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The Real Story Behind Gaming Addiction 300

Gamespot is running a feature looking into the facts behind gaming addiction: what it is, whether it exists, and why the need still exists for objective research into the issue. Quoting: "[Richard M. Ryan, a psychologist and professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester in New York] thinks the lack of quality research into video game overuse will be rectified with time as games become more sophisticated in the ways they satisfy people's psychological needs. 'We have a lot of people, some in the media and some in the sciences, who are too ready to make very strong claims about video games, whether we are talking about aggression, addiction, or cultural estrangement, based on very little evidence. I think that is especially how the media often sells stories. Some commentators exaggerate risks, and on the other hand there are defenders of games who deny any and all problems and attack any perceived bad news. Games are relatively new in our culture, and such vacillation between hysteria and denial I suspect often greets any new phenomenon, from hip-hop to the Internet to video games. Both sides usually have some part of the truth, but it may be a while before at least we as scientists, much less as a society, have a coherent understanding.'"
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The Real Story Behind Gaming Addiction

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  • by Zumbs ( 1241138 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:12AM (#27595435) Homepage

    people don't die from playing sports for 18 hours a day.

    No, they wear out their bodies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:30AM (#27595499)

    over 2 decades of experimental psychology research indicates that being exposed to violence leads to more violence. Practically every social psychology text book out there cites statistics that place violence in the media and increases in real world violence as the second strongest correlation we have - second only to smoking and lung cancer.

    Research shows again and again that playing violent video game causes physiological desensitization upon viewing real world violence (e.g. videos of cops shooting people and prisoners shanking each other), violent video games increase aggressive behaviors in children, and that even the presence of a toy weapon in a room causes aggressive thought priming.

  • Re:Not new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cjfs ( 1253208 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:34AM (#27595515) Homepage Journal

    People have played games for thousands of years. The only difference now is they've got more sophisticated.

    Sophisticated is one way of putting it. Another would be to point out they didn't spend thousands of hours grinding pawns so they could finally take down that bishop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:44AM (#27595555)

    see here is the issue: many times these game worlds (uo, eq, wow)offer a more fun experience than you could have otherwise outside of it for many people. it takes money to have fun in life; to travel, to club, et al to the rest.

    yes, you can work harder to make more money to do these things, but it's not always that simple. a steady income during the day, log into a dragonslayer at night is too enticing for many people, and why not? it makes sense for them to do so. the alternative is not as appealing, whether that be watching tv, reading a book, or even improving yourself to make that money in order to have that type of fun.

    because, let's be honest here, improving yourself doesn't necessarily more financial success. it might, but it doesn't always. so what path is more guaranteed to provide 'fun' for the average person?

    i would probably say dragon slayer.

  • by YouDoNotWantToKnow ( 1516235 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:48AM (#27595567)
    My view on gaming addiction is that, just like any other form of escapism, it is merely a symptom caused by various physical, psychological and social factors. In many cases, the subject would be addicted to something (possibly more harmful like drugs or gambling) anyways so the addiction is actually "good for him" in a certain sense. You can just grow up from gaming, unlike booze or crack.
  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:50AM (#27595575) Journal

    I don't know what mod your post deserves, so I'll post a Whoosh comment, but at least one that's not sarcastic.

    We spend thousands of hours grinding *moves*, which includes pawns.

  • Eh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:06AM (#27595623) Journal

    Yes they do. People HAVE died from taking sports to extremes. Long distance runners who die from exhaustion or getting lost. Weight lifters who are crushed under weights. What about racers who go just a bit to fast? Taking the sport to extremes, same as gaming for 18 hours is extreem.

    Except that I gamed for longer then that this easter weekend and did NOT die. Sure, I took some brakes for the toilet but more or less spent a full day from dawn to past midnight in the game.

    Anyway, wouldn't it be more logical to connect addiction to games to addiction to being a sports FAN (as in a watcher of sports)? Is Holland alone in coming to a standstill because of mysterious illness whenever the national team plays?

