Book: Game Addiction

By Jim Rossignol on July 27th, 2009 at 9:00 am.

UPDATE: Oh God, will everyone please read John’s article here, where this stuff is covered in detail. What follows is a review of a book, not an exhaustive article on game addiction, as should be plainly fucking obvious. Thanks.

This week I’ve been reading Game Addiction by Neils Clark and P. Shavaun Scott. This authorial duo have created a book that should not be judged by its cover, and should definitely be read by a wide range of folks who are interested in knowing a bit more about where gaming now sits amid general electronic culture. Scott is a psychotherapist who provided expertise and case-studies to the project, while Clark is an academic, gamer, lecturer and recovered game addict who seems to have done most of the word-laying. Game Addiction is probably the most important work yet written on the subject of habitual gaming, and draws together a wealth of information that I’ll be going back to for some time. Read on for some more thoughts on the book itself, and why that might just be a poor choice of title.

I should stress that this is, for the most part, a straight-forward, well-constructed book, but there are nevertheless wobbles from the outset. Clark claims that “this book is neither pro-games, nor anti-games”, which seems like an interesting approach for a book that is entitled “Game Addiction”. We seem, from the cover itself, to be focusing on the problems inherent in gaming: addiction is necessarily a negative angle to take. However, Clark rapidly redeems himself by taking a wide-angle approach to the subject of gaming as part of a lifestyle. He attacks the issue by looking at what it means to game, why games are so powerful and potent, and why we love playing them. As the book progresses, and the portrait of gamers and gaming becomes more detailed, Clark and Scott demonstrate what a jungle of concepts the notion of “addiction” is actually obscuring. In fact, they seem to undermine their own choice of title when, in the concluding remarks, Clark writes: “Addiction is one word with many faces. When applied to games, it lumps together draws which are fundamentally different. Using it betrays our ignorance… People applying the word addiction should consider it an interim term. Though it may never fall out of fashion, it should.”

Strange that this book isn’t leading the charge on that one, eh?

Anyway, as the book makes abundantly clear, what really matters about gaming addiction and all the issues surrounding, clouding and supplementing the issue, is that we educate ourselves in the true complexities of habitual gaming. Games are – as we and the authors of this book know all too well – remarkably engaging and compelling. We need to recognise and describe this as a basis for getting to the negative/obsessive aspects of our gaming behaviours in a sensible fashion, as the book explains: “Before we talk about addiction, whether in neurochemistry, psychology, or any other area, we’ve got to acknowledge that the gaming experience alone can exert a forceful pull, even with the simple tradition of immersion.”

The book talks at length about just how “real” games seem to us: it dwells on the idea of a “real illusion”, which is something I’ve ended up mulling over a lot myself. (I don’t think Clark is always useful in his analysis of the nature of engagement and immersion, but it’s definitely the right thing to tackle in this book. Personally, I like Steven Shaviro’s “prosthetic reality” idea best of all, along with the notion of understanding gaming as extension, rather than “illusory” or “virtual”, and I’ll be writing about that soon, elsewhere.) What’s important, says Game Addiction, is that we understand some of the basis of gaming experience – how we play, why we play, why we experience it so viscerally, even when it can be so abstract – before we even consider its effects on gamers and their lives. It’s the right approach to take.

Clark and Scott spend some time on the well-trodden ground of what it is about games that make them different from other media, and although occasionally struggling to articulate the most important ideas, the book rapidly expands the topics that dominate the discussion: MMOs, and the added appeal and addictive qualities of online play. There’s a huge amount of material pertaining to online behaviours in here, and Clark carefully folds in a bunch of research from areas such as developmental psychology, neurology (with particular reference to current trends in neuroplasticity, which is something I’m very interested in), while adding a wider collage of anecdotal and academic resources to the mix. Game Addiction goes some way to flesh out the ramifications of what gamers are doing when they spend six hours a day in a game: it examines the activity, the rewards, the processes of reinforcement, the wider behaviours of habitual gamers, and even suggests a little about what might be happening at a neurological level. The idea that prolonged exposure to games isn’t having significant physical effects on us is, it seems, rather wishful thinking.

