Two Hours Of Gaming The Same As Cocaine?

By John Walker on May 27th, 2010 at 10:52 am.

Image by Willtron, published under Creative Commons.

An absolutely remarkable claim has been made by a UK therapist, Steve Pope, that playing videogames for two hours is the equivalent of doing a line of coke. I attempted to speak to him over the last 24 hours with little success, the results below. Edit: Mr. Pope has since texted me a statement, which I will add below.

It’s from an article in the Lancaster Evening Post that really hits every clanging bell. Games are like drugs, games are addictive, games lead to bad behaviour, and of course, games lead to violence. Claims that are made, as is so often the case, without links to any form of evidence. But is this an example of a gaming website getting angry when someone says something bad about games? Nope, the reaction does not come from that place. It comes from one of having done a lot of research into the subject, and a desire for evidence-based science and reporting to be conducted in the realm of gaming. Because, as we’ve said a number of times, if games are bad for us then we would want to know. So let’s look at how this is written, and ask why.

This arises from an article in the Lancaster Evening Post (picked up by Game Politics). It’s written without a byline, but quotes therapist Steve Pope, psychology lecturer Gayle Brewer, and mental health practictioner Peter Wilson. Nowhere in the article (apparently an abbreviated version of a “full special report” in the print version of the local paper) is there a link to any research, a reference to a study, nor any evidence for any claims made. It’s purely anecdotal, stated as epidemic fact.

Perhaps this is why: Of the very many studies looking into gaming, attempting to find causal links to either addiction or violence, none has proven a link. This was the case when the previous UK government commissioned a massive study into the subject, the Byron Review conducted by Tanya Byron, which again found no causal links between gaming and addiction or violence. The UK Interactive Entertainment Association (formerly ELSPA) – the body responsible for alerting parents and adult gamers to the dangers of gaming – states there is no such thing as gaming addiction. Project Massive could find no link, and found the term “addiction” inappropriate. It seems, from current research, there is no such link.

However, and let’s be absolutely clear about this, people can abuse gaming. There are those who play games at the expense of their own health. There are those who play games so much they lose their jobs, relationships, and families. For a minority of people, gaming can be problematic. Which is why the vast study of hundreds of thousands of gamers and their relationship with gaming, Project Massive, has opted to use the term “problematic use” when describing the negative results of gaming. They found “addiction” to be wholly inappropriate, not only because conflating the effects of gaming and the effects of alcohol/drugs/gambling was completely inappropriate, but because there is no evidence that games can cause addiction. Those who already suffer from addiction, from either genetics or as a result of trauma, can excessively play games. Much as they can excessively ski, garden or go bungee jumping.

That’s what current research points to. Even the largest advocates of gaming addiction are backing down. Keith Bakker, who became internationally famous for his Dutch gaming addiction treatment centre, has now said he was wrong to call it addiction.

This new article begins with the line:

“A schoolboy today told of his torment after becoming dangerously-addicted to computer games.”

Let’s look at the evidence they offer for this opening statement.

“It was like it was a demon that had got inside my brain and I just couldn’t stop. If my parents tried to stop me playing, I would just flip.”

And that, amazingly, is as close as they get to explaining the cause. A demon.

Therapist Steve Pope (a lawyer with an Advanced Certificate in Counselling and a Graduate Diploma in Psychotherapy) explains that young people use gaming as an escape (something that would seem to be anecdotally accurate for some) and then “get hooked on the release of adrenaline it gives.” An extraordinary claim, given without any evidence in the piece.

He then goes on to deliver his headline-winning statement:

“Spending two hours on a game station is equivalent to taking a line of cocaine in the high it produces.”

He also claims that gaming addiction is the “fastest growing addiction in the country”, links gaming to obesity, says it leads to crime, and “can spiral into violence”. Only with spurious anecdotes about unnamed children/teenagers he has seen.

We should look at one of those claims in particular:

“I saw one 14-year-old Preston boy who played on games for 24 hours non stop and had not eaten and was showing signs of dehydration. When his parents tried to take his console away, he became aggressive and threatened to jump out of a window.”

There are two possibilities here. Gaming itself caused this to happen. Or this person suffers from one of very many different conditions that can cause children and teenagers to behave in excessive, self-harming ways, and used games as part of this. Since all 14 year olds who play games don’t do it for 24 hours and then jump out a window, it seems reasonable to postulate that this individual has a distinct pathology that isn’t perhaps caused by playing a game. I’m being equally anecdotal, of course, but one situation is certainly more likely than the other.

