Australian Paper: Video Game Biz “In Denial” About Game Addiction

Australia’s largest daily newspaper, the Herald-Sun, charges that the video game industry is "in denial" when it comes to video game addiction:

Game addiction looms as a new national health problem for adults…


Games are an easy target, but it is true that the computer and video games industry has, unsurprisingly, backed away from the subject of games addiction. A statement from the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia shows the industry is in denial.

"Certainly many young people go through periods of intense involvement in computer game play, for example with a new game, but this is not a lasting obsession for the majority,” it said.

Coming in for a mention, unsurprisingly, is World of Warcraft.

While there may be an argument to be made for game addiction, the poorly-researched Herald piece fails to make it.

Via: Joystiq

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. Wormdundee says:

     Pahahaha, looms as a new national health problem? Hell yeah, why not? Unless one addicted person counts as 10% of the population I can’t see this as a national health problem of any sort.

    They make it sound like people all over Australia are falling victim to videogame addiction, quitting their jobs, and thus collapsing the Australian economy.

    Good job guys, we’ve managed to use videogames to destroy an entire country.

    And it only took one addict.

  2. TBoneTony says:

    I think I would like to do a cooking book about how to scare parents.


    1. Look at something new and Popular that parent’s don’t understand because of the Generation Gap. (Generation Baby Boomer Vs Gen x + Gen y)


    2. Use the Children and portray them to be innocent victims. (Any child around the age of 5 to 18)


    3. Use exagerated examples of crimes where people have been killed and look for any link to what you are trying to scare parents with. (School Shootings and Violent Videogames for example)


    4. Form Psychological studies and claim them to be true before any REAL Psychologists could even talk about the weaknesses of that study.


    5. Portray evey member of that special interest group as addicted and more likely to go on a killing spree making most people of that minority special interest group so mad that they will yell at you so you will be less likely to be debunked.

    (How may times have you heard a disgruntled politician not understand what a gamer says, and yet yells back at him for not even aknowlaging there is a problem with today’s kids?)


    6. Sooner of later, there will be a few people who will admit to a problem without them fully knowing that they are being played by people in the mainstream media just wanting to sell newspapers and scaring parents.


    See where I am going with this?



    I have been usually clynical of people trying to place blame and shame onto other people, yet I know this is always going to happen.




  3. TBoneTony says:

    Is it just me?

    Or is the success of the Nintendo Wii suddenly creating this fuel of Hysteria that Videogames are addictive just so they can turn the masses away from Videogames like they have tried so many times with the NES, SNES, N64, N Gamecube periods?


    It seems that the more popular Videogames are, the more harder and angrier the newspaper journalists and every "so-called" researchers are.

    Basiclly, any gamer can tell a parent how to monitor their kids videogame play.

    But all the researchers who are experts in Videogame Addiction can’t even bring themselves to let the parents know of the right information.


    THAT is what is wrong with society, parents don’t get the right information because they are been told not to listen to gamers who are the people who are most experienced with videogames. And instead the "so called" researchers drive parents to be even more confused.


    I know I am just saying stuff here, but this is what I find with many newspapers like the herald sun.


    They just scare parents just to sell papers.

    And the Australian Games Industry knows this, so they don’t bother and it is us gamers who get the brunt when we try to defend the games industry.


    No matter how intelligent we try to speak, there is always ALWAYS someone annoying saying something stupid that other people listen to more.


  4. Steven Elfmen says:

    Odd thought, but does anyone remember a time when social outcasts whould throw themselves into science or art instead of into entertainment. I wonder if the media saturated society that we have today would have drowned the greatest minds from the past. Do you think we are moving forward less as a society due to the distractions along the way?

    Maybe I’m just rambling. 

    (I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my keys…)

  5. Andrew Eisen says:

    Well this is interesting.

    The Herald Sun finds one psychologist who has had one patient addicted to WOW and suddenly the industry is in denial about a national health problem?



    Andrew Eisen

  6. TBoneTony says:

    By the way the newspapers bash everything from Gen X and Gen Y, when the Baby Boomers all die out the news media will have no audeince left.

    Stories like this will never help the Herald Sun.


  7. Im_Blue says:

    "Academia.  What a waste of my tax dollars."

    So all those advances in medical science have been a waste of your tax dollars? And the research that went into building computers so you can post your stupid comments was a waster of tax dollars?

  8. neilsclark says:

    Meh, she makes a lot of clear points. If you read her book, though, she’s got a consistent pattern of bringing up something where ‘parents should know’ both sides. Like young kids being engrossed in Mortal Kombat fatalities. She uses anecdote and a single paragraph about research to suggest that this is primarily about the artistic appreciation of the red spraying pixels. Hmm.

