Is there such a thing as addiction to video games? Is gaming an addiction? Who decides? As a long time gamer, I’ve heard both sides of this argument, but it’s never been from the people that are truly affected by it. You’ll have members of the public debating whether it’s possible or not, and doctors forming relations between gaming addiction and other social disorders, but like any other addiction, it’s never fully understood.
At the moment, there is no clear definition as to what constitutes a gaming addiction. It’s currently not recognized as a formal diagnosis or taken seriously as a illness. Alcoholics begin with using alcohol as a social lubricant and over time, it develops into a crutch. The same holds true for drugs and gambling. So what’s so different about gaming?
I’m not a doctor, I have no degrees to speak of, and anything I say is by no means medical advice. But I do have an opinion, and as a gamer and a blogger, I’m gonna add my 2 cents.
I started gaming at about 5 years old. Over the years I went through a collection of famiclones on to a PS1, and onwards and upwards from there. I could sit from morning till night playing, especially since a lot of the games at the time didn’t have a save feature. I’d only stop playing when my parents switched the console off. They found my extended play sessions worrisome, and wanted me to socialize more, but I just wasn’t that type of child. I eventually expanded my interests to movies, music and mild interaction with the outside world but that took years of personal growth and confidence to achieve.
At some point, life takes a hold and you need to get a job and pay the bills. Gaming is still an important part of my life, but having a roof over my head and bacon in my stomach, takes precedence. And though I still have the urge to buy every console and game that comes out, I still display a semblance of control and only buy games when I have extra cash lying around (unless there’s a really good special running – then all bets are off).
So in my case, gaming was a bit of a crutch to get me through the ‘scarier’ years, but was (and still is) mainly a source of entertainment. It’s when the lines between ‘wanting to play a game’ and ‘needing to play it’ become blurred that gaming addiction sets in. It’s overlooked because it simply doesn’t seem like a real issue.
Is Gaming an Addiction?
For some unknown reason, video games are still looked at as a childish pastime. It’s beyond me how this stigma attached to gaming has lingered on for so long. To this day, I still get weird looks from people when I proudly introduce myself as a gamer. Gaming can provide hours of entertainment and a garnered sense of achievement that’s earned through skilled gameplay – as one would achieve while playing sports. I think it can be enjoyed as a pastime if there are some reasonable limits to the amount of time spent playing, along with some other worldly interactions interspersed.
At a young age, I agree it can be difficult to tell whether a child is addicted to a game or simply enthralled by a fantasy world’s offerings. Teen years are always tough and gaming can be the escape from reality that’s desperately needed. So when and where should you draw the line? Well, everyone develops at a different rate and many teens just aren’t interested in things you’d expect them to be interested in. They might not want to ride a bike around the block, but rather chill out with a good game. As a pastime, gaming is harmless. But if it starts to negatively affect someone’s life or the people around them, that’s when it’s a problem. Forgetting to eat and/or sleep consistently, and showing visual withdrawal symptoms when not gaming, are signs that things are heading downhill.
Is gaming an addiction? No. Can gaming be addictive. Yes. But that’s what we want from games, something to sweep us into a fantasy world away from the confines of our 9 to 5. It’s only when this is taken to the extremes that it becomes a problem.
Image Credit: Eran Fowler (EranFolio on DeviantART)