Game Addiction points out that the problems of excessive gaming come from all kinds of directions, including the social dimension of being friends with other highly-practiced players. As soon as you stop practising for many hours at a time, your game begins to drop, and that means you can come under pressure from other gamers who put in similar amounts of time. (I find this with FPS gaming, having played Quake III competitively. I almost can’t enjoy FPS games now because I want the high of absolute mastery, or nothing, from myself and my team-mates.) This isn’t necessarily bad, but it is part of the kind of gaming behaviours that do cause a problem, behaviours which this book, of course, describes.

What this means is that Game Addiction is damning of “grind” heavy games. At times, it seems like Clark is betraying his “not anti-games” by painting a deliberately bleak pictures of traditional MMOs. He’s quick to nod towards the complexity of these clever multiplayer constructs, and the positive side-effects of social gaming, but I couldn’t help feeling that grind-based games are beginning to become their own worst enemies when subjected to this kind of scrutiny. It seems like an impossible task to come away with a truly positive picture of their game model, and the way we gamers behave when playing them. They are not games that encourage balance in our lives.

What this book is about, I think, is balance. Certainly, it’s warning. It tells us to pay attention to games or “secondary worlds” as something that is important to our future. Not recognising significant problems early on has led to many a calamity, and Clark and Scott have identified the problems, and the potentials for problems, in gaming. But crucially, Clark and Scott are not attacking gaming as a medium or as a way of spending leisure time, but they are asking for – even demanding – that we look at education, and find concrete ways to inform gamers, children, and parents, of how to approach gaming with a sense of balance.

My initial reaction towards the nannying cry of “making sure people understand the dangers”, rather than relying on them to figure things out for themselves, as Clark seems to have done, was that it seems somewhat condescending. But, well, the said reality is that most people are stupid. And education is a lot better than governmental meddling or crude censorship. Since we don’t seem to have much self discipline, and we do neglect things because we’re busy playing games, we need to be told to take a step back and think. Clark and Scott are right to call time, because there are problems, particularly with regards to young children and videogames. (And also television.) They carefully point out that while play is essentially to the development of children – and indeed all infant mammals – screen-based play is peculiarly truncated, and does not offer all the sensory and psychological nutrients that we need. One of the most interesting observations is that while kids will project imaginative situations onto objects they play with in the real world “the stick is a pony”, they don’t tend to do the same thing with screen entities. A chicken on a screen is just a chicken. (Which I think could do with being examined further – do screens have some particular hold over our imagination that the real world does not? Does it suppress imaginative leaps? An intriguing prospect.) Perhaps the diversity of games, with new interactive possibilities, will change that.

“Everything in moderation” is a good rule of thumb, and could be a general motto for life, however hard it is to stick to. The evidence is that this is true tenfold for children, especially younger children, as this book makes plain. The younglings cannot be exposed to extended time with any screen-based entertainment without significant consequences to their psychological development. It is our generation – the prospective parents of the future – that need to be made to understood that. Children need more than screens to develop normally.

Anyway, Clark and Scott have compiled probably the best set of resources on this topic that is available to us at the moment. It’s a little slow and dry in places, but it’s not supposed to be entertainment. The nature of habitual gaming going to be a huge social issue in the coming years, of that there seems little doubt. Those people interested in the debate – which should be most of you, frankly – would do well to pick up this book, arm yourselves with Clark and Scott’s research, and continue following the army of experts, critics, and researchers that Game Addiction refers to. This is a practical and sensible starting point to understanding a subject that is going to loom ever larger in all our lives.

Neils Clark was a major contributor to John’s feature on gaming addiction, published in 2007. You can read it here.

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101 Comments »

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  1. sigma83 says:

    Where do I buy its?

  2. Totalbiscuit says:

    Definitely a poor choice of title. There is no such condition. A person with an addictive personality and poor self control can become addicted to any kind of stimuli. Treating the symptom and not the underlying problem is a horrendous idea.

  3. Cowthief skank says:

    Buy it on amazon.

