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Ok, I know it’s been a while–sorry about that. Ok…my final thoughts and analyses about the experiment, and the aftermath.

Firstly, I think the experiment was a complete success. I managed to stay away from games, gaming, and almost anything video game related for a week. What I found interesting, however, is just how much video games have become a part of mainstream life. I walked through a local mall and found it almost impossible to avoid game-related media. More than just a few shops had huge video game posters in their display windows, and one of the days that I arrived at the mall, there was a massive Nintendo expo in the center court. I can compare this to almost 10 years ago, when all things video game were pretty much found in specialist shops in this part of the world. In fact, when I bought my first Sega Genesis (or Megadrive if you came from the UK), it was difficult to find shops that sold games for it. Now even standard groceries retailers have games on their shelves.

Back to my quest to find out whether I have an addiction: the answer is no. I didn’t go out of my way to play games, I didn’t sneak away in the middle of the night to play games, and I found that I wasn’t obsessing over video games so much the time I was away. I even learned a few things about myself. Despite these facts, however, I must say that I AM, and always will be a gamer. It’s part of who I am and I consume games in the same way, and for the very same reasons, that I consume books, movies, and tv shows. On the other hand, before the experiment, I was doing very little else in terms of entertainment other than video games, but I’ve rediscovered enjoyments in other pursuits.

I’m not going to miss the gameless week, but I do have a better perspective about it now. And I’m glad that my trusty DS is back in its pouch wherever I go.

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Creative Commons License
Night Noises by Fayyaad Hendricks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

I apologize for the overimagification, but that’s the result of two days of challenge. It’s actually left me a little on the drained side, but…it was actually fun. It’s weird how much I can accomplish when I’m not actually playing video games! Don’t get me wrong…I miss playing them, but I’ve discovered activities and parts of me that I’d forgotten about. And I think that’s the most important lesson I’m taking away from all this–life DOES exist outside of games. The Darling Wife is impressed enough at this little book I’ve written that she’s actually at the moment in the process of trying to find it a publisher. I’m going to clean up the artwork and layout a bit, and then we’ll see if there’s a chance I can get this, and perhaps a few other stories into bookshops. Is that too ambitious for something I wrote and drew over the course of two nights? Probably…but it’s fun and exciting, even if nothing comes of it. Anyhow, enjoy the story and illustrations, as raw and un-refined as they are. If you can’t read it, my apologies; I’ve shrunk it down quite a bit so that I don’t overload anyone’s browser. If there’s a call for it, I’ll post the finished, reworked, cleaned up product at Flickr or Picasa. Just to get an indication, does anyone think they’d actually pay money for a story like this?

Back to the story of addiction. I don’t know if it’s just a case of information synchronicity, or…er…that psychological phenomenon where you only start taking notice of things because they’re relevant to you (argh, can’t remember what it’s called!!), but I’ve suddenly noticed an awful lot of articles popping up in my RSS reader about video game addiction. This statistic comes to us via Switched.com, and states that almost 1 in 10 US children are addicted to video games; 8.5% to be a little more precise. It’s an alarming number if you’re going to label it “addiction” vs “compulsion”. The sample size is significant: 1,178 adolescent children, with 8.5% of them exhibiting addictive behavior:

(Researcher, Douglas) Gentile looked for symptoms like becoming irritable when gameplay was cut short, avoiding homework to play, stealing money to buy gaming paraphernalia, and escaping reality and avoiding problems through games.

That sounds about right for “addiction”, and with kids of my own, I’m beginning to feel as though this hasn’t received enough attention till now. The article goes on to state that Dr Gentile has touted the benfits of video games before, so he’s not exactly a completely biased voice in this matter.

Gentile doesn’t necessarily think games are bad. He would just like to see game manufacturers use the significant influence games have over children for good instead of evil — for creating powerful educational devices.

[Link: Switched.com – Almost 1 in 10 Children Addiction to Video Games]

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So day one of the “Do I have an addiction issue?” experiment went by. And I’m sorry to say that it was a reasonably painful day. I’m going to go out there and say that if I’m not a addict, I’m borderline at the least. Let me put it this way: I took an afternoon nap to pass the time and had dreams (yes! Plural!) that I was playing a video game (Sonic the Hedgehog, I think!)