Despite repeated attempts to speak to Mr. Pope, his promises to return our calls were not met, until we had held this article back for 24 hours waiting for him. He was keen to provide his side of the argument, and expressed passion for helping people to deal with their addictions. However each time I asked him if he had evidence for his claims he said they were based on his own experiences (“It’s about who walks through my door.”), and explained that he would need to call back. Understandably he was busy with patients. However, he was not able to call back at any of the times he suggested, including after work hours. In the few conversations I had yesterday, when I asked if he had evidence to corroborate his claims, Mr. Pope explained, “I don’t rely on reports”, and that he believes statistics are “lies, lies and more lies.” He told me that he definitely does have evidence to support his claim that gaming addiction is the fastest growing addiction in the UK, but has been unable to provide any of it so far. When I suggested that saying two hours of gaming is the equivalent of a line of cocaine was extraordinary, he expressed confusion that I’d think this. He told me I should read about the connection between cocaine and gambling. I replied that any link between gambling and gaming has been rejected, and was told that you get the same high, “when your level of kills goes up in Call Of Duty.”

We would still like Mr. Pope to send us the evidence to back up his claims. As we have always maintained in all our coverage of the supposed addictive properties of gaming, should harmful effects be demonstrated in controlled studies such information is of primary importance to us. It is not in our interest to ignore nor deny such evidence – we wish to protect ourselves and our readers. However, when we see claims made without evidence, we will continue to challenge them.

Edit: Mr. Pope, after failing to keep this morning’s arranged time to speak, attempted to contact me after the piece was published. He has since sent the following text explaining his position, again not including any links to the evidence he mentions. He is very critical of this post having been published without having spoken to him properly, despite his having been unable to keep any of his scheduled times to speak to us before we had to publish. He believes articles such as this could lead to deaths. This is his statement, minus his criticisms of our failing to speak to him:

“The human being can be, in my professional opinion, addicted to anything it finds pleasurable. There are links between the highs of gambling, and game stations which cause a similar pattern of behaviours in the brain as does class A stimulant drugs. There is a weight of evidence to support this. The test for me with any addictive process is are your actions having negative consequences. I see first hand the consequences of overuse of game stations usually with the sufferer using the game to escape the reality of life. And to the addictive personality this is dangerous. Invite your readers to take the test in the paper. I don’t do labels. I want people to recover and have balance in their life. The physical consequences are also horrific for the child of today which can lead to ill health through obesity etc. Please be balanced in your reporting as your views may kill people.”

No evidence has been offered at any point. There’s probably a rather good reason for this.

It’s important to state that Gayle Brewer’s comments are extremely sensible, calling for parents to regulate their children’s use of gaming, which is something that surely everyone would agree with. Peter Wilson’s comment was seemingly unrelated (“Whatever a person is addicted to, they can’t control how they use it, and they may become dependent on it to get through daily life.”). Then rather strangely the paper claims that the UKIEA declined to comment “on the issue of gaming addiction and whether they believed it was an issue they needed to tackle”, despite their making their opinions on the matter absolutely clear.

The reporting in the article is of the most remarkable irresponsibility, attempting to create a scare, rather than actively seeking available evidence. And the claims within it, so far, are completely without evidence, data or indeed reason. We want young people to be safe from any harmful effects that gaming may cause, and for this to be effective, much as with education about drugs, only accurate and demonstrable evidence is of worth. Indeed, anything else is potentially harmful.

The top image is by ‘perterbao’, found here.

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230 Comments »

  1. Frozenbyte says:

    Another bullshit claim that gaming leads to violence… I oughta kick that researcher’s ass!

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Well, phychology is called a “soft science”, basically it means people treat it as one, though it isnt.
      Look at their “experiments”, the famous game changing ones like the Milgram or Stanford Prison.
      They dont attempt to prove or disporve an observed phenomenon in according to a working model based on imperical evidence.

      They just say, lets do this, and this is what happens…
      Without control of variables and such.

      In short; not science, just gobbldygook with some of sciences methods tacked on.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Woah woah woah peter radiator full pig, criticising the WHOLE of psychology based on one dumb article about gaming would almost be as bad as criticising the whole of gaming based on a few mentally unstable gamers. Psychology is an extraordinary subject that has very much helped me out in life.

    • Foxfoxfox says:

      Peter you are talking about very old experiments there.
      Psychological studies do conform to proper research standards.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Just because something helped you, HexagonalBolts, doesn’t mean it’s sience. There isn’t a relationship there, a cause-effect. You would know if you would know your SCIENCE. :P

    • 12kill4 says:

      @Turin Turambar:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology give this a read and pull your head out of your arse. I realise that wikipedia isn’t the most dignified of sources but I’ve already suffered my quota of fools today, so it will have to do.

    • Mr Labbes says:

      Also, the psychologists I know don’t think that statistics are not “lies”. After all, if you are working with statistics, you need to be able to find your own mistakes.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “They dont attempt to prove or disporve an observed phenomenon in according to a working model based on imperical evidence.”

