Sunday, August 9

Defining addiction, gaming or otherwise

Tobold's back from his self-imposed blogging impasse.
He has a post out that gives an insight into recent politics in Germany with relation to gaming. While the German policy is one of the most repressive, from a gamer's point of view, in the world they are far from the only country where politicians are furthering their career by playing on the fears of the uninformed and the legitimately concerned.

One of the best, most valid arguments that computer games aren't the root of all evil, turning well behaved obedient kids into homicidal maniacs, is of course that these games have been around for 30-odd years now. A whole generation has grown up and long since reached voting age and is showing a rather disturbing lack of homicidal maniacs. Games have long since upstaged and even replaced reading and many other alone-time activities, they're that prevalent.
Picking up a random teenager of the street and putting him in an anti-terrorism holding and interrogation cell under some 9/11 panic infused Act have better than 50% odds of you molesting and abusing the rights of a kid who occasionally to oftentimes plays games, probably an FPS. And yet, picking up a random teenager brings lower odds than one in hundred of catching a homicidal maniac.

But lets leave alone the homicidal maniacs from the anti-terrorist squads for now and focus on other statistics. When is something addictive? When a larger than normal percentage of people partaking of it become addicted to it. Larger than normal. Normally there's a percentage of people with a tendency towards becoming addicted. Having an addictive nature can be a pain and must be continuously monitored once one realizes this. Taking care not to overindulge in any activity, specifically ones that can be harmful in the middle or long run. Modern society is doing anything but keeping ourselves from overindulging in anything. Quite the contrary.

There's a line somewhere, if a product (be it a consumable or an activity (heck there's sex addicts out there)) has a higher percentage of people addicted to it than this line, and if the population polled/partaking of the product is representative of the whole of the community, then it's possible to say something is addictive. If it's less than that, it's "just" the addictive personalities who preferably should be helped if possible, not litigated.
Where that line lies I don't know exactly. I never finished my Psychology studies, mainly because of the Statistics classes. I suspect most governments have some kind of definition for it.

The crux of the matter is of course the second part of that definition. The bit about populace representative to the community. I.e. There's a generation, which if I may point out has yet to start any World Wars but saw the end of a Cold War, who grew up with games. Nearly everyone aged under 40 will have some experience with gaming. For P&P RPG gamers, the age is a decade or two higher but that 'addiction' never had the same level of penetration. Nevertheless that also failed to produce a generation of raping, pillaging, suicidal maiancs. However, age 0-40 this isn't representative of the entire human ccmmunity and condition. Since it's usually people over age 40 who order mass massacres, sign declarations of War, start a "War on Ephemeral Threat X" e.t.c. this is rather relevant.
We'll not be able to truly say what detrimental effect games have on humanity for at least another 40 years and so much will have changed by then that it'll be really hard to find the influence of gaming in all of that.

There's your problem right there.
Just look at the percentages of overweight people. And no mr Obama, the solution is not to simply leave the Xbox controller alone and get out more. It's a wider issue as I'm sure you know. But since this isn't a blog to address all the problems in todays society I'll leave it with my point. Why has no-one been able to come up with statistical evidence showing games are "addictive" to the point where a larger than normal percentage, even of the target age of under 40's, becomes addicted to them? Is it possible that the statistical evidence falls short of the career politicians' needs?

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