Addiction is a word most associated with alcohol and drug dependence, but I think it is time it was applied to computer games. When sellers and makers of video/computer games talk about their inventions, they refer to them as addictive and most times we think nothing of it. It is fun, innocent fun and for many a harried parent it is the answer to at least an hour of quiet.
But as more and more people spend time playing games, some psychologists say there is need for concern. They argue that the games are meant to be addictive because this is the only way to keep the audience glued.
In Uganda, I know many women addicted to soap operas and who would throw the equivalent of a tantrum if say their husband tried to watch a sports match at the designated time of the soap! In fact I could not believe the number of guys (some my friends) who avoided their homes at “soap opera time” because the alternative was to watch it. It was boys and then men that often times got into gaming and became quite obsessed with it. The dynamics have today all changed.
I am absolutely addicted to “Candy Crush”, and that’s the only addiction I will admit to, but if I were to be honest there are a couple more games that I really, really like. Recent studies show that video games are now more popular than television, and that women are not immune to the games as was once thought, in fact we account for 40% of the audience!
What is making the addiction to games even worse, is the fact that all new mobile phones being released into the market, seem to offer variations of the computer games on their handsets and thus they are making gaming more accessible to an even larger market. There is even talk that video games sales in the States could pass hollywood box office sales!
I think the evolution of the mobile phone from a chunky block that weighed more than a house and that was used only to receive and make calls, to the slim gorgeous multifaceted handsets we have today (some of which can now be used in the shower with no damage and that can record HDR videos) must be one of the finest achievements of our times.
But could our finest achievement also be the damning tool? Have computer games crossed from innocent fun to addictions? In the UK where at least 83% of children have access to gaming, there have been incidents of addiction and many parents say getting a child off a game is harder than getting them to turn off a cartoon show.
It is also hard to find help for gaming addiction because unlike alcohol, drug and gambling addiction, there is as yet no medical definition for gaming addiction and therefore no help.
It is not easy to explain addiction is it? With gaming I think it is easy to define, if not to treat. I think it is the fierce competitiveness we have as human beings and the love for winning that makes us all such easy prey. So once I had completed one level of “Candy Crush” I just had to keep going and going and the rewards I get along the way just make me greedy for more until I find I cannot stop, literally. My only consolation is that I am able to get away from it all after a while, but what happens to people who are not as strong?
It may be time for “GA – Gaming Anonymous” because these addictions are only likely to grow, thanks to better and better mobile handsets technology.