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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quiknkoldhas their own stream, you are a gamer. I think the only prerequiset is to Play Games for Enjoyment10/30/2014 - 10:21am
quiknkoldI always felt the Gamer Identity was expressing an enthusiasm for Gaming in general. There are different degrees to that. If you say "I love this game and play it, lets see what else" with Ipad game, you are a gamer. If you are a retro game collector who10/30/2014 - 10:20am
NeenekoIt is long overdue, and things will probably settle down when they accept that the industry does not cater to them and them alone and go back to posturing within their own subculture.10/30/2014 - 10:10am
NeenekoThe community has always been split, with many factions within it, and they used to not interact all that much. Now they are having to confront they are not alone and thus not the one twue gamer identity.10/30/2014 - 10:09am
CMinerMW: The two are not mutually exclusive.10/30/2014 - 10:05am
Matthew Wilsonthe gaming community is going to split in to 2 groups. one wants games reviewed as product, and the other as art with all the social critique that comes with that. at this point i dont think it can be stopped sadly.10/30/2014 - 9:56am
NeenekoIt is a wonderful example of the heart of the issue, people accustomed to being part of defining value slamming into people who have other values.10/30/2014 - 9:53am
E. Zachary KnightAlso, this is a hillarious view of Kickstarter "Fine, still doesn't justify taking people's money they gave her to do a project for herself." talking about Sarkeesian.10/30/2014 - 9:35am
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/DanSlott/status/527814374459977728 One More Shot at Marriage.10/30/2014 - 8:44am
E. Zachary KnightApparently, it is ok to review a games art on whether or not you like the style, but not ok to review a game's story or theme based on whether or not you like or agree with it.10/30/2014 - 8:40am
MechaCrashComics never change because the people in charge now read comics when they were kids, and keep reverting comics to what they remember. As long as that cycle holds, change will be slow at best.10/30/2014 - 8:18am
Neeneko@ MechaTama31 - That is the big reason fansubs were tollerated for so long in the US, japanese studios kept watch to see which ones became popular via those networks.10/30/2014 - 8:11am
quiknkoldJournalists shouldnt be bigger than the stories they report or products they review.10/30/2014 - 7:48am
E. Zachary KnightHere is some food for thought for gamergaters who want politics out of games journalism. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141026/06425828942/journalists-need-point-view-if-they-want-to-stay-relevant.shtml10/30/2014 - 7:18am
quiknkoldI didnt say all games are like that, Conster. Princess Peach was....different. though I had fun with it.10/30/2014 - 7:00am
james_fudgehttp://www.somethingawful.com/news/gamergate-with-cats/10/30/2014 - 5:20am
MechaTama31AE: Japan's doujin scene illustrates an interesting potential solution to that problem. Let people play around with the characters, and keep an eye on things to see what people are buying.10/30/2014 - 12:07am
ConsterI bought, played and liked the game (unlike Smash Basketball *shakes fist*), but that felt iffy to me.10/29/2014 - 10:52pm
Consterquiknkold: if Super Princess Peach had been Super Prince Peach instead, do you think emotions would've been a mechanic?10/29/2014 - 10:51pm
quiknkoldcore meaning Colossus, Storm, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler10/29/2014 - 8:51pm
 

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