s call Dr. Drew.

  2. 2
    raelee says:

    Now why didn’t I think of that?

  3. 3
    tigress35 says:

    I saw something recently (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was now) that was talking about gambling addiction, and apparently they did a study where they watched addicts brain patterns/activity as they gambled and found them to be similar to other types of addictions… something like that. I can’t remember if it released chemicals like food or alchohol does. However, if the study included researching brain activity like the gambling addiction did, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found the same type of patterns or chemical release and then I believe video games could be an addiction… I don’t think it’s so far out at all, especially considering the points you mentioned about goals and encouraging long term play. This is all to say that I don’t think it’s the video game makers’ fault, because some people can drink all the alchohol they can and not become alchoholics.

  4. 4
    zimshan says:

    It’s anything really. It’s just that a wide range of the population is thoroughly engaged in video games that they focus on that. But I believe you literally can get addicted to anything. If I absorb myself enough into any sort of work I do, I can get addicted to the work itself. And it’s something where I have to physically remove myself for a couple of hours in order to gain some semblance of perspective again. But I’ve seen the same thing with people and chocolate. Television. Volleyball. Name your poison. It can be done. The more hours you devote to something, the more you can get into something, the more it can disrupt your life.

    But then again, I have a bit of a problem with psychology and how they define normal and abnormal in order to classify something as a “disorder”. And so many times, once they classify it, people use it as an excuse, ‘Oh, I have a disorder’ instead of focusing on fixing it. If that makes any sense. :)