A Lengthy Argument

Saturday, 28 November 2009 at 21:41

Long, but fascinating! Thanks again to Digital Spy for this insight into game addiction.

The debate over the addictive nature of games has raged since the days of Pong, but it has risen to a new level of prevalence since the advent of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). There are several schools of thought on the matter. While there are those who scoff at the concept of game dependency as a legitimate medical condition, others perceive it as a growing problem for the industry in the age of online gaming.

Theorists on video game overuse can be divided into two separate camps - those who believe it to be a social problem, and those who propose it is a psychological disorder.

The American Psychological Association certainly takes the issue seriously. Last year the organisation considered the idea that gaming addiction may be comparable with other psychological disorders such as compulsive gambling. It was even discussed whether the proposed condition warranted inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Disorders, but a lack of evidence and research meant the notion was dismissed.

Doctor Maressa Orzack of the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts sparked controversy in 2005 when she suggested that 40% of the ten million World Of Warcraft subscribers might be clinically addicted. Orzack - herself a former computer Solitaire addict - has been treating compulsive computer users for over a decade. She firmly believes that gaming addiction is a psychological condition that should be treated in the same way as compulsive gambling or eating disorders.

"Computer misuse is so complex and its ever-increasing prevalence so challenging that a comparison with eating disorders is necessary," said Orzack via her website. "The basic approach in treatment is to teach people how to normalise their behaviour. Normalising eating behaviour is a key goal in treatment of eating disorders.

"Normalising computer uses is more and more a requirement in our modern society. The challenges that face the therapist are manifold. The lines between work and home, work and play, are unclear and vague. Therapists must help individuals conflicted by the many demands of society to learn effective coping skills that will allow them to normalise their behaviour."Orzack's treatment programme involves a combination of behavioural therapy, anti-depressants and Zyban, a drug given to smokers to help them off nicotine.

Evidence backing Orzack’s claim comes from numerous sources. In July 2007 a case came to light involving a 15-year-old boy from Perth, Australia. The boy abandoned all other activities to play the MMORPG RuneScape, leading his father to liken the obsession to heroin addiction.From a more empirical standpoint, Dr. Karen Pierce, a Seattle-based child psychiatrist, treats at least two compulsive gamers per week, and approaches each case "like any other addiction".

Dr. Michael Brody, head of the media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, believes that gaming addiction is often an indication of deeper psychological problems such as depression and antisocial personality disorder.

In June 2006, The Smith and Jones Centre in Amsterdam became the first clinic in Europe to offer treatment to young people with obsessive gaming tendencies. Its founder, Keith Bakker, believes that compulsive gaming is a social problem rather than a psychological one.

"The more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction," Bakker told the BBC. "What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem."

In response to this, the clinic has altered its treatment programme to focus on the development of communication and social skills to help patients to rejoin society.Bakker believes that referring to compulsive gaming as an addiction is counterproductive. "If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have," he explained. "It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people."

Naturally, the juxtaposition of games with narcotics has been met with fierce opposition within the industry. Many designers, developers and programmers object to games being labelled as addictive, claiming that the term's negative connotations have brought unjust criticism to the industry and handed ammunition to its opponents.

Developer Ernest Adams claims that seeing games as addictive is a misconception. In an article written for Gamasutra in 2002, Adams pointed out that addiction is comprised of two intertwined mechanisms: physical dependence and psychological addiction. "Physical dependence is a state in which it becomes necessary to have the desired stimulus in order to feel normal. It's also characterised by withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the stimulus," he wrote. "Nobody stops feeling human if they stop playing Tetris. Nobody becomes physically unwell if they don't play Solitaire for a while. Clearly games don't involve physical addiction to a substance."

Adams did acknowledge that games could have a psychologically addictive aspect, but only in the same way any other kind of behaviour that offers rewards and reinforcements does. He argued that in most cases, the compulsive behaviour involved in excessive gaming is relatively harmless compared to the likes of gambling addiction.Central to the industry's defence is a lack of reliable evidence and research on gaming and addiction. Writer and researcher Neils Clark has written about the subject at great length. He believes that researchers often lack a fundamental understanding of the nature of games, which renders their studies unreliable.

"The researchers themselves too often seem distanced from any real understanding of gaming, creating data that serves to label gamers, misrepresent games and further mislead the public," he wrote in a Gamasutra article. "Worst of all, some gamers clearly have problems. Until we explore this topic cogently, we're not in a position to help them.

"Without doubt there are health issues in gaming, as with any activity, many of which often go unaddressed. Earlier this year, however, the Game Development Corporation sponsored two roundtable events to discuss the matter. Neils Clark reported on the events.

"The most interesting voice in the roundtable was a programmer from Blizzard Entertainment, who discussed some of the company's design discussions prior to theBurning Crusade expansion for World Of Warcraft," he wrote.

"He said that they wanted to distinguish between gameplay elements that might encourage all players to go overboard, versus those that caused problems for a select few. The idea was to keep the pieces that make the game enjoyable for everybody, but make sure that everyone's enjoyment wasn't punctuated by a design that required too much maintenance."

