Missing The Important Question About Video Game Addiction

from the is-it-harmful? dept

In the past, we’ve made fun of the speed at which people love to pull out the “a” word: addict. Lots of people pick up on any activity that people do frequently and immediately label it as “addictive” as if that’s a bad thing. The latest is a new study that suggests video games meet the criteria for addiction. Whether or not that’s true is a separate question, but the problem with the article (and many other articles on other types of addictions) is that it doesn’t focus on the real issue. If the addiction is really there: is it harmful? That may be an open question, but it’s the important one. Instead, by throwing out the “addict” word, people try to imply that it is harmful without actually proving it.

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Comments on “Missing The Important Question About Video Game Addiction”

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Third Base says:

Re: Addition is not necessarily bad in all cases .

I was paralysed 3 years ago, and as a side benefit have pain similar to the “phantom limb” that amputees suffer. I’m using a fentanyl patch to help control it, and will probably be using it till I die. [The various doctors have reasons that more effective pain abatement systems are not acceptable.] One of my doctors is worried that I will become addicted to fentanyl. If I’m going to be using it for life, isn’t that “addiction”? I used the addiction to oxygen, and he was not at all pleased.

Another doctor [a friend, not one treating me] explained it this way: addiction isn’t a problem until you can’t get what you’re addicted to anymore.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Addition is not necessarily bad in all cases .

This brings up an interesting anecdote. While in the Salvation Army Rehabilitation program many years ago I met a man dying from Crohn’s disease, fistules had formed in his intestine and were burrowing into his flesh from his instestine outward. He underwent regular amputations of his intestine, he was in more pain than I am sure many of us can imagine. He feared he was becoming addicted to pain medication and in fact was. After bonding with this man, as is often the case when people are locked up in a small therapeutic environment such as that, he asked me my opinion on his condition- was it wrong for him to be addicted to pain medication that made it possible for him to lead some semblance of a normal life? I was of the opinion that God had seen fit in his infinite wisdom to populate the earth with plants that provided opiates to man so that he could ease his sufferring and that if a man under the care of a proffessional becomes addicted to a drug that makes his short life more endurable than so be it, there is nothing wrong with that. I told him that unlike myself and other drug addicts he was using the drugs as they were intended and that his dependence on them was valid and morally correct. The christians and pshychologist at the Salvation Army agreed and soon he checked out of the place. I think of him and all of the fataly ill people in our health care system living in their own version of hell due to lack of proper pain management as a result of docters fearing our witch hunting Federal Government and an hysterical public horrified by media stories of pill popping pundits and cracked out psychos. It’s puritan nonsense and it’s cruel beyond words. As with so called video game addiction and any of our “social diseases” we as a society once again are fixated on the symptoms of our problems and not the causes. We have no intention of raising our children properly or dealing with the inhumane conditions many of our fellow citizens live in but we will gladly take morphine and marijuana away from dying grandmas, or lesser still censor and/or control our art and entertainment in some false quest to control human behavior. You want to protect the children? Raise them right, provide them with a strong family unit- but don’t take away my R rated movies or video games, and certainly stop treating drugs as if they are all evil in all circumstances because the are not. In the book of genesis God clearly states “all these plants and animals are yours..” No exceptions were made for opium poppies or marijauna plants. Are all addictions bad? Of course not. Are the decisions some of us make in regards to our addictions correct, not always, this is a question of strength of character. John Hopkins, the revered “father of modern surgery” of John Hopkins University fame was an opiate addict for decades. He had access to clean syringes and stable dosing, he lived a long time and accomplished great things, why? Strength of character. Wether or not video games or anything else creates an addiction in our brains is irrelevant, how we respond to these addictions is whats important. If you neglect your family, job or self because of an addiction to drugs or video games or gardening or having sex or whatever you are addicted to it’s because you are weak and selfish and not because addiction is “bad”.

Concerned Teen says:

I think...

I think that an addiction to video games can be a problem. I know my friends up here are definately addicted to World of Warcraft (a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG)) and they play it like its their life. They have skipped meals before because they are in the middle of a quest. They would rather sit at their computers and live a life on a computer than live the life that they have. I am not saying everyone is like this. I enjoy video games as much as the next guy (or girl) and I know there is a limit to when it becomes an obsession. They can’t control themselves when it comes to this game. They will play day and night and most times they play the game instead of doing work. An addiction to video games is harmful on many levels. As humans we need a certain level of emotional and social interaction. Video games, even though you are communicating with other people, do not give you that social interaction. There are many other arguments because certain video games lead to certain behavior but that is another discussion for another time.

