Most students grow up being constantly reminded that the world’s most dangerous addictions are alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and gambling. Now, you can add a new one to your list – videogames.
Children today see videogames as normal hobbies. They choose to use their PlayStation 3 or their Nintendo 3DS when previous generations used to choose between hide-and-seek and climbing trees.
Fenella Murphy, ReachOut.com’s Research and Evaluation officer, explained to the College View that videogames can be beneficial if played in moderation: “they can foster team spirit and might be a way […] of relaxing or dealing with stress for some people. Some games can also be educational”.
Florian Diadeud, a DCU engineering student who owns about 200 different games, argued that video games are just one way among others of escaping from reality, “like when one reads a good book. I don’t think we can talk about ‘addiction’ to videogames – problems come from excesses”.
Dr Tony Bates, the founder of Headstrong, told The College View that some activities can be more addictive than others. “Videogames probably do hold greater potential for us becoming addicted because they stimulate, heighten and intensify certain emotions that help us to forget and lose touch with reality”.
We may imagine videogame addicts as people breaking their computers when their game does not work but in fact, most of the time, addiction is more subtle than that. Murphy explained that In order to play video games, the addicted players may stop other activities such as hanging out with friends, stop eating a healthy diet and not get enough sleep.”
They may also feel irritated when not able to play. “When I couldn’t play, I tried to plan what I would do with my character the next time I would log in to the game” explained Mehdi Nabil, a student who recently uninstalled ‘World of Warcraft’ after playing for over four years.
The sixth-year student devoted over five hours to the online role-playing game on weekdays; when he was not playing, he was still immersed in the game’s world. “World of Warcraft is not only about the game. There is a whole environment – I was on forums, I read guides to improve my character’s skills, I chatted with other players.”
Nabil saw the game as a diversion – for entertainment and as a way of forgetting his personal problems. “The game made me feel important: I was admired by other players […], some asked me to help them, and my teammates paid attention to what I was saying.”
According to Dr Bates, the real question we need to ask is: “what are video games allowing our young people to deal with in their lives and what do they need to cope without them?”
He added that “in a family that is full of conflict, neglect, abuse of one form or another, video games may be a refuge, a way of shutting out all that’s overwhelming and giving a young person a means of survival. Of course this is not ideal, but it may be the best they can do.”