Game Addiction Author At Odds With College Colleagues

A Herald-Tribune article details the odd work situation that Ryan Van Cleave finds himself in since writing his book, "Unplugged: My Journey Into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction." The topic of his book, game addiction, does not sit well with some faculty and students at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., where he teaches English and writing, because the school has close ties with the field of video game development.

The article describes him as somewhat heretical, because the school teaches computer animation, comparing him to a Hershey employee warning consumers not to eat chocolate.

His book talks about the early days of video games, but the focal point is his addiction with World of Warcraft. According to his book, it lead to all kinds of odd behavior, like wearing adult diapers to shave off away time from his computer. Delightful. He blames his 40-hour-a-week addiction to WOW for his broken relationship with his wife and children and his general disconnection from life.

His story has certainly given him a lot of national attention; he has been offered appearances on the Dr. Phil show and has been asked to speak before groups that deal with game addiction. Some argue that he is simply an opportunist, writing a book on a subject that is hot. Whatever the case, he certainly is taking advantage of the situation, according to the paper: his business cards now read "Digital Addiction & Recovery Consultant."

While Van Cleave may consider himself a "recovering game addict," he is not pushing the issue on campus where works. He would like to see his colleagues in the game design program find ways to integrate ethical questions into the curriculum though. But colleagues like Jim McCampbell, who oversees the college’s computer animation program, disagree strongly with Van Cleave’s talk of more ethics in game design. In an email to the paper he said that students already "have a considerable amount of ethics taught in their game design courses" and that they focus "on creating art rather than gameplay."

He went on to say that the college does not encourage game design that lures gamers in with "psychological tactics" either: "As an artist, of course I want you to be deeply immersed in my game. That’s why I made it." But he adds that "at no point would I have used the principles of mind control to persuade you to do something that you didn’t want to do."

He also points out that, at some point, personal responsibility must be recognized and acknowledged:

"We tend to blame anyone but ourselves for our choices, but in the end it was that … a personal choice that was made," he wrote, adding: "Don’t confuse a psychological disorder with a lack of self-discipline."

Despite his disagreement with Van Cleave, McCampbell said that he would welcome greater debate on campus about the issue. One Ringling student thinks raising the issue on campus would receive a mixed reaction:

"I think it would cause a lot of controversy and a lot of talk and that might be a good thing," said Athena Torri, a senior studying photography.

Commentary: One thing that Van Clave might want to acknowledge is that he might suffer from addictive personality disorder. In other words, some people are more susceptible to getting addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, eating, gambling, and other disorders due to genetics.

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