  • Shopaholic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:13AM (#27595641) Journal

    Compulsive shopping is most certainly regonized as an adiction. As for OCD, that is often called a woman's disease.

    And gaming hasn't been male dominated for a long time. According to some survey's there are even more female gamers then male gamers.

    Certainly in the MMO I play voicechat seems to be female roughly 1/3 to 1/2 the time. Considering that some females might be reluctant to reveal their are females online and the percentage of females playing Lotro might be as high as half the population if not more.

    Stop being such a sexist prick.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:21AM (#27595665)

    So far, everything that our youth had a fascination with and was hardly, if at all, understood by parents has been demonized and blamed for all sorts of problems.

    Think back (ok, read up in your history books) about so called "bad books". Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn twisted and warped young minds in ways that are all too similar to what is now attributed to games. They set bad examples, they make kids act out what they read, they have no moral, show no ill effects of bad behaviour... then the kids that read those books grew up and, lo and behold, they didn't turn out to be maniacs and generally unfit to lead a normal life. The hype dwindled down, and now it's part of "America's cultural heritage".

    Fast forwards to radio. It was new, it was exciting, kids (and even some adults) spent hours in front of the box listening. When Wells' "War of the Worlds" was broadcast, people went into hysteria. And promptly, the radio was the source of all evil. It would cause us to be unable to discriminate between fiction and fact, it would twist our poor minds and warp us... guess what, the radio generation grew up, they didn't turn out to be morons, and the hype went away.

    TV was next. The picture boxes that ruined our eyes (ok, those old ones maybe did), that showed us braindead stories and turned us all into zombies. The TV generation grew up...

    D&D. Anyone remember Patricia Pulling [], the Jack Thompson of the 80s? Yet D&D gamers grew up and they don't run amok in our streets fighting imaginary orcs and dragons.

    Now it's games. And the gamers will grow up and we'll find out that it's not so bad... in other words, just give it time. In 10 years, nobody's gonna talk about it anymore. But don't worry. We'll find a new scapegoat when our kids go nuts due to poor parenting and mobbing in schools.

  • Funny thing ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krou ( 1027572 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:36AM (#27595735)

    If I was a kid, and ended up practising and playing tennis or golf for the majority of my day, got really good, was able to compete and win tournaments and make money, I would be considered a natural, a child prodigy with a promising future.

    Likewise, if I played chess every day for as long as possible, got really good and started competing and winning tournaments internationally, making money etc. I would be seen as a great example of skill etc.

    If I live and breathe business, every hour of every day, driving myself to make a fortune, to become wealthy and successful, I would be applauded.

    Hey, be addicted to real drugs and write incredible novels, poetry, or music, and you'll be applauded for it.

    So, if a kid spent the majority of his waking day playing games, gets exceptionally good at it, and was able to enter tournaments, win prize money, travel the world etc., would we then talk about his addiction, or would we be talking about his achievement?

    It seems to me that what really matters is the result of your "addiction", and the public's perception in terms of its "worth", not the fact that you're addicted. These stories about "game addiction" look at the worst examples and apply them to all, and that makes as much sense as looking at a sports star who burns himself out as an example of what sport does to you.

    Most of this is likely spurred by the opinion that gaming is simply a waste of time. When the value of gaming (in terms of wealth generation, improving mental ability, skill etc.) increases/becomes more well known, the less we'll hear about the evils of game addiction. So, bring on more studies to look at gaming's benefits, and bring on more investment into pro-gaming.

  • Games vs TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:49AM (#27595781)

    I suspect this may come across as slightly trollish, but hear me out:

    The principle difference between gaming and TV is interaction - a higher level of engagement or involvement, and thus immersion, that a passive medium like TV can't surpass.

    When discussing addiction, I think it's worth noting that - according to the criteria used by most detractors - TV is also addictive. However, it is not considered harmful enough to be of equivalent concern. You're not likely to die from all-night sessions of Battlestar Galactica or whatever.

