The recent, high-profile Brandon Crisp tragedy once again brought the debate over video game dependency to the forefront. But, does obsessive video game play necessarily equal addiction?
Not according to Keith Bakker (left), the founder of the Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam, Europe’s first and only clinic to treat game addiction. After running Smith & Jones for two years, Bakker has concluded that compulsive gaming is a social problem, not a psychological one.
Bakker told the BBC:
These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies. But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem.
Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication...
If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have. It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people.
In response to these observations, the clinic has altered its treatment program to help compulsive gamers develop “activity-based social and communications skills to help them rejoin society.”
Bakker feels that his clinic may no longer be needed if “parents and adults in the community took more responsibility for the habits of their children.”
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen typed this story with his left hand while playing Wii Tennis with his right.