ESA Reacts to NIMF Game Addiction Study

April 21, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on research data released by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and the National Institute on Media and the Family which suggests that one in twelve people between 8 and 18 show signs of video game dependency.

We also noted that Grand Theft Childhood author Dr. Cheryl Olson of Harvard questioned the survey methodology used in the study.

Not unexpectedly, game publishers' trade group ESA has now weighed in to dispute the NIMF research. Senior VP Rich Taylor (left) commented:

This is a report more in search of media headlines than scientific truth and facts. In an interview, though not in the report itself, Dr. Gentile said, ‘It’s not that games are bad. It’s not that games are addictive.’ Medical experts, including the American Medical Association, have already rejected the fallacy of video game ‘addiction,’ and we completely agree.

Like all forms of entertainment, computer and video games should be a part of a well-rounded lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise. It is up to parents to determine when and how often their children should play any game. For our part, the industry already provides a wide range of tools and information, including timers and parental controls, to help caregivers ensure that entertainment software is used appropriately.

Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, who has been known to drop by GamePolitics from time to time, offered some additional criticism of Gentile's research, reports USA Today:

Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health Science University, called the study "valuable" to the American Psychiatric Association's [upcoming] decision on whether compulsive computer and Internet use should be considered a mental disorder.

Block, an APA adviser, warns that the [NIMF] study has weaknesses. The research should be replicated because it is supported by the National Institute for Media and the Family, which he likens to a lobbying group. And the survey could have found higher game use because it was collected in January as opposed to summer. It also classifies 8.5% as addicted without a physician interview: "The people they are claiming have a problem, it's not entirely clear that they do have a problem."

UPDATE: GU Comics pokes a bit of fun at the NIMF study.

17 comments

Psychiatrist (and GP reader) Takes Issue with Grand Theft Childhood

November 13, 2008 -

Gamers and the video game industry were cheered earlier this year by the release of Grand Theft Childhood. The book, written by a pair of Harvard researchers, Cheryl Olson and Laurence Kutner, basically said that fears about the effects of games on children are largely overblown (see: Researchers's New Book Cuts Through the Negative Hype About Video Game Violence). In fact, the book was so well-received in the game community that the authors were invited to present at PAX 08 in Seattle.

Not everyone in the field agrees with Olson and Kutner, however. Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist and professor, works with patients suffering from video game addiction. He also happens to be a longtime reader of GamePolitics. Block's review of Grand Theft Childhood appears in November's Psychiatric Times, where he criticizes Olson and Kutner's perspective on game addiction:

The authors report being consulted by the mother of a 22-year-old man who is “addicted” to video gaming. The authors conclude, “Clearly, the young man had some major problems. The obsessive video game play was much more likely a symptom than the root cause.” Kutner and Olson do not seem to understand that while the computer use can often be a symptom of other disorders, it can also be a serious, self-perpetuating problem in its own right. The computer use is often an early defense against despair, but it can also socially isolate, perpetuate false feelings of power, and socially de-skill people; it can become its own source of pain and isolation...

Block also touches on the Shawn Woolley case:

In another example, the authors discuss, by name, a man who shot and killed himself in front of his computer. They dismiss the event on the basis of a magazine article that reported on it. They write, “It’s much more likely that his obsessive video game playing was a reflection of his other, more profound problems... and not the root cause of his suicide.” Having discussed the suicide with the man’s mother at several conferences, I found Kutner and Olson’s synopsis disturbingly trite and inaccu-rate. Moreover, the ethical breach of publishing the man’s name and speculating as to his diagnosis from afar was disturbing...

31 comments

Tech Deprivation: Did Removal of Xbox Spark Teen's Disappearance?

October 23, 2008 -

All week, GamePolitics has been tracking the search for Brandon Crisp. The 15-year-old Canadian gamer disappeared on October 13th after a dispute with his family which led to the confiscation of his Xbox 360 by his father, Steve.

Mr. Crisp has expressed fears that Brandon's "addiction" to Call of Duty 4 may be somehow connected to the boy's disappearance.

GamePolitics put that question to Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of Internet porn and online gaming addicts. While Dr. Block would not comment directly about the case, he offered his view on how the removal of a game system or PC might affect a hardcore gamer:

I caution against abruptly "cutting off" people from their compulsive computer use without much thought and preparation.  I often see extreme anger results, directed at oneself or the surrounding world.  When you think about it, it makes sense:  The computer (or gaming console) helps a person who is struggling with emotions (1) metabolize those emotions virtually without acting on them in the Real, (2) chew up time so they do not have the hours to act out in Real life, and (3) provides companionship...even if it is simulated or via Virtual relationships. 

 

When you cut the cord, you destroy the way someone is dealing with their emotions, you give them 30+ more hours [per week] to occupy, and you kill off their major source of relationships.  Is it any surprise anger often results?
 
Often the anger is directed at oneself with statements like, "What a waste I have made of my life" or "What do I have to show for the hours I spent in WoW, Civ, etc."  It can lead to suicide attempts or other pathology, like drug use.  Or, the anger can turn external:  "We all live in fantasy worlds, brutal places fabricated and controlled by others.  I'll be damned if I'll let them take away my world, where I am powerful, without first stripping away their fantasies and illusions."  This is what I believe happened at Columbine.

Shrink: WoW Addicts Feel More Shame Than Porn Addicts

June 9, 2008 -

Sunday's Boston Globe offers a fascinating interview with Oregon psychiatrist - and GamePolitics reader - Dr. Jerald Block, who specializes in treating online game addiction.