    Regarding the title – so long as they explain exactly what they mean by their choice it is not so bad.

  4. Heliocentric says:

    Might i suggest that the book be called ‘Game addiction?’? The question mark could even be a sticker the retailers could apply to already published copies.

  5. Archonsod says:

    “Treating the symptom and not the underlying problem is a horrendous idea.”

    Fame and fortune starved psychologists?

  6. Frenz0rz says:

    “A person with an addictive personality and poor self control can become addicted to any kind of stimuli.”

    Aah TB, I remember hearing your take on this years ago when I played WoW, and I couldnt put it better. Gaming is not a chemical addiction, like nicotine or hard drugs. Even if it were, you’d still have only yourself to blame.

    What if you really enjoy long-distance running? Is that an addiction? If you really enjoy looking after animals? You like driving? Its the same thing, but society would not label it an addiction because it is, for the most part, morally acceptable.

    The fact is, the only people I’ve met who have been addicted to something, are likely to get addicted to anything they really like. They just have addictive personalities.

  7. Xercies says:

    I think the books title is aimed at people who want a book that is anti games, and maybe its a clever ploy to get them into the book and then shatter there perception. If so bravo on that front.

    I do agree that gaming can be addictive, but I hope in this book they mention people who play games more then socialize because they have maybe social problems and they can’t really communicate very well with other Humans. because sometimes that is the case.

    Also i do wish people would maybe go a little deeper into MMOs since there are a lot of positives to them as well as the negatives. I just find it a little bit shameful that they go through all this research about other games and they just do the stereotype view of MMOs. Maybe in their next book MMO Addiction hey.

  8. Noc says:

    Totalbiscuit: I think the point of the book is that that’s not entirely true, even if the title isn’t terribly accurate. I mean, we are seeing a lot of habits being formed by games in a lot of broad, noticeable ways that they aren’t by, say, books.

    Or even movies, or music, or what-have-you. Other media don’t engross us for large handfuls of sequential hours at a time. You finish a two and a half hour feature film and you’re exhausted, and want to do something else – you get off of a six hour video game binge and you’re annoyed that you have to eat, and planning what you’ll do when you play tomorrow.

    And the whole thing’s done with an extreme level of concentration. The closet analogue, I think, is a good page turner of a book; it’s not so much that games demand this level of concentration as that they pull you into it. An extremely engrossing book, however, is this way because of its narrative flow. It’s going somewhere, and it pulls you along – it necessarily has to end at some point, or you’ll get tired of being strung out and wonder off. Games, on the other hand, are very procedural beasts; even in the most interesting games, you’re likely to spend the vast majority of your time repeating the same tasks in multiple, slightly different iterations.

    Some games ARE narrative, but a lot of them aren’t. And the fact that basic acts of gaming – task repetition and skill honing, interspersed with rewards – is so disproportionately engrossing is significant.

    “Addiction” might not be QUITE the right word, but claiming that there’s “no such thing” is a pretty significant act of denial.

  9. MrBejeebus says:

    Bad choice of title for a book arguing that “addiction” is a bad term

    I think obsession is better word for it

  10. Jim Rossignol - AFK says:

    “There is no such condition.”

    It seems more like there are several such conditions. The problem is that classifying them under the same terms as “drugs are addictive” or “gambling is addictive” does not represent their nature, or the behaviour of “addicted” gamers. It’s quite a different problem.

  11. pilouuuu says:

    Is pleasure an addiction? I consider games a pleasure, but strangely games, underneath its entertainment surface are also work. It is fun work, but work after all. You need to learn skills and apply them. The reward for it is not money, but in cut-scenes, achievements, new graphics, etc.

    What I want to say is that games are really strange. They include many forms of art like images, sound, music, story; it also is work at the same time; it is interactive.

    I think that games are strange, but are also unique and so varied. Could that be the reason that many of us are at least obssessed with them? Because they sometimes simulate life, but at the same time they give us unique experiences which we couldn’t (shouldn’t) get elsewhere.

    I really love games and being a gamer!

