Sometimes, the cleverest of folk say the dumbest things. Case in point, I am sure that Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack is very clever, as a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts you would have to assume as much. So why has she claimed that as many as 40 percent of World of Warcraft players are addicted to the game, and done so in a way that suggests such an addiction relates to a loss of control?
Maybe the fact that Dr. Orzack is both founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Service has something to do with it. Please do not get me wrong, I am sure that both the kind Doctor with more than 10 years of research into the phenomena behind her, and the service she runs, do good work for all the right reasons. I am even sure that there are a great many people who display obsessive behavior when it comes to computer gaming, behavior that can impact upon their social life, family relationships and even work.
I am not convinced that words like ‘addiction’ are properly used in this case, nor that the numbers add up. Heck, there are millions of people playing this game, and do I really believe there are also millions addicted to it in such a way that their lives are out of control? No, of course not.
Nor do I think that the millions of people who would be lost without their Internet connection, their email access, their cell phone, television or iPod are in any danger of losing a grip on reality. The American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (that oft quoted tome beloved by writers of popular TV courtroom dramas) would seem to agree, as there does not appear to an entry for either video gaming or Internet addiction.
The vast majority of games players, like the vast majority of Internet users and TV watchers, manage to handle their hobby, their enjoyment, their usage without any problem. The few that fall by the wayside would, I argue without any formal clinical psychology training, probably have been ‘addicted’ to something else if not the game, the email, the telly. Although addiction is no laughing matter, and I am not meaning to make light of it in any shape or form, I would personally be happier knowing my mate was a video game addict than a heroin addict or gambler. It seems a lot less damaging, in the great scheme of things.
It is not even if this is anything new, surely? My father, rest his soul, always used to love telling me of how he would spend hours on end playing tiddlywinks and ‘conkers’ when he was a kid, pre-war. Neither did him any long term harm, apart from the odd callous on the thumb, and thankfully there were no experts around at the time to press for them to be banned.
If you want to spend time worrying about potentially dangerous technology driven addictions of our time, then look no further than Internet Poker. Crikey, mixing the appeal of online multi-player gaming in a visually appealing environment with the excitement of an easy to grasp yet highly competitive game, and then throwing in the ‘this can make you rich’ bait is a recipe for disaster. This is one game that really can cost you your home.
Mind you, what do I know? I am the chap who came out in a cold sweat while on vacation recently in the mountains of the Snowdonia National Park, North Wales, because neither my cell phone nor BlackBerry could get a signal...