      Disproved and empirical, but isn’t that exactly what psychology does in fact do?

      Psychological statements are falsifiable in principle, so we would be remiss if we called it anything but a science. There are some wacky psychologists and experiments (the ones you pointed out, for example) but then, there’s some wacky scientists from other disciplines too.

    • Muzman says:

      Milgram was arguably closer to a Sociologist in many of the things he did, but anyway….
      It’s virtually impossible to be properly reductive when dealing with complex systems like human beings and their social relationships (indeed many of the Behaviourists thought you could do hard science on human behaviour. They weren’t all that successful and modern neuroscience has proven their approach faulty at best). I’m not going to call Psych and Soc hard sciences for a moment, but if the deciding factor is perfect variable isolation then much of medicine is also derived from ‘soft science’ since you can never tell from what works in vitro the effects that will carry over in organism.
      Introducing artificial circumstances and just watching what happens has been a staple of many scientific theories (which then get followed up with proper controlled experiments). Psych does rely on proper science quite a bit, but there’s always room for quacks. As with anything.

    • Nick says:

      Statistical analysys is a HUGE part of psychological studies, the above guy should not be acredited with anything resembling a psychological qualification with that belief.

    • Wilson says:

      @Peter Radiator Full Pig – Yeah, as others have pointed out, that isn’t what psychology is any more. There’s plenty of stats and proper scientific method in psychology today. It varies across areas (some social psychology stuff will have less rigorous methods than biological psychology for example) but it is still very much based on good scientific procedure for the most part (and the parts that aren’t should get properly criticized for it in peer review).

    • panik says:

      The trick is, after 2hrs of gaming, play eve online…its like a double dose of laudanum.
      It balances things out.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Well first, hexagonal, im not basing this fact on one article.

      Psychology, by necesity, deals with emotions and personalities.
      How do you measure those? What instruent do you use to get data on these?

      Even if you statistically analyse the result of how you get them (Questionaires, maybe?) the fact that you are dealing with unsure data, with no accountable error, from sources that may or may not lie, you arent going to get useable results.

      Even if execute a perfect experiment that is flawed in its design, the experiment is still flawed.

      Or, to counter it within its own framework, a recent study showed that judges in a match were more likely to score a person wearing red (versus a person wearing blue) better.
      They switched the colours digitally, and the red one significantly more often.

      So, then imagine it applied to all perbious experiments. Prehaps a red blue bias has renedered all the pervious results of certain experiments moot.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      ITT: People not knowing the difference between Psychology and a Psychiatrist/Psychotherapist (he’s referred to as a “Therapist” so could potentially be either, both or none).

      Damn I’ve made that mistake again where I expect people to have some idea of the subject they’re attempting to make comment on the internet.

    • THEAlmightyRadish, uh , RADOK says:

      @ Panik

      Maybe you should try something else but mining or station hugging.
      Whenever I play EVE my adrenaline is peaking – may have to do with me PVPing and EVE having one of the harshest death penalties of all MMOs on the market.

  2. Roadrunnerr says:

    Being a gamer over the years, I’ve been presented with ridiculous claims, the classic MANHUNT KILLS PEOPLE to PLAYING VIDEO GAMES MAKES YOU INTO A SEX-PERVERT.

    But this has to be the stupidest, most ridiculous claim I’ve ever read. The government should take away his degrees and feed them to a fairly large alpaca.

    • Gepetto says:

      You’re assuming he actually has a degree.

    • Stromko says:

      As good as cocaine? FUCK YEAH. Gaming is awesome. :-)

    • Skurmedel says:

      Wouldn’t be fair to the poor alpaca.

    • Lack_26 says:

      I ought to take a gameboy to nightclubs and let people use it, I reckon I’d make about as much money as the the coke dealers, after all, it’s the same as Cocaine.

    • Subject 706 says:

      But this has to be the stupidest, most ridiculous claim I’ve ever read. The government should take away his degrees and feed them to a fairly large alpaca. flock of chimpanzees.

      Fixed that for you. Alpacas don’t eat psychologists, you know.

    • Spacewalk says:

      Long have I been using games and many a time have found myself digging through bargain bins in back-alley chain stores in order to feed my habit. Even buying “floppies” from “dealers” in the schoolyard, they called it “share ware” and I just kept going back for more. I was hooked.

      There seems to be no end to this addiction.