Jason says:


I am a drug addict and I love video games, here is the thing- when my drug addiction begins to harm my life or even merely become inconvenient or just boring I don’t stop using having been locked into the physical compulsion. When video games become boring, inconvenient or destructive to my social life or otherwise I find myself not wanting to play video games. Even if I see a tantalizing commercial or a review on G4 i’m still not overwhelmed with a craving to play . If i were addicted to video games in the classical sense, no matter how much I wanted to stop playing them, I would not. I’m sorry fellas, a compellingly immersive FPS or RPG cannot be compared in it’s effects to a shot of heroin or cocaine, it’s just no contest. Nonetheless, a person reacts to his addictions based on his character…plenty of junkies hold down the nine to five for decades without trouble; the problem is not our addictions but our weak social fabric and moral fiber. Besides, addiction is a function of our amazing ability to adapt, and maybe it’s how we harness it that is the problem and not that it simply exists as a condition.

Kevin (user link) says:

Who's missing the question?

You may be right about what’s ultimately important, but to say that these particular people are just “throwing out the addict word” seems a little silly. These were neuroscientists looking for physiological reactions characteristic of addiction. Whether video games meet criteria for addiction was not a “separate question” — it was their exact research question!

Boo says:


When you abuse something to escape from reality with the result that your life suffers, and ceasing to abuse that thing brings about withdrawl problems, physical or psychological – then you are addicted in the traditional sense.

The withdrawl part of the equation hits harder and faster with drugs or alcahol or cigs with alter your bodies chemistry.

but psycological withdrawl can be as serious and can happen with anything which limits a person’s contact with some part of their life they dont want to deal with. eg. work, gambling, tv, internet… and gaming. they all help a person escape life, or a part of it (low self-esteem, relationship problems, family problems…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: denial

I think negative addictions have more to do with one’s selfishness than one’s need to avoid a problem. A person’s selfish obssession with his own satisfaction to the detriment of himself and others is the real root of problem. The small percentage of non-functioning drug addicts who “limit..some part of their life” to pursue their addiction are suffering from a lack of meaning in their lives, a ruthlessly selfserving attitude and an infantile need to satisfy themselves on demand. Life problems are the result of this kind of worldview not the cause of it. Perhaps many of us “addicted” to something are seeking an escape, indeed I know many an intellectual incapable of socializing having become addicted to the escapist pleasures of reading. Ultimately I think the real problem is America’s culture of selfishness and instant satisfaction, not dysfunctional peoples need to escape from reality. As far as psychological withdrawal is concerned a broken heart and a divorce has wrecked lives more profoundly than heroin withdrawal, maybe we should ban love. On a personal note, it was not until I began to look outward and give of myself selflessly to others that i was able to overcome my heroin and cocaine addiction, it certainly was not a decade plus in therapy dwelling on my low self esteem and family problems that helped me acheive these last several years of sobriety.
“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”-
Sophocles (496 BC – 406 BC)

Boo says:

Re: Re: Re: denial

Jason – Congrats on your recovery! Interresting point of view.
I hope you didnt get the notion that I was in any way blaming the “evil video games” though, in fact I was trying to say the opposite… people can selfeshly indulge / hide away in many addictions to almost anything from class-a drugs to fantasy novels, shopping, work, tv, porn, self harm, eating, exercise…

should we really ban beer? should we ban gambling? I love playing games when i get the time (which isnt often – couple of hours a week if im lucky), once a year i go to the horse races and give a few euros to the bookies. And i love nothing better than a few pints of guinness with my friends on the weekend. so people complaining about these things and trying to legislate my access to them as far as i am concerned are infringing on my civil liberties.

I guess what Im saying is that the problem isnt the “things”, its the abuse of them. the problem is the people.

i will say something though. hard drugs are different. they alter the bodies chemical balance and create a physical dependancy. the weakness there is release and physical gratification. not the same as avoiding life through indulgance. i guess motivations can vary.

Neal says:


…this mostly comes down to interpretation – what do’s ‘addict’ mean?
When Shakespeare (apparently) first used the word ‘addiction’, it was in the context of ‘strong inclination’. It is only (comparatively) recently that ‘addict’ started to be used in a medical sense for ‘dependance’ (http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-add1.htm))
So we have a lesser known, but relativley benign, meaning, a newer definition with more negative connatations, and no real way to tell the difference?

Kat o Nine Tales (user link) says:

Re: Perhaps...

Right on. The physiological aspects discussed deal with dependence rather than addiction; addiction per se has more to do with the set of aberrant and possibly harmful behaviors surrounding physical or mental dependence. Throwing around the word “Addiction” is good for press but will only be useful when we start marking differences in (A) the gamer who just has to do a couple more missions before bed and the gamer who forgets to bathe, go to work, or feed the kids for a week because the MMO world has become more real and important to him/her than the real world; (B) the guy who forges prescriptions for pain pills and takes them by the dozen to keep a buzz and the chronic pain patient who’s going to go through not only hideous withdrawal but severe rebound pain if you take away the medication; and (C) the weekend smoker who does just fine without the recreational high if money’s tight or it’s not available for other reasons and the person who’s stealing and begging to get enough money for the next high. The current cultural and political climate causes *all* of the above to be labelled as “addicts” the same way, though with varying degrees of social acceptability or lack thereof once the details are revealed.