Design is certainly something that can influence healthy play and it wouldn't hurt the industry if other developers took a page from Blizzard's book and addressed this.Terming excessive gaming as an addiction can be detrimental to the industry and those prone to the compulsion. As Keith Bakker has found from his work at the Smith and Jones Centre, labelling gamers as addicts is unlikely to aid their recovery, if such a thing is necessary. Furthermore, the term's negative connotations have brought the industry much undeserved bad press. It is important to acknowledge the health issues in gaming and keep an open mind where each case is concerned, but until more reliable research on the subject exists, let's keep the narcotics comparisons to a minimum.

A Gackt Interlude (Dears)

at 21:38
Yes I know it's very cryptic, but I don't care! I love Gackt!
The last one didn't work - but this one is in HD biiiiiitches!

Bully and Manhunt 2

at 21:34
A reminder of Bully

An informative and slightly (maybe) biased report on Manhunt 2:

Which Web Are You?

at 21:31
A bit of web fun to back up the Dreamweaver stuff and any digi comms leftovers...

Some Dreamweaver Type Help For You

at 21:27
Here's some stuff that I posted for the guys in GS8 as they trawled through web authoring last year. It may or may not be relevant to you:

Let me know if any of this stuff helps - I always like a bit of feedback....

Weekly Notices - 23 November

at 21:14
Enjoy - and don't forget that tickets for Xmas are on sale now!

Understanding Media Industries - Lesson 9 - Game Addiction

at 21:07
This presentation from Monday's lesson could help you with Shaun of the Dead because it kind of shows you why we have regulation in games and gaming...


Monday, 23 November 2009 at 18:09
Hikkikomori - as discussed briefly this morning, this film describes some of the thoughts, feelings and actions of hikkikomori. This may have scenes that some find offensive.

Let me know your thoughts....

A New-ish Moon

Saturday, 21 November 2009 at 21:55
Well, I went to see New Moon last night and tonight. Mmmm. First of all it reminded me of the last time I went to the cinema alone, and I forgot until that moment just how alone one can be in a packed cinema.
The whole first ten minutes was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo emo. After that it was completely intriguing as to how it was filmed, how it was written and how the plot unfolded. Save for the screaming teens going literally nuts over Edward's nearly-there chest hair and Jacob's general ripped-ness (he was pretty ripped). I was really troubled yet impressed by how the subject matters were handled in the film - i.e. they weren't. Breaking up with someone is one of THE most awful things that will ever happen to you, but it's a process. Like grief, you go through a variety of stages - Bella went through two, max.

Oh! It was a film that was not a patch on the book (Cam, New Moon is next!) but the sets, the camera work and the direction was awesome!

Kind of rant over on the rant front.

I absolutely loved the wolves. I think that the wolves really ruled the film though the Cullens were a bit bland. Charlie Swan is still h.o.t in a Mark Alpiger style.

Thank God I chose Team Jacob, eh?

Weekly Notices - 16 November

Tuesday, 17 November 2009 at 18:18

Interactive Gaming Avatar

at 13:48

An IG Interval

Sunday, 15 November 2009 at 21:51
Well, I finally found some time to see 'The Men Who Stare At Goats'.
Matt and I argued to and from the cinema, well I say argued, I meant bicker; 'cos that's what old married farts do.

The film was brilliant! It was a little bit like the book, but in some ways much more in terms of comedy. I'd recommend it to anyone who thinks that the whole 'war' issue is a both important and a waste of time.

What was strangely alluring was George Clooney (yeah, right! I hear you cry) but guess what, he looks good with long hair. Mind you I really have the hots for Mark Alpiger from King of Kong. What I thought was a bit strange was that even in the thick of being shot in Iraq, Clooney still had perfect white teeth..... Mmmmm. Three days without food, drink or hygiene and Clooney looks great! Ha!

Post script: Jeff Bridges is hot for an old guy. That is all.

I may or may not return to GS9 business.

Weekly Notices - 9 November

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 at 13:43
It's healthy living week...

Understanding Media Industries - Lesson 7 - THE LAW!

at 08:44

Build Mario A Church for This Window

Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 15:17

Power-up douchebags!

More here ------> Thanks Kotaku!

Weekly Notices - 02 November 2009

Monday, 2 November 2009 at 17:29

Understanding Media Industries - Lesson 6

at 17:26
Ethics and law, what a tricky area for game designers...

Almost There!

Sunday, 1 November 2009 at 20:02
40-odd presentations later... Just finished another 3 taking my total to 31!

That means that there's still 13 to go. The delay is down to a couple of things:

  • Failed uploads on to CD/DVD
  • Late submissions
  • Scripts received, but no presentations
  • Presentations received, but no scripts

To avoid this in the future, please save everything to you statler file clearly marked. One of my students on GS8 called Lee Dennis saves his work as GS8/Lee Dennis/Vero's Lessons/ and then "Assignment 1.1" etc.

Also, it's a nightmare when I ask for files to be submitted as .ppt or .pptx and I get .odp; why? Because I ask specifically for PowerPoint as a presentation. You can save your work for PowerPoint or MS Office in OpenOffice, I'm niot sure why you don't do it. If you do that, you'll find that you can work on it at home and at Confetti.

This week, you present your work. Ooooh! I'm dead excited and, as well as wanting a hard copy, I will be marking your work right there and then (hopefully my typing will be quick enough!)

Good luck everyone and well done so far.

Stay tuned.