  12. Psychopomp says:

    “I think the books title is aimed at people who want a book that is anti games, and maybe its a clever ploy to get them into the book and then shatter there perception. If so bravo on that front.”

    This

  13. Archonsod says:

    “Or even movies, or music, or what-have-you. Other media don’t engross us for large handfuls of sequential hours at a time. ”

    The only reason my Dad doesn’t spend six hours a night watching TV these days is because I got him a Wii. I have a friend who spends his downtime reading, he gets home, makes his tea and unless it’s Friday will spend the rest of the night reading. Often a single book (he loves those Russian nihilists).

    Other media does engross us for similar periods. In fact, fundamentally me, my parents and my friend are embarked on the same activity – staving off boredom. The only change there is the media, and I think if I’m really honest, the reason gaming holds me more than TV has, at least in part, a fair bit of influence from a juvenile brain making the association that TV was something the older folks were into, thus inherently uncool. Like Dire Straits.
    In fact, I wouldn’t be that surprised if my own kids turn out to be more engrossed in TV than a PC for much the same reason …

  14. AbyssUK says:

    Now look I can deal with the internets going mad about booth babes being lusted over, i can deal with l4d2 just being an update to l4d but at full price and and I can deal with a badly named book on gaming addiction. But calling Dire Straits uncool just isn’t on.. I demand an apology.

  15. Sam says:

    So, whilst I’d agree with Archonsod about the misleading comparison with other forms of media (I can happily spend hours reading a book, and once binged my way through 5 books of a fantasy series to “catch up”, without any of this “feeling of exhaustion” that apparently should have differentiated the experience from that of gaming), the key difference is that gaming is increasingly social.
    My early gaming experiences were social only really in the same way that heckling at the TV is social – there are other people present, and commenting/offering advice, but not directly involved in the media experience itself.
    Modern games, becoming more multiplayer focussed, are increasingly social in the way the book describes, and thus differently-“addictive” to other media. (That said, as Jim also mentions, and as I’ve complainedwhined about before, the competitive sense this engenders can actually be off-putting for the more casual gamer – I’m fairly sure one reason I enjoy TF2 less now than I did is that I’ve logged considerably fewer hours than the “average” player, so I’m horribly outclassed by my team and the opposing one.) In this sense, they’re addictive in the same way, perhaps, as the social-networking-site-of-your-choice – that is, because, like all “addictive” things, they give you a more concentrated dose of something humans like (interaction, in this case) than “reality” has.

  16. sigma83 says:

    I heard something about booth babes? Where?

  17. The Fanciest of Pants says:

    @AbyssUK

    Seconded!

  18. Noc says:

    @Archonsod: As someone who spent most of his childhood either reading or watching TV, I’m not sure if I agree.

    Watching TV is a passive activity. I think it only looks terribly engrossing by contrast; when you’re sitting planted in front of the TV, there is, almost by definition, nothing else interesting going on. I watched TV in the same way I trawl the internet for videos of kittens being adorable or click the “random” button on TV-Tropes now; it’s a good time waster.

    This is also what happens when I reread books. It’s not terribly engrossing, but it’s vaguely interesting and it passes the time. I do it because it’s marginally more interesting than doing nothing. And if it takes some force to move me, it’s because after hours of doing practically nothing, I’ve established some level of inertia. (A fair bit of gaming falls into this category too: most of it involves Flash games or indie platformers or something I’ve already played a while back.)

    There’s quite a bit of a difference between doing something for hours because there’s nothing else to do, and doing something for hours because you’re completely enthralled. Both TV and books can be properly enthralling, but they tend to need to be consistently interesting to manage this. (Mostly) Only in video games, though, does something being “addicting” have so little to do with whether it’s “fun” or “interesting.”

    I mean, I have followed TV and book series far past the point where I stopped enjoying them to find out what happens next, up to when I suddenly realized that I didn’t actually give a shit? But that’s the exception rather than the rule, while there’s an entire genre of video games revolving around joyless, repetitious tasks interspersed with rewards in the form of funny hats and/or plot.

    . . .

