As i’m sure we’ve all noticed the tonne of press about gaming addiction, specifically aimed at Fortnite. And the amount of kids that are fully hooked on this digital crack. Us here at Respawning all have differing opinions on this subject, and with us all having played video games all of our lives I think we have a good stead to be opinionated.
Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) have identified Video Game Addiction to be a distinct behavioural condition and addiction which “may present itself as compulsive gaming, social isolation, mood swings and hyper-focus on in-game achievements to the exclusion of other events in life”.
Once this went through, gamers across the world erupted in denial stating that “Gaming addiction doesn’t exist” or that “classing it as a disorder is like claiming you aren’t allowed to have a hobby” and my disbelief increased as I read through rant after rant after rant.
Now then gamers it’s time to pick your toys up off the floor and put them back into your pram because: Nobody is saying you have to stop gaming or that all gamers are addicts. That’s like claiming that because alcoholism exists “everyone who drinks is addicted to alcohol and is evil” nobody is saying that so take a chill pill.
The exact classification for gaming addiction is as follows: “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” – Taken directly from the World Health Organisation website.
The takeaway from this classification is that you are only categorised as having this disorder if you put gaming above all else and it takes over the majority of aspects in your life. I believe that at one point in my life I suffered from gaming addiction – there are about 3 jobs I can name off the top of my head that I lost due to calling in sick for weeks at a time just because I wanted to stay in gaming all day every day. My average routine would be to wake up around midday and play games until around 5am the next day, only breaking to have a quick meal or the occasional cup of tea (I was addicted, I wasn’t suddenly not British). I have felt first-hand the effect that gaming addiction can have on me and others around me and truly believes that, as someone who still ADORES video games (I even created a site just to talk about them!), this classification is a good thing and if put into practice CORRECTLY can only do good for those suffering from the condition.
HOWEVER, there is a root cause for why the addiction exists in the first place and this is something we need to address with society as a whole. From a personal perspective when I was an addict I found that it was because 99% of the friends that I had during school or college years were people I met playing Gears of War and it was even to a point that some of these people that I played online with every day were the same people who would shove me in the playground and bully me in front of their more popular friends.
If we really want to tackle gaming addiction properly we need to take a deeper look at bullying and society as a whole rejecting those who are of the “geeky culture”. We have feelings – Just because we like something such as gaming so much that we call it a hobby, doesn’t make us freaks. The freaks are the ones who feel the need to push back against those people for no reason other than to make themselves feel stronger.
I appreciate I have gone on a bit of a rant about other things now but the TL/DR of this is that gaming addiction does exist but it’s not the fault of the gamers or the developers but those who are making us feel inferior and scared to go outside.
We all say “this is awful, it must be a mental illness!” well I bloody disagree, kinda. (FYI I’ve covered this a litte before).
I don’t think being ‘addicted’ to games is a bad thing. Maybe there were a tonne of things I would have achieved, like carrying on with my sketching or going to the gym. But I don’t really care. There aren’t many other things in life that give me the same pleasures and relaxation as gaming does, and that’s why I think if you’re slightly addicted to it it’s not that bad, because I’d say I am.
Now kids these days seem very easily influenced and there’s no doubt they’re growing up way quicker than I did, their brains are taking way more information in and everything is constantly evolving around them, one of the thing developing the quickest is gaming. With Fortnite being free to play this has many people having a go at it and I guess gives it more chance of being addictive because everyone is on it, all their mates are on it and they don’t need to spend a penny (Except on the online service of their console) and guess what, they’re probably having a good fucking time doing it! As I’ve written many times before I get no better joy than when I sit on my tod and do some hardcore gaming, whether that be with my pals or on my own.
Let us not forget that going outdoors is now a lot more risky than it was 20 years ago, so maybe this is the safe option indoors, and at the same time they’re socialising, having a conversation and still improving their brain power, using a lot more of those little brain cells than if they were just sat there beating off (Gaming has actually been proven to increase reaction times and logic solving skills)… Also it’s just fun! We’ve advanced as a species in what we do and therefore the way we seek to entertain ourselves (Mobiles instead of newspapers, youtube instead of TV etc.) has had to improve and just become… MORE. So instead of playing with a ball they’re online… So what! Now me personally I played a lot outside but I still enjoyed my games, and nowadays that’s my go to hobby/relax tool… And this brings me on to my next subject…..It’s not the kids faults.
If you’re a parent and you think your kid is playing too much then freaking take it away from them! My mum used to restrict me to an hour of sonic when I was about 10 and for years would monitor how much I played on it (And sometimes taking it away when I misbehaved). At the end of the day kids don’t know what’s bad or good for them, they just want to fill up on enjoyment in whatever form, so as a parent you need to monitor it and say NO. If they kick off give them a smack and sit them in a room on their own, hey it worked for me! I’m sorry but kids can get addicted to anything, their brains aren’t fully evolved so you need to restrict that shit.
I’m not a parent not but I know what worked for me. I also know there’s nothing wrong with gaming, especially not something tame like Fortnite. I think people need to chill the F out on this subject and take a back step and just have a good look at what’s going on. Surely it’s better than them out taking drugs!
So yes maybe I could have achieved a fair few more productive things, taken up new hobbies or even have built a rocket if it wasn’t for my gaming but at the same time they make me extremely happy and I am absolutely pleased to admit that maybe i am addicted! I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but i am saying it’s not the worst thing in the world.
Game Addiction is a problem. Better, wiser men than me have spoken about the trouble it causes, the fight to get back to a normal life, and the rewards of doing so. I’m here to talk about how those looking in can help that process. Whether it’s a friend or a loved one, or just someone in need, I’m here to talk about how to help. I’m not a doctor or psychologist, and I can’t offer advice in any legal or certified manner, just personal anecdotes based on the hell I went through and who helped me pull through.
