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UK TV vs Videogames: A One-Sided Fight

If you’re a fellow Britisher, you may have caught a staggeringly unpleasant, one-sided and sensationalist half-hour of fact-free garbage on ITV earlier tonight. It’s about videogames and addiction, and because a handful of young people they document demonstrate significant emotional or social problems and play videogames a lot, this of course means games are monstrously addictive with tragic long-term consequences. It couldn’t possibly be that they play videogames for too long and too intensely because of their other problems or circumstances, could it? NO NO NO DON’T TALK SENSE.
It’s irresponsible, partisan and sickening reporting, whose entire argument is based around a bunch of non-gamers saying that they think games are bad. Games are addictive because a man says they’re addictive, apparently. Listen out for the number of times the word “believes” is used. It also rants about the case where one online gamer killed another’s lover – which is entirely irrelevant to the programme’s chosen topic of addiction, but because it’s all games are bad m’kay, hell, let’s thrown it in there anyway!

I’m not offended because I work in the games industry (because, let’s be honest, it’s an industry often capable of poor taste and judgement, and even exploitation*). I’m offended because insidious pseudoscience is being passed off as news and fact. If another programme wants to say games are dangerously addictive and has the facts to prove it, then I promise I’ll listen politely and even rethink my views on the matter if the weight of empirical and scientific evidence is strong and thorough enough. But all this offers is a pre-determined agenda.

Oh, there are a few facts. 43% of kids surveyed, for instance, say they felt angry when their parents tell them to stop playing games. And this is, of course, because they’re addicted. Not because they’re pissed off that their parents are forcibly stopping them from having fun. Couldn’t possibly be that.

This poisonous trash will probably make you angry. You should watch it anyway, to see just how low the British media can sink, and the straws that anti-game campaigners can so desperately grasp at. You can watch it here – it’s available on ITV’s site for the next seven days, but non-UK folk will need some sort of proxy/IP-fiddling tech to watch it.

Well, at least they didn’t interview Anne Diamond.


* While I don’t – hey! – believe in gaming addiction as any sort of chemical thing, I do worry that some games/developers knowingly rely on proven compulsive elements – e.g. pervasive item collection and multiple forms of levelling up – at the expense of more interesting or satisfying design. This isn’t something I can back up at present, hence I’m not going to film a documentary about it.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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