    I think the real issue is about more than just addiction though. I think it's down to the level of passivity or activity required to engage with the medium, and the control over the experience.
    TV viewing, by its very nature, trains us to passively accept whatever is fed to us. It's in the nature for society to accept and promote whatever maintains the status-quo - a survival trait, if you will - and something which encourages passivity is ultimately a benefit to that. There are also mechanisms for controlling the viewer's experience - you can't choose to change the ending to a film, for example.
    Gaming, on the other hand, requires engagement, activity, evaluation and decision-making, even in its more basic forms. It also trains people not to let things be, but to strive to overcome obstacles and improve their environment. Whether this encourages socially positive or negative actions depends on the type of game in which the person engages, which in turn is influenced by their social predisposition. It enhances rather than suppresses their psychological traits. There is also less opportunity for control over the medium - the way in which a person experiences the game - and so it could be a threat to social and societal stability.

    (I invite you to don your tin-foil hat in response to the above paragraph, but I've tried to avoid making a conspiratorial point.)

    It's no surprise that gaming has a highly addictive potential to those who are thus predisposed. The question is; would such an addiction be a problem? Where TV addiction is generally harmless to others, I think games serve to enhance the strengths and weaknesses already imbued in individuals by our society. The root causes of game-influenced behaviour are therefore much more fundamental than the game itself, and blaming games for the actions of individuals who are already thinking far outside the accepted norms of morality is a bit short-sighted.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:58AM (#27595825)

    Unfortunately, "discussion" changed its meaning. Earlier it was "evaluating the other side's arguments, offering counterarguments, finding a common ground and something both sides can work with". Today it's "show them idiots that I AM RIGHT!"

    And I'm not only talking about afternoon talkshows and newsgroup flamewars. I even see it in scientific communities where I used to have very insightful discussions that actually ran along the original meaning. Both sides offered arguments that the other side could understand, both sides evaluated the other side's arguments, some were good, some were bad, some were better than mine, some were something I could accept as a compromise... and in the end, we walked away with something that both sides could accept.

    Today, even in circles that you'd expect to be a wee bit more sophisticated than the guest lineup of the average Springer show, you are faced with people that want to impress you with their (often enough false) use of technical terms and jargon to show you just how stupid you are that you can't simply accept their point of view as the only truth.

    It kinda saddens me. When did "being able to compromise" become "being too soft to get it your way"?

  • Re:Funny thing ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:08AM (#27595879) Homepage

    I think that many of these "addictions" you list can be considered harmful, actually. There are far more child prodigy instrumentalists out there than there are job openings for them. For every one that is lauded for his achievements, seen as a great example of skill etc. there are ten people who have spent an extreme amount of effort for very little return. This is why it's cruel to try to lead your child down that path.

    Music is the crown example. But it's very much the case with chess, sports, novels, etc.

    I think people would be happier if the ideals of Amateurism made a comeback. We might even get better art in some ways.

  • by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:41AM (#27596115)
    Damn, and I used all my mod points. You are sadly mistaken on your premise and the false conclusions you draw from it. Further more, you assume that hard-wired behavior is changeable. Pedophiles, who should be took out back and shot IMNSHO, are hard-wired to be attracted to children. They can not be re-wired. You may modify their behavior to an extent(BTW, my solution actually does modify their behavior) but you cannot alter their attraction to children. Also, your conclusions about addiction in general are totally contrary to what science has shown. By the logic of seeing negative consequences happen to others,and stopping behavior, is valid with non-addicts for the most part. With drug addicts, it is not. Have some junkie OD on a hot load, and the other junkies do not stop shooting dope. They actually try to find the source for the hot load so they can buy some, because it has to be good shit if such-and-such OD on it. So in closing, STFU and L2think, instead of spouting off your preconceived ideas.
  • by socrplayr813 ( 1372733 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:42AM (#27596127)

    I really wish I had mod points for you. I think this hits the nail on the head. I used to use games to hide from my problems, so I do have an idea what it's like. Now that I have my life together, it's not such an issue.