Console I missed the most? My trusty little go-anywhere DS. During the day my fingers kept itching to pick up a controller and get on with Gears of War 2 or Oblivion, or to try and obtain the last few gold medals on Rhythm Heaven DS (Seriously, one of the best games I’d ever played in my life….but I’m not allowed to think about it right now except in parentheses or as part of the experiment!) More than that, however, I found myself actively thinking about the games I was involved with, and how to get around the challenges I was facing at the moment (damn you, Oblivion!) and once on that sort of trail of thought, it’s difficult to find something else to think about…mostly because I haven’t actually had to think about much else before.

What this seems to tell me, I think, is that if not addicted, I’m at least heavily dependent on games to entertain me and keep my mind occupied. The sad thing is that I’ve not read a decent book in MONTHS, and I used to be a really avid reader (the other UtterInsanity authors can testify to the size of my personal library). I also seem to dimly recall that I might have once had an artistic streak about as wide as the Pacific Ocean. I may have even created a few paintings, written a few poems, drawn a few sketches, composed bits of music, and I have it on good authority that the half-finished book sitting in a dusty directory on my computer is actually mine.

I haven’t picked up the guitar to play in…ages. I haven’t plinked on a piano in at least twice as long. I haven’t written a poem in at least a year. My books, which I had such grandiose dreams of finishing and publishing, lie forgotten. And let’s not get started on the drawings. So these activities that used to be a big part of who I am have been lost in in all the gaming that I do. So I think I plan on revisiting those activities that I once used to find so much enjoyment in, above and beyond the games I’ve been playing since I was six.

You might find, as I did, this story about a woman dealing with addiction in her kids very interesting and amusing. It sounds very…familiar. I wasn’t playing under the covers at night when no one is around, but I’m going to admit that there were times I’d be playing something until lights-out. Which I’m very sure didn’t make the Darling Wife too happy…hence the challenges I have coming up. More on that as the week goes by.

I seem to have touched an interesting nerve with my first post about gaming addiction: had a lot of people weigh in their opinions on the matter, and whether or not gaming as a social device counts or not. Meeting online once or twice a week for a few hours to play a few games together? Not an issue. It’s when you’re playing more than 20 to 40 hours a week that you can start saying that there’s a problem. Guess why I didn’t pick up World of Warcraft?

So the first challenge happens today. Will let you know more about what happens, and how it all went down in tomorrow’s update.

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xbox 360 logo

I read this article about video game addiction at GameSpot with great interest, seeing as how the article discussed two interests of mine: psychology, which I studied at university, and video games, my favorite down-time pursuit, and an industry that I’d love to work in. The article is long (runs into four pages) and unless you’re as rabidly interested in both spheres under discussion as I am, I doubt you’ll read the entire thing. (Incidentally, if you DO happen, by some strange quirk of the universe, to read the entire article, I’d be interested to hear your comments!)

tl;dr: how to define and quantify the concept of “video game addiction” as a psychologically valid term that can be listed in the next edition of the DSM. In other words, what criteria can we use to say “yep, this guy has a problem”.

The article goes into describing the obvious cases such as the chap who died after several days of non-stop Starcraft. The focus is on the word “addiction”, and if a person has an addiction problem, then playing games will affect other parts of their lives that aren’t generally spent playing games, such as social, marital, work, etc.

So after discussing this issue with The Darling Wife, I asked her if she thinks I have an addiction issue. To put things in perspective, there’s very little time that I’m not either actively playing games (I have a 360, a Wii, and a DS, and a computer provides endless opportunities for gaming), thinking about games, talking about games, or on the odd occasion, dreaming about games. The first 8 or 10 blogs in my feed reader are all gaming blogs, but my counter-argument is that those are the sum total gaming blogs I read out of about 50 or so feeds. Personally, I don’t think I have a gaming addiction problem.

So I proposed an experiment: I’d give up gaming for a week, from Sunday to Sunday, and document how removing a core part of what I do affects me, if at all. I’m not allowed to read gaming blogs, talk about games, play games, and I have to actively try to avoid thinking about games if I can. Now I know that will annoy some of the other authors of this blog, since Friday night is the time that everyone gets together to play multiplayer online Gears of War 2. So surely that’s already HELPING my social life, since it’s impossible to interact with my friends IRL, right?

To make things interesting, The Darling Wife has come up, Top Gear style, with a few challenges to keep my documenting of my week interesting. I’m not sure if I should be dreading or looking forward to it. Watch this space!

[Link: GameSpot – Game Addiction: The Real Story]

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