    @Sam: The “feeling of exhaustion” was specifically referring to that moment you get after you finished a movie (mostly in theaters) when you stand up and stretch and blink and realize that you’ve been sitting in the same place for an hour and a half. This feeling is integral to the movie-going experience. :)

  19. TOOTR says:

    So my cunning plan to adopt a young South Korean child bring him up with strong moral values and about 18 hrs per day minimum Starcraft training may still result in untold riches but could result in him getting psychological damage?

    Bah! No-one tells you these things til its too late do they?

    I’d filled out the adoption papers and everything…..

  20. aoanla says:

    @Noc (this is Sam, btw, I forgot to log in last time):
    I take your point, but I’m not sure that it’s a feeling of “exhaustion” – I get more of a desire to talk about the movie with other people. I get the same response with books and some games – although, the change in light-level (I suspect) involved in movie theatres does provide something of a “oh, it’s light again” response on leaving…

  21. TOOTR says:

    Where were my commas in my previous message? I was typing at the speed of KG speech patterns perhaps.
    @pilouuuu I’ve often thought the same regarding a lot of games could be construed as ‘work’

    Here’s something I’d like to see an article on, as gaming becomes increasingly mainstream and as more people enter the workforce with gaming experience : the use of gaming tropes such as achievements, mini-rewards as they can be applied to the Business environment. Particularly how they can be used to make all the project tasks I’m currently working on bearable and maybe even trick my mind into enjoying them more and motivating myself and my colleagues along the way.

    I’m sure I saw a blog or something similar on this once but a quick google has left me bereft.

    Anyone seen something similar?

  22. TOOTR says:

    Where were my commas in my previous message? I was typing at the speed of KG speech patterns perhaps.

    @pilouuuu I’ve often thought the same regarding a lot of games could be construed as ‘work’

    Here’s something I’d like to see an article on, as gaming becomes increasingly mainstream and as more people enter the workforce with gaming experience: the use of gaming tropes such as achievements, mini-rewards as they can be applied to the business knowledge working/information environment.

    Particularly how they can be used to make all the project tasks I’m currently working on bearable and maybe even trick my mind into enjoying them more and motivating myself and my colleagues along the way.

    I’m sure I saw a blog or something similar on this once but a quick google has dug up very little.

    Anyone seen something similar?

  23. Matt W says:

    “People are stupid” is a dangerous road to go down, IMO. It’s an easy solution to the craziness, but it also leads one into elitism and other reality-warping affectations. My gut feeling is that it’s less that people are /stupid/ per se (a problem with individuals) and more that people are incurious and unintrospective (a problem with a [sub-]culture). In this particular case it’s likely also true that most people have more important things to be introspective about than their gaming habits.

    Also, I’d opine that picking out traditional MMOs as a particular target here is largely fair, given that their success is built in no small part around their reward mechanisms, which by accident or design make for shall we say very compulsive gaming habits. Yes, there’s a bunch of positives in them, too, but the core progression mechanic is (I would say) not trivially defensible in this context.

    Also, agree with Xercies on the title, if it gets people with an anti-gaming mindset to read the book it’s a worthwhile ploy.

  24. Carra says:

    Interestingly, seen a documentary about game addiction yesterday. Mostly focusing on, small wonder, WoW.

    Gaming addiction is not yet recognized but there are plans to take it up into the DSM. As such, the only way to treat it is through private clinics. And they’re really not cheap.

    Mmorgps are especially addictive because they have a ton of mini achievements. “Ooh, two more hours and I’ll hit a new level”. “Ooh, maybe that new epic will drop”. “Ooh, if I play for another ten hours, I might get the new PVP rank and get a new item”… Yeah, I’ve been there myself. One ex game designer noted that symposiums were being held with the title “How do I make my game more addictive”. Says enough really.

    They also interviewed a few addicts. They all reached the point where it was being obsessive and it started wasting their lives. Playing over eight hours a day. And therefore not continueing your studies or looking for a job. Neglecting other hobbies, friends,… And basically being unable to think about anything but the game. Sure, you might take a break of an hour but in that hour, you’re not doing anything but thinking about the game.

