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Gaming addiction: myth, medical condition or moral panic?

December 6, 2010 2 comments

How much is too much?

Reporter Raphael Rowe on Panorama, investigates the state/reality of gaming addiction in the UK.

A surprising statistic caught the attention of many in the first ten minutes of the show with half of all homes in Britain owning at least one console. How many are in your house?

People queue for hours and hours just to get their hands on the latest release. Games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft (Cataclysm launched tonight) have become so popular they have dominated the gaming world. So with over three billion pounds a year being spent on gaming (more than films/music) what is the harm?

Two very clear views were given during the programme. For and against the idea of ‘gaming addiction’.

Case studies provided a clear-cut argument against gaming and its negative effects. One boy followed the motto of “eat, sleep and play games” and had got kicked out of higher education, which subsequently meant he was damaging his relationships with his friends and family. Another study revealed the violent results of parents trying to gain control over an “addicted gamer”, the boy kicking a hole in his sister’s wall and becoming full of rage after his parents disconnected the internet. A screen shot of a game character was used to express this rage if the description wasn’t enough.
The World Health described gaming as a “serious threat” and it was discussed that national recognition was needed. This addiction, unlike others, was suggested as subtle and lacks obvious signs, however, with more funding and research the idea of gaming addiction can be explored and defined.

To remain balanced the programme did discuss the benefits of gaming. Gaming itself is active and can enhance intelligence whilst also acting as beneficial escapism for gamers.

Is it just media hysteria? Moral panic that we always hear about?

Korea was provided as an insight into a country that has dealt with the issue of gaming addiction. Korea has a strong focus on gaming and technology with PC bangs on most corners, providing a night’s entertainment of gaming. Gaming is also highly recognised as a sport in Korea and shows gaming as almost culturally integrated.

Panaroma addressed the number of fatalities due to gaming: twelve. The most horrific case was a baby starved to death due to neglect from parents as they were playing online games. However the parents of the child were recognised to be depressed and with a low IQ. The mother of the child was even described as mentally unstable before gaming so this example seemed very stretched and unreliable. The game they were playing whilst their child was suffering was raising an online virtual baby. This story is not only heartbreaking but in one sense painfully ironic.
Korea has set up camps to address and rehabilitate people who may be addicted to gaming. These camps focus on social aspects such as improving communication and building relationships with family and friends. As these seem to be the worst side effects from gaming. This innovative approach to tackling ‘addicted gamers’ seemed beneficial in the fact that youths were reminded about other alternatives to gaming such as  the outdoors and the importance of relationships. However, the camp seems like a step too late in my opinion.

Overall Panaroma discussed important points to help combat the idea of ‘gaming addiction’. Ideas suggested that more money is needed to fund research which can help establish whether games themselves are addictive  or whether addiction stems from the person. Is it a personality trait? The programme recognised that games do incorporate powerful psychological techniques to create a compulsion loop, but without these there would be no substance to a game.

Many people suggested that games themselves should take responsibility in offering advice not only to the consumer, but in the instance of (vulnerable) children playing games, parents should be provided with guidance on what traits to look for in ‘gaming addiction’.

Perhaps games should also have ratings on addiction levels (formed from research) which can help a buyer decide what game to choose. A rating can be a basis on assessing whether the user of a game is mature and capable enough to handle the game and the level of addiction it provides. In an ideal world age ratings and addictive ratings could possibly combine and work together in harmony to ensure games are used by suitable users.

More funding, more clarity and more responsibility is needed in order to tackle the issue of ‘gaming addiction’. Right I am off to go and chat to all of my friends in Tunisia. Woops, I mean I am going to put on my headset, plug-in my X-box and play Call of Duty.

Related links

BBC Iplayer Panorama: Addicted to gaming

Listen to the James Hazzell show about gaming addiction and self harm

Guardian article on Panorama

Bournemouth welcomes snow

December 2, 2010 3 comments

The white blanket has finally reached the South in the UK. Reports, interviews and images from the BBC this week have documented how the cold weather has affected people commuting to work via public transport, flights bring delayed/cancelled, schools closing and even baboons have suffered a terrible ordeal!

However, as a student it will not interrupt my studies, routine or travel. I will embrace the weather shift. Although at 12.30am this morning (2nd December 2010) it has interrupted my sleep pattern. The picturesque snow in Bournemouth:

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See my flickr account for more pictures.

The real question tingling on everyone’s lips is, how is the snow affecting your week? The Marmite question. Do you love it or hate it?

The MeteoGroup predict a cold week ahead in Bournemouth. So wrap up warm with layered clothing, appropriate shoes and the essential hat, scarf and gloves, leather gloves are especially good at protecting your hands in this cold weather.

Is Google abusing its position?

November 30, 2010 8 comments

Google is the subject of talk again on Rebecca’s World and in the media. You may have read a previous Google article ‘Morality on the internet’ or ‘Fashionable Google’; however this post is questioning Google’s search engine appearance, as an investigation by EU is being launched into Google’s honesty.

Google is being investigated after sites such as Foundem (price comparison) and ejustice.fr (search engine) and Microsoft’s Ciao issued complaints. These sites claim that Google have penalised their websites and favour its own services.

Foundem and ejustice.fr have complained that Google have treated their sites differently as they are in the same competitive market. With the BBC’s figures in 2010 stating Google,

“has about a 65% share of the US market and about 90% in Europe”

It is clear why these sites have filed complaints, Google’s impact is overwhelming and they may feel this is due to Google’s ‘own specific structure’. Though the enormity of Google is bound to upset a few people, or should I say companies along the way.

The issues raised highlight and emphasise to us, (users of the web), just how prominent Google is in our everyday lives. I have seen Google as many people’s homepage and a commonly used search engine for absolutely anything from recipes to spellings to Google Scholar. The best example of Google being put to good use was when a friend of mine searched for Google. On Google. It almost brought a tear to my eye and made me realise the rise and expansion of Google has effectively made us (oblivious) and more dependent on the search engine. How many of us have Google as our home page? Let’s be honest. *Raises hand*.

From reading articles discussing the allegations towards Google you can understand the viewpoints of those websites filing complaints. They want answers, clarity, a resolution and a fairer search engine platform on the web. However, Google have responded by explaining how results (of those websites filing) are ranked. The reasons for these websites having little coverage, is not down to Google’s manipulation, but these sites are ranked poorly due to compelling reasons such as Foundem duplicating a large majority of its website content from other sites. The originality of a website is the first protocol to ensure trust between a company and a user. Copying does not sit well with most people.

I will continue to ‘search’ and report on the Google investigation in the upcoming weeks. Keep following the stories on Google by subscribing to this blog.

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