Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gaming is not an addiction

Nick Yee at Terra Nova posts a link to a BBC article explaining that 90% of the time, gamers are not addicted to gaming. Neither Yee nor the BBC article claim that excessive gaming isn't a problem, but it's not addiction the way alcohol or drugs are an addiction. What it represents is a social problem. Many gamers are boys who feel isolated at school or at home. As I pointed out earlier this week, Tyre's book covers gaming as a problem and although she interviews people who run rehab centers for gaming, she seems to lean more toward the idea that gaming is a substitute for something that's missing in boys' lives, mostly success at school and social acceptance.

The BBC article takes parents to task, claiming they don't put enough restrictions on their children's gaming activities. I'm sure that's true in many families. I know from experience, though, that even with restrictions, you don't always know that your kid is gaming. Kids can sneak a laptop into their room, for example, or go to a friend's house and play. What I think needs to happen (and I say this partly thinking out loud about what might work for me) is that kids need to be encouraged to do lots of different activities and to have lots of activities available. That means having books around to read, friends to play outside with, other hobbies such as art or building things to fill the time with. Parents have to lay that foundation and sometimes even arrange opportunities for other activities for their kids. This is something I've been thinking about a lot as we head into winter. I think too often parents assume this kind of stuff will just happen--and maybe it used to 20 years ago--but not so much anymore.