  25. Andy`` says:

    TOOTR: There’s a games->’work’ article linked in one of the Sunday Papers, iirc, I don’t know which one though. Was a good article from what I remember, but I don’t have the time to find the link right now.

  26. Stuk says:

    while kids will project imaginative situations onto objects they play with in the real world “the stick is a pony”, they don’t tend to do the same thing with screen entities. A chicken on a screen is just a chicken.

    This is interesting, and in most current games very true. One slight counter-point I’d like to bring up is Minecraft, where all you have are cubes, and then you must “imagine” them into something.

    And (not that recently) there are ASCII games, which require quite a bit of imagination!

  27. Jim Rossignol - AFK says:

    Yeah, it’s a good argument for abstract approaches in games.

  28. pimorte says:

    @andy
    Oh, dear, I’ve been programming too much perl.
    As I was scanning comments the shape of
    games->’work’
    reminded me of instantiating a hash for a second.
    OK, off to play something mindless to compensate now.

    (and now back to your regular addiction comments programming…)

  29. Howard says:

    Was going to post a nice big rant here decrying the entire concept that this book espouses but thankfully some other sensible people have beaten me to it.
    Addiction is a medical condition that involves chemical and physical changes in the brain centered around the consumption of opiates or other powerful drugs.
    Games are not drugs. Period. May as well discuss the dangers of needlepoint addiction. Sure some people claim addiction to games but they are just weak willed and lack any form of any basic self control. Writing like this simply gives those morons an excuse to languish in their own laziness.

  30. Jim Rossignol - AFK says:

    “Addiction is a medical condition that involves chemical and physical changes in the brain”

    Extended exposure to videogames does make chemical and physical changes to the brain, so much so that videogame-based therapies are being used to treat specific learning difficulties.

  31. Gap Gen says:

    As someone who basically spent all of yesterday playing Empire, I can relate to this.

    I wonder whether augmented reality will make a lot of this less problematic. Part of the problem is that games offer a reality more exciting than the one outside – choosing between being a superhuman in a tropical paradise, and being a kid in a concrete jungle, I know which one I’d choose. Perhaps augmented reality games might bring games outside. That said, there are probably more basic solutions to the problems of addictive tendencies in heavy players of games.

  32. Gap Gen says:

    Another thing I’ve noticed is the need for information density. I’m rarely able to sit and watch a TV programme on a computer screen without opening another window and simultaneously reading something at the same time. I think there are many positive things about this – the major reason IQs have been increasing steadily over the years is primarily down to access to information. But equally, information, and the internet in particular, can be addictive.

  33. Howard says:

    @Jim
    That is wildly inaccurate. Videogame BASED therapies are being employed for sure, but those therapies are carefully constructed around specific activities known to stimulate specific parts of the brain, not just plonking someone with learning difficulties in front of WoW for 48 hours.

    This is a totally different thing and has bugger all to do with addiction…

  34. Catastrophe says:

    No, there is no such condition.

    Addiction by definition requires a physical negative effect to occur when the addictive substance is taken away.

    A game does not physically alter or effect your body (or more importantly – brain) and thus does not create a negative effect when taken away.

    It is NOT an addiction – it boils down to your prioritising, lazyness, procrastination to do anything other than what you deem fun and worthwhile.

    Its like watching TV and thinking “Oh i need to wash up…but I can’t be assed… I’ll do it tomorrow morning”.

    Its feeling like you have nothing better to do and would rather spend the time earning X kills or X levels or doing X raids etc.

    You stop drugs when you’re addicted – Cold turkey kicks in, your body reacts and you feel extremely ill.

    You stop drinking alcohol when you’re addicted – much like above.

    You stop playing the game you’re “addicted to” – You become bored.