    "Games are responsible for everything bad!" is different than, say, "c i haz researches say u no worry!" 

    That said, I’ll just reiterate that I liked a bit of the book. The authors have opinions, which is great. It becomes a problem when those opinions dictate a few clever omissions. Something some psychologists and games scholars have been quick to point out.

    Most regular folks are smart enough to know games aren’t responsible for everything bad. I’m saying that crazy one-sided gamers don’t tend to make that point convincingly.

  9. beemoh says:

    Because if anyone dares to suggest that games aren’t responsible for everything bad in the world, they’re clearly biased.


  10. neilsclark says:

    Most academics don’t take up your tax dollars. They don’t make money. Period. The authors of Grand Theft Childhood are the exception. Their research took up tax money for a good study with biased results. Their book was a market piece designed to make money. It did help to debunk some myths, in some fantastic and accurate ways. It also served to create some.

  11. Brokenscope says:

    I wasn’t trying to imply that the siege mentality was baseless, but the knee jerk reaction that some posters have to ANY type of criticism or even the slightest possibility that games could have even the most innocuous of effects is getting old and annoying.

    Though I will admit, most of the knee jerk folks tend to bring Jack Thompson into every conversation and litter the comments section with pointless and insipid posts

  12. beemoh says:

    Don’t confuse "a reactive seige mentality" with "pointing out when somebody’s wrong"- no critic with anything sensible to say that’s been researched properly has seen any sort of backlash.

    Don’t forget also that games are come in for a lot of unfair criticism for things everybody else (seems) to get a free pass for…


  13. neilsclark says:

    I don’t dismiss this book offhand. I enjoyed how the authors represented a good bit of that ‘other side.’ It’s just that omitting or ignoring the side you disagree with (especially in a simplified mass market piece) sets people up for ignorance. It really doesn’t matter which side you’re on.

    It’s still sensational. It’s a hot-button topic for gamers.


  14. GoodRobotUs says:

    100% Agree, it’s important not to allow personal feelings to colour judgement, and it’s important not to allow games such as WoW to ‘de-humanise’ other people from the players perspective, ironically enough, I’m currently studying Virtual Teams, and the importance of Face to Face communication in those teams, for more or less the reasons you stated, because it helps people remember that the other members of the team are people, and not simply lines of text in IRC or other form of Groupware, a problem that is multiplied when that team crosses cultures.

    The hardest part of any compulsive behaviour is making the source of that behaviour accept the affect their behaviour has both on themselves and on those around them, or even to accept that their actions may not be based purely on the fact they enjoy the past-time, they don’t want to accept that because, to them, it means there is a danger of having to give up a past-time that they enjoy, I think this is particularly noticeable in younger age groups, who, by their very nature, are resistant to ‘being told what to do’, for want of a better analogy, and simply see it as people wanting to take away their fun, rather than people trying to teach them self moderation.

    That’s why I think the current approach is flawed, rather than accept these people for who they are, it attempts to make them look addicted in the same way as a chemical addiction would work, particularly in sensationalist media who, as you so rightly pointed out, have limited space, and work more on selling power than factual representation, and that tends to drive people away from accepting their behaviour and the risks of it, because they feel they are being painted with the same brush as heroin addicts and their ilk, rather than simply people who need to come out from behind the keyboard and tackle their lives head-on otherwise the problems that drove them into the game in the first place will never go away. It’s a vicious circle, and, personally, I think the way Media treats it does far more to exacerbate the problem than promote intelligent and neutral discussion of it.

  15. neilsclark says:

    You raise good points here.

    JRR Tolkien actually wrote something very similar to your thoughts on God and creation. He saw the creation of deep, artistic worlds as a form of sub-creation. Sort of following in the footsteps of the master. You can find it in his essay ‘Tree and Leaf/On Faerie Stories’ in the Tolkien Reader. It’s great reading on why fantasy and faerie ‘enchant,’ beyond anything about addiction – this is certainly a draw.

    Thing is, when you combine all of these forms of media, as some games do, they can be harder to shrug off. A gamer often only sees the legitimate reasons they play – and for good reason. Most of us love games. Combining two of these elements, say socializing and gameplay, you can start to see some WoW players objectifying other people as gameplay objects. That’s just one example. And while the majority of players get a maximized enjoyment from all of these draws mashed together, they make it harder for people with problems to separate what’s legit from what isn’t.

    The less people exclusively take pro- or anti-games standpoints, the more we’ll be able to ID problems and get specific. Realize that by being neutral, you as a gamer have the ability to change people’s perceptions about our pastime.

    edit: change them for the better.