Block believes that "Internet Addiction" should be recognized as an official diagnosis.

From the story:

[Block] believes that psychiatry needs to do a lot of catching up in order to understand why people get stuck in games like Warcraft. One problem: Most therapists have no idea what a "guild" is or what it means to hit Level 60. Because of this language barrier, many gamers wind up begging for help in online support groups rather than seeking out mental health professionals.

Interestingly, Block said that addicted gamers feel worse about their habit than those addicted to pornography:

BLOCK: ...the computer gamers tend to be harder to treat. People feel a lot of shame around computer games. Whereas, it's socially acceptable to have a porn problem.

IDEAS: You can't be serious. You mean your clients are more ashamed of ...

BLOCK: ...playing World of Warcraft than looking at porn. Yes.

IDEAS: Why?

BLOCK: As a society we understand that porn is something people do, and you can see a psychiatrist and get treated for it. But gaming is hard to describe to anyone else. So these people can't explain their situation to friends. In fact, it's hard to give you an example of what my clients talk about, because gaming is enormously complicated.

Block has also studied the relationship between violent games and school shootings, but believes the issue is complex and enmeshed in the shooters' "relationship" with their PCs:

With these shooters, their last act was to turn against their own computers. As a psychiatrist, I think that's relevant.

 

39 comments

Shrink: Doom Deprivation May Have Sparked Columbine Massacre

July 27, 2007 -

Video game critics commonly hold that violent video games, including Doom, contributed to the 1999 Columbine massacre. But an Oregon psychiatrist theorizes that not being able to play Doom may have been a far more significant factor in the murderous rampage carried out by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Psychiatrist - and GamePolitics reader - Jerald Block MD (left) discusses his theory in a lengthy interview with Destructoid. Block's recent research paper, Lessons From Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage was recently published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry.

Dr. Block - a gamer himself - has a professional fascination with the effects of technology on individuals. He told Destructoid:
 

I knew that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold played many computer games. I had even played some of the same games. So I was curious and began reading the data… It was consuming, compelling, and disturbing reading.


Of the criticism often leveled at games, Block doesn't see it as unfair:

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benohawk:( Well, that's crappy news James07/31/2015 - 6:29pm
james_fudgeRIP Roddy Piper :(07/31/2015 - 5:39pm
Andrew EisenI told Sega if it releases Yakuza 1&2 HD and Yakuza 5 in North America, I'll buy them. So far, they don't seem to be swayed.07/31/2015 - 5:11pm
Craig R.Too many gamers were harassing and abusing long before Baldwin decided to 'legitimize' the lunatic fringe, but that term certainly made the lunatics easier to pick out of the crowd07/31/2015 - 4:58pm
Craig R.Which is why the entire GG crowd looks like a giant bad egg07/31/2015 - 4:55pm
Craig R.Irony: the people who are feeling hostility toward their 'gamer' identity are often those who are most hostile to everybody else07/31/2015 - 4:55pm
Andrew EisenIt's not about gamers at all, it's discussing the harassment and abuse that Sarkeesian and Quinn had suffered. So yeah, not a great title but not an attack on gamers either.07/31/2015 - 4:48pm
Andrew EisenI agree than many of the titles are kinda bunk though. For example, Ars Technia's "The death of the 'gamers' and the women who 'killed' them" doesn't really work for the article.07/31/2015 - 4:47pm
Andrew EisenAnd I still don't see how articles like Polygon's "An awful week to care about video games" can be construed as an attack.07/31/2015 - 4:25pm
Andrew Eisen18 total? I've seen several lists and the total has never been above 14. The most popular collection seems to be 9 on Aug. 28 then three more on Aug. 29, Sep. 2 and Sep. 3.07/31/2015 - 4:24pm
Infophile@Goth_Skunk: Your distaste for TMS is noted and given exactly the respect it deserves. The fact that you don't like a site doesn't mean they can't be right. In the linked article, they are.07/31/2015 - 4:06pm
Goth_SkunkAnd the worst volleys are the ones being fired by the kind of people who should be standing up and saying 'Hey! This isn't cool! Stop that!'07/31/2015 - 4:05pm
Goth_SkunkNow let's come full circle: One such confrontationally titled article is easy to dismiss. Within a day, nine similarly titled articles are written. Within 4 more days, nine more articles are written. This can't be ignored. This is a blatant attack.07/31/2015 - 4:04pm
Andrew EisenAnd that's totally fine. I too often skip articles and videos based solely on an unappealing title.07/31/2015 - 3:56pm
Goth_SkunkPersonally, I would not waste time reading an article with such a blatantly confrontational title.07/31/2015 - 3:52pm
Andrew EisenGoth - Depends on how the article was written and what it actually said.07/31/2015 - 3:49pm
Goth_SkunkThis is like going fishing and castign a HUGE net that captures tuna, dolphins, sharks, cod, and salmon when all you really want to capture are clownfish.07/31/2015 - 3:48pm
Andrew EisenPerm - If the specific make and model are made clear, I have no problem with the article saving space by refering to them as "these cars" or whatever.07/31/2015 - 3:47pm
Goth_Skunk... Hasbro's widening horizons..." would it not make sense that some would object there is no distinction being made between a reactionary brony and a stable-minded brony?07/31/2015 - 3:47pm
Big PermCars are being recalled because they explode. Editors Note at the end: Not all cars, only this specific make and model07/31/2015 - 3:46pm
 

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