  35. Archonsod says:

    @ Noc “I mean, I have followed TV and book series far past the point where I stopped enjoying them to find out what happens next, up to when I suddenly realized that I didn’t actually give a shit? But that’s the exception rather than the rule, while there’s an entire genre of video games revolving around joyless, repetitious tasks interspersed with rewards in the form of funny hats and/or plot. ”

    If they were truly joyless, they wouldn’t have many subscribers. It’s the exception though. As you say, you’ve watched a series long past the point it held any interest, the same applies across the media. I know people who go to the Cinema to see a movie every Friday not because they are film buffs, but because that’s what they do every Friday. People build themselves into these little patterns, it’s just what we do.
    I’d say the only way the MMO’s differ is because they’re not just a game – even if you do find the game itself dull and repetitive it doesn’t matter if you’re there primarily to hang out with friends.
    In fact, I bet there’s little difference between your example of TV and the average person’s MMO experience. For the first month or two after a subscription you tend to play it because it’s interesting. Three or four months down the line you’re interest in the game wanes and you’re playing simply because you want to hit a specific goal, or because your online friends are playing. Five or six months you’ve lost all interest but you play it because it’s there. Eventually, you get bored and ask why you’re paying for this shit every month, and cancel your sub or let it lapse.

    “Extended exposure to videogames does make chemical and physical changes to the brain, so much so that videogame-based therapies are being used to treat specific learning difficulties.”
    Extended exposure to life makes chemical and physical changes to the brain, that’s kinda how it works. The problem with using it to define an addiction is that you end up seeing any repetitive behaviour as an addiction. I turn up to work every morning, I suffer negative psychological effects when I don’t do it for a long time, yet I wouldn’t say it’s an addiction as such. Our brains are like Vista, they pre-cache stuff they expect you to do, then throw a wobbler when you don’t do it.

  36. Gap Gen says:

    It’s been suggested that game addiction is more like, say, a gambling addiction, in terms of being an impulse control disorder. It’s obviously not a physical addiction.

  37. dalig varg says:

    its pretty funny when everyones says think of the children and your like bugger off i want to elbow drop someone from the top of the empire states building in prototype.

  38. WestermannsLeksikon says:

    Don’t give the authors too much credit for the title. Authors don’t always have complete say over the title the publisher ends up putting on the book. Google is failing me, but I’m sure I read a review with one of the authors of “Grand Theft Childhood” (Olson & Kutner, 2008), which similarly presented a more nuanced conclusion on their subject than the sensational title would suggest, in which s/he said that they were not enthusiastic about the title but the publisher insisted it would sell better.

  39. Kadayi says:

    @Catastrophe

    I’d say surely with the MMO model of constant reward affirmation then there is probably some kind of chemical impact in terms of increased serotonin levels, during play. Plus there is a large social aspect to MMOs that if you drop out of them can impact upon your mood.

  40. Eisenhorne says:

    Addiction is just another word for something someone thinks you shouldn’t be doing. Balance in life is fine if you like hugging trees and believing what other people tell you is true without finding the truth out for yourself. Balance in life has little relevance to Gaming Addiction. If you play games A LOT like me then your balance is playing other games. Just like watching TV and watching different shows. You have been watching tv or surfing the Internet most of your lives and your fine. Playing games all the time or smoking or whatever your addiction is doesn’t make you who you are. Life long influences put you in front of games all day such ad bad parents, poverty, desire to be left alone. These dint make you bad these make you who you are. Gaming addiction belongs up there with all the other crackpot Freudian ideas long ago. The only reason these crackpots are given a forum is the same as Freud, no one else knows any better. Keep playing games, you are contributing to an unparrelled ability for social interaction, community, and fun which these so called addiction experts are telling you tour not getting.

  41. antonymous says:

    I hope this book has the kind of diplomatic language to make clear that idiot games like WoW don’t require any skill on the part of the player, and item drops are consciously designed as a kind of softer gambling/lottery with very similar symptoms as the old gambling addiction.

  42. TOOTR says:

    I think gaming is addictive.

    By which I mean I have seen friends and felt myself some of the lesser effects which are very similar to some of the physical addictions mentioned but none the less negative for that. I haven’t witnessed cold turkey type withdrawl as such but certainly witnessed mood swings /disorders when not being able to play the ‘game of choice’.

    If you are arguing that addition needs to be chemically based well….

