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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

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Paying our way to a lighter future

November 16, 2010 4 comments

The government is considering taxing fatty foods in order to reduce obesity. The BBC emphasise the increase of obese people in the last twenty years and that our country can not ignore this warning. A fatty good tax, is a (needed) wake up call and signal to society that change needs to happen, and soon. As quoted from the BBC article :

“Would putting up the price of junk food – with its high sugar and fat content – cut these rising obesity rates in the same way as a tax on cigarettes – vigorously contested by the tobacco industry at the time – has helped reduce smoking?”

Last night, Panorama aired a documentary, ‘Fat Tax’, with reporter Shelley Jofre, discussing the tax being enforced and the positive effects. As discussed by Private Healthcare the programme did not offer a new or fresh angle to obesity, however, it was informative but not necessarily inspiring for all viewers.

I think it is important to address the issue of obesity but there are a lot of unanswered questions with this approach. Who would decide what is ‘fatty food’ exactly? In order for effective taxing on ‘fatty foods’ the public and governing body would need to define what is ‘fatty food’. This term has been used continuously and repeatedly by media organisations and I for one feel it has lost a lot of value, content and effect. In a supermarket you may have heard something along these lines, “Oh no I am not eating that. That’s junk food. Yuk. It’s fatty food”. I feel there is a need to remind and update the meaning behind the phrase of ‘fatty food’ in order for us to progress as a healthy eating nation.

I feel this tax is forgetting a key aspect in battling obesity. Yes you guessed correctly. Exercise. We need to promote and encourage physical exercise in our lives and different lifestyles. Whether it is half an hours yoga in a morning, to participating in a particular sport, jogging every couple of nights, joining a club or society or attending a dance class. There needs to be more focus on media hype and publicity on the positive aspects on combatting obesity. Surely, a positive approach to such a negatively discussed issue would motivate people?

So don’t starve me of information now, as I need to know, would you pay a little bit extra for that one slice of chocolate cake? So rich, dark and velvety that simple melts on your tongue. A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips. And also on the bank debt. Or would you (as they hope), seek a healthier alternative and a quick fix to a ‘better’ body?

See the full Panorama ‘Tax the Fat’ programme

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