GAMING ADDICTION : A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
GAMING ADDICTION : A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
Last year, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder to the ICD-11, i.e., the eleventh edition of its International Classification of Diseases.
In light of my recent experience, I was left to wonder if something like that had befallen me.
I’ve never really been into computer gaming, since I’m a typical nerd – I’ve always had terrible hand-eye coordination and worse reaction times, even at my physical peak.
Then came match-3 games, which required no dexterity. I had a brief interest in CANDY CRUSH SAGA and its spin-offs, PET RESCUE SAGA and FARM HEROES SAGA, because I wanted to see what made people play a billion rounds every month.
I wound up really liking the combination of luck and skill involved. However, the whole pre-schooler vibe was off-putting, so I gave up on the games after a few weeks.
I looked around for another match-3 game, and I tried one with a FAMILY GUY theme because I like the show, but the game was so poorly developed that it quickly got tedious and often just downright stupid. The worst was counting Quagmire’s condoms. I gave up after a few hours.
Then, I discovered GEMS OF WAR, which applies match-3 to RPG combat.
GEMS OF WAR is a lot of fun to play, and as a reviewer of geek culture I’d recommend this game to any RPG gamer. The game has considerable depth and complexity, so I won’t try to explain it here, especially since impressive resources are already available from the game’s site and on Wikia.
In any case, I have particularly enjoyed this game because I’ve had to develop specific tactical measures in service to larger, long-term strategic goals. In this way, GEMS OF WAR has become more than a time-waster – it has become a frequent focus of my interior life.
This worried me, just a little, because I’d heard of the ICD-11 thing.
Now, addiction is something I know about since, right after college, I spent some time as a counselor at an in-patient treatment center. Hence, I have extensive experience of people addicted to every street drug, all the usual prescription medications, and the great destroyer alcohol.
Among researchers and professionals back then, the biggest debate was about gambling as an addiction. Addiction was originally understood to be a physical phenomenon defined by withdrawal : no withdrawal, no addiction. In this scheme, alcohol, nicotine, and heroin are addictive, while cocaine is not. Users of cocaine and other drugs came to be diagnosed with psychological substance dependence.
This opened the door to the idea of psychological dependence upon PROCESSES rather than substances. Traditionally, process addictions had been considered monomanias caused by psychosis, typically obsessive-compulsive disorder, e.g., a behavior like uncontrollable gambling was called a compulsion.
As the debate progressed, those suffering from three particular process addictions – gambling, sex, and over-eating – soon developed their own Twelve Step programs. I’m not making light of this last, because these programs have led many to seek help for the first time.
Now, with the ICD-11 classification, computer gaming has become the latest process addiction to achieve visibility.
But had I become a victim ?
Googling gaming addiction, I found a lot of coverage of addiction to FORTNITE. One piece even asserted brain changes in the scans of gamers playing it. I read a lot of stuff, but still, one thing kept coming to me :
I’ve seen addiction, and what’s happening to me – and, admittedly, just me – ain’t addiction.
My computer gaming won’t screw up my physical and mental health, won’t make me betray my family and friends, won’t cost me a job, won’t turn me into a bridges-burning weasel and then into a street ghost.
The contrarian in me also wonders if WHO and all their experts have gotten it wrong here, since excessive gaming, particularly in younger people, could well be a symptom of deeper problems like depression, rather than being a disease in its own right. If so, that could be seen as good news, since depression and even psychoses are all treatable now.
So anyway, when I look at my own situation, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be okay.
Nonetheless, I hasten to point out that everything I’ve said here is a PERSONAL perspective on gaming addiction. Even if I can determine that I am going to be okay, that doesn’t mean anyone else will.
In sum, I’m really only trying to reassure those whose experiences with online games are similar to my own, and to say that it’s okay to be an enthusiast of games or anything else, at least some of the time. After all, geeks are defined by their enthusiasms, be they gamer geeks or, say, comics geeks or science fiction geeks.
Still, it bears repeating that IF YOU WANT HELP, PEOPLE WILL LISTEN.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in ANY KIND OF emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
All opinions expressed are solely those of the author, and are not endorsed by any other person or persons whatsoever.
Thanks for reading – I mostly write comics reviews for Outright Geekery, which you can find here.
Thanks also to the Seattle Public Library, for providing me with Internet service through its mobile hotspot program.