This article is a contribution by Jennifer Lewis.
We humans are a complicated lot. On one hand, we like to probe mysteries and strive to solve puzzles but on the other, we do like to be able to put things into neatly formed compartments so that we can classify them. Once we have a name and a label, we can file them away in the filing cabinet of our brain and, ostensibly, move on to the next idea.
Gaming, and by extension, gaming addiction, is one of those thoughts that people like to think can fit neatly into one of those compartments. Well, at first glance it may seem that way. Video game use leads to addiction. Therefore all video games are evil and should be eliminated from the planet – case closed.
Video games were originally developed as a training tool by the military. They are still used as part of the standard training given to soldiers today. When pilots are put inside a flight simulator to practice how to behave in different situations, if we substitute the word, “game” for simulator, the result is the same. The person is participating in a fantasy experience for a time to get a certain result. The new, more sophisticated video games, can help to improve participants’ eye sight and attention to detail. The latter skill is would benefit video gamers at school and work and should be encouraged. Studies have also shown that playing a video game provides health benefits as an effective distraction for people living with depression or chronic pain. It’s inexpensive, has no side effects, and provides a distraction from their suffering. This sounds like an option that is worth considering for people who need help learning how to relax and refocus their attention on an enjoyable activity for a time.
Video Games and Addiction: Too Much of a Good Thing
When it comes to video games and addiction, we’re really talking about degree here. The video game or the gaming industry in itself are not the enemy. Some people, because of their personality or stresses in their background, may be more vulnerable to becoming addicted to an activity. It’s possible to become addicted to more than one activity at the same time.
For some people, slipping into a video game allows them to zone out for a while and get away from being bored, depressed, hurt, sad, lonely, insecure, or whatever they are trying to run away from. The game itself is only a medium. If they didn’t turn to video games, a person with this profile may have grabbed onto another behavior instead.
Addiction is not a new phenomenon. There have always been people who have been looking to tune out or zone out because they couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with life. They were looking for things to anesthetize themselves. The 21st century simply gives people more choices about how they can do it.
Video games have a place as teaching tools and for entertainment. They can be used to share information in an entertaining format and to help people develop skills they need on the job. Just as not everyone who learns how to drive a car will do so recklessly and with abandon, not everyone who plays a video game will play so often that they lose track of their work and family responsibilities. At that point, they have likely crossed the line into a behavioral addiction and need help. It doesn’t mean that the video game, or the industry that created it, is something evil.
Behavioral addictions can start off as being highly enjoyable activities and develop into something that is cause for concern. No one wakes up and decides they are going to become a video game addict (or any other type of addict for that matter), and they may not realize that their level of involvement has escalated to the point where they need help. If you or someone you know has gotten to the point where you are neglecting work, family or other activities that you previously enjoyed to in order to play video games, then you have likely crossed the line into an addiction. That’s the point where you need to seek professional help.
Jennifer Lewis studied sociology and journalism at college before moving to Britain to experience Europe. Now married with two children, she has used her personal experience of both art and the consequences of addiction in the family, to help promote addiction treatment and drug awareness. She works for the Coalition Against Drug Abuse.