Sunday, 25 August 2013

There is no such thing as Game "Addiction"

Or internet addiction, or TV addiction, or film addiction, or lolcat's addiction, or anything like that. However, there is such a thing as 'Game compulsion'. This is because games are compelling, not addicting.

Gamers are compelled to play. There are levels, goals, objectives, characters to meet, worlds to explore. All of these factors make games compelling. Because the typical game is longer than the typical movie, and with Humble Bundles, Steam Sales and Gamestop, games are becoming cheaper, there's more games to play and more time to play them. We hear stories of children killing their siblings after playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, but it's mostly due to bad parenting. Why would they leave a loaded handgun in the reach of a child? And because they can't accept the blame, they blame it on Call of Duty, on violent movies, on rock music, on wh
atever the child was mildly influenced by so they can dodge the blame themselves. Who's fault is it that Adam Lanza turned his gun on elementary school students last December? Easy. It was his fault. Just because he played 'violent video games' doesn't make him any less of a mad man.

We hear stories of people ruining their lives playing video games; becoming so heavily invested in games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends that they avoid any kind of human interaction, that they lose their jobs or don't attend school. This can exist without making games a bad thing. I play(ed) both of those games without becoming a basement dwelling troglodyte, and so have my friends. It is the fault of the players for not playing in moderation, or for not controlling themselves or whatever. The reasons why you hear people becoming 'addicted' to World of Warcraft or Call of Duty and not Bastion or McPixel, is that the former games are far more compelling than the latter two independent, smaller games. And that's the bottom line here: video games are not addicting, they're compelling.

We're compelled to play the next dungeon of World of Warcraft. It offers us in-game rewards and suchlike. We're compelled to play the next game of Call of Duty. It offers us XP so we can better our weapons and upgrades and suchlike. If we played 20 hours of it and had our whole data wiped, we'd be in tears. That whole 20 hours is leading up to something. Or is it? Is it just the joy of becoming more leveled and skilled and earning more bragging points? Or is it something deeper than that?

In life, we go to school, then go to work, then earn money, then have a family, then work more, then retire, then we die. A lot of people are happy with this fact. A lot of people also aren't happy with this. Video games offer those people a place, they offer people comfort and a home. Most of our community is very open. We accept outcasts. We accept 'losers'. We accept those with downs syndrome. We accept war veterans who aren't able to participate in some-such sport or other activity. Games give people comfort in a world they wouldn't have normally found comfort in. We can escape who we are. For 4 hours, 12 hours, 40 hours, or 100 hours, we can become someone else. We can elicit power fantasies we normally wouldn't have.

Sadly, people become too invested in video games, and they become the aforementioned basement dwelling troglodyte. Those who play Grand Theft Auto or any other violence video game and turn their gun on innocent people, they don't do that because their life is perfect. No one picks up a game and wants to kill someone. Likewise, no one picks up a game and becomes 'addicted'. Spending over 500 hours on a game isn't an addiction, it's a compulsion. They're compelled to play more because they've already spent 500 hours on it. Nonetheless, these things can exist without games being a bad thing. We drive cars, right? We know the risks of driving a car, right? We still drive cars, right? Just because cars cause accidents and kill people doesn't mean we should ban them. They are essential to our lives.

Apparently it wasn't the teenagers fault for going on a rampage,
it was the games fault, somehow. It's just another way of dodging
responsibility. 
As per Wikipedia, 'There is no formal diagnosis of video game addiction in current medical or psychological literature. Video game addiction was excluded from the DSM 5, the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.' In my own words, you know how people become addicted to cigarettes and alcohol or heroin? It's because of a singular drug. Nicotene in cigarettes is addictive. The alcohol in beer is addictive. The heroin in..er..heroin, is addictive. These are drugs that require a dependency. You experience withdrawal without taking the drug frequently enough. This doesn't happen in video games. I can easily spend a week away from video games. It would be harder to spend a week away from heroin. There is no fundamental altering of brain chemistry that makes you 'addicted'. I dislike how people can throw around the term 'addiction' like it's nothing. Game 'Compulsion' is real; Game 'Addiction' is not.

video-game-addiction.org is possibly the worst website to visit about this subject. I suggest you watch this 25 minute long personal story about game compulsion. It shows that there's a difference between a lot of play and a serious compulsion. "Life always welcomes you back."