Lots of attention is being given to the American Medical Association’s push to have “video game addiction” recognized as a formal diagnostic disorder. Refreshingly, the media coverage has been pretty balanced and not nearly as sensationalistic as when it comes to concerns over media violence - one paper even strongly blaming poor parenting.

I was called in to do an interview for MSNBC. I was a bit concerned given the overly negative piece that ran as their cover story on the web site. Sadly, I can’t yet find a online version of the video or transcript. Overall the interview went well, though I was anxious/nervous at the start and kinda fumbled on my words a bit (having sat in the video booth for 40 minutes during technical difficulties didn’t help ease my nerves any).

I was also called by CNBC for another interview/debate later that evening. Unfortunately, I had a schedule conflict and wasn’t able to do it. Instead, I referred them to Hal Halpin of the Entertainment Consumers Association, who did a fine job considering he stepped in at the last moment…

Anyway, a few somewhat random thoughts come to mind on this issue:

  • there’s no denying the concern for someone that does something on an extremely excessive basis (be it gaming, watching TV, doing exercise, working, etc). In most cases, this has more to do with the person than the thing: mental stability, depression, social anxieties, low self-esteem, whatever. Let’s find better ways to help the people and worry less about the “things”.
  • the usage of the term “addiction” is tricky given the clinical definition (ie, physiological dependency of a given substance, etc) is way different than the casual/lay use of the word (ie, obsessed, passionate, etc)…
  • Americans average approx 28 hours of TV watching a week. Stereotypical gamers do about 7 hours of gaming a week. That’s 4x more for TV. I don’t see any calls to declare TV watching as a formal disorder (though, I’d speculate that someone probably tried a few decades back). FYI, in the AMA report, 2 hours or more a day is considered heavy game use.
  • the overly negative framing of the AMA report only works to further alienate parents and non-gamers. You get the sense that parents are being told to take out the Purel and disinfect anything that comes in contact with games/gamers. Instead, we should be educating parents to make them more media literate and help them to engage with their children via their pop culture.
  • moderation is a good thing. Related to the first point, no one is suggesting that playing games incessantly is wise. Having a diverse media diet coupled with other activities along with rules/boundaries (whether self imposed for adults, or by parents) is fine.
  • a formal declaration is a precursor to further legislation and censorship by the government. And, as an expressive medium, video games should be given the same level of respect and protection as other forms of art and entertainment
  • more research is welcome. But please, do it in an unbiased manner. Don’t assign it to the Center for Disease Control! What kind of message/assumption does that indicate?

Hmm, well, those are all my thoughts for now. Gotta go get my fix of gaming in for today!

Update: The AMA has backed off, citing the need for more research. Of course, they still hold that reducing screen time for children is a good thing. Sure. Though, to what degree does this quote reflect a dated view of what games are and/or how people play?

The more time kids spend on video games, the less time they will have socializing, the less time they will have with their families, the less time they will have exercising.

DDR? WoW? Wii? …