Having grown up in a house where cocaine, alcohol and video games are all used heavily, I found Monday’s article, “Video game addiction,” by Hudson Lofchie to be a biased and wholly inaccurate portrayal of both addiction and gamers. To compare a physically addictive, mind-altering substance with a reward-based simulation that rarely leads to a severe behavioral addiction is incredibly offensive to addicts and the gaming community.
To begin with, it is important to note that there are two types of addiction: physical and behavioral. Physical addiction is when an addict becomes chemically dependent on a substance, like alcohol or cocaine, in order to function properly. Behavioral addiction is an illness that has only been medically identified and examined in the past few decades or so. It is an addiction where the addict becomes dependent on the mental and physical pleasures of a specific type of behavior, such as exercise, sex or, occasionally, video games. Nearly all forms of human activity lead to a case of behavioral addiction at some point.
However, the article takes it too far by outright demonizing gaming and marginalizing drug addiction. It does this by leveling stereotypes against gamers, comparing video game addiction to cocaine dependency and describing video games as “anti-social.”
First, comparing video game addiction to cocaine use is deplorable, because a cocaine addict becomes addicted to his drug far faster and becomes far more dependent on it due to the physically addicting nature of the substance. Video game addiction is something that requires a large amount of time to develop, and frankly the trauma that gaming addicts go though during detox is nowhere near that of a drug addict. Going a month without video games is terrible, but no one ever had seizures and died because their body was so dependent on Xbox that two days without it caused their neurons to fire wildly. Video game detox requires a dramatic change in lifestyle. Drug detox is that and a physically painful and potentially life threatening experience. Comparing the struggles of coke or alcohol dependents to gaming addicts trivializes the suffering endured by both the drug dependents and their families. Comparing video game addicts to drug addicts is by proxy a comparison of the games to drugs, which is unfair because the behavioral addiction to games is far less of a threat to a person than the risk of physical addiction to drugs.
The extreme examples of Lee Seung Sop and Daniel Petric are also unfair to gamers. That’s like using anorexics to criticize the practice of dieting. It is a special case where the person’s extreme behaviors create an unfortunate set of circumstances that do not reflect fairly on the lifestyle as a whole. Consider the difference in numbers between people worldwide who die from drug overdoses and those who die in video game-related deaths. Again, the discrepancy between the two forms of addiction is so great that comparing them to each other does a disservice to both.
The greatest issue I take with this article is the blatant stereotyping of gamers as people who resort to games due to a lack of social skills or who constantly fail at real life and need a false reward system to be happy. Very few gamers play only anonymously.
The most fun gaming can be had at an LAN party where a person will invite a dozen of his friends over to hook consoles together and play until the early hours of the morning. This is a loud, social get-together, not some overweight introvert sitting in his basement.
Oftentimes gamers online will have to learn how to coordinate a team effort in winning a match, which can lead to the development of not only teamwork but leadership skills. Most people who play Xbox Live or MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft will join up with their real life friends online and play together, because doing so enhances the gaming experience by making it a social one.
Implying that gamers are people who are unsuccessful in real life is also an issue here. Many gamers are straight-A students who use a night of binge gaming to wind down from a hard week of studying and test taking. Look at your professor’s desktop the next time they are preparing for class, and you just might see a Starcraft icon. I know I have.
When my father was sitting downstairs in a cocaine/vodka-induced stupor, my brother and I were staying up late playing video games and bonding. Video games helped me to cope with an unpleasant reality and I am a saner person for it. The treatment they receive in this article is shameful, and the treatment that drug addicts receive by the comparison is even worse.
JONATHAN DYER is a UC Davis sophomore history major.