  3. Wilson says:

    This is depressing, but more for journalism than gamers I think. You’d think that if anyone was going to critically analyze an argument or position before spreading it around, it would be journalists, but there you go. Always a few (or many) bad apples I guess. I should state that I don’t think all journalists are corrupt/lazy/inept but that’s why it’s always a shame to read this kind of thing.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      The problem is that doing actual journalism is far more time consuming and expensive than rewording a press release or taking the word of a self-proclaimed expert verbatim without actually checking up on any facts.

  4. Azazel says:

    Gaming leads to Cheetos and beard growth. FACT.

  5. Lambchops says:

    Well I’m bloody glad I’ve never tried cocaine then. If the high is only equivalent to 2 hours gaming that would be a terrible disappointment and awful waste of money.

    In seriousness though, good article John. As ever, you’ve looked at the claims with calmness and reason and done your research a damn sight better than those making them.

    • Wilson says:

      @Lambchops – Yeah, I thought that. I tried the MW2 demo when it was free, and must have leveled up like five times :)

    • jsutcliffe says:

      My wife has spent time with both people on coke and gamers (“separately, thank god” she says), and says that gamers are far less annoying and at the very least much quieter. Not that this necessarily has anything to do with addiction to videogames.

    • Anonymousity says:

      It appears I’ve been wasting money on blow, in australia I could buy 4 copies of modern warfare for a gram, I truly have been getting screwed.

  6. simbo says:

    John Walker is the Ben Goldacre of gaming

  7. Colthor says:

    I once tried to snort Portal through a rolled-up tenner. Never Again.

    • terry says:

      The trouble with shooting portal is finding another vein to fire it out of.

    • Magiced says:

      These ‘Portals’ are a crack in reality!
      Crack in reality, crack cocaine. A coincidence? I think not!
      WHAT ELSE AREN’T WE BEING TOLD?

      (excerpt from the comments from the upcoming Mail special on portal 2)

    • Sarlix says:

      @Colthor, terry & Magiced.

      You guys just made me lol so much I had to go do some Portal to calm down.

  8. Lack_26 says:

    Any particular reason for using the British ‘adrenaline’ and then changing to the American ‘Norepinephrin’ instead staying on a constant use and sticking with the British ‘Noradrenaline’? Sorry to be so pedantic.

    Anyway, aside from that, it always seem to me that the people who make these claims base them on “solid evidence, you’re just not allowed to see it. Why? Erm… doctor patient confidentiality , yeah that sounds about right, I’ll go with that. But it does exist, honest”.

  9. Auspex says:

    Don’t worry John.

    Some day your addiction piece will get the attention and recognition it deserved on publication.

  10. lhzr says:

    i stopped reading at “demon”. sorry Lancaster Evening Post.

    anyway, why bother with what a random rag has to say? they print terrible shit ALL THE TIME.

  11. Gianandrea C Manfredi says:

    This is awesome. The value for money for individual games must have gone up after this discovery. Not only that but we have a new treatment in the ‘line’ for cocaine addicts that would stop many of the other problems associated with the drug.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    I tried grinding up old pc gamer demo dvds and huffing them. No effect. Will try mmo trial discs before moving onto anything more valuable, i can see this being an expensive habit.

    • BigJonno says:

      You need old Amiga Power cover floppies, ground up fine, dissolved in rum and then injected.

    • Subject 706 says:

      No no. You should remove the harddrive containing your Steam/Games folder. Open up the harddrive and remove the magnetic discs. Put them on a slate of aluminium foil and apply flame. The breathe deeply of the fumes.

      Effects may vary according to the quality of the games installed.

    • Spacewalk says:

      I grind up floppies and magnetic discs. I call it Speedball 2-ing.

    • Nick says:

      Well played, Spacewalk, well played.

    • Spacewalk says:

      After my periods of “Brutal Deluxe” I wake up surrounded by broken joysticks with all but one button torn out and no recollection of what happened over the past five hours.

  13. Alexander Norris says:

    I will now ignore the actual article and go by the post title only:

    Gaming two hours a day gives you energy and renews your self-confidence but is incredibly expensive in some areas of the world? I can’t see anything wrong with that.

  14. Lewis says:

    Someone should totally contact Tom Bissell for comment on this. ;-)

    The two things that amused me most about this article:

    1) There are so many wonderful logical conclusions to draw from this argument. If gaming leads to an “equivalent high” as cocaine, and therefore games are bad, than what other equivalents could we come up with? Perhaps it should be noted that going for a jog raises your heartrate EVEN HIGHER!!! than cocaine, and therefore no one should ever exercise again.

    2) This applies to so many articles of this ilk, but it’s always “REMARKABLE CLAIM” followed by a sentence beginning “One teenager…” And, of course, the operative word is “one”. Across a sea of millions and millions. You can only find one case to report on? Then regardless of whether it’s true addiction or not, it’s statistically insignificant beyond all belief. Which makes these bold claims such astonishingly Bad Science that I think I’m going to go insane.

    Then again, that’s probably a result of all the fucking gaming I do.

    • bob_d says:

      Is it an “equivalent high” or “a similar pattern of behaviours in the brain” as he goes on to claim? That the two are conflated shows how intellectually sloppy and unscientific this person is. The two claims are very different, the first is a specific, unsupportable claim with no evidence and the latter is so vague as to be meaningless. I’m not even sure what he means by that – is that supposed to be a reference to the patterns seen in brain scans? In which case, disparate activities can have similar patterns in some respects, without there being a meaningful connection. Perhaps he means the addiction response the brain has to cocaine is similar to what it has playing games – but that’s even more absurd and counterfactual than the first statement.
      Bah, why even try to make sense of it – this is a man who claims evidence of games being addictive by redefining addiction! There’s a reason why we have a clinical definition of “addiction” that *isn’t* “something that has negative consequences.” That’s because pretty much anything can have negative consequences: oversleeping, spending too much time indoors, eating ice-cream, and even making spurious claims about addiction.

  15. Shivoa says:

    My limited research shows no link between the results of the two headlined activities. I wonder if the Govt or even just a newspaper will give me a serious grant to do more extensive research. A full study is obviously required to answer the scientific debate brought up by these eminent(ly quotable) researchers. It won’t be cheap but someone’s got to do it, for the kids.

  16. Lewis says:

    I heard that one person, once, somewhere, died while putting on his pants. UNDERWEAR CAUSES DEATH, EVIDENCE SHOWS!

    • user@example.com says:

      The trouser incident in Blackadder the Third comes to mind. Best series of Blackadder, that was. <3

    • Alexander Norris says:

      “Underwear causes cancer, says study.” — The Daily Mail

      “Clothes cause cancer, says expert.” — The Daily Mail

      “Cancer causes cancer, says entirely credible teenaged mother of two.” — The Daily Mail

      “Daily Mail causes cancer, says only flawless source of truth in UK (the Daily Mail). UK to implode from irony.” — The Daily Mail

  17. Easydog says:

    This is ridiculous scaremongering. Back in my wayward youth, years back now, I tried cocaine and I can assure you (anecdotally, of course) that the high is VERY different to that of “going up a level”. I can also state (anecdotally) that being addicted to a substance and repeated self-harming behaviour are also very different things. Typical of the media to play on peoples fears by suggesting a symptom as a cause.

    Playing devils advocate though, the brain does reward itself for doing certain tasks with dopamine which is chemically similar to cocaine, but in significantly smaller quantities and far less dangerous. This is an intersting area but to suggest that gaming can induce the release of dopamine equivalent to a cocaine high is, frankly, ridiculous and irresponsible.

    What we need is clear emperical evidence though. If we had actual research in this area then there would be a clearer idea. I’m pleased with this article though, it’s always best to fight mudslinging with maturity :)

    • Easydog says:

      “Cocaine is a selective dopamine reuptake inhibitor, not ‘similar’ to dopamine.”

      Literally found this quote just after posting. Ignore my previous ignorance. Should fact check before I post.

    • Lewis says:

      Indeed. The key difference, of course, being that reward activity releases dopamine, which is a perfectly healthy thing, whereas cocaine prevents your brain from re-absorbing it so it’s effectively all just floating about and making you giddy, which is not a healthy thing. But, sure, both result in higher dopamine activity in the brain. I’ll go with that.

      Of course, the ridiculous thing is that it’s borne of an assumption that “stuff that produces the same effects as a bad thing” = “bad”. Even if it did produce the same effects. It’s why the primary reasons people cited for the mephedrone ban were utter nonsense, and why – while I’ve no doubt that it’s a dangerous drug, probably, and research would have eventually proven that – the ban at this stage was stupid beyond belief… but that’s a different topic entirely.

    • Lack_26 says:

      Yes, but as a DRI it does boost DA. (Although I believe it might be in different parts of the brain, I’ll have to check that).

    • Lack_26 says:

      I should rephrase that, it boosts the levels of DA neurotransmission by preventing the DA’s reuptake into the pre-synaptic neurone (and then metabolism by an MAO), which of course has a stimulant effect.

    • Easydog says:

      Hmmm… the reward chemical being constantly in your brain may explain why you become such an unruly and arrogant fucker on cocaine – if your brain is rewarding you for everything you do then that may be why you feel as if you can do no wrong when you’re high. Interesting.

      Again, utterly unrelated to gaming.

      This is turning out to be an intellectually rewarding morning. Awesome.

  18. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Do you mean “causal” link? Also, what’s an “epidemic fact”?

  19. Lewis says:

    Maybe this is why games are getting smaller, less exciting and less effective at stirring up much feeling at all.

    • Sobric says:

      @ Lewis

      No that’s because games are being cut with poor-quality console rubbish. Go straight to the source man, get the best stuff.

    • Lewis says:

      The market floods with diluted product, and the price of the really good stuff immediately rockets to 50 quid.

    • Sobric says:

      Seriously I know I guy from Germany, he says he can hook you up with some good stuff, and you can Pay Whatever You Want, with like, Money and Shit.

    • BigJonno says:

      Does this mean that DRM equates to being cut with rat poison?

    • Quasar says:

      Nah, DRM is more like the dealer standing and watching you take the drug in question, so that you can’t possibly share it with anyone else.

      Ubisoft’s DRM would be like having to phone up your dealer every time you wanted to take anything, to ask him if it’s okay.

      DLC, on the other hand, would be extra bits of cocaine (flakes? granules? I don’t know) that you can add to increase the length of a line. However, it’d generally be of a lower quality.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Almost tired of reading the comments on this article until I got to this point. Had a good chuckle.

  20. Corporate Dog says:

    You know what else is addictive?

    Making outrageous claims to gullible rubes in a public forum, so they will bring their children in to your clinic, and throw large gobs of money at you.

  21. EtsSpets says:

    Addiciton or not, escapism is not good either, especially in the long run and games provide a perfect place to “run away” to. And ignoring/running away from problems and issues that need attention cant be good.

  22. Frenz0rz says:

    An excellent read to start my day off, but god damn does this sort of thing make my blood boil. Its like gaming is a young teenager, and these ‘authority figures’ are obnoxious parents, constantly looking down on us no matter what cohesive and sensible argument we bring to the table. It depresses me to think that gaming will never be accepted as a varied and vibrant form of media because of the prejudices of stubborn, stupid people.

    I mean, this chap thinks he understands how gaming is a form of escapism, but instead of looking at games of every genre and the multitude of different worlds one can become absorbed in, he jumps directly to CoD and some bullshit ‘adrenaline’ argument. Playing CoD multiplayer is in no way a form of escapism; to say so is to entirely misunderstand what escapism is. You do, occasionally, feel a surge of elation and increased heart rate at defeating 5 other people in a row, escaping from certain doom in a tactically hopeless situation, or any other exciting event in a multiplayer environment. But, as gamers, we all KNOW that its because we’re playing against real people, and that someone on the other side of the world is cursing your victory; not because of some insane bloodlust or craving for violence. But none of that is escapism!

    Escapism is, as a 13 year old kid, coming home from another shit day at school, a day you’d rather just forget, and spending a few hours with your imagination utterly lost in Morrowind. Its like reading a good book, but you, to an extent, make the story. Your story, free from anything that you have to suffer out in the real world. Thats escapism. Im no longer that 13 year old kid, but I can still appreciate escapism whenever I feel the need to, diving into a world where I can roleplay to my hearts content. If anything, I feel pity for people who will never experience such things due to their blind misgivings about gaming as a form of media.

    • Thants says:

      This kind of thinking should die out eventually though. Every new medium goes through this phase when it’s new.

    • Nesetalis says:

      how ‘new’ is new? :p video games have been around for decades..

      but aside that… Escapism is good to an extent. Especially in the shit world we live in where everyone feels helpless to change anything and in many cases, are helpless.

      video games allow us to relax and destress.. to enjoy ourselves, even if we live in a slum. when I grew up in a midwestern US ghetto, my escape was books.. id read until well past dark, and forget about everything. My younger brother used video games.. did it make us ‘bad’? not a chance.. we didnt join gangs, we didnt kill people. we grew up, got out of the slum, and had less need for escape.

      who the fuck does this guy think he is, trying to demonize escapism? fucking idiot.. find the cause of the need to escape.. find out why the person gets addicted, SOLVE that problem… games are a method of escape, not a cause of addiction.

  23. The Great Wayne says:

    Interesting theory.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure that if people used video games instead of cocaine we’d not be in such a mess regarding traders and stock exchange.

  24. Louise says:

    I’m just hoping all this crap will die out over the next couple of generations, along with the idea that only teenage boys and recluses in dark rooms play games.

    That’s going to happen, right?

    • Corporate Dog says:

      Ozzy Osbourne’s a sitcom dad and commercial spokesperson, instead of the Human Incarnation of Satan, who will Addict your Child to Black Magickses, and the Taste of Bat Heads.

      So, sure. Anything’s possible.

  25. +--JAK--+ says:

    Would it really be such a big deal if Britains fastest growing addiction was gaming? Surely better to have the tubby little fuckers sat on their arses eating skittles and playing games than on the streets knifing each other for drugs?

