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9:45am on Wednesday, 23rd August, 2006:

Games Addiction


Yesterday, I received an email from a journalist writing for a major national newspaper, writing about — well, this is what he said:

I am a British journalist working on an article about computer game addiction and would be very grateful if you would email any recent facts and figures that you may have to illustrate the extent of this problem.

So he's already made his mind up that its a problem, has he?

With the possible exception of The Guardian, most British newspapers are resolutely anti-technology. Computer games, in their minds, are things played by teenaged boys and no-one else. Violent and peurile content abounds, and people are hooked to the extent that they abandon the rest of their lives (starting with attending to personal hygiene).

Actually, computer games are played by roughly 3 in every 5 people in the UK aged 6-65, according to research by the BBC. If they're addictive, surely we should be seeing major social breakdown as a result? It's a tired old claim that has long since been discredited in the games industry, and, perhaps more importantly, is given no credence by that 59% of the population that plays them (ie. a large proportion of the readership of the newspaper concerned).

If they were to write about how addictive soap operas are, and contacted broadcasters asking for the names of people to interview who are in the grip of such an addiction, they'd be a laughing stock. So why are they deadly serious about addictive computer games? Do they particularly want to seem out of touch to a large section of their readership? And don't they understand that "computer games" are not all the same? What next, "food" is fattening?

A game designer is probably not the best person to ask about the problems of computer game addiction. I wrote back, saying — well, this is the last sentence:

Sorry I can't help you much, but if I wrote to you out of the blue saying that I wanted you to point me at any recent facts and figures concerning the alcoholism of journalists, you'd understand a little of how I feel at the moment...

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).