Gaming as Addiction

This post has been sleeping away in my drafts for quite a few months, and I only started to really think about writing it a couple weeks ago. The beginnings of this motivation start with me viewing a TEDx talk by a man named Cam Adair. Cam Adair is a reformed gaming addict and founder of GameQuitters, a YouTube channel aimed at helping people overcome their addictions to online gaming and eventually quit cold turkey. The TEDx talk I viewed is pasted below:

I don’t know what it was. I just started watching these videos and, out of some inexplicable reflex, was brimming with lava-rage. I was simply furious at my laptop screen, immediately defensive and audibly miffed. I dismissed the videos for some time as some kind of Bible-belting, self-flagellating, sadist nonsense. I even skimmed over the thought of that irritable man ‘Cam Adair’ in my mind during the following days. With his arse-pube haircut and wholly eviscerable face. How could this man advocate the voluntary abstinence of video games, let alone draw up his little sheeple following to boot? He’d have them believe simply grasping a controller gets your teenage daughter pregnant, pregnant with an ethnic baby. Pray to God, little ones, pray that your yungins can avoid the devil, Satan, in the form of a compact laser disc. What a veritable bum.

hangry

Of all the contradictions of the self that we slowly come to confront, one of the hardest to face up to is an entirely emotional response. This was surely one of them. I only recently started thinking about why this impostor ‘Cam Adair’ (well, Mr Adair… A-dair YOU to fisticuffs in my abode) came to make me so angry.

I suppose one of the reasons is because I shall always defend video games as an art form. Even as I type, the nature of media consumption is perennially changing, and the methods used today by creators to achieve lasting and emotional responses are becoming more digitally refined. I guess I’m just used to rebuking someone- anyone- who condescends to reduce this idea of videogames that I have come to know: one of a sound and profoundly advanced medium that has proven the ability to elicit kinds of responses in me equalled by the most extolled literature.

I’m just so sick of the out-of-touch pensioners, the swathes of Jack Thompsons that still exist somewhere sleeping upside down in caves, who preen their dogma day by day convinced that their Grandson would have made it into Brown or Cambridge had they not played so much Grand Auto Thief on their Nintendo. I’m so sick of these people that I’m merely used to reflexively wincing at anyone saying anything that could be construed as harsh about our shared medium.

It took a while for me to understand and deconstruct my emotional response to Sarkeesian’s work, but in the end I finally understood how childish I was. And I understand now that my emotional response to Cam Adair is similarly just as immature.

Cam Adair’s work is actually very noble and sensible. I’ve never experienced true gaming addiction so my understanding is inevitably condensed and myopic, but from what I understand, some gamers begin to play online games not out of desire but out of desperation. They start playing even though they don’t want to, late into the night and early morning.

This relegation of my dear medium to the sordid level of online gambling, pornography or friggin’ Diazepam (Snake?) is what initially miffed me. Of all these items, gaming is obviously sticking out amongst the others. There is no artistry in gambling, no passionate creative vision in pornography (unless we’re talking about the Shunga or something) there is no shared love between creator and consumer in the purchase of painkillers. How can something so artistically superior be set amongst these ranks?

But that’s the nature of addiction. It is not determined by the substance, anything that rewards the brain can be addictive to certain personalities. My knowledge of marijuana addiction as a reality for some doesn’t negate me advocating its regulation and legality (wake up, sheeple). But there’s no art in something such as marijuana. There’s nothing… lasting.

But thinking about it now, is there anything really lasting or creatively transcending about the kinds of online games people get addicted to? Do people really get addicted to Gone Home or The Wolf Among Us, the kind of games I’m used to defending? Have I just avoided the addictive MMOs all my life?

But I guess I’m demonstrating the thing that I ultimately want to caution against in this post: denying the reality of addiction in the face of genuinely vulnerable people who cannot escape it. There is nothing to be achieved by denying the fact that games, or at least certain types of games, are a crucible of addiction to certain individuals. The longer this discussion is denied, the further we engender those addictions as we assure the individuals that nothing is wrong. Humility and sympathy are key if we are to help those people who do need it, and I think that we may all know one or two.

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8 thoughts on “Gaming as Addiction

  1. Agreed, and I think the key point is that pretty much anything can be an addiction if the brain is chemically rewarded for partaking in the activity. I read an article many years ago that began by comparing online videogame addiction to that of drug abuse, but eventually started making comparisons to gaming as a cult. I think that’s when it’s getting taken too far.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s easy to take a quick glance at something that inspires obsession and label it occult. It’s something I’m guilty of, I guess. I used to think my friends who watched anime probably convened every weekend to perform some kind of blood ritual. Now I’m watching Food Wars on the reg, and I only commit blood rituals sometimes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. YOU’RE SO WRONG! YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW WRONG YOU ARE! MY DOG WAS RUN OVER BY SOMEONE MAKING VIDEOGAMES IN HIS BASEMENT! HE MADE GAMES THAT ADDICTED HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT YOUTHS!

    Now that the hate mail is out of the way…

    I think the important thing to remember is the reasons that he listed for why people play games: escapism, social interaction, challenge, and imitation of measurable growth. Normally, people can handle what they’re consuming, but sometimes people get carried away. What I took from Mr. Adair’s talk is that not all people who play games are addicted, but that’s no reason to create an environment that enables addiction in the most vulnerable people. It’s key to recognize that our young ones should not be given free reign with entertainment of any form whenever they desire stimulation, and that we should help others that struggle from the effects of addiction. That we shouldn’t shame people who suffer from addiction to games, and that we shouldn’t reinforce the stigma on those that have that problem.

    Thank you for sharing this by the way.

    PS: I could see why you would initially be defensive about gaming. I hate having to defend my hobby to those that don’t understand it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you’re my first official hate mail!!! Thank you!!!

      And yeah, I agree that young people and especially teenagers should not go unchecked with what they consume in the media. In gaming this appears to be a unique problem though, because it seems like the policing effectiveness of the PEGI rating on AAA titles crumbles day by day. I think that that’s something we need to think about as we move forward.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is an interesting subject, and I was going to touch on it briefly in my next post. I have had and still have a lot of chronic anxiety, and while I sincerely love games for their art, there have definitely been times in my life where I played games addictively as a crutch. Not as bad as those who literally leave the world altogether to play games, but enough. So when people quit cold turkey, I say that’s great for them, it is what they need to do to be healthy – as long as they don’t get preachy to everyone else. I learned moderation, but everybody’s brain is wired differently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting actually because I feel similarly about some times in my life where I played excessively. I’d say I probably played Call of Duty compulsively back in the day. I think it touches a lot of people at different points in their lives.

      Like

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