I feel like I was born with genetics that predetermined I would struggle with addiction and alcoholism. The very first time I sampled booze, I blacked out. That is not normal. But, I provide an interesting case study — I was given up for adoption when I was only a few days old. As an adult, I met my birth mother. Most of her family had suffered with addiction problems. Then I learned that my birth father died of a heroin overdose, in his early 30’s. In fact, his entire side of the family was dead from problems with addiction and/or alcoholism at a young age. At least I thought. I recently found my Brother, who is alive and successful. My first question was “are you an alcoholic”? His answer “I might be, but I have never taken a sip of alcohol”.
How very cool, we are the only two survivors. Me, destined to be dead, yet sober 19 years (by what only can be described as a miraculous moment of clarity). Him, scared to touch the poison called alcohol, that most normal people enjoy with impunity.
This is a long about way to say, that video game addiction, is not part of my story, but I find it very interesting and valuable to learn about. Anything that is addictive can be a part of my story, if I let it. So, gaming addiction might not directly touch your life, but you might find this useful information too.
Excessive gaming can addictive. It can create a sense of isolation that complicates someone’s ability to relate to others. I wrote an article about the basic’s of computer addiction, but I want to discuss specific games here.
There are a variety of categories like: massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and simple, repetitive games like “Tetris.” or “Candy Crush”. In the MMORPG category, two games are commonly known as the most addictive: “World of Warcraft” and “Everquest.”
With more than 10 million registered players all over the world, Blizzard Entertainment’s “World of Warcraft” (WOW) is often called “World of Warcrack” in reference to its addictiveness. This game has something for every type of player – fantasy, fighting, playing together, or playing alone. Teenage boys in particular are motivated to play for hours on end in order to get to the higher levels of the game, where they can earn better armor, equipment, and WOW gold. The game is so ubiquitous that the animated comedy show “South Park” produced an episode parodying its addictive nature. “Everquest,” sometimes disparagingly called “Never-Rest,” is the granddaddy of all MMORPGs, first released in 1999.
In blog after blog, gamers say the addictive nature of these games comes not just from the variety of game play, but from the ever-changing nature of the game. There is no “winning” the game. There is no ultimate goal. Reaching the highest level in the game requires hundreds of hours of playing time, and right when a certain character level has reached its max, the game changes! Many players use multiple characters, trying on different roles and weapons.
There’s another popular type of multiplayer game that is played online through a game console like PlayStation or XBOX. Lovers of “Halo 3,” released late last year, refer to their addiction as “Halodiction.” Bloggers have boasted, or bemoaned, 19-hour stretches of Halo play. Halo lovers point to the high-level graphics and sound, saying it’s like starring in your own movie. What differentiates this type of console game from the others is that there is an end to the game. At some point, after many, many hours of play, the gamer does reach a final level. But in the multiplayer, online mode, the variations are endless and many go back again and again to blow up the bad guys.
Then you have games like Tetris and Solitaire. The games are very simple, but also can be very addictive, particularly because they often are found on cell phones and PDAs. This allows teens to play anywhere, including under a school desk to keep the teacher in the dark.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, a voluntary industry organization, has developed a ratings system that can help parents decide which games their children should be playing based on age:
EC (Early Childhood): content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
E (Everyone): content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
EVERYONE 10+: content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.
T (Teen): content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
M (Mature): content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
AO (Adults Only): content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
Mediawise.org, a group that researches the effects of all types of media on families, publishes a yearly report card on video games. The following is a list of games that are extremely violent or have particularly repugnant forms of violence, along with a list of popular games that have very low or nonexistent violent content.
Games To Avoid (all rated M)
• Assassin’s Creed
• Call of Duty 4
• The Darkness
• Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
• Manhunt 2
• Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
• Time Shift
Recommended Low Violence/Non-Violent Games (check rating for age-appropriateness)
• FIFA Soccer ’08
• Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
• Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour
• Madden NFL ’08
• Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
• Need for Speed Pro Street
• The Sims 2: Castaway
• Super Mario Bros. 3
• Super Mario Galaxy
• Viva Piñata
Treatment is available. A therapist or treatment program that specializes in adolescents would be a first place to start.