    Everyone I've known who's had an addiction had some sort of stress that led them to it. We need to address those original problems first, then deal with the games. Though, I suspect a good number of those people will work it out naturally with the outside stress under control.

  • Re:media (Score:3, Interesting)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:52AM (#27596231) Homepage Journal

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently called the Internet a "cesspool" of false information. I think he was wrong. I think that the disinformation present on the internet is merely a reflection of the disinformation, poor reporting and outright lies which have become pervasive throughout the media industry.

    That doesn't mean he was wrong - it just means that everything else is a cesspool of false info too!

    I cannot recall a single instance of the word "cunt" in any title I have ever played

    I'm pretty sure The Darkness has it.

    I don't see the big deal about all of this anyway. Some people are easily addicted/obsessed by things. I've spent periods in my life where I'd play Counter-Strike or MUD every night til 6AM. I think my Counter-Strike obsession was overtaken by a photography obsession, and strangely enough the 3 times in my life that I was addicted to MUDding, I ended up with a girlfriend a month or two later and ended up spending obsessive amounts of time with them instead of on the MUD (well apart from the first who was mudding with me for a while since it started off long-distance). Even more strangely, I've only ever had 3 girlfriends, so the pattern would indicate that MUDding somehow instantly makes me more attractive to women. I should really start MUDding again..!

  • Re:Funny thing ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by socrplayr813 ( 1372733 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @09:03AM (#27596309)

    The problem with that, though, is that not everyone has the ability to be a professional, be it tennis, chess, or videogames. Think of all the college athletes who were the star in high school, did well in college, then fell into a job selling cars or whatever. As Vintermann said, there are only so many slots open for professional players. It's fine to practice and be good at things, but not to the detriment of other aspects of your life.

    Also, keep in mind that games are much more accessible than the others. If I pick up any relatively modern/popular game, I can play all hours of the day or night without any real difficulty. It'd be much harder to find a challenging opponent to play tennis or chess with for that many hours a day. In that way, those are self-regulating.

  • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @09:58AM (#27596979)

    No, they wear out their bodies.

    And then die. Smoking doesn't kill you instantly, but we still blame smoking for a lot of deaths. Ergo parent is drunk.

    Anyway, am I the only one who finds this article redundant? I mean they guy is saying: "We cannot say for certain how X affects people since X has not been studied enough. Since X has not been studied enough the attention is aimed towards the extremists."

    Hmm, where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, every fucking dispute through time and space and beyond.

  • Re:Not new (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pwfffff ( 1517213 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:02PM (#27598789)

    If you were to take my character in WoW and attempt to raid with my guild you would be kicked in a matter of seconds, despite my character having 'learned everything'. It's painfully obvious who knows what they're doing in the game and who doesn't. I don't know if you've ever played an RPG before, but they involve a shitton of numbers. You learn more about math from theorycrafting than you do about moving in L-shapes or whatever from chess. If you regenerate mana at a rate of 300 mana per five seconds (mp5) while casting, and you have 20,000 mana, and your primary spell costs 700 mana with a 1.5 second cooldown, and your regen while not casting (five seconds after your last spell) is 1,000 mp5, and the boss you're fighting lasts 5 minutes, how often should you stop healing to avoid running out of mana?

    You get the point.

