The Sun, British tabloid staple, has recently made waves by publishing a piece titled: ‘Playing Games as Addictive as Heroin’. The article claims that the UK is ‘in the grip of a gaming addiction’, citing three suicides that could be linked to Call of Duty, and case studies where certain players spend large amounts of money on mobile games, or spend hours online playing. It also cites the research of Dr Mark Griffiths, who provides a ten point list to help determine whether the reader could be addicted to gaming themselves.
This sounds pretty normal for the tabloid, but the story became interesting when Dr Griffiths himself came out on Eurogamer and debunked the article. He has claimed that most of the article is simply ‘incorrect’, and jumping on the negative aspects of gaming in order to create a lurid headline.
In the rebuttal, the doctor states that addiction to anything, whether it is gaming, drugs or anything else, will play out in mostly the same way. An addiction will take over someone’s life and drown all other responsibilities, hobbies and relationships. The form the addiction takes is somewhat irrelevant, as whatever method the addicted person uses, it’s going to follow a similar path.
This is certainly not the first time there has been panic over gaming in the media. Neurology Now published a mostly negative piece called ‘How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?’, glossing over the fact that anything and everything will affect the brain to some degree, and that that process doesn’t end when a child grows to adulthood. There are scores of scholarly articles online about the subject of gaming addiction. There are always stories in the media about gaming ruining lives, such as this woman who stole £1000 to fund her Candy Crush addiction, or this man who killed his five week old child as they were interrupting his game of Assassin’s Creed 3.
We don’t hear these stories as put simply, they don’t sell. No one wants to hear about how gaming can improve the world, when it’s easier to believe that kids are staying indoors and becoming antisocial because of it (No one tell these people about Minecraft). The Sun knew that when they printed that headline it would generate thousands of sales and clicks on their website. By talking about it here, I’m only contributing to their success, in a way.
In reality, everything is bad in excess. Any hobby or interest that begins to consume your whole life is unhealthy, whether it’s gaming, books, TV, or anything else. We’ve all been guilty of obsessing over something for a while, as anyone who’s binge watched a show on Netflix can attest to, but eventually you’ll come back to real life.
Gaming is just the latest in a long line of things that have been deemed a threat to society, simply because of their novelty. Rap music, the film industry, and the internet have all come under fire for similar reasons. Eventually, something new will come along and steal gaming’s crown as the ‘dangerous new fad’. Until then, we should read everything with a critical eye.