Video Games: The End of the World is Nigh!

Investigative journalism BBC One programme ‘Panorama’ broadcast an interesting programme last night about video game addiction. It was entitled: ‘Addicted to Games?‘ and this was the blurb:

As pester power kicks in and the computer games’ industry launches its latest products on to the Christmas market, Panorama hears from youngsters who’ve dropped out of school and university to play games for anything up to 21 hours a day. They describe their obsessive gaming as an addiction. Reporter Raphael Rowe, meets leading experts calling for more independent research into this controversial subject, and reveals the hidden psychological devices in games that are designed to keep us coming back for more.

Now I watched most of it. I say “most” because I gave it the same level of in depth attention that the creators put in to their “investigative journalism”. I listened to the majority of it while catching up on some computer stuff and glanced up every now and then to see what was going on.

For those who missed it here is the programme’s message in a nutshell:
– World of Warcraft and Call of Duty will take over your life and destroy you from within

For everyone else here’s what it was really about:
– Reporter (not journalist?) Raphael Rowe bleats about wanting to protect his children from the dangers of video games, and also share his concerns with other parents. Okay, fair enough – the children are our future and other cliches. I’ve got two so I know the constant pressure, concerns and self doubt you get over just about every decision that you make when trying to ‘do the right thing’.

But here’s the thing, our Raphael here is about my age, but I can only guess that he’s either a member of some remote Amazonian tribe that moved to the UK last Tuesday, or is Amish because I’m fairly confident that most 30-odd year olds are aware of gaming.

I’m also fairly sure that he, and the rest of the Panorama team are able to read. What’s that funny number and description on the game box for? 18? Is that months? Oh, Little Johnny is ten years old so Call of Duty must be fine for him. While you’re at it Raphael, get him some ciggies, a bottle of Scotch and a tattoo – they’ve all got those funny ’18’ stickers on them too!

Here’s how I deal with age restricted products with my kids:

if kid is < [age restriction] then DO_NOT_BUY
else
BUY

Sure I get the “…but whyyyyyy?????” and the answer is simple: because it’s not appropriate. Oh, look at that ‘pester power’ nullified by effective and consistent parenting. Problem solved.

So now that little problem has been resolved let’s look at the shocking tales of woe about childrens lives being totally absorbed by gaming:

There’s some adults that dropped out of University because they spent all their time playing video games. There’s a kid in his late teens who needs a bloody good hiding for being such a stroppy little bastard. Some guy who’s addicted to World of Warcraft and lastly there’s the Korean couple who allowed their own baby to starve to death while they took turns to look after a virtual child.

Hang on a minute….. I thought we were looking at protecting our children. Not our young, and not so young adults….. and some Koreans with low IQs (which is obviously an issue for Korean Social Services and not Panorama). Oh, my mistake – it’s just yet another episode of scaremongering and sucking in the hard of thinking. Panorama used to have some integrity, it’s programmes changed policy and raised awareness of issues. But now, as I said to SuffyWuffy on Twitter earlier, it’s nothing more than sensationalist trash.

When it comes down to it, the majority of the people featured in the programme were ADULTS. Physically and legally. I think even the stroppy teen was actually over 18, but why let something like that get in the way of a good story? Those of you with kids know that there is only so much guidance and discipline you can give your kids. There comes a point when it’s no longer your decision whether or not to allow them to make their own mistakes because they’re going to make them regardless of what you say. That’s when your job as parent becomes that of support worker rather than police man/woman/person. That’s the reality of life, your kids are going to grow up and they’re going to make some shocking mistakes along the way.

Personally, if my kids were to become addicted to something I’d rather it be gaming than crack or gambling.

I’m waiting for Jeremy Vine to introduce the episode where they find a WWII Bomber on the Moon (anyone remember that headline? (probably UK only)).

Peas and loaves.

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Find me on PSN – evaDlivE


David Nicol is Articles Editor for hupitgaming.com, YouTube gaming commentator and blogger based in the UK.

9 thoughts on “Video Games: The End of the World is Nigh!

  1. Funny you should mention teens playing adult games. While on Xbox last night with TheFingersHurt random players would join the XBL party we were in. Many of them with young sounding voices. I was honestly shocked when a guy said he “was only 11” and he was planning on buying Bad Company 2. He then got out his mobile (cell phone, if he was in our part of the world I hope he’d be asleep), and rang the local shop to ask if they had it in stock and asked how much it cost. I wonder if they’ll sell it to him?

    Sorry Adam if you’re reading this in years to come. No way are you playing BfBC2 when you’re 11!

    • It was like that on MW2. Which was why I never used a mic while playing that. Thankfully by the time the little monster is old enough to read all this will be redundant technology and not compatible with the 4-D ocular implant. And my daughter is not interested in gaming – well, not really: any game that involves customising a character doesn’t get past the setup screen as she constantly changes the outfits (LBP is a nightmare to watch her play!). She’s not much interested in reading either so double whammy there.

  2. I didn’t watch it and have no intention of doing so.

    Programmes like Panorama pick up on something and in reality only give a biased opinion.

    Like you, these games have a rating so the younger kids should not be playing them, especially MW2, WOW and the like but my gut feeling would be that the programme was more towards how addictive these can be, hell I know it coz I’m a World of Warcraft player and once you get into it this game can become overpowering.

    Having said that I would refer back to my opening line and say that I don’t bother with these types of programmes and my 3 kids will be monitored etc as they start getting into it – now what’s the saying?

    Oh yeah – Everything in moderation (he says having just got in from poker and fired up the xbox straight away haha!)

    Jeez I’m sounding like my parents and not for the 1st time, now thats scary!!!!

    • The thing is, only a fool would realise that games are designed to encourage repetition of play. We’ve all been there, whether it’s WoW or CoD you’ll play for just five minutes more because you’ve almost levelled up, or unlocked something…. and then it’s five minutes more because you’ve almost accomplished something else.

      But it’s down to the individual to have the self control to actually take a break and do whatever it is that is actually more important.

      The argument is that not everyone has that self control, which brings me neatly back to: it’s better that it’s gaming rather than crack!

      And we all turn into our parents. Resistance is futile.

  3. Yeah, we’re all gonna be living in the world of Gamer(2009) or Surrogates(2009)… and all by the end of 2012! Hide your children! The Mayans are COMING and they’re carrying GameStop Gift Cards!!!

    !!!!!!!!

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