Our society’s perception of video games shifts every couple of months. Usually it strays towards the fingers-as-crucifix corner wherein games and gamers are held responsible for every single murder that ever happened, ever.
Sometimes, however, there’s heartening news. Today is one of those days. Kinda. There’s a little bit of both.
I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Violence Likes Me)
For those who blame violent behavior and social deviance predominantly on boys, well, I’ve got some stats for you. According to a cross-sectional survey of more than 4,000 high-schoolers reported by MedPage Today,
… boys who regularly played video games were less likely to smoke [cigarettes] or use marijuana, and somewhat more likely to get better grades.
Horrah! Maybe that’ll remove the smudges of guilt and sin from my Xbox 360.
Adolescent females, however, didn’t get off so easy:
Among girls, video game playing was associated with occasional smoking, never having used marijuana, never having a sip of alcohol, and no history of depression—but it was also associated with getting into serious fights and carrying a weapon.
So even though gaming girls pass piss tests, chances are they’re punching the Maybelline off a classmate or packing a switchblade that isn’t one of those cleverly deceptive combs.
But before you make any sweeping hypotheses about this data, it’s not all Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: researchers wrