Editorial: Panorama – Addicted To Games?

By John Walker on December 6th, 2010 at 11:52 pm.

It's strange that they feel it's okay to keep using this name for the programme.

Timed to coincide with tonight’s release of World Of Warcraft’s Cataclysm, BBC 1’s Panorama tonight covered the topic of videogame addiction. I have always approached the subject of gaming addiction with great seriousness, because it’s my belief that if gaming is inherently harmful, I want to know about it, and I want to warn others who game. And I want to approach the subject with appropriate scrutiny, and with evidence-based understanding. It’s something I expect of others when they approach the subject. It was not present tonight. It was astonishing. An openly ignorant series of anecdotes and half-truths, forming a dangerous, lazy treatment of a serious subject.

I want to repeat this already. I do not possess the evidence that gaming does not cause addiction. What I do know, from an enormous amount of time spent researching the subject, and interviewing those researching the subject at an academic level on both sides of the argument, is that there is no evidence that games do cause addiction. Should other evidence come to light, should (substantial, scientifically organised) studies demonstrate new data, then I think it should be taken very seriously. I am not arguing that games are great, and any who say otherwise are wrong. No such thing. But when I see others who are acting that way, on either side of the fence, I believe it should be loudly highlighted. I believe that there is a real risk for those who use gaming to compensate for other negative factors in their lives, and for those whose gaming becomes problematic for any reason. I believe that these matters deserve to be taken seriously. It is to be treated with severity. This sort of scaremongering endangers such people by mis-labelling.

For the first seven minutes of the programme, reporter Raphael Rowe brings us many references to people being “addicts”, people who suffer from “addiction”. It’s stated as fact, unambiguous. Seven minutes in it’s admitted that there’s no evidence that gaming can cause addiction, but long after they’ve made their position completely clear. In fact, it clearly reminded me of that classic Brass Eye moment where DJ Neil Fox explains to camera that there’s no evidence that paedophiles share most of their DNA with crabs, but it’s still scientific fact. Never mind the facts, the data, the proof; we have an agenda here, and we’re going to demonstrate it through unresearched, unevidenced, anecdotal stories.

The level to which gaming addiction as a reality is assumed is so absolute that at one point the reporter, bringing the episode’s theme of anecdotes home, explains that while his son plays games, he “isn’t addicted”. He can tell. He, unlike any addictionologists or reputable addiction treatment centres, can tell when someone is addicted to gaming, and fortunately amongst their numbers are not his own children.

One individual, Joe, is labelled as an addict, the proof being that he played games for two or three days without sleep, and, he explained, “that, to me, sounds like an addiction.” He was thrown out of university, left thousands in debt, “partly from buying games.”

“Partly from buying games.”

Beyond being gibberish on a comprehension level, one can either understand that he’s in thousands of pounds of debt partly because he spent his money on games, or that the cause of his having lost his investment in university was partly caused by games. The lack of clarity betrays how carelessly this programme is written. The “partly” betrays that the programme is deliberately deceiving the viewer, concealing information that fully explains his story. Joe then wearily sighs.

Another person, “Leo”, believes he was addicted to World Of Warcraft. He’s extremely angry about it. It has a “derogatory effect”, he explains. “I would never inflict this game on anyone. This game is a disease. It’s horrible.” But Leo has decided to go cold turkey.

Both have stopped playing the games to which they were so seriously addicted. Both were filmed playing the games that had so harmed them. Joe played Call Of Duty on his 360 for the cameras, while Leo ran around the worlds of Warcraft. Which, if the dangers this programme warns about are real, is the direct equivalent of producing a documentary about alcoholism in which the participants are asked to get drunk for the audience at home. Once more, it’s a clear lack of seriousness, and complete disdain for its subjects.

Further proof of addiction in games comes from a scientist who has been studying the subject for many yea… oh wait, no, sorry. An artist who takes pictures of kids playing games, and finds that their faces are different when they watch television. No one ventures the notion that there may be physical differences in how one responds to the passive activity of watching TV and the active participation in gaming. But one kid didn’t blink, so there’s danger.

Each time a new subject is introduced, dark, menacing music swells in. We then see this addict sat before their addiction, accompanied by personal explanations of why it’s a danger for them to be playing it. Then relatives or friends tut.

Dr Richard Graham is our first person with any qualifications in the episode, after 11 minutes. He’s treating an increasing number of kids with behavioural disorders, kids who also game. Then, seemingly as an aside, the episode explains that 66% of children and teenagers have a console. That most kids are gaming, and yet most kids aren’t suffering from behavioural disorders, is not mentioned in this context. No, instead it’s: “Could this be a hidden problem building up in homes across the country?”

Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University says that he sees much in common with what he believes is gaming addiction and that of other addictions. But then adds that there isn’t enough research. No evidence is given. He says that gaming addiction is “so new” that people don’t think it’s an important enough area into which they should invest money. Which is the most utterly extraordinary claim, since there is abundant research in the subject going on all around the world, including massive-scale ongoing projects such as the appropriately named Project Massive. As a “world authority” on the subject, it terrifies me that he’s unaware of this.

We then head to South Korea, where super-fast broadband is already the norm. Here, even on the underground, our presenter explains that they can “play online games”, accompanied by a shot of someone playing a match-3 game on their mobile phone. Their economic growth “has come at a price.” Not “may have”, but “has”. The price is gaming addiction. We are told that since 2005, 12 people have died with “links” to excessive gaming. Then the bemusing sentence, “There were extreme cases of an estimated three million Koreans thought to be addicted to games.”

“There were extreme cases of an estimated three million Koreans thought to be addicted to games.”

We move on to the tragic story of the Korean couple who let their baby die through neglect, as they spent their time gaming. We get told that they both had “low IQs” and that both suffered from “depression”, but both those factors are ignored because as a result of their circumstances they spent too much time playing Prius Online. “She was mentally not that stable to begin with,” explains a doctor at the clinic that treated the mother. But this isn’t an episode about mental illness leading to the deaths of babies. It’s about gaming causing it. Gaming caused it.

Early in the segment in Korea we see some children at a special camp for dealing with gaming addiction. One child in particular is described as having spent a worrying amount of his time gaming, his mother expressing her fear for him. Later, after plenty of other subjects to make sure there’s no context, we come back to the camp, and the mother explains that she used to hit her son “a lot”. She says she didn’t know she needed to show him love and affection. The camp is teaching her this. And yet the enemy here is the game.

The internet’s to blame too, of course. The spread of broadband is shown on a map of Britain like a rapidly spreading virus, endangering us all.

One “award winning games designer” wants the subject to be taken more seriously. That is Adrian Hon of SixToStart. A company whose only game of note is a Channel 4 education project designed to highlight the dangers of being online. There’s not time to mention this in the episode. Panorama tells us that the incentives in games to keep us playing include games “randomly giving us extra lives”. We then get a lovely bit of Eisensteinian montage editing of people playing games and rats pressing levers.

Rowe then quite astonishingly says, “I took our findings to UKIE.” “Findings”? But they’ve given no findings at any point in the episode. They’ve collected some anecdotes from uninformed parents, and a few soundbites from a single university professor who keeps stressing most people have no problems, and that there’s not enough evidence to say that others do. They didn’t have any findings!

I believe there are reasons why children and teenagers may spend an inappropriate amount of their time playing games. They are complex, multifarious and multifactorial. Young people grow up in difficult circumstances, a significant proportion suffering some form of abuse. Gaming, it seems, can provide an escape from depression, misery, loneliness, or fear. It becomes somewhere to hide, and then it may become problematic. The issues are not dealt with, but ignored, and as such relationships with others are harmed, jobs can be lost, and school work can suffer. The circumstances continue, but the withdrawal lessens the chances of there being resolution or improvement. These are tragic stories that deserve to be responded to with individual care, and not looking for a scapegoat.

It is my opinion, and only my opinion, that problematic use of gaming is a reality. People can spent too much time playing games, and this can lead to their and their loved ones suffering. It is also my opinion that people can spend too much time riding bikes, playing bingo, and building model railways. I’m not being facetious. And each of these can lead to their personal lives suffering, and those of their loved ones. Until there is some evidence that gaming can create an addiction in someone otherwise undisposed to addictive behaviour, then it must be understood as a consequence of addiction, not a cause. To do otherwise is ignorant, dangerous, and harmful to the individuals. Blame it on gaming, and you’ll take away the games, leaving the person to continue suffering.

This episode of Panorama was upsetting. Seeing young people who are clearly suffering, struggling socially and within their own families, it scares me to see their serious situations trivialised in this way. This episode genuinely contains someone advising people who game too much to go out and get drunk (“smashed”) instead. It’s insulting to those who for whatever specific reasons struggle to control their gaming, and dangerous for misinforming the public.

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269 Comments »

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  1. Andreas says:

    I’m watching it right now, and it’s strange how the gaming addicts have horrible taste in games.

    How the hell do you get addicted to Modern Warfare?

    • iLag says:

      must be those random extra lives. uh huh.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      I’m addicted to Donkey Kong Country Returns.

    • psyk says:

      Online play. If it’s single player then the guy has a serious problem and should seek professional help.

    • spinks says:

      People get addicted to /Farmville/,

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Farmville is the opiate of the masses.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Farmville is a gateway game. I started a year ago, and quickly found that the buzz wasn’t enough: I needed more. Desperate for a hit, I searched high and low for a harder Farm simulator. It was a neverending cycle downwards.

      I’ve now hit rock bottom. I bought a 800 acre dairy farm in Norfolk and now play it 24/7. In calfing season I stay up all night on it, grinding on through the endless miracles of newborn life. I constantly battle with my demons – Tescos and Morrisons, always trying to push me to 8p a pint.

      The impact on my life is devasting – I now use baler twine to hold up my trousers. All I have to show for this is a £2m annual turnover and a fucking nice red Massey Ferg.

    • Dozer says:

      Battles_Atlas, you made me laugh so hard I coughed up my trachea. I’ve had to use Microsoft Sam to call the ambulance. If I survive I’ll have to be fitted with a synthetic voicebox and I’ll sound like Darth Vader forever. Thanks very much.

    • Nesetalis says:

      that.. was truly wonderful to read XD

    • The Tupper says:

      Yeah, top marks, Battles_Atlas. And remember – don’t milk the bulls: for all the effort involved, you rarely ever get more than a tea cup’s worth.

    • Shimavak says:

      Actually The Tupper, he may indeed wish to milk the bulls. At about 720,000p a pint for even the cheapest of bull ‘milk’ he’d be doing quite a fair deal better than with the cow.

    • Tweetiti says:

      I love it, the solution for Panorama to game addiction: getting smashed (once told by Joe, the other when mentionning Korea). It’s well known that alcohol doesn’t create addiction.

    • Yargh says:

      Must have been a slow week for Panorama, they had nothing else to talk about.

    • 9squirrels says:

      Battles_Atlas needs an award for that, honestly, I think it’s the funniest comment I’ve read all year.

  2. President Weasel says:

    Sadly this is exactly the evidenceless scaremongerathon that the vast majority of people who share our hobby expected when we heard about the program.

    (nitpicking deleted)

    • John Walker says:

      I’m fairly certain that’s correct, although I’m tired.

    • President Weasel says:

      (nitpicking deleted)

    • John Walker says:

      Thanks, fixed.

    • Premium User Badge

      Devan says:

      @President Weasel
      Yes, but at least the show didn’t feature Kieth Vaz, so it’s not quite as bad as expected. Am I the first to call you on that wager?

      Back on topic, I think that the only way to disarm this kind of misinformation and scaremongering is through education. People need the willingness to think critically about everything they see on TV, whether or not it agrees with their existing ideas. You don’t need to know anything about gaming to know that this show was very sparse in facts and sketchy in its reasoning. But people who don’t have an interest in the subject (like we do) perhaps don’t know that it’s important to be critical, or perhaps don’t care. It’s easier to just swallow the sensationalism and go with the flow, so until TV subscribers start calling BS when they see it, the producers will keep doing whatever gets attention.

    • President Weasel says:

      You’re the first person to call me on it. You win that spare steam copy of Ruse – give me a pm with an email address I can send it to. Just be careful not to get addicted… if it’s not already too late.
      /cue scary music.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I think that the only way to disarm this kind of misinformation and scaremongering is through education”

      Or you just force a more stricter approach to journalism and insist on opinion pieces and editorials being clearly marked as such throughout the program.

  3. Novotny says:

    Gah. How typical.

  4. evilbobthebob says:

    Well this is just excellent. I can only hope my parents don’t watch this :|

    • Blackberries says:

      If they do, you could link them to this very article. Or to another of what I hope will be several informed rebuttals to come from other places.

    • EndelNurk says:

      @evilbobthebob Here are another couple of rebuttals: http://www.mcvuk.com/news/42126/OPINION-Panorama; http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2010/dec/06/bbc-panorama-games-addiction-review.

      The best argument for your parents would be the same as discussed in The Guardian piece. Don’t hide what you’re doing from your parents, perhaps ask them to join in on something fun and simple like a PopCap game. Likewise reassure them that you’re not playing anything rated above your age-range. Presumably you’re not playing for 16 hours a day like the person reported in the TV programme, or at least if you are then presumably your parents have already noticed and discussed this with you, so you’re likely not in any danger zone whatsoever.

    • Art Vandelay says:

      You do realize that a PopCap game like Peggle is basically a Skinner Box, right?

  5. a.nye.123 says:

    A perfect example of deciding on the conclusion and forcing the facts to fit it.

    • Urael says:

      Welcome to modern journalism. “Gaming: the hidden menace” is the story into which facts are twisted until they fit. Until that changes we’ll see this travesty repeated ad nauseum.

  6. kit89 says:

    I expected more from the BBC.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Very droll.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      This is right around the exact amount of fearmongering you should’ve expected. It’s not like they’re Fox! Sheesh.

    • Garg says:

      In fairness it is Panorama; they haven’t done a serious, non-tabloidal scaremongering story in years. Frankly it should be scrapped.

  7. pilouuuu says:

    I read RPS many times everyday. Maybe I’m addicted. Shame on you, Rock Paper Shotgun! You’re even worse than videogames. And videogames are worse than drugs.

    • Latterman says:

      I would never inflict this site on anyone. This site is a disease. It’s horrible.

  8. Stephen Roberts says:

    I’m really pleased with the speed at which this post came up. Literally between me looking for the post earlier warning us about this and posting what I did there, did this gem get written. You missed a few rediculous things but the show was so full of them I don’t blame you. My favourite phrase was ‘the next generation of so-called addicts’. Six extreme cases extrapolated to a generation; shit, with an imagination that powerful he doesn’t need to play games!

    Posted this in the other thread, meanwhile this one went live so copy/paste:

    I’ll tell you what happened to me: I come home to find my mum terrified that I’m a gaming addict, saying that I was ‘exactly like’ the extreme cases exhibited on this show (that I hadn’t see yet). I rallied for my cause and made the dangerous assumption that the show would be peddling stupid amounts of fear. I used reason and cogent argument to hold back this panic my mum was going through. I explained how I wasn’t anything like the examples used in the show and there were practically no parallels to be drawn other than ‘I also play games’. And then I watched the show.

    It was thirty minutes of one sided bullshit. The reporter used language to belittle gaming as a medium, he only pulled on extreme cases and decided to interview them while they were playing games. He ignored all statements in defence of games and clarifying clauses that exonerate games as the problem and he extrapolated from the extreme cases to apply them to all gamers. It was fear-peddling for the daily mail classes and the BBC have lost a great deal of my respect from producing such a research-thin, one sided shockumentary just in time for the christmas hysteria.

    Sending a letter of complaint.

  9. Gabe Kotick says:

    More games need item stores that sell us the unlockables without doing anything. Less time spent playing games. Problem solved. If only we could buy achievements.

    • noobnob says:

      Purchasing achievements? You should look at your own store more often, Gabe.

    • Gabe Kotick says:

      “NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited by law.”

    • noobnob says:

      Who needs to read the small print? All that the consumer needs to know is that he’ll have more chances if he plays the listed games and attains the achievements tied to them. Note how two of the three games, Chime and Poker Night at the Hat Inventory are dirt cheap, much like purchasing a ticket for a raffle, and you get a free game with it!

    • DrGonzo says:

      Some of that money from Chime will go to charity as well. What an evil cunt Gabe really is.

    • Gabe Kotick says:

      @DrGonzo – you said it – “and Zoe Mode will continue to donate a proportion of its royalties (equivalent to 5% of purchase price) for sales of the Steam version.”

  10. Tei says:

    ” If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth” – Joseph Goebbels

    That work even for words. Hacker use to be the word for “good with software” and “people that build fourniture with a axe”… Hollywood distorted the word to use it for fantasy science fiction movies about magic childrens and computers, and spys, and holographics tools, and stuff. Fantasy replacing reality.

    People do religion, and drink and play games for the same reason: to avoid reality. Wen our lives are too harsh, we need a escape, even if his temporal or artificial. These things are a need, because life is imperfect, so people need these ilusions, ilusions of a heavenly heaven, or a eartly heaven, or a secret island of peace. Religion and alcohol are accepted heavens, but games are not, so we are here talking about this.

    • DrGonzo says:

      People use religion to avoid reality. That’s a really good way of putting it!

    • Bob Bobson says:

      In my, fairly extensive, experience of UK christians very few use religion to avoid reality. Christianity (and I believe other religions too but I can’t be as confident) encourages adherents to engage fully and completely in the real world, to avoid escapism and to face up to how the world is. True, there is a belief in an unseen world beyond the one with all the physics in, and equally true at times of berievment that is a comfort based on faith not evidence. But there is more to any religion that the answer to the question “What happens when we die?”

    • Lightbulb says:

      I would probably replace “avoid” with with “cope” but I agree with the sentiment.

    • snv says:

      If your subjective perspective on the world is based on interpreting it using religious beliefs, then i would not agree that you take part in the same “real world” as i do.

    • BarneyL says:

      It’s sad that in a discussion around a television program that jumps to biased assumptions with no reference to the reality of most of those involved we’ve rapidly descended to treating another group in the same way.
      Bob Bobson’s experience of religious people matches the reality far more than the nonsense that’s usually spouted about them. Say what you like about their beliefs but they’ve been at the centre of campaigns for fairer trade, environmental protection, third world debt cancellation and if you’re willing to go back a little further American civil rights movement or the abolition of slavery.
      Sadly you can’t get a decent debate about religion on the internet because there’s always a hard line atheist out there who’s willing to completely ignore the likes of Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Desmond Tutu or William Wilberforce and keep telling the lie that the religious do nothing but hide from reality until they believe it.

    • Archonsod says:

      “In my, fairly extensive, experience of UK christians very few use religion to avoid reality.”

      That’s because most are Anglicans, and the Anglican church already called bagsy on avoiding reality. Thus adherents are encouraged to bother the church as little as possible, particularly if they’re wanting a number of messy divorces.

    • bob_d says:

      @Bob Bobson: I only wish that was true in the US. The majority of Christians here have become disconnected from reality thanks to religion – or at least religion becomes a justification for rejecting reality. (E.g.: gay people choose their sexual orientation, the Earth is thousands, rather than billions of years old, there’s no global warming… heck, they basically don’t accept science or any rational, evidence-based arguments that counter their preconceptions.) Politics becomes ridiculous – how do you move forward as a society if you have members of the Texas legislature who think that all of modern physics and astronomy are actually a Jewish conspiracy perpetrated by NASA to confuse Christians, and modern biology is an atheist conspiracy perpetrated by people who worship Charles Darwin.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    OK, I’ve not watched the show – so I may come across more of a dickwad than I do usually.

    But can we stop calling all compulsive behaviour “addiction”? It doesn’t mean anything.

    Let’s keep addiction to mean dependency. If you are an alcoholic, then withdrawal symptoms include death. Actual death. In that case, you are an addict.

    If you play games too much, there are no withdrawal symptoms. At no point are you dependent on games. You’re just a bit of a social retard, not an addict.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Dependency and addiction are quite different. I think that’s what you were getting at, but it read a little confusing. Sorry if that was just me reading it wrong though.

      Dependency is what games should be classed as, you need it to feel good for example but without it you will not die. Where as without a substance your addicted to, as you say, you may have some serious side effects possibly including death.

      One becomes dependent on Marijuana, one becomes addicted to Heroin.

    • EndelNurk says:

      @kwyjibo I think your definitions are a little clumsy. Addiction to games, if such a thing existed, would definitely be classifiable as a ‘behavioural addiction.’ The behavioural addictions are separate from chemical addictions as you say but all behavioural addictions are defined as being problematic. Therefore if you gambled for 20 hours a day but it had no negative effect upon your personal life (such an example is difficult to comprehend) then you would not be addicted whereas somebody who gambled for one hour a week but due to this was having terrible problems with their life would be addicted. I refer to gambling here rather than anything else as gambling is the only behavioural addiction that is generally recognised although arguments have been made for the inclusion of sex addiction and internet (note, not internet gaming) addiction.

    • Xercies says:

      The thing is though, this is the problem with the whole thing, how do we class addiction. Do you call it a chemical dependency so that includes drugs but not physical activity like gambling but we all know that gambling can be addictive and you can kind of get withdrawal symptoms if your an addict not gambling.

    • Archonsod says:

      Chemical addiction is the only sane way. Anything else is determined by psychologists, and quite frankly the field of psychology has about the same scientific credentials as Panorama.

    • Nesetalis says:

      i think behavioral addiction is a bit of a misnomer. Honestly, a learned pattern is how the brain works.. these so called behavior addictions are simply very ingrained learned patterns.. an addiction implies that you cant stop for one reason or another.. these people can, and do.. they just either dont want to, or dont have the willpower to control their own damn life.

      implying that they are helpless and without the ability to stop.. makes them in to victims, and feeds it. its not an addiction.

      I think the best line to sum it up is from bob saget :p “I used to suck dick for coke, you ever suck dick for marijuana?”

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      EndelNurk says:

      @Archonsod how would you define scientific credentials? And how would you define psychology? I dare suggest that neither of your definitions would have much to do with what goes on in research in any subject.

      @Nesetalis addiction has nothing to do with whether you can willfully stop or not. Willpower alone is all that’s required to stop smoking, it’s hard but it’s been done many many times over. Are you going to suggest that nicotine isn’t addictive? In fact most chemical addictions become behavioural addictions. At later stages of heroin or cocaine usage it is not the heroin or cocaine that provides a dopamine high, instead the drug-seeking behaviour beforehand stimulates dopamine release.

  12. Moutikz says:

    Every time this topic gets handled by the bbc it is complete nauseating rubbish. The worst part is that parents all over the country will be absorbing this taking it all as fact at face value and start thinking there is something wrong with their child/ children.

  13. Blackberries says:

    Were Panorama really ever any good? I often found their programmes getting uncomfortably close to being a thirty-minute re-hashing, re-heating and partial validation of tabloid screeching and pearl clutching. Just two weeks ago we had the complete tosh that was”British Schools, Islamic Rules.”

    I could honestly barely bring myself to even read your account of the episode. It’s soul-draining to have to even think about this sort of misinformed, agenda-driven and horrendously flawed scaremongering. It’s obviously laughably paper-thin in its “finding” that games might be dangerous addictive terrors, but I have no doubt many, many people are going to have watched this and had the scary dramatic message effectively beaten into them through constant assertion and disgusting editing.

    Yes, I’m upset.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Panorama was, once apon a time, well respected. However, the past decade has seen it morph into the stinky sensationalist bilge in the bbc porridge. They have become famous for getting their facts wrong and /or downright lying to produce their tabloid mumbo-jumbo.
      The tragedy is, as you pointed out, that most take this nonsense to heart.

    • Blackberries says:

      It was probably unfair of me to dismiss a journalistic institution as venerable as Panorama based merely on the last few years.

    • Starky says:

      No it was utterly fair, Panorama has fallen so low there is nothing worth saving – like much of the BBCs output for the past decade.

      The BBC when facing mass TV bilge for the masses from the ever expanding commercial channels didn’t decide to rise above it, but sink to the same level.

      The BBC styill puts out some amazing high quality television, but you have to try hard to find it, and it’s never aired primetime.

  14. outoffeelinsobad says:

    I would have read this article, but I’m addicted to words and have decided not to neglect my well-being for the sake of knowledge.

  15. Andreas says:

    Mind you, it’s also worth noting that while Panorama may be polarised, it’s also worth admitting that gaming clearly CAN be addictive. Sure, it’s in the same way as gambling, but a lot of people aren’t even aware of that.

    Sure, it’s not completely unbiased, BUT, it’s not entirely bad to make people aware of it. You have to realise that a lot of parents don’t see anything wrong with their kids playing WoW 6 hours a day. There’s nothing wrong with making parents aware that if your kid is playing that much, you should check up on him.

    • Andreas says:

      But comparing the UK to Korea is an utterly mad comparison. It’s an entirely different landscape, played in different ways by a different demographic.

    • John Walker says:

      According to all evidence, gaming and gambling being the same isn’t the case. And since my appeal is to deal with evidence here, could you provide any to back up your certainty?

      Those who were trying to equate gambling and gaming were shown to be incorrect. The key difference being the lack of immediate, tangible financial risk, loss or gain when gaming. It seems the only thing they have in common is a similar spelling.

      If gaming is addictive, the evidence suggests it will not be in a way that matches gambling.

      So no, there is no suggestion at all that it “clearly CAN be addictive.” That would be the point.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      There are specific elements in gambling games which cause them to be addictive. Some videogames also have some of these elements, but most do not and those that do are fairly obvious about it. Claiming “videogames are generally addictive” is exactly the same as claiming “sports are generally addictive” because some people gamble on the outcome of football games.

      Look up “Skinner box” on Wikipedia. Many games have no Skinner Box-type mechanics at all, and such mechanics don’t necessarily mean the game is inherently addictive.

    • Andreas says:

      Fine, clearly can be addictive is a dangerous turn of phrase to use. But I’d argue that excessive gaming can be dangerous, or at least be a sign of an underlying problem. That’s worth highlighting.

      But yes, I agree that it was completely unscientific scaremongering.

    • bob_d says:

      +1 to what MadTinkerer said. I think even those games that utilize the exact same (Skinner-ian reenforcement) mechanisms that make gambling compelling still aren’t in the same league as actual gambling, either. The rewards and dynamics are different.

      As for saying “excessive X can be dangerous,” well, sure, you can say that about anything, including drinking water, exercising or washing your hands. In fact, by definition to be “excessive” is to be in an abnormal and undesirable state. (So, yes, bad things are bad.) The question is, is something inherently more likely to be problematic (like with gambling) or is a compulsive behavior just a symptom of an existing problem (like with compulsive hand-washing). The evidence on gaming seems to lean towards the latter rather than the former.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      I am unsure if excessive gaming should be highlighted. Excessive drinking of water, running, jumping, talking, thinking, etc. can all be dangerous, but no one is going to make a show about it.

      Would parents who think a kid playing a game for 6 hours is in less danger than one watching TV for the same time? Perhaps a show on general parenting would be more appropriate, then.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Watch it, now- they’re trying to make thinking too much illegal.

      Well, they are here in the US, anyways.

  16. Owen C says:

    I liked the point (~14:50) where he says:

    “It is Saturday evening and, instead of going out for a drink or going to a night club, young Koreans come to PC bangs to play games.”

    So getting drunk is okay then. Nothing wrong with alcohol and loud music I guess.

    For those who missed the show, PC bangs are basically big internet cafes.

    • Paul B says:

      I wish we had PC Bangs in the UK. When I visited Malaysia in my youth, they had them on nearly every street corner, and much fun was had playing Counter-strike in them. To be honest, it’s better then playing on your own, you can have a drink, meet some friends and play your favourite games. There should be nothing negative about them.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Did… did he seriously imply possible drunkeness and casual sex with a chance of STDs and pregnancy is worse than a chance of (metaphorically) getting your ass beaten by some aimbotting jackass?

      Note these are all chances, but what is really negative about the cafes?

    • Premium User Badge

      sonofsanta says:

      Damn you, and damn my need to sleep, this post wasn’t up when I went to bed last night for me to make the same point and now you have beaten me to it :/

      The reporter in question must be the single most irony-free individual in the English-speaking world if he couldn’t realise he was advocating a physically-addicting and often lethal substance alongside participation in a culture mired in drugs as a healthy alternative to playing games with friends.

      On a more general note: the experts they brought in were generally not too bad, i.e. the NT Uni guy repeatedly stating that “most people do not have a problem”, the Korean doctor discussing the mental problems suffered by the couple etc. The problem was that the editing was incredibly transparent in its cherry picking, at least to those of us watching who anticipated it.

      The biggest problem really is that Panorama used to be an in-depth, reliable program that took the full hour to explain arguments and treat them in a balanced way. Unfortunately now that it’s a half-hour scare-fest that genuinely shares an agenda with the Daily Star, its former glory still gives it more weight in people’s minds than the red tops despite being in no way superior, or even journalistic in its approach.

      And as ever, a thoroughly superb dissection of the topic John – thank you.

  17. pilouuuu says:

    Why don’t journalists talk about addiction to movies or books? What makes videogames so different? Is the interactivity? Are they afraid of interacting with their entertainment forms?

    I don’t get it. Entertainment is all the same and just like other medias, it can be bad in excess, but it is in no way bad per se.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s the zeitgeist.

      I remember in the 1980s such programmes were about watching television. Our children’s lives and livelihoods were being endangered because they were being “couch potatoes”.

      The fear remains the same, but the subject matter changes every decade or so.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      They made programs about the dangers of watching television?

      Something in there seems wrong to me.

      Also, did it include the danger of “Picking up sensationalist bullshit?”

    • Andreas says:

      That’s not really a powerful argument though – I know tens of people who will say that at some point, their excessive gaming actively detrimented their real life – me, for starters. I don’t know anybody who’d say excessive reading had the same effect.

      Again, yes, entirely anecdotal. But anybody who argues that television is as compelling as WoW clearly hasn’t played endgame WoW.

    • DevilSShadoW says:

      Addiction to books you say! Ah but there’s this really informative documentary on the subject entitled “Read Or Die” it’s even depicted as a cartoon so that the young ones will understand it better! What a wonderful world we live in, don’t we?

    • Wulf says:

      In my case, I’d say that an X-Factor marathon would be exceedingly more compelling than an end-game WoW raid. I only did a few of those, and I actually fell asleep in one of them after a short period due to how mind-numbingly monotonous it was. My brain essentially went ‘Eff this, we’re off to dream land, that’s far more interesting!’, and switched off. I woke up with people complaining at me, which was rather entertaining.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lacero says:

      You’ve never read a book and stayed up too late because “It’s impossible to put down!” ?
      I don’t buy book because of this, it’s too dangerous. Games I can stop, books I can take to bed :D

    • Nick says:

      ‘Video nasties’, rock and roll, comic books, jazz.

      The list goes on.

    • Koozer says:

      I was late nearly every day at school because of late-night reading.

    • President Weasel says:

      The novel was one of the first villains in these scare stories. Back in the 18th century when the art form was new there were various proclamations of the doom that would be caused by people spending too much time in these imaginary worlds and not enough time in reality.
      We’ve also has scares about television, jazz, rock and roll, video nasties, and gangster rap.

    • Josh W says:

      I still think TV is dodgy! People spend too much time sitting next to each other not interacting at all, when they could be playing multi-player games!

  18. DevilSShadoW says:

    Who do we have to pay to get a REAL show about gaming addiction recorded? I’m talking about a show that bring together to a table some of the greatest minds of the decade along with ACCREDITED scientists not “i gots me a paper thingie from sum online college” scientists that base their theories on nothing but junk and filth. Hell, it’s the YouTube era. Is it so hard to get a skype videochat going and just talking about it for a bit. I mean, common, I’m willing to bet that if (somehow) you manage to get through to Gabe Newell and tel him what’s at stake here he wouldn’t mind giving a 30 second opinion on the matter. He’s in the business of SELLING games, he’d probably want to defend what he sells. There’s many more respected games journalists and writers/developers/etc. (like the 2 DOCTORS over at BioWare). The industry is filled with wonderful people with no doubt wonderfull opinions on the matter, opinions that if spoken might actually cure the masses of all this “gaming addiction” bullshit.

    • RQH says:

      The two doctors at Bioware, smart as they are, have never conducted a study on gaming addiction and are no more qualified to comment on this issue than these scaremongers. No less, either.

  19. Handsome Dead says:

    Anecdotal evidence is the best evidence.

    • Mister Adequate says:

      Says you!

    • Auspex says:

      Says Dogbert!

      “Dogbert: I have discovered a heretofore undiagnosed condition.
      Dilbert: There is no such thing as Chronic Cubicle Syndrome.
      Dogbert: Initially victims exhibit denial.
      Dilbert: But you have no proof.
      Dogbert: Oh, I have something much better than proof. Anecdotal evidence!
      Dogbert: Who do you think would be dumb enough to believe anecdotal evidence?
      Dogbert: I’ve narrowed my target market to… PEOPLE!”

  20. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    A good piece John, but i do have one bit of nit picking to do.

    “Young people grow up in difficult circumstances, one in three suffering some form of abuse.”

    I would like to see a source for this. Partly because I’m initially a bit skeptical as to the accuracy of that statement and partly because when you’re lambasting someone for not clearly showing evidence for claims they make you should really go out of the way to back up your own claims. Although I do agree with your main point in that section that the reasons people may spend too much time playing games are multifaceted.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Actually reading again I’m not so sceptical about the accuracy, I more feel there’s a lack of definition. Is this abuse in the home or bullying at school? Does smacking count? But then if anything I’d reckon that the stat is too low as pretty much every kid gets bullied at some point. Does the abuse then have to be systemic and not a one off? The whole thing is just a bit wooly.

    • John Walker says:

      You are correct. While the 1 in 3 statistic is widely quoted, and used by many charities who aim to protect children, I can’t adequately evidence it immediately, so I’ve removed the claim.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “It is difficult to state an overall single figure of maltreatment. This is because each form of maltreatment may not happen in isolation from other forms, for example physical abuse might be experienced alongside emotional abuse. The closest thing we have to an aggregate prevalence figure is from the second volume of the NSPCC Child Maltreatment study (Cawson, 2002), which examined abuse and neglect within the family. It found that 16% of children (1 in 6) experienced serious maltreatment by parents, of whom one third experienced more than one type of maltreatment . If we add in those children who experienced intermediate levels of maltreatment, the total percentage of children experiencing some degree of maltreatment (ie. serious or intermediate) by parents at some time in their childhood rises to 38%.”

      Cawson (2002) Child maltreatment in the family: the experience of a national sample of young people. London: NSPCC. p.52.

      38% is I suppose where the 1/3 figure comes from. Looks like ‘Abuse’ is a form of ‘Maltreatment’ in the jargon used sociologically here. According to the NSPCC there are four types of child abuse (which you can read up on here http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/trainingandconsultancy/consultancy/helpandadvice/definitions_and_signs_of_child_abuse_PDF_wdf65412.pdf). I think the ‘serious’ and ‘intermediate’ definitions are peculiar to the Cawson study, though there are some definitions given of ‘serious’ abuse that falls under one of those four headings:

      “The study defined ‘serious physical abuse’ as one or more of the following violent treatments: hitting with implements; hitting with a fist or kicking hard; shaking; being thrown or knocked down; being beaten up/being hit over and over again; being grabbed around the neck and choked; burning or scalding on purpose; threatening with a knife or gun; or slapping, smacking and pinching that resulted in injuries lasting a day or longer on the majority of occasions.”

      “The study defined sexual abuse as acts against the respondent’s wishes when aged under 16, or acts perpetrated by someone 5 or more years older when the child was aged 12 or under. Sexual acts were categorised as ‘contact’ (physical contact with genital, anal or other normally private areas of the body; and other physical contact such as sexual hugging and kissing) and ‘non-contact’ (exposure of genitals or other private areas of the body, voyeurism, exposing children to, or using them to make, pornography or to watch sexual acts). The study only included acts experienced by children aged up to 16.”

      “In this study ‘serious absence of care’ included frequently going hungry; frequently having to go to school in dirty clothes; not being taken to the doctor when ill, all when under 12; regularly having to look after themselves because parents went away, or had problems such as drug or alcohol misuse; being allowed to go into dangerous places or situations; being abandoned or deserted; or living in a home with dangerous physical conditions.”

      “In this study ‘serious absence of supervision’ included being allowed to stay at home overnight without adult supervision under the age of 10, or allowed out overnight without parents knowing their whereabouts, aged 14 or under.”

      “In this study ‘emotional maltreatment’ included psychological control and domination; psycho/physical control and domination; humiliation/psychological attack on self-esteem; withdrawal of attention/affection; antipathy; terrorising/threatening; and proxy attacks. The study’s authors constructed a system to measure the severity and frequency of emotional maltreatment. Respondents were assigned a ‘score’ on seven dimensions of potentially emotionally damaging treatment, indicating how many of the treatments had been experienced. Scores ranged from 0 to 14; zero being no potentially damaging treatments experienced, and 14 indicating that a wide range of treatment with the potential for abusiveness had been experienced. The mid-point score of seven was established as the measure of emotional maltreatment because it represented that respondents recorded adverse treatment in at least four of the seven dimensions. The survey revealed that 6% of the sample had scores of seven or above, and these were assessed as experiencing emotional maltreatment.”

      So there :P

  21. DarthBenedict says:

    Nothing shows the competence of the press like seeing them report on something you know.

  22. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Oh Panorama you dick. Nice response John. I remember this line of argument from when I was still hacking my way through Goldenaxe.

  23. ohms says:

    Panorama is just shite in general now.

  24. bob_d says:

    I wish we could get past this nonsense, as the game industry does need to have an honest discussion about game designs that rely on inspiring compulsive behavior in players as its main play motivator. The discussion isn’t quite where it should be in part, I suspect, because no one wants to give the “games are addictive” crowd any more ammunition. Too many games are being designed as time-wasters, deliberately using psychological tricks* from gambling (and trying to re-create its compulsions), which seems both unethical and bad for the development of game design. There’s an interesting debate there and it’s too bad the BBC couldn’t be part of it.

    *Of course, the psychological tricks used by advertising, trying to get people to “destroy their lives” by buying things they can’t afford puts all the shenanigans of game designs to shame. Perhaps BBC needs to do a show about that.

  25. Blackberries says:

    John:

    I do not know if this is an odd suggestion, but I think you should consider getting this (or an edited version of it) posted on Enemies of Reason, as an excellent (terrible?) example of the media being horrendously distorting and agenda-driven. I don’t know the demography of his readership, but I imagine a lot of non-gamers would then see it.

  26. DrugCrazed says:

    Sigh. I noticed that 15 minutes in that every sentence was following a new grammar rule, that its not a sentence unless it contains a verb and the word addict (or varients thereupon).

    The WoW scene infuriated me.
    “So, we want you playing the game and also want to interview you.”
    [interview starts]
    “Wait, you can’t do both? Maybe your addicted.”
    …”Fine, I’ll stop playing”
    “I notice you’re uncomfortable. Like I’m interupting you from your game”
    “Well yeah, you are. I’m dying and playing terribly” (film stops here) “So my teammates are getting wasted on this raid you know?”

    Notice how that last bit doesn’t make the edit?

  27. Willard Foxton says:

    As a former BBC journalist, who’s filmed panoramas, I can say that I was horrified by the shallow, I’ll-informed idiot tabloid view presented in this documentary.

    There is a TREMENDOUS amount of serious research on this; a wide variety of serious interviewees could have participated. Instead, we got Daily Mail esque SHOCK!!!! I’m particularly annoyed after having had editorial policy goons crawl all over my documentaries from Palestine, Afghanistan etc with a fine tooth comb looking for objectivity and balance.

    I suppose they were all too busy harassing real journalists to care about this video game episode. The problem is obvious to a TV vet like me – it’s written, edited & directed by the same person. No objectivity, no balance.

    This would never have been made when Sandy Smith was in charge of Pano.

    The individual responsible

  28. CaLe says:

    I had no interest in watching this show to begin with, now I’m glad I didn’t waste my time on it.

  29. dux says:

    I bet they wouldn’t be so quick to label those who spend hours and hours ‘poking’ other people on Facebook (or whatever it is people do on there, I’ve never bothered to find out) as addicts.

    It seems to me that with the rise of casual gaming and popularity of consoles in homes over the last few years, people have started to think that more people gaming overall somehow equates to a ‘generation of addicts’. How can gaming addiction be ‘so new’ when games have been around for decades? I’m pretty sure people didn’t suddenly become addicted to alcohol or cigarettes 30 years after they first tried them. Why weren’t these kind of shows being made about all the kids who spent many an hour in the local arcade as a kid? Was it because they were out of the house so their parents didn’t care what they were doing? And the one thing I’ve /really/ never understood, why aren’t people who watch TV for 6-8 hours a day also labelled as addicts in such a derogatory manner? Is it really that much more of a wholesome activity? I know people who get irritable every time they miss their latest soap opera or reality TV show. Sure sounds like they’re addicted to me.

    As gaming becomes more accessible to everyone, more people are gaming, and gaming a bit more than they used to. I really don’t see the story here.

  30. kikito says:

    I hope they die from Spontaneous Human Combustion.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I’ve found that SHC is caused by videogames. I sent my findings to UKIE.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      I’ve found that gaming will herald the return of smallpox. I sent my findings to the WHO.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I’ve heard that smallpox will herald the return of 60’s and 70’s rock. I’ve sent my findings to The Who.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I found when I time travelled back to 2002, The Who didn’t come up as both “The” and “Who” were common words and thus not included in my search. I’ve sent my findings to Google.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I’ve heard that ’60s and ’70s rock will usher in a reactionary movement of three-chord-only bands. I’m sending my findings to the Royal Family.

  31. Fergus says:

    I actually was expecting it to be far worse, given Panorama’s record. Anecdotal evidence and pointing at extreme cases from South Korea was pretty much all they had, but that’s the same style that the show takes towards any similar topic.

    The point seemed to be to show that people can become addicted to games. I don’t think there’s any disputing that, nor was anyone ever attempting to. Of course, you can become addicted to pretty much anything that gives you pleasure; watching TV, caffiene, gambling … hell, you can even become a sex addict. Don’t see anyone saying we should crack down on people having sex because they could become addicted to it though.

    The point is not whether people can become addicted to something, it’s whether that something is inherantly addictive. Games are not. Therefore, no problem.

  32. MadTinkerer says:

    That’s too bad. There have been some genuinely good Panorama shows (though admittedly I’ve not seen an episode since 1998 when I moved to New Jersey), but this is obviously not one of them.

  33. mandrill says:

    This sounds like exactly the hatchet job I thought it would be. I’m kind of glad that I can’t watch it it would just make me incredibly angry.

    The thrashings of a dying medium. They see in gaming their own demise as more and more people play games or use the internet rather than watch TV. A paradigm shift is coming, not only in the media we consume but in the ways we consume it and how we pay for it, this same shift is happening in how such media is created and distributed. All the old guard of the recording industry, the movie industry, the television industry and the traditional dead tree publishers are all quaking in their suits because they simply don’t know how to adapt. Their fear of their gravy train finally coming to the end of the track causes them to attack the superfast maglev of condiments which the new age is bringing.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      British kids should spend their time drinking and watching the telly! Videogame addiction is a threat to our budget- I mean, way of life!

  34. noobnob says:

    I do not know what exactly the BBC means for you British folk, in a socio-cultural-whatever context, but John’s examination on this particular episode reminds me why I stopped watching TV.

  35. Premium User Badge

    Josh Brandt says:

    So I’ve heard that the most addictive games are the ones that are created from parts of all kinds of different games– that are made up of elements of, say, shooters, strategy, and so on. These “made-up games” are an insidious presence in our schools and homes…

  36. DeliriumWartner says:

    Well done John. You showed remarkable restraint. If I’d been writing an editorial on this there would be many more swears.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Indeed. This will be the first place I point people who need to start knowing what they’re talking about.

      And thanks for not sneering about it, John – it’s the natural reaction of gamers to do so, but we need to take the subject very seriously when our favoured medium is slandered in a programme that still has a reputation for good journalism and candidity (somehow).

    • Josh W says:

      Overall this incident has actually made me happier, because a vast array of stupid views have been hearded into one place, and you’ve responded in a measured and intellegent way. Well done John. I wish more people were on the internet so I could just send them this link when they get concerned.

      Eisensteinian editing seems a weirdly underchecked form of bias; it’s like the BBC’s bias-checker can be stopped simply by feeding it enough weasel words, and then will let all kinds of absurd stuff through.

  37. DrugCrazed says:

    He did. Its the previous post. :P

  38. Andreas says:

    I would kind of like to see Blizzard implementing techniques to allow people to monitor/restrict their use.

    Eg: Would you like to restrict your account activity to X hours a day for the next X months?

    CONFIRMED! Your account is set..

    • General Frags says:

      I believe there are such features in WOW, they are in most consoles too as well but at the end of the day parents or the end user themselves don’t use them.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Such settings do in fact exist as part of the account management system and WERE advertised on the main WoW site (which has now changed completely and which I can’t check right now as it’s broken due to the Cataclysm).

      Of course, parents need to actively take an interest in their child’s activities to even know it exists or that they might want to make use of it.

      Also: I’ll be sending a letter of complaint tomorrow. If I recall correctly, they are actually legally obliged to reply to complaints if requested, but I’m just a gamer and my memory is so damaged by playing electronic video drugs 36 hours a day that I won’t even remember I sent the complaint in. I should really give it up in favour of drinking too much, falling over and accidentally impregnating women like the stable, normal non-gaming types.

      I advise anyone within the UK to make a complaint about this programme if you find it unacceptable. As a public service broadcaster the BBC is held to certain mandatory standards of impartiality, accuracy and editorial quality. No incoherent raging or swearing at them if you want to be taken seriously though.

  39. DarkFenix says:

    I’d love to say I expected better from the BBC, but quite honestly I knew the programme would take this tone. It’ll probably be a few more years before games start being taken seriously enough for a real study to be performed, then this ‘scandal’ can bugger off for the next convenient target to start taking the heat.

    • General Frags says:

      Gaming and the world wide media have never got on well and they probably never will.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Josh Brandt says:

    Oh, Adrian Hon _is_ an award-winning game designer, just mostly from another area– sort of a crossover collectible card game/ARG called Perplex City.

    I should see if I can still get in touch with him and see if he’s annoyed at how he was represented here…

    • John Walker says:

      I knew I knew the name! Adrian’s a lovely chap – I interviewed him for my ARG piece.

      I’m fairly sure the awards they’ll be referring to are those for their recent game. It won the 2010 SXSW award for Best Game, and the 2010 Learning on Screen Multimedia Award.

    • Premium User Badge

      Josh Brandt says:

      Ah ha, okay! He’s been less active on the nominally-Iain-Banks-related mailing list where I met him a while back. Presumably he’s been off winning awards and stuff rather than sharing in the typical off-topic blatherfest there…

  41. General Frags says:

    As a uni student studying Criminology and as a gamer myself, it is obvious that the so called addicts shown suffer from other psychological illnesses (depression, social rejection/maladjustment, etc) and that gaming is an effect not the cause. I have poured over the so-called research over the last 3 years that has been published and I can say that most of the data is highly anecdotal and convuluted and is often biased. When the research is peer reviewed the problems are brought to the surface but this happens after the publication, when this is reported back to the public by the news services it is often taken out of context making gaming look even worse.

    For once I had hoped the BBC had produced something worthwhile but I guess I was wrong, considering that the video game industry adds over £3 Billion to our economy each year. As for the subject of is it an addiction I take a look at myself and my friends, most of them play WOW and other MMO’s (I don’t, as my experience in WOW was pretty crap) and maintain good social lives, have part time jobs and study at uni, they play about 7-9 hours a week and have had no problems ever. Its just this small miniority (less than 1%) which gives gaming a bad name, its my opinion and my friends that those guys are simply playing the game wrong or doing something that which the developers did not intend.

    Personally at the end of the day it is the parents fault, lack of interest into their childrens activities and lack of control over them results in these kids just abusing their freedoms, most get over it and grow up but its a small portion that carrys on. Theres many features now in consoles and MMO’s that can limit time as well in game content, parents should not be afraid to get involved in the technical sides of gaming.

    Also gaming at least keeps kids of the streets and away from crime, drugs and gambling and alchol which addictions often lead towards death or serious health problems.

    And what crappy games to get addicted over, theres plenty of better games out there, they should try some.

  42. kit89 says:

    Interestingly enough, they could have cut the entire episode down to maybe about 5 minutes by saying something like :

    “Just like all forms of entertainment, games can be bad for you, if played in excess. One needs to teach their children to play in moderation. One needs to take control of their child’s life and educate them at an early age to not gorge themselves on anything, whether it be food or entertainment. One needs to teach their child when to stop.”

    What I don’t understand is when did playing or doing anything for 6 hours become acceptable? Are they suggesting parents are to dumb to realise? As if a parent would know that watching 6 hours of television is bad, but for games it is somehow an exception? When did this happen?

    kit89.

    • General Frags says:

      Most parent believe gaming to be harmless thats the problem and they pretty much just ignore their kids and move on to other things, if parents were more tech savvy they would realise most games have such features to lock down the amount of time of play, instead of shouting at the kid and threatening them.

    • Archonsod says:

      To be honest, given the current standards of parenting I suspect they could have cut it much shorter by simply saying
      “You need to teach kids”

      Would certainly be a revelation for many people around here.

  43. ScubaMonster says:

    The worst thing about this is lawmakers are trying to pass legislation based on these “findings”.

    • General Frags says:

      It won’t get passed, £3 Billiion per year in our economy is too big a hole to lose especial with lib/con cuts next year.

    • Delusibeta says:

      I think Scuba is thinking of the California law. AFAIK the argument it took to the Supreme Court is “because violent games harm children” or something along those lines (correct me if I’m wrong).

  44. Blissett says:

    Personally I didn’t find the program particularly egregious. Certainly it had a clear agenda which is disappointing but it was considerably less shrill than most such programs. And the fact that you are able to pull quotes from the program that appear contradictory surely just underlines that this wasn’t a complete whitewash. The message at the end seemed to me to be – too much gaming is bad for you, it looks like it can be addictive for a small minority and a lot more research is needed that the industry should help fund. Nothing to get too upset about there. It certainly stopped a long way short of calling for games to be banned etc like some of the Titchmarsh bullshit for example so I’m inclined to be grateful for small mercies.

  45. manveruppd says:

    Great write-up, once again it’s great to hear a reasoned voice on this! You deserve a wider audience though, cause, let’s be honest, you’re kinda preaching to the converted here.

  46. Owen says:

    This was brilliantly said John. What with RPS being more and more ‘visible’ I’d like to think that at least some people that had a hand in the Panorma episode will read it.

    Well done

  47. Shazbut says:

    Great article

  48. Qwentle says:

    The one point in this story that I liked was the “66% of teenagers in this country have their own consoles in their bedrooms”. Hopefully this means that in a few years time, 66% of families will have consoles in their main rooms, and then parents can both monitor their children’s time spent gaming (because regardless of how dangerous computer gaming is or isn’t, I’d like my kid to have more than one hobby) and use it as a bonding experience with them (though by that point I guess we’ll be bemoaning the addictive properties of some unimaginable new horror)

    As with one of the guys above, I loved the disgust he had when he was the LAN Cafe and realised the teenagers there were in danger rather than going and doing something safe like getting hammered.

  49. duke of chutney says:

    ive not paid my license fee in many ere year, take that BBC,

    i will buy a tv and pay the fee, when the writers of Brass eye or Chris Morris, are employed to produce panorama.

  50. Dr Random says:

    As a former player of World of Warcraft I could very well relate to what Leo was saying. I wouldn’t want to inflict the same experience I’ve had. I ended up quitting the game after realising that beyond my addiction to it, it was starting to create a lot of anger issues within me.

    I’ll say that I’ve always had anger issues as a child and school was horrible for me. I won’t lie but when I started playing World of Warcraft in 2005 it was a fun environment that had its limitations and that was enough for me to play for three or four hours a night and log off. (Back pre TBC). Now with the 3’rd expansion being released alongside the previous two expansion packs I think World of Warcraft has become far too large to a point where it is over whelming and can begin to dominate a person’s life.

    The segment in this episode of Panorama about rats learning to press a buzze fo foodr time and time again when food was placed in the chamber randomly actually did make alot of sense.
    Some people will not know what I am about to refer too but for those that do, I think my point will make sense.

    I leveled a character, a hunter in WoW all the way to level 80 in four days. Four days of no sleep, ten cans of Relentless eating microwaveable food and pot noodle. I was abvsolutley chuffed to bits and after hitting 80 and going ot the auction House in Ironforge and buying some better gear and resetting talent points I finally went to sleep knowing I had completed my goal.

    The next day I woke up and started doing instances, at the time 3 new 5 player dungeons and a large raid had been released and I started the grind through dungeons to get badges and earn even better gear etc etc and so forth. I remember one bow item I wanted for my hunter came from a relatively difficult dungeon for new players to comprehend and this bow came from the last boss.

    Getting that bow was bloody hard and I spent a week que’ing for the same instance over and over until I finally got it. My character HAD to have that bow.. people on my friend’s list were asking me to help them with their own dungeon runs and such and I just kept refusing. I was obsessed with getting it and didn’t stop apart from sleeping, eating or showering.

    During this week period the bow dropped nine times and each time it was “ninja’d” from me by other players meaning they took the item even though some one needed it more. Alot of bad luck for me there but it made me rage so much I was swearing at the screen, yelling out profanities and even scaring my neighbors whom complaiined to my land lord to deal with me,

    As an apology to my neighbors I sent them all a card and apologised personally at their door steps and told them it wouldn’t happen again. That was 6 months ago.

    In that 6 months I’ve taken to playing more RPG’s/RTS games in an attempt to fill the void that was World of Warcraft. I’ve had alot of time to think about it all and realised that I have NOTHING to do. Having little money, enough to pay my rent, buy food and pay my utilities means I cannot go out and “get smashed” as that Nottingham idiot put it.

    I still have my wonderful circle of friends, small but I know I can trust them with anything and even they have told me that they couldn’t see anything else for me to do either. I’ve gone so far as to offer cleaning their houses while they chill out or so for something to do.

    The trouble is that there is nothing else to do, nothing whatsoever.
    Its all well and good for a parent to cut the internet off from their child if they think their child is becoming addicted to games but then what can they do? The stigma that there is always something to do is false. In today’s society there is nothing else to do. Video gaming is an escape and should be treated as such in moderation. Children do not play on the street, teenage gangs in lower class neighborhood are quite prevalent and activites such as skate boarding are being cracked down upon in towns and cities across the nation.

    When the guy who made the peice interviewed Leo after he finished his battle ground asked him Leo: I’ll leave this for a second
    Raphael: How much are you plaqying the game?
    Leo: More than 6 hours a day.
    Raphael: Just sitting here talking to me now, you seem uncomfortable as if I’m irritating you in same way.
    Leo: Well no offence, but you are. I’m dying here and playing pretty badly.
    Raphael: How do you feel that your now playing the game again?
    Leo: What bothers me more is that I couldn’t find a substitute.
    Raphael: There are millions of things for you to do out there. Look for new friends, find a girlfriend.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————-

    Both the activites suggested often require alot of money of which in today’s society alot of people don’t want to be spending. What people do in their time is their business and not anyone else’s.
    Raphael in that dialogue has demonished and made Leo seem like he is guilty of something.
    He isn’t…

    I’ll be blunt and say I am bored.. very effing bored sat here these days. I go out and look for work.. come home and watch old reruns of Dr Wgo on iPlayer or other websites to specific TV series. Society has us turning into vegetables. and its no wonder some people slip through it all and become addicted to video games.

    Scaremongering from Panormama and nothing more, entirely mis representing the problem and explaining why it happens. This calls for quite a few angry letters..

    • casualhero says:

      Get some books. Books are great.

    • Stranglove says:

      I like books.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      Meeting people does not require one to be rich – just as it does not require you to be roaring drunk. Equally there are a plethora of things you can do to improve your life for no pennies – try exercise, try reading, try writing, try drawing,. You say yourself you are bored. Can you honestly say that you have no interest other than playing videogames?

    • manveruppd says:

      What you mean is that there’s nothing for you to do that gives you the same level of instant gratification! The constant drip-feed of rewards that games like WoW put you on is illusory: real life isn’t like that, genuine achievement takes more than 15′ work, but the gratification you’ll get from it is, conversely, much bigger than the momentary rush you’d have gotten from getting that bow (after which you’d have only started on your next item of gear), as well as much more enduring.

      Suggestions: take up a sport/martial art/join a gym. It’ll cost a little more than your WoW sub, but not much more. Read (second hand bookshops or your local library are a great source of cheap/free books, plus anything that’s out of copyright can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg). Learn a foreign language (which’ll let you get a much better job – there’ll probably be free courses you can borrow from your local lending library). Join a local boardgame or RPG group (there’s forums to help you find them). Write Warcraft fanfic – you’ll probably be able to come up with better plots than they do for the majority of their “Kill 80 sameoleons” quests! :p

      I’m not saying you should do these things INSTEAD of playing games, just refuting the allegation that there’s nothing else to do. Nor am I saying that those things are “better” than games. (OK, learning a language or exercising probably are, because they’ll improve your life in more ways than just the fun you’ll have while doing them, but they’re not better as a pastime/form of entertainment.) Just saying that doing a few different things makes you enjoy your other hobbies more cause it stops you from burning out on them. Plus I genuinely think that the play/reward pattern in games like WoW is bad for you, it teaches us that we can achieve something with no genuine difficulty and conditions us to getting constant affirmation of our “effort” (if pressing the same 4 skill buttons for 15′ almost brainlessly can be called effort). Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great things about MMOs (the teamwork, the exploration, the banter and social dimension, the community dymanics, especially in the pvp-oriented ones) but the zombiefication of the playerbase by putting them through an assembly-line grind of low-difficulty, short-term objectives with regular rewards is neither interesting, character-building, or even fun. After having played an MMO for a month or two I actually find it difficult to get into your average single-player game, because it requires effort and cognitive engagement that I’ve become unused to expending! It’s the gaming equivalent of trash tv!

    • Nick says:

      Take up a musical instrument.

    • Sillytuna says:

      DrRandom – the excuse you have given – “there is nothing to do these days” – has been given for time immemorial. I used to give it as a kid too. I vaguely understood that as a child and I certainly know it as an adult.

      And it’s rubbish. It always has been.

      There are a million things one can do, whether you have money or not. Obviously it helps to have money but there are many things you can do without money.

      The fact is you don’t want to do them, and that’s not anyone else’s fault or that of modern society (well, not exactly – there are some issues here). I’m not saying it’s easy, I mean that only YOU have the power to get out of that rut. This is not about blame – on you, on games, or on parents.

      Computer games, especially on-line ones, and social networks are like refined sugar – they are the easy quick fix; they take no effort; they [some] can work on a simple, low level. However, too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

      I think it takes a lot of effort to go and find other things, to learn to enjoy new hobbies – whether they be walking or football or helping clean the local rivers or skateboarding or joining book clubs or… you get the idea.

      Short of being severely disabled you really can’t use the lack of other options as an excuse.

      In all likelihood the problem is not boredom at all, it’s mild depression – and you can (and perhaps should) get some help for that. It’s very common and some little things can really help.

    • noobnob says:

      I suggest Gutenberg as well, as it is very rich in knowledge with its vast collection of public-domain books.

      As for “The trouble is that there is nothing else to do, nothing whatsoever.”, that’s a lie that many find themselves comfortable with, including myself back in the teens. There will always be room for personal discoveries, if you pursue them. Likewise, there is also the option to lock yourself up from the world beyond and believe that there is only THAT thing to do and only THAT is a reason to keep dragging on with your life. In the end, the choice is yours.

      I say this as an ex-MMO addict myself, by the way. I had my own problems back then, but playing a 2D platforming grindfest for a whole year certainly didn’t help!