  16. GoodRobotUs says:

    Agreed that there are differences between the media types, and, as for the Rat in a Maze analogy, I also agree that whilst there are elements of fact there, the same could almost be said of some board games,  where people are required to perform certain tasks to advance, and also of things like Dungeons and Dragons, another past-time that has been used for similar purposes.

    With User generated content, one could refer to sites such as YouTube, which is almost 100% user-generated content, the need to move our hands across the darkness and create something is practically the ultimate creative urge, if you are a religious person, then you could argue that God was the first ever artist, He moved his hands across the void and created Light, and then, as acknowledgement of His own presence within Man, he left humanity the Earth to shape as he so desired. Now, in honesty, I’m not religious, but the need to create something from the tools at hand, is not really a new one.

    With socialising, many people who bowl or fish for pleasure also consider it a social past-time, so I agree that this is really a back-burner issue.

    In essence, I agree with you that sinking into a Game to avoid real life is not the answer, and that anything that can be done to help people who resort to this is a plus, but I feel the problem is being approached in the wrong manner, it’s trying to Demonise the Media being used as an escape, rather than the fact that these people felt the need to escape in the first place, and as long as people assume it is the game sucking people in, rather than people willingly allowing themselves to be sucked into them because it lets them forget their own concerns for a while, like many other past-times, then those who do so will not really recieve the correct kind of help.

    I also hope that the attitude towards this media is changing, not simply for the sake of the Media itself, which is often perfectly capable of defending itself, but also for the sake of the people who see it as some form of escape, because the better it is understood, the better these people can be helped.

  17. axiomatic says:

    Good grief… what an assinine article. It fails almost every facet of scientific analysis. It’s a fluff piece meant to illicit an inflamitory response, and it has.

    I know stock traders that their lives more meet the signs of "addiction" than any game player I know.

    Grow up Australlia. You have poverty and housting issues that need working waaaaayyyyy before you tackle something as mundane as the UNCONFIRMED possibility of an addiction to games.

  18. Steven Elfmen says:

    Block’s editorial is far from a real critique of the book as a whole. In general the book does less to glorify videogames then it does to represent the "other side" of the story, meaning the less sensationalized side. It compares videogames to TV and other violent media that can be a symptom of a greater social problem which can sometimes lead to upspeakable acts. It doesn’t say they are completely healthy, it says that it shouldn’t be played up as the source of problems. Block’s editorial dismisses the book offhandedly, as you have, pointing to the "red flags" that came up in the research and disregarding the dialoge afterwards.

    There will always be these hot button topics that are continually mentioned to gain exposure and I for one will be happy when the next one rears it’s ugly head. Ask yourself where the researchers for violent books went, or dancing, or radio or even religion in some form. They were replaced by the next line in a neverending quest to find someone to blame for tragedy.  

    (I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my keys…)

  19. Vake Xeacons says:

    “Backed off” the issue? We’re takin’ this stuff head on! I have no doubt there are real cases of addiction, just like people who develop eating disorders. Food isn’t addictive, but some people can’t stop eating. Just like cybernatography, some people can’t turn off. But like EVERY other issue, mainstream is blowing this one out of proportion.

  20. Zerodash says:

    The issue here is that if games were found to be addictive in the same way as gambling, then the entire medium is doomed.  All it takes is one politician to latch onto this and regulate games regardless of age rating. 

    You blame gamers, and yet people like David Walsh, Leland Yee, Hillary, and a slew of others are looking for ANY excuse to turn people off to the medium. 

  21. the1jeffy says:


    Academia.  What a waste of my tax dollars.  If a person’s game-play, TV, book-reading, sex drive, gambling interferes with their job, relationships, and their lives – then that person has a problem controlling their own impluses.  Period.  This is problem for individuals, not psuedo-science.

    Grand Theft Childhood was not an acedemic piece, written for the sake of getting their names in a journal.  It was written to debunk and demystify the junk science that floats around the MSM and acdemia, for parents.  Anything that helps parents understand, and doesn’t use fear as its motivator, is fine by me.  More parental involvement mean healthier kids (mentally, emotionally), who, in turn, grow into functional, non-addictive adults.

    Researchers just want their name in print.  So does the MSM.  And it does nothing to actually help people that need it.

    ~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

  22. Brokenscope says:

    Many gamers have a reactive siege mentality, it going to take a fair amount of time for that to cool off.

  23. neilsclark says:

    There are physical barriers that keep traditional news writers from being able to explain gaming research, good or bad. Generally has nothing to do with the skill or dedication of reporters. Reporters, especially those explaining videogames, only have so many inches of space on the physical newspaper. Once they’ve given the numbers on the latest big study, very little is often left for rebuttal or explanation. At least, that’s usually how they tell me that my quotes didn’t make the cut.

