On my Twitter I’ve seen some posts and tweets flying by about another attempt of the media (the BBC in this case) to put gamers in a dubious light saying that gaming companies need to warn more about the dangers of becoming addicted to games. I’ve seen mixed responses about this, mostly they go into the general direction that gaming isn’t really an addiction, and I felt like I needed to give my opinion in more details about the matter.
First off, I know a bit more about how the human brain works and because I’m running an internship at an addiction care facility I can chime in here with a touch of professionalism. I’d like to make clear first off the bat that anything CAN BE an addiction, this includes social media, games, books, watching television, eating, drugs, alcohol but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it IS an addiction if people spend more time doing a certain thing than what is normal in society.
An addiction is a psychological disorder and the most important quality of a psychological disorder is that it disrupts your daily life and routine so badly that you can’t function properly anymore. This means that you are unable to hold a job or go to school, are unable to keep social contacts and are neglecting your basic needs as human because you are not able to meet them anymore.
We all know the image of the drunkard that wakes up with a glass of Vodka and goes to bed with three bottles of wine and the cocaine addict that needs to have his lines or else he’ll go into physiological distress. The big question is, can this state of mind happen for games? And my answer to this is yes, it can happen and it has happened and it will happen. There are cases, although very few and far inbetween, of people being really addicted to games and the act of gaming. People that lose their jobs, their schooling, their family and friends because the only thing they want, the only thing they need, is to play games. The need to play games overrides any other thought or compulsion the person may have and the most extreme cases of this have been in the media: the stories about men/women/children dying after a marathon of gaming where they wouldn’t eat, drink or leave the room. These are prime examples of gaming ADDICTION and unfortunately for the people mentioned it cost them their lives.
However, what the media portray as an addiction is something that is simply not true. I have been a gamer myself for a long time, sometimes I would be more enthusiastic and more willing to spend all my time on a game while sometimes I wouldn’t game for weeks while feeling perfectly happy about it. I know many people like me, spending a lot of time on games, getting called “addicted” by your family and/or friends because you spend a lot of time on it. But are you addicted then? I still go to school, I still meet friends, I have a job, I have a boyfriend but I prefer to spend my free time on gaming. For me it is a hobby and I would be bored out of my mind if I couldn’t game. This sometimes leads to gaming sessions of 10-14 hours on the weekends. Does this mean I’m addicted? No. Does it mean I spend a lot of time on doing the thing I enjoy, even though it can be frustrating? Yes.
And here is the crux: Why is it normal to take a weekend off to go fishing but not to go gaming? Why is it considered normal to watch TV the entire day, but not to play games? Why is a 40 hour gaming marathon considered pathological but a contest who can sit the longest on a pole considered an achievement?
Because society needs a scapegoat. It’s how we work and that will never change and unfortunately gaming is and has been the scapegoat for a while and will be for a long time. Games are made to capture your interest, being them MMO’s, FPS’s, RPG’s, Strategy games or whatever you want to play. Even mobile phone games like Candy Crush can be very time consuming, but that doesn’t mean they are addictive nor that they are bad. Personally I have had some gaming marathons with the release of new WoW expansions, were they bad? No, they haven’t harmed me in anyway apart from the fact that I was very sleepy after staying up for near 40 hours. If it doesn’t affect your normal life, if you still go to school or work, if you still have friends and if you still eat and drink normally, why not have a gaming marathon every now and then?
However if you prioritize your gaming over everything, start abandoning your school, your work, your friends and family and neglecting to take proper care of yourself I urge anyone to seek professional help, because when you crossed that threshhold your hobby has become an addiction and that is not a place where you want to be.