Combat gaming addiction
By Corrie Lynne Player
Like many parents today, you might worry about your children’s experimenting with mind-altering drugs. But, you should realize that your kids (maybe even yourself!) who play video and online games could be in the middle of a similar activity. Experts, ranging from Dr. Michael Walsh, president of MediaWise, therapist and brain development researcher to Keith Bakker, director of a residential detox center in Amsterdam that treats gaming addicts, describe pathological computer game play as a “behavioral” addiction, in the same category as pornography and gambling. The fact that the internet, computers, and related electronic media are woven deeply into the fabric of our society requires you to understand what you’re dealing with. Addicted people lie to themselves and others about the extent of their addiction. They minimize things, “I’m just going to play for a little while— this is a new game.” They have every intention of sitting down for a few minutes before they finish a reading assignment, take out the garbage, or hang out with friends. But a “little while” becomes several hours wasted day after day. They get drawn into online games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, where players build make-believe worlds that can overshadow real life. Aaron Shaw, a therapist with the Aspen Education Group, said in an article by Jennifer Seter Wagner in U.S. News and World Report, May 2008, “If Mom is always nagging that games are a waste of time, they say: ‘S—- you, my friends online love me, and I’ll hang out with them.’” A drug user trying to kick his or her habit knows that “cutting down” until the behavior is conquered doesn’t work. AA members know they can never touch alcohol or they will be right back where they started. Computer game addicts face the same problems. Things Are Getting Worse Most researchers are concerned about the fact that violent video games are no longer vicarious—people don’t just watch horrific crimes; they actively participate. A former SWAT team commander and West Point psychology professor bluntly states, “We’re not just teaching kids to kill. We’re teaching them to like it.” Some of the games available to kids of all ages glorify violence with such statements as “Let the slaughter begin” (Destrega), “Hold the fate of the world in your hands; annihilate and kill” (Doom), and “Meet people from all over the world, then kill them” (Subspace). Don’t be lulled into complacency by the fact that these games are labeled, “adults only.” Any 12 year old who wants to play “Quake,” “Resident Evil 2” or “White Power Wolfenstein” will have no trouble getting his hands on them. A few dollars and an hour or two in almost any arcade will provide the life experiences of the most hardened Nazi war criminal or serial killer. Not all games are murderous. Many of them are complicated and require a lot of thought. Players must use involved and sophisticated skills to build whole universes and societies. Such games can provide intellectual stimulation and entertainment—when taken in reasonable doses. But they, too, can be addictive in a more subtle way, especially when they replace personal interactions and relationships. The impact of video games and the internet comes not only from the kinds of behavior these things promote but also from the socialization and learning activities they replace. The solution to this insidious addiction lies with individuals who understand enough about the addiction to avoid it in the first place. Those already addicted must realize that breaking any addiction is a long and difficult process. Most studies place video game and internet addictions in the same category as nicotine. The longer the addiction is in place, the more difficult it is to root out.