“Video games ruined my life, good thing I have two extra lives.”
The idea of addiction concerning video games has always intrigued me. I find it quite interesting that one can have a real addiction to something virtual. Many addictions are to physical drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines. These are drugs that have a physical effect on your body, so it is easy to see the addiction. With video games, however, the need to play is purely psychological. It is incredibly hard to have an objective view on this addiction, as much of the addiction is up for interpretation. In my research, it seems most people who are seen as video game addicts are classified by their parents, there does not seem to be much obvious measure for who is addicted. One website I found (http://www.techaddiction.ca/video_game_addiction_ statistics.html) said that video game addiction can manifest itself with physical symptoms such as nausea, cold, allergies, and even within sleep as restless, unfulfilling, taunting dreams. This same website showed that 8.5% of gamers 8-18 are “clinically addicted” to video games.
Different age groups and genders are recorded as playing for different amounts of time. Between the ages of 8 and 12, girls who game spend 10 hours a week and boys 16. Between the ages of 13 and 18, girls who game spend 8 hours gaming and boys 18. Boys are four times as likely to be considered “pathological gamers” (http://www.techaddiction.ca/video_game_addict ion _statistics.html) On WebMD, when referring to someone addicted to video games, the website uses male pronouns. This was a standard way of writing but the formal MLA and APA have since changed (to my knowledge) to gender-neutral pronouns. I think because they are writing in male pronouns it is because so many video gamers are (and are stereotyped) as male. (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/video-game-addiction-no-fun)
The game itself also affects the potential dependency. World of Warcraft, and other MMORPGs (Massively multiplayer online role playing games) for example are generally considered to be more addictive, with players gaming every day for extreme lengths of time. WOW has been seen as having 40% of the players addicted. Other online games, such as Second Life, give social interaction and allow one to set up an entire life (persona, friendships, relationships) in a virtual world. For some, these virtual worlds become more real than reality. Many relationships are formed online and some carry over in to the “real-world.” I think the main draw of these games, or worlds, is the ability to portray an idealized version of oneself.
One can spend hours perfectly creating an online representation of their self, or the idealistic version of their self. They can also perfectly construct a “bio” and they have time to think and revise anything they type to others. This allows for a forged and simulated representation for most everyone one encounters online. There is no way to tell if someone is being truthful or honest in their representation, which can lead to trouble if a relationship is continued in to the real world. Numerous players find this the most appealing aspect of virtual worlds. They can be anything they wish, and can put themselves out in to this virtual world as whoever they please, which many see as a way to show their true self.
One major aspect of video game addiction that I wonder about is how to judge if someone is truly addicted. Because this is a recent development, it is interesting to see who is judging the dependency. Many of the treatment center websites I found had lists of “signs/symptoms of addiction” which I felt could apply to many more people than those I would personally classify as addicted. These treatment centers greatly profit from parents self-diagnosing their children and spending thousands of dollars to get the cured, when there are probably more reasonable steps they could take to cut down on the child’s gameplay. On WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/video-game-addiction-no-fun?page=3) They quote Keith Bakker a director an addiction consultant firm, “the toughest part of treating video game addicts is that ‘it’s a little bit more difficult to show somebody they’re in trouble. Nobody’s ever been put in jail for being under the influence of [a game].’” Diagnosing is incredibly subjective and I cannot help but wonder if the treatment centers have been hyping up this addiction in order to increase profits.
Video game addiction is still a murky subject. There are an incredible amount of studies the show addiction within the gaming community, but there are still questions that need to be raised to validate and substantiate all the claims being made around the addiction (such as methods of treatment, when treatment is needed, and who is to treat/diagnose) just as with any psychological addiction.