Gaming: Addict Or Enthusiast?
To explain what gaming addiction is and whether or not it is really a thing, we first need to address the term addiction.
The preferred phrase is 'dependence', as it is much more specific and it is often related to a substance e.g. alcohol.
It is difficult to define what addiction is, but the definition according to dictionary.com is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
The DSM-IV manual has set criteria to diagnose addiction:
- Tolerance: Does the patient tend to need more of the drug over time to get the same effect?
- Withdrawal symptoms: Does the patient experience withdrawal symptoms when he or she does not use the drug?
- Continued use of drug despite harm: Is the patient experiencing physical or psychological harm from the drug?
- Loss of control: Does the patient take the drug in larger amounts, or for longer than planned?
- Attempts to cut down: Has the patient made a conscious, but unsuccessful, effort to reduce his or her drug use?
- Salience: Does the patient spend significant time obtaining or thinking about the drug, or recovering from its effects?
- Reduced involvement: Has the patient given up or reduced his or her involvement in social, occupational or recreational activities due to the drug?
This is all to define an addiction or dependence to a substance, making it very difficult to define behavioural addiction like gaming. So, if you're trying to find out if you or someone you know is a gaming addict, we're going to have to apply these to behaviour.
Reduced involvement seems to be the main factor that people use to decide that a person is addicted to a certain behaviour. “Billy spends all day in his room playing Xbox!” Okay, I see why this may be a problem, but would Billy actually be doing anything else during that time? While I spend enough time on the internet for people to consider it bad, if I wasn't online I'd actually just be reading a book instead. I wouldn't be going out and socialising or getting fit, I'd be reading. Which is what I did before I had internet.
So, if Billy didn't have his Xbox, he was probably watching TV. Besides, using the internet or playing Xbox may actually be more social, as Billy and I are able to talk to our friends much easier (now all my friends can hear about my feelings about book characters). So, unless Billy used to go and see granny every Friday, hang out with his mates after school and do all his chores, but now sits in the same space playing Call Of Duty, only leaving when nature calls, then you have a problem.
When we measure “amount” of behaviour, it can be difficult. Perhaps Billy needs more achievements in his games and grinds them mercilessly, or tries to beat his high score multiple times a day. Perhaps longer time is spent on the behaviour until he's playing until the sun rises. For a very long time, this sort of thing would have defined me as an addict (I admit it, I love World Of Warcraft - I played it for hours on end and thought about it a lot).
However, there is one very defining criteria that sets the marker for addict or enthusiast - withdrawal.
If you or your 'gaming addict' friend does not suffer some kind of withdrawal, it's not an addiction. For instance, I could leave WoW to go downstairs and sit down to dinner and chat with the family without feeling the need to rush back (unless I left during a dungeon, in case my party died), I could go to school and sit in lessons without wanting to go home and play more.
In fact, what people don't seem to realise about games is that it's more than just a game. MMOs or games where you can connect to your friends are a way of playing and chatting with friends without having to awkwardly arrange a time and place to meet up and spend money on travel and whatnot. Especially if your friends live far away. For me, WoW brought me loads of friends from all over the world, even ones who lived only a town over, who I consider some of the best people I've ever met.
Sometimes, characters in games can be people you care about (have you played Animal Crossing? I care so much for the other villagers!) even if they're not real. Sort of like rooting for your favourite character in Game Of Thrones (*cough* Daenerys *cough*).
So, think about it carefully before you throw the term 'addict' around, because if you're not an addict, you are an enthusiast. And being an enthusiast isn't bad. Just try not to assume that the game world applies to the real world. The main issue of your intense gaming sessions is that you think the number of head shots you get somehow makes you better than the person who studied enough to get an A* and an offer from Oxford University.
So, gamers go and frolic free through your Minecraft fields and enjoy your games! Don't let anyone complain about what you enjoy doing, just remember that the real world isn't games and don't try free running across the fence unless you are trained in parkour.
If you suspect you are or someone you know is addicted, the NHS provide support.
Alternatively you can talk to Meic, the national advice helpline for young people in Wales.
Addiction is a serious mental sickness and should not be ignored.