Lyoness (user link) says:

Re: Re: Perhaps...

“addiction per se has more to do with the set of aberrant and possibly harmful behaviors surrounding physical or mental dependence.”
Go check out some of the posts at http://www.gamerwidow.com and then tell us if there aren’t harmful behaviours surrounding a mental dependence.
Like some people mentioned most addicts don’t sleep properly, don’t eat properly and have neglected their loved ones. I have heard of marriages being ruined, mothers abandoning their children, husbands physically abusing their wives if they even attempt to talk about the addiction, people losing their jobs, people flunking out of school. SO very much harm caused because of a video game addiction.
It’s real.

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

Of course it's harmful, but what ISN'T addictive?

It’s very easy to think of scenarios in which addiction to a video game is addictive. I won’t waste your time describing some. But here’s the bigger picture: Try to think of things that CANNOT become addictive! It’s incredibly hard.

Anything that requires you to follow abstract rules that differ from “real life” can be addicting, as I blogged here.
Examples include: collecting anything, playing hopscotch, growing the largest pumpkin, buying shoes, running for distance goals, modeling large chunks of the real world with Lego pieces, finding Waldo, and blogging.
– The Precision Blogger

sister says:


My brother is a WoW addict as ever I could imagine one. Its not a rare thing to see him still awake when I have to get up for uni at 5am, with him having been up for a good 24 hours or so. His sleeping hbits are like that now. When he’s awake he will stay that way until the server is down, or until he drops to the flor from fatigue, whichever comes first, at which point he will sleep for unbelievable lengths of time. He dropped out of school, lost contact with friends, and stopped having any other interests and he is irrate and abusive if anything interrupts his playing. He paces frantically whenever the server is down, which is about the only interruption that wont result in screams, flying objects and fists through doors (2 so far). He hasn’t been outside or done any sort of physical activity for months. Instead he stays hunched over a keyboard in a darkened room. Sometimes he doesn’t even wash in weeks as it takes to much thought and time away from the game, as a result the room he uses smells oddly of rotten, decomposing food and BO, with no-one abe to get him far enough away from the computer to clean, lest be met by fists. Mum tried home eduction, but she couldn’t secure any time with him without removing the router (modem connection I think), and that left her sporting nasty bruises for a fortnight. He’s chronically depressed and even when he’s playing he is cranky, with convulsive roars of “Fuckers! CUNTS! ARSEHOLE!” whenever things dont go his way. These wake the household at odd intervals during the night. Its been wearing mum thin too, who has started seeing a shrink, as he takes on the dominant role in the household by force. Is it harmful? Yes. But like diseases such as annorexia, theres isn’t anything you can force them to do to recover: Rehab, by law, has to be their choice, and unlike drugs and eating disorders, there aren’t institutions for gamers. I don’t know where any of this will lead, and we’ve all tried to turn him around, but it just gets worse, and the toll its taking seems to be harsh on his health, as well as those around him. But the problem as i see it is there is nothing out there hat we could turn to for advice or as intervention.

Concerned Wife says:

It is an addiction, and we need help

I am in a very new marriage and my husband never showed signs of being a severe “gamer” until after we were married. Yes, i knew he was really into the video games and the MMORPGs but he would leave the house he, didnt have a problem leaving the house because of them, but now he does. He recently came to terms with the fact that he was developing an addiction for the game Everquest (an mmorpg) so he cancelled his subscription and quit “cold turkey” and things have been doing much better but now he is starting up on Dungeons and Dragons Online (mmorpg) and hes starting to get involved in Dungeons and Dragons (the original, not the online one) so I am very worried that because of this addiction to games that our marriage will fail, and i know many other wives going through the same thing, so as i know it, it really isnt an uncommon thing, so that being said is there anyone that can help or know where to get proffesional help in this area ?

We are only 8 months into our marriage and i dont want to call it quits but i am feeling very neglected and i dont like it at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

What causes addiction

When i look at the word, ‘addiction’ i look at it as if it was objective to me. Not subjective, because that will just cause more confusion and controversy. But then i look at the word obsession. Obsession and Addiction are two different elements and obsession can be cured, whereas addiction it is your chemicals in your body speaking. Although there are chemicals in the brain that suggest it is an addiction, obsession is all in the head. So, if you were to question a video game ‘addict’, what are your rewards from playing this game? They would probably reply, “to get a dragon scimitar” or such. Then the right statement to reply from that reply would be, “Does it help your image?”. With this line of thought they would undergo some breakdown and then they would need to talk to a therapist. All in all people don’t like what they are becoming when a friend stops them, place them in a secure area, (from games) and talk. Remember communication can cure anything, from someone dying from cancer to, yes, even games. When they are ignorant, change their focus to something else so you can talk to them. So, don’t be shy, have the courage, keen mind, sauve, persuasion, manipulation and strength to corrupt the virtual world they are in. I should know i was one of them.

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