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Panorama and videogames

Last night’s Panorama programme – the BBC’s flagship current affairs show – was dedicated to the evils of videogames. I haven’t seen it, but I do know that John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun is an eminently reasonable and trustworthy writer, so I’m linking to this piece he wrote about it.

I believe that there is a real risk for those who use gaming to compensate for other negative factors in their lives, and for those whose gaming becomes problematic for any reason. I believe that these matters deserve to be taken seriously. It is to be treated with severity. This sort of scaremongering endangers such people by mis-labelling.

For example:

We move on to the tragic story of the Korean couple who let their baby die through neglect, as they spent their time gaming. We get told that they both had “low IQs” and that both suffered from “depression”, but both those factors are ignored because as a result of their circumstances they spent too much time playing Prius Online. “She was mentally not that stable to begin with,” explains a doctor at the clinic that treated the mother. But this isn’t an episode about mental illness leading to the deaths of babies. It’s about gaming causing it. Gaming caused it.

I agree entirely with John: so many people play games that it’d be strange if problematic gaming didn’t exist. However:

Until there is some evidence that gaming can create an addiction in someone otherwise undisposed to addictive behaviour, then it must be understood as a consequence of addiction, not a cause. To do otherwise is ignorant, dangerous, and harmful to the individuals. Blame it on gaming, and you’ll take away the games, leaving the person to continue suffering.