Video game addiction is a topic that flares up just about as often as the devastating Southern California wild fires. Which is to say that every year the words “video games” and “addiction” get tossed into the media blender. Unquestioningly accepted as truth, the case for video game addiction is built upon statements such as, “My son plays My Little Pony’s Adventures in 128 Bit Land x-amount of hours, he must be an addict!” Is it fair though to compare video games to something as addictive as sex, drugs or alcohol? Take a look at the following DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition) Diagnostic Criteria for Alcohol Dependence entry below:
A maladaptive pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three or more of the following seven criteria, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:
1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
2. Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following:
a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to DSM-IV for further details).
b) Alcohol is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
3. Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
4. There is a persistent desire or there are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol or recover from its effects.
6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
7. Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol (e.g., continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).
Now, I can see how video game “addiction” can be compared to alcohol dependence. There are many similarities:
- The Time Escalation Component: Where the gamer increases his gaming time as he becomes more engrossed in the game.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Especially from games that employ the “carrot on a stick” philosophy (“just have to get to the next level…”).
- Gaming Culture: Checking out video game web sites through out the day. Reading the latest walkthrough and immersing oneself into the particular game’s community.
- The Social Sacrifice: Family, friends and loved ones fall to the wayside as the gamer becomes more immersed in the game. This, in my opinion, is when things become a problem. The gamer has lost any sort of balance between the digital and the real. Welcome to the world of escapism.
What do you think?
- Are video games and alcohol on the same level?
- Do we overuse the word addiction?
- Is this a matter of what society deems acceptable?
- Could you apply what was written above to your favorite hobby?
Leave a comment below and let me know.