    This report seems to be saying that if gaming causes the same high then it is a bad thing, surely other pleasures such as sex have a similar effect but no one compains that kids are addicted to sex. If a videogame can make you feel that good then its a fucking good game and deserves to be played, I would wager that Mr Pope has a serious envy for any child having fun and will soon write a report that playing hide and seek produces an adrenaline based high equal to heroin!

  26. Frye says:

    The demon in my brain has gotten addicted to Tetris, so he’s no longer bothering me.

  27. Tom OBedlam says:

    Excellent article, John. I saw this on the Escapist a couple of days ago and I thought it was genuinely one of the worst newspaper articles I’ve ever encountered. Not just because its part of the anti-gaming bias (if this was the 50s he’d have said comic books had the same high as coke) but because the absolute paucity of journalistic merit. No fact checking, no data, just pure nonsense at high volume a la Melanie Phillips.

  28. Heliocentric says:

    Wait, gaming causes obesity and this kid forgot to eat. Surely opposites?

  29. Schmung says:

    Articles like this don’t even deserve the effort of a response. The claims the article makes are so obviously spurious and absurd that treating in any way seriously implies that they may have some merit – which they clearly don’t.

    Insert semi-obvious gag about weekend long CoD binge resulting in waking up hallucinating, skint and bollocks naked in a gutter with my half my septum missing

    • Schmung says:

      bah, no edits here. Should point out that as always Johns article is an interesting read, but I think that even dignifying this sort of shit with a response lends the absurd claims a sort of second hand validity.

  30. NukeLord says:

    John, I think you’re addicted to writing about gaming addiction. Your life would be improved considerably if instead you did a line of coke three times a day, after meals.

    I have evidence to support this, it’s written on the back of an envelope in this pile of scrap paper somewhere. I’ll get back to you when I’ve dealt with the polic- er, patients at my door.

  31. Cooper says:

    Media in mis-reporting science in order to push an agenda shocker?

    Like the article, I’m more interested in this guy who reckons he’s had enough people through his door with games related problems that he thinks he’s an expert on the subject. Methinks someone is trying to make a name for himself – what’s the betting he’ll be appearing on tele in the near future?

  32. Sarlix says:

    Yeah, I smoked some Half-Life once, but I didn’t inhale!

    But seriously do these ‘therapists’ have nothing better to do? Anything can be seen as an addiction, it’s all about context really.

    I see a woman power walk the same route twice a day, every day. Is this an addiction? What about the guy who goes to the gym twice a day to lift weights, is he addicted? Maybe, maybe not.

    The point is why do these people keep pointing their fingers at gamers all the time?

    My theory then:

    Mr Steve Pope and the like obviously suck at games, they probably got pwned online some time and now have formed an inferiority complex that they try and hide by discrediting gaming.

    A classic example of self-denial via the medium of games. *adjusts monocle*

  33. Heliocentric says:

    We are doing it wrong. We need to make a game which pushes the “tabloid newspapers just like hiv”.

    • Flimgoblin says:

      Oooh… now there’s a game idea..

      You play an ordinary human being till you pick up a tabloid, it then “reveals” that amongst the people around you there are EVIL GAME ADDICTS (and or immigrants/people of a particular skin colour/race/political leaning) amongst the population (in the style of “they live”). You then proceed to gun them down until the tabloid timer runs out, returning you to usual powerlessness till you collect another tabloid…

  34. Zetetic says:

    If I may so bold, you’re gibbering. For example, Milgram’s Obedience Experiment was part of a number of attempts by Milgram and other to better refine the model of obedience Milgram postulated; in short, attempting to determine the relevance of the authority’s perceived expertise, the nature of the authority’s encouragement, the proximity and nature of contact between the subject and ‘victim’, presence and behaviour of confederates, etc. (As well as attempts to simply replicate the study, for example, cross-culturally and simply with different cohorts.) Specifically Milgram’s original experiment was attempting to determine the relevance of situational factors on an individual’s behaviour when faced with the choice to participate in acts seemingly at odds with their own moral intuitions. Psychology, as practiced today, is largely not a ‘soft science’ where no attempt is made to follow the scientific method; it’s a bloody hard one where it’s damn nigh impossible to devise a perfect experiment. Nevertheless, the attempt is made, papers are criticised for over-interpreting ambiguous data (as arguably all data is…) and the cycle of experimentation, control and hypothesis continues

    More relevantly to the actual article – it’s wrong to disregard the relevance of low-level reward mechanisms in gaming, and the possible difficulties that those disposed to poor behavioural control might encounter with computer games. (Arguably some games, such as WoW, are very deliberately designed towards promoting habitual behaviour where there is likely to be relatively poor control). As Project massive’s abstract even notes “An individual’s level of self-regulatory activity is shown to be very important in allowing them to avoid negative outcomes like problematic use.” Teenagers and children, unsurprisingly, tend to be relatively poor self-regulators so it’s similarly unsurprising that there is a greater incidence of problematic use. None of this excuses the kind of scaremongering (which openly admits to disregarding research!) and exaggeration discussed in the article.

