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12:20pm on Friday, 22nd July, 2011:

Reputation and Reality


This morning's keynote was by Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University on the subject of whether or not online game addiction exists.

OK, so I've heard of Mark and his work before, but never attended one of his presentations. His reputation isn't exactly attractive: he's depicted as an anti-games self-publicist from a highly unfashionable university. However, having read some of his papers in the past, his research is actually balanced and solid. So surely the reputation must be wrong?

Well, yes, it is wrong. The talk I head this morning was a clear voice of reason, head and shoulders above previous talks I've endured on the subject of game addiction. The research is very well-founded, the conclusions make sense, there's no anti-game bias at all (he's actually pro-games) and the definition of addiction used is precise enough to be of actual use to designers. Of course, some designers might use it to make their games more addictive, which would be rather immoral of them, but most of us would be pnly too happy to be able to identify those outliers who are heading for problematic usage so we can head them off before they ruin their lives.

So basically, the reason Mark's name crops up everywhere when it comes to games and addiction is because he gets asked his opinion a lot; he's asked it a lot because his research is very high quality. Nottingham Trent is respected within the field, but not outside of it, and that's unlikely to change; nevertheless, that doesn't devalue the work, it just bucks a stereotype.

I was rather pleased to discover that the person so many governments are asking for advice about addiction to computer games actually talks complete sense, and that the impression I got from his research was the correct one.

Oh, and the answer to the question about online game addiction's existence is yes, it does exist, but at nowhere near the scary levels most research reports put it.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).