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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E. Zachary KnightWhat I can't understand is why gamergate supporters feel the need to silence their critics. Why can't they simply fight free speech with free speech.10/02/2014 - 8:23am
E. Zachary KnightSo what I am saying is that since gamergate failed to force Gamasutra to retract their editorial directly, they are now going the starvation route.10/02/2014 - 8:22am
E. Zachary KnightAs an illustration, you can kill someone by shooting them in the head, or you can starve them to death. The means don't matter, just the ends.10/02/2014 - 8:18am
E. Zachary Knightquiknkold, I can't speak for James, but trying to silence a critic by blocking its financial supporters is a censorious activity. It may not be the same as direct censoring, but its ends are the same.10/02/2014 - 8:18am
E. Zachary KnightMecha, I found neither the title nor the content of Gamasutra's Gamers are Dead article inflammatory. But I guess that just means I was the target audience for it.10/02/2014 - 8:16am
prh99@james_fudge Agreed, but then again this group doesn't exactly have high ethical standards or even a grasp of hypocrisy. They do pretty much anything to damage their targets.10/02/2014 - 8:14am
MechaTama31Are... Are you guys suggesting that the content of the "Gamers are over" article is *less* inflammatory than the title?10/02/2014 - 7:58am
quiknkoldhey James, Boycotts are not Censorship. Supreme Court NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982)10/02/2014 - 7:37am
Michael ChandraWhat's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. That said, the name says it all.10/02/2014 - 7:34am
E. Zachary KnightYes.10/02/2014 - 7:29am
ConsterQuestion: is Kefka on drugs, or is he secretly a conspiracy theorist character from a TV show?10/02/2014 - 7:21am
james_fudgeEnjoy my comedy stylings.10/02/2014 - 7:10am
james_fudgehttp://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/10/02/It-s-been-real-GameJournoPros-prepares-to-close-its-doors10/02/2014 - 7:09am
InfophileAnd the headlines-only part is particularly depressing, as in most sites, they're not even written by the author of the article. So the author has to field tons of complaints about what the editor decided to title their article.10/02/2014 - 6:25am
InfophileAE: Most people don't. This has been tested - I remember an article slipped in a request in the second-to-last paragraph to use the word "banana" in your comment if you read that. It took over 50 posts for a banana.10/02/2014 - 6:24am
james_fudgeprh99: Whether you agree with the article or not, fighting alleged censorship with censorship is hella lame10/02/2014 - 4:27am
james_fudgewhoever made that decision at Intel will regret it later on down the road. Boycotts are tricky business.10/02/2014 - 4:26am
prh99The unflattering characterization "They don’t know how to dress or behave." & "‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction..." probably didn't help.10/02/2014 - 1:52am
prh99Probably not many as it was purely a vindictive move. The headline alone was plenty of ammo, but for those that did read and complain..10/02/2014 - 1:42am
Andrew EisenI wonder how many of those who complain about that article actually read past the headline.10/02/2014 - 1:37am
 

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