You might be one of the most dedicated gamers you know, sitting in front of your computer for so many hours that you’ve considered catheterizing yourself and wonder how it’s possible that your skin hasn’t fused to your computer chair. But, even if your compulsion has cost you your job and led your spouse or parents to give up on the idea of you ever becoming a productive member of society, you’re not an addict. At least, according to Keith Bakker, head of Europe’s only clinic to treat gaming addiction.
Keith Bakker of the Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam has spent two years welcoming young people who were seeking treatment for what they viewed as an addiction, but he now says gaming is a social problem rather than a psychological one. The clinic has had a high rate of success using abstinence-based treatment models on gamers who also show signs of addiction to drugs and alcohol. Bakker says this kind of cross-addition only occurs in about 10% of gamers, and no longer thinks addiction counseling is a good way to treat the other 90%.
“These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies,” he says.
“But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers – this is a social problem.”
“This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today,” Mr Bakker told BBC News. “Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication.”
Bakker actually blames shoddy parenting for gaming compulsion, and says parents must do whatever they can to break the cycle, including physically removing their kids away from their computers. But, he admits that 87% of online gamers are over 18, so if they want help, they’ll have to do it themselves.
So, gaming isn’t a mental disorder. That isn’t really surprising, given all of the different factors that are often involved when people choose to hole up and play WoW 16 hours a day. It’ll be interesting to see how self-described ‘Gamer Widows’ react to this proclamation.