The gaming industry has been grabbing headlines over the last few days. The long awaited release of World of Warcraft and last week’s Panorama on the BBC has got lots of people talking. But has the exposure been good or bad for the gaming world?
Panorama’s ‘Addicted to Games’ special got mixed reviews. The fact that gaming could be addictive didn’t come as a huge surprise, but was there any hard evidence to back up the claims? It seems The Guardian, MCV and Rocket, Paper Shotgun didn’t think so.
I started off thinking like them and was a little dubious about the premise behind the Panorama program... but that was before I got talking to a few of us in the office. To say that people felt animated about the topic was an understatement. The general consensus was that yes, gaming can be totally addictive. Some were talking from their own experience, others were looking at it from their experience as parents of children who spend many hours playing games. There was a general agreement that the violent reaction from gaming addiction talked about in Panorama was pretty extreme and very rare, and that parents have ultimate responsibility for monitoring what their kids do and imposing limits when things get out of control. In fact, I was surprised to hear that most of us in the office who have kids have had to do so at some stage or other.
But I guess the real question that bothered me was whether or not this is a new thing. Are today's kids really more likely to get addicted to games and other forms of entertainment than previous generations? I get a little tired of hearing this new generation being vilified all the time - I reckon too often we look back at our own childhood with rose tinted glasses. So I started prodding around with questions and tried to work out if any of us had actually displayed any kind of childhood addictions in our teens. Guess what?... Pretty much all of us had! Lee readily admitted to being addicted to his Spectrum computer and spending hours in the night playing with it, Mark was totally hooked on Pong, and as for me, I spent many a night hidden under the bed covers reading until the wee small hours, totally incapable of putting my books down and well past my strict boarding school curfew.
So, where does this leave us? Well, kids today definitely have access to more "addictive" technology. The popularity of gaming is growing – and rightly so. After all both consoles and games have got better and better over the years and now offer very realistic worlds for us to get lost in. And with so many new handheld devices, gaming is available to us 24/7. But with these changes, are kids more at risk of becoming addicted and does gaming realistically come with any greater risk than other forms of entertainments like film or TV? At the end of the day, isn't is just down to parenting and the personality of the individual?
I'd love to hear what you think about this, so drop me a line with your views.