    If I were to criticise John Walker for anything, it would be that, just like those who’s reporting he is discussing, he fails to establish very clearly what is meant by ‘addiction’ here. Quotes such as ‘They found “addiction” to be wholly inappropriate…’ seem somewhat disingenuous without this.

    (Disclaimer: I have no qualifications in Psychology, but am an undergraduate studying the subject at a British university. Oh, and I play computer games…)

  35. Archonsod says:

    What amazes me is a 14 year old playing on a console for 24 hours is clearly a problem with gaming, and not an excellent example of child neglect. I’m sure there’s laws regarding that kind of thing.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Well yeah, anytime I hear “This 12 years threw a rock at his teacher” or “This one plays computer games for 24 hours” or anything of that ilk, what I’m really hearing is “fuck, people have no idea how to take care of their little fucking resource consumers”

    • Nesetalis says:

      agreed whole heartedly..
      if you let your kid sit on a game for 24 hours… and DONT try to figure out WHY the kid needs to sit on a game for 24 hours… you are probably the reason he sits on the game for 24 hours :P

  36. dave says:

    If this is true why am i spending all of my corps ISK on blow?

  37. Wrongshui says:

    Line of coke seems accurate to me.

    I mean I always play Eve Online off the back of a dead hooker.

  38. ShaunCG says:

    Great rebuttal John, and honestly more than any fool anti-statistician or fear and hate-peddling tabloid deserves.

    One typo I spotted:
    “…the Byron Review conducted by Tanya Byron, which again found no casual links between gaming and addiction or violence.”

    I believe that should read “causal”!

  39. Brumisator says:

    What’s wrong with a little cocaine?

    Stop demonizing pharmaceutical products just because they’re not widely accepted legally.

    • Robert says:

      A little? Nothing, but it will make you physically want more. Well, not directly.. but your body will react if you take less.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Cocaine isn’t addictive. It makes you dependent. And it takes an absolutely massive amount of abuse to become dependent on it. All in all it’s really rather fun.

  40. jordanwise says:

    Many students skip school to sleep, and can sleep for up to 24 hours in one go. They may also skip meals while sleeping and attempt to jump out of the nearest window if disrupted.

    Jordan, who lives in Newcastle, said: “Sleeping in my bed was all I wanted to do and it was the first thing I thought of as soon as I woke up. I would sleep for hours on end without even realising.”

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      It start off with just a nap every now and again, but soon I started getting powerful withdrawal symptoms everytime I went more than 12 hours without sleeping. I’m hooked.

    • Lilliput King says:

      It was like some kind of demon got inside my head and made me sleep.

      If my parents tried to stop me sleeping, I’d just flip!

  41. Dawngreeter says:

    Hi, my online handle is Dawngreeter and I’m addicted to idiots. I can’t go a day without reading about some idiot or talking to an idiot. I really tried to, I just can’t pull it off. I firmly believe the only explanation for this is that I am subverting the entire humanity in order to feed my idiot addiction.

  42. Rath says:

    There is at least some evidence of gaming addction.

    But no, not really. Disgusting article, excellent rebuttal.

  43. Generico says:

    Ya know, I have to say I agree with this guy. I mean, that last time I stopped playing the Starcraft 2 beta I thought to myself “Man, I would totally suck a d*ck to get more of that!”

    Yup, it’s exactly like doing a line of coke.

  44. Spinoza says:

    Hello. My name is Spinoza and I’m addicted to RPS.

  45. utharda says:

    Look, I know cocaine, and.. gaming? Gaming is no cocaine. Hell, gaming isn’t even taking a handful of clairitin D.
    They really need to move the psychologists out of the sciences or even humanities departments, and right out into the street with the Scientology and chiropractors. Methodology my ass.

  46. Robert says:

    Old! Like older than RPS.

    Herr Marx was there before:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people

    Replace Opium with Cocaince, and religion with gaming.

  47. terry says:

    I’d like to wish Mr Pope well on his future employment at the Daily Mail.

  48. Adrian says:

    apparently i have been an addict for years….

  49. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Lambchops said:
    Well I’m bloody glad I’ve never tried cocaine then. If the high is only equivalent to 2 hours gaming that would be a terrible disappointment and awful waste of money.

    Hey! That’s my schtick

  50. The Sombrero Kid says:

    sensationalising gaming is as addictive as methamphetamine

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