    I strongly believe that a large part of the initial infatuation when you fall in, what you humans call, love is brought about by a massive amount of chemical changes that occur in the brain.

    Would you class ‘love’ as addictive? Robert Palmer would (and thus my argument ends ;) )

    Its obvious that some of feelings that some games can invoke closely mirror ‘fight or flight’ , associated endorphins and reward paths in the brain etc. Can someone get used to these feelings? Crave them if not available?

    By saying games are not an ‘addiction’ my opinion is being dismissive or just pedantic.

    I fully agree that the young should be educated on these issues – particularly as games become probably more immersive. Just don’t take my games away from my shaking hands ok? Now then…..just one more go…..

  43. TOOTR says:

    @ andy and off topic

    Thanks – I dug about a bit and found links to Seriosity – a consultancy service that applies psychological and economical principles from mmo’s to the workforce.

    At first glance I like their intent but am non-plussed by their methods. Interesting though.

  44. Andy says:

    I wonder how many of the “there’s no such thing as gaming addiction” people went on a 6-8+ gaming stint after writing that.

    Modern games with their flashy graphics and fast paced gameplay cause huge stimulations in the brain and large releases of brain chemicals; not as much as hard drugs but certainly a lot more than a normal person’s everyday life.

  45. LH says:

    FWIW, most book titles are NOT chosen by the authors. The publishers do it. At best the authors make suggestions, but ultimately the publishers pick a title they think will lead to greater sales. In this case, I wonder just how closely the publisher read the book.

  46. aoanla says:

    @Andy: of course they do. Modern blockbuster movies, with their flashy effects and explosions, implausibly attractive actors and rapid cutting techniques also cause huge stimulations in the brain and large releases of brain chemicals; not as much as hard drugs (or caffeine), but certainly a lot more than a normal person’s everyday life.

    All you’ve said is “modern games are stimulating”. Of course they are – otherwise people wouldn’t be interested in them!

  47. Catastrophe says:

    @ Kadayi

    I kinda worded some of what I said wrongly, but the essence of what I meant is there – doing anything can effect chemical changes in your brain, but there is NO negative physical effect when “cold turkeying” the game you’re “addicted” to.

  48. Cheezey says:

    It’s all about the neurochemistry at the end of the day. Like anything in life that can be classified as addictive its the nature of wanting to experience that “high” again that will keep an addict coming back for more. Easiest example would be something like Cocaine, which when used releases, and blocks the reuptake, of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine being the neurotransmitter associated with the brains “Reward Pathway”, hence its release in association with activities such as sex, eating and other naturally rewarding activities (and the precursors of those activities). Now a person who uses Cocaine doesn’t become addicted to snorting the damn stuff, they become addicted because of the effect it has on their neurochemistry. Applying that to something like an MMO game model (Do this, REWARD, Do this, REWARD, etc etc) it begins to create a false sense of accomplishment (and release of dopamine) that the brain is effectively unable to distinguish from if you were carrying out those activities in the real world. As someone who has ADHD, I guess its something I’ve always been a little more intimately aware of than some.

  49. aoanla says:

    Except, of course, Cheezey, long term cocaine use leads to quite significant alteration in brain chemistry, compensating for the “high” – and resulting in the unpleasant effects of withdrawal when you’re not full of cocaine. The unpleasant physical consequences of addiction are one of the defining characteristics of the condition, as Catastrophe mentions.
    MMOs don’t do that. Most things that don’t directly mess with your neurotransmitters don’t do that. So, they’re “addictive” only in the sense that people enjoy doing them more than things that aren’t as fun.
    (I believe, incidentally, that your distinction between “false” and “real” senses of accomplishment are flawed in any case. Clearly, you really are accomplishing something by completing tasks in an MMO – the fact that you’re not moving around physical objects is beside the point. It’s no different from Peggle playing Ode to Joy at you when you complete a level…)

  50. Butler` says:

    I think “don’t requiring any skill” is a bit harsh, antonymous. It aint Quake, but it’s about as demanding as MMOs get at the highest level.