    ‘Game addiction’ is an interim term. It means something different for everyone, and the only reason anyone uses it so much is that, on the whole, they don’t know exactly what is happening. Playing too much is rooted in social, immersive, psychological and, sometimes, dependency-related factors. It’s just that percentages fit easier in a 5-inch story.

    Singling out the games industry might show an ignorance to their intentions. There are game devs like Raph Koster talking about the effects of games. Physical effects. It’s on the table. This is to say nothing of whether it should be.

    For now, the researchers and the gamers are to blame. The researchers, because we don’t yet have effective, neutral-enough research. It’s either unconclusive, or fuzzy pro-games pandering ala Grand Theft Childhood (see doc Block’s editorial via this site – my view is that the book’s research generates red flags, then minimizes them in a curiously non-academic, non-neutral way, among other things.)

    Gamers are to blame when they read ‘unconclusive’ as ‘propaganda,’ or consume pro-games literature uncritically.

    Hopefully that’s changing.

  24. neilsclark says:

    Games can be different in three ways:

    -Game design. It’s an experience. The dings/levels/etc. in a lot of those experiences have been compared on a 1:1 basis with conditioning. That is to say, we’re like rats in boxes from early 1950s experiments, pressing levers for food pellets. I have a lot of problems with a 1:1 comparison, but it’s interesting all the same.

    -User generated content. TV is starting to bring in people with, say, American Idol call-ins. But it’s a far cry from SL.

    -Socializing. Games are social. This isn’t the same thing as addiction, and very often it’s a legit draw.

    Put these together, and games give people a ton of legit, and so-so reasons to play. See my first comment.

  25. GoodRobotUs says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that Video Game are any more ‘addictive’ than TV or even something like Fishing, after all, any pastime that someone enjoys can be over-indulged in, families can just as easily be broken up by a partner being at the Bowling Alley every night and ignoring the family.

    People complain about the ‘flashing images’ of Video Games, and yet, the fact is that TV shows actually have far more active visual effects than most Video Games, and, in most cases, a far more interesting storyline, since they are intent on getting you to ‘tune in next week to find out’, if a TV show had a 20 minute scene of someone wandering around empty room looking for a lever to open a door, it would not have a high viewer rating.

    I suppose this is my real gripe about all these addiction studies, they are performed in a sterile environment, no consideration whatsoever is taken of the effect of other media, effects that have taken place for decades now, and yet humanity has proven to be resilient to it, it’s not like anyone has, to my knowledge, chopped up a baby, and blamed it on the fact they really love the work of Homer, because they know how stupid it sounds, and yet Video Games make an easy target because of the high level of ignorance around about them, and the need to find a scapegoat.

    As stated by Keith Bakker, head of the Videogame addiction centre in Holland, nearly 90% of these cases are NOT cases of addiction, and are more people sinking into Video Games because they feel unaccepted and unwanted by their peers in real life, they are caused by external problems, and the real cure to them is for parents and teachers to actually take the time to connect with these young people, rather than simply writing them off as addicts.

    Articles such as the one referenced here do nothing but help increase the ignorance gap and encourage those who should actually be responsible for young people to create yet more excuses to not live up to those responsibilties.

    People also try to blame the interactiveness of Video Games, which puts me in mind of the 1950’s, when dancing, probably one of the most interactive past-times there is, was blamed for a wealth of the worlds ills, such as teenage pregnancy and youth violence.

    In essence it is easy to say ‘A is new, B is happening, therefore A caused B’, but when ‘A’ is something that is being deliberately mis-interpreted for the sake of propoganda, and ‘B’ is something that has been happening for years, and has been glorified, despite opinions to the opposite, for thousands of years, ever since Egyptians started documenting the great victories of their armies and their heroes, ever since Ulysses shoved a burnt stick into the eye of the Cyclops, then I seriously begin to wonder how much of this research is nothing more than a political tool to try and deviate peoples attention away from how deeply their own government has failed them on a social level.

  26. ZenAndNow says:

    Huh? Why would anyone care what the Herald Sun says? It’s a tabloid spread, pure and simple. It doesn’t look for facts, logic, journalistic integrity or any of them thar new fangled modern conventions, it simply wants to sell papers and will whore anything and everything to get said sales.

    A pity really. It’s actually our only national paper that is somewhat aligned with the centre of politics. The Age is pretty far left leaning, the Australian has a distinct right and business leaning. If the Herald Sun had a shred of journalistic honesty it could actually be our best paper. But honesty doesn’t sell.

  27. Austin_Lewis says:

    I find it hilarious that a newspaper is suggesting anyone is in denial about anything.  Seriously, I feel that newspapers are in denial about their continued presence as a reliable source of media.  Especially when some of these papers are little better than rags.

Comments are closed.