Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Spin and Hype of Game Addiction

Since the first widely played MMOs sprung up in the late 1990s there have been reports of people becoming addicted to them. Usually reports on such people include other factors besides their game play like drug-use, depression, and trouble in their home environment. However, it is often the game play that has become the focus of the news outlets and internet chatter. While there is an addictive quality in such games its more on the scale of a morning coffee for most people then crack cocaine. Yet there are several factors that exist which would like to hype what is basically soda into a controlled substance.

1) Politicians
Its a sad fact that politicians often attack new forms of entertainment in hopes of appealing to conservative voters who are uncomfortable with it. For examples of this trend examine senate committee hearings on rock and roll and going further back comic books. You'll be surprised but there are very well know politicians from the present who are on record saying very stupid things about heavy metal music. Apparently such bands as Twisted Sister, KISS, and Metallica were going to destroy America's youth and needed to be stopped.

2) News Outlets
Interactive media has been slowly but surely swallowing up more of people's time then passive media since the 1990's. Newspapers are especially vulnerable to this as the average age of their readership has increased to almost 50. Broadcast news is also experiencing this trend but on a slower rate. Both outlets often hype news stories about video game addiction and video games causing shootings for two reasons. One is that they are taking a lesson from politicians and attacking something new to appeal to their mostly older readership. Two is that they would not mind if video games could be discredited and their impact lessened if not erased.

3) America's Stigma Against Games
Even though video games might be a very popular form of entertainment there are still roots in this country to the protestant work ethic. Its a leftover from the founding fathers but it still influences people to believe video games are a waste of time while television is socially acceptable. Look at any break room in America and your likely to find a television but just watch the looks and comments start if you pulled out a gameboy in there. According to A.C. Nielson the average American watches over four hours of television a day. You can tell this is considered normal by the length of primetime which runs for four hours each day starting at 7pm. However, game players are often accused of being addicted if they spend even half that time playing.

Just recently the Senate approved the CAMRA act which mandates that the Center for Disease Control develops research on the effect of multimedia on America's youth. The bill is sponsored by several politicians who had made it part of their image to combat the evilness of video games and the bill's primary purpose seems to be to provide them with ammunition. The ESRB and the ESA need to pay close attention to make sure all research is done in a non bias manner or else politicians will have enough scientific "proof" to start restricting types of games. The fact that such research is being done by the CDC already tells you that most politicians are happy portraying gaming as a disease.


Anonymous said...

By popular demand comments are now open to unregistered readers. Please keep the viagra and Nigerian investment advertising to a minimum.