I was fourteen, and highschool was an unfriendly place. Not in that stereotypical Hollywood way, but in the mundane ways that are all the more painful for their normality. I had caring teachers, no one really bullied me, and my home-life was dysfunctional, but safe. I had a circle of people around me who were willing to help, but I was shy and didn’t fit well into the social rules which make up society. I was often smarter than my peers, I didn’t think sports were an intellectual pass-time, and I thought that kids being kids was immature and a waste of time.
I loved fantasy. In it, I saw all of the problems I knew being taken on by people who were wise and strong and brave, who had mystical powers and talents that let them be more than human. In fantasy were worlds where even if Good didn’t always win, there was always someone to make a fight of it, someone who could make Evil work for a Pyrrhic victory, instead of the easy pass I saw it getting in my own life.
These things came together in an old MMO called Runescape. It was an MMO with all of the things I loved about fantasy adventures combined with mechanics deep enough to hold my attention, but laid back enough that it was relaxing. All the senseless rapid-clicking I saw and detested in games like WoW and Starcraft was absent, and the slow pace of the game made every saved second feel valuable.
So teenage me, who found high-school so easy that it wasn’t worth doing, put most of his time and effort elsewhere. I’d enjoyed games before then, but here was a free game, with more content than I could have found anywhere else at the time, that I could play into the wee hours of the morning on the family computer without waking anyone up. I could get lost wandering from place to place, goof around if the grind ever got to be too much, and dream of all the cool features I wanted to see implemented, or of the things I would be able to do once I got my stats high enough or earned enough gold.
My grades plummeted. Through middle-school, I’d been an A student, and while high-school has different standards, I knew the work was beneath me. When my dad got in my face, took the computer away, or tried any of the countless other ways of getting me to do it, it would hardly take me an hour, and as long as I wasn’t being obstinate or scribbling nonsense to make it look like I’d done it, I aced it.
Often, my father would spit and snarl because he thought that since I did so well with Runescape, and since my schoolwork was so easy for me, I should have had no problem doing the latter. We both knew I wasn’t failing because I was stupid. I didn’t have an answer to him back then, but I was failing because I was in love.
Loving a game sounds strange, but not totally alien, to most of us. We’ve all had passion projects, things we labor over intensively, but I didn’t love the game, I was in love with it.
It’s easier to call this behaviour an addiction because that’s something we can wrap our minds around. A substance being abused seems much more reasonable than trying to say “I have a deep and emotional connection to this abstract concept.” but, fundamentally, it was a nurturing relationship, even if the game wasn’t capable of actively reciprocating, left instead to do it passively by virtue of the qualities inherent to it.
It provided a common interest for everyone I interacted with, since we were all there, sharing the same space, and many of us were there for the same reasons. It opened doors for me that weren’t there in the real world, helped me to learn math, and taught me the value of long-term planning. No matter how many mistakes I made, it never abandoned me, and it was never cruel or unfair. It couldn’t tailor itself to my needs, but then, neither does water. It simply is.
Where it couldn’t mimic a traditional relationship, however, was in asking things from me. At the time, it was a relief. I could find the things I needed without being asked to provide things I didn’t know how to give. It only wanted simple things, like time and persistance, and it never got tired of me trying and failing. I could let it down a thousand times, and as long as I was willing to try again, it was always there, and my past failures didn’t matter.
Why does this all matter?
For most of us, particularly those used to dealing with traditional substance abuse, Game Addiction seems like any other addiction. Treat the withdrawal symptoms, ween the person off the substance, and recognize that they will always want to go back. For game addicts, at least some of us, there’s something else to consider.
Most of us didn’t turn to gaming because of a chemical fix, not directly anyway. All of biology might be boiled down to chemicals in the brain, but unlike heroin, cocaine, and other traditional drugs, you can’t screen for it with a cup and a bathroom stall. There is no legal barrier to entry with games. We don’t have to directly weigh a great financial cost against the gain, we don’t have to fear getting caught “using”, and the social stigma of playing video-games is a drop in the bucket by comparison to traditional drugs.
I didn’t turn to it because of a chemical fix, but because of an emotional attachment. Before games, it was books and movies, and when I couldn’t get enough of those, I wrote my own stories. All that made gaming more addicting was the perfect storm of the interactivity of games and the idealism in fantasy.
Whether it is books, television and movies, or an MMO made by three brothers, there’s something fundamental that this type of relationship does, more harmful than all the missed days of work or sleepless nights. It teaches us the wrong way to have a relationship. It rewards success and is forgiving of failure, infinitely more than any human being. A particular challenge might come with consequences, but the game will never say “I’ve had enough of you trying, go away.” It will never file for a restraining order. It never gets upset about late-night calls or long absences, and it never asks for anything back.
So, for those who are trying to help someone else through Game Addiction, remember: The person you’re trying to help, even if they were well-adjusted to real-world relationships before, is trying to return to a society which, to them, is more unfair than the one they’ve just come from. Not only does it ask things from them before giving in return, but it is loaded with no-win states and complications that can’t be undone with a reset button or hard work. If you’re trying to help them and it seems like they’re spitting it back in your face, it might not be because they’re ungrateful. Not only are they trying to learn to obtain the things they need without the crutch they’ve been using, they’re trying to re-learn how to give, as well as to be trusting and open with a world that is so much louder and scarier than the one they’ve just left.
They’re not being rude to hurt you, they might be doing it because they’re afraid of taking their one-and-only chance and wasting it before they were ready. Life -is- full of second-chances, but we have to teach them that, and we don’t do it by being unforgiving.
James Portnow wisely said on the subject: “Life always welcomes you back.” And that’s true, but only if we remember the struggles they have and tackle it as a failed relationship, not a drug addiction. We make it true for those around us.