  • your search for the "real truth" belies a cognitive weakness of yours. you either have a fantastical devotion to the "truth" being something like the da vinci code or your average hollywood potboiler political thriller. when reality is always much more mundane. conspiracy theories are the mark of a weak mind, or wonderful entertainment, but are never the truth

    or you already have it "figured out", and you are attempting to fit the facts to your preconceived notions, "the truth" as it were. and you are unsatisfied, because your preconcieved notions are wrong, fringe. and so you react to the media antagonistically, all of it, because you can't find the support for your wrong ideas that you desire

    people who reject ALL of the media, and speak of "the media", as if it were some monolithic edifice allayed against them, are really speaking of their own fringe ideological identity, not about the reality of the media. the way you speak belies the fact that whatever problems media companies have with the truth, you have greater problems with the truth. it is you has the problem, not that bogeyman (dum dum DUM), "the media"

    as for 9/11, i left work at the world trade center building #5 at 9 pm on monday 9/10/01, heard a guitar player by the fountain in the dark, looked back at him, then up at the towers, and went into church street subway station and went home and went to sleep, and woke up late to my telephone ringing off the hook the next morning. i never made it back to that job. what happened? some islamic nutjobs highjacked airplanes and flew them into the towers, out of simple spite and hate

    that's the truth. really. sorry there is no hollywood plot twist involving jack ryan and the illuminati

  • by rpillala ( 583965 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:52PM (#27599389)

    For more support of this point, read Warrior Girls [] by Michael Sokolove. The book is about sports injuries among school age girls playing sports, and more specifically about tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL.) The tears happen disproportionately to girls, and put them out of action for 9 months to 1 year. Frequently, and more to the parent's point, these athletes are so driven and motivated to play (mostly soccer in this book) that they try to complete the rehab faster than they should and suffer further injury or loss of mobility down the road.

  • by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:38PM (#27599931)

    As you so rightly say, a lot of our desires and impulses are hardwired. Sexual orientation, preference. If you suddenly realised one day that you were sexually attracted to children, would you kill yourself on the spot?

  • by Raptoer ( 984438 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#27602249)

    Too bad you're talking out your ass for most of your post. Have you ever had depression or anxiety? Addictions are very similar, it's not that you make a decision to do something, rather it's that you never make the decision, it simply becomes true.

    With depression you may have no reason to be down, you simply are, you do not make a decision to be.
    With anxiety you may have no reason to be worried, you simply are, you do not make a decision to be.
    With addictions you may have no reason to want it, you simply do, and it's so powerful that it suppresses appetite, discomfort from a full bladder, and it makes decisions for you.
    It's just like a physical addiction, if you're a drug addict there is no "Should I take that next hit?" question, it instead is a statement in your mind "I NEED that next hit".

    Addictions in all forms distorts one's priorities, makes decisions for you, and skews your thinking.

    Now of course none of these are black and white issues. You can be mildly addicted to something, and still be in full control of your thought processes, but it can reach a point where it just overrides everything.

    Sexual disorders (such as pedophilia) fall into the same category. You can have mild pedophilia and be attracted, but still have control of your actions, you can have severe pedophilia and still have control of your actions, and you can have extreme pedophilia where it just dominates everything you think about.
    There is the distinction with pedophilia in that the act directly harms another, and therefore the act itself takes an extreme condition to override your decision making. Not to mention that what most people identify as pedophilia isn't actually pedophilia. Pedophilia is only when the person is below the reproductive age (13), anything above that is a different condition I can't remember the name of.

    I am not in any way condoning these acts however, if you have an addiction of any type you need to get help to break it. This is especially so if your addiction directly harms another. The addiction may remove some of the responsibility and blame over to forces of nature, however that doesn't mean it's ok to be addicted. A person cannot always be held 100% accountable for their actions. If a man goes into the woods and gets attacked by a bear, is he 100% responsible? no, it is mostly just bad luck, forces of nature are mostly responsible.

    As I said though, this doesn't mean it's ok to be addicted, or to have sexual desires so powerful that they override your decision making. You have to identify that you have a problem, and need help.

    There is a big difference between addiction and making bad mortgage decisions. Those people are just idiots for not looking through everything extremely carefully. Since you can't see 20 years into the future, but your mortgage might last that long you need to cover your ass. A mortgage is a decision that you go over everything half a dozen times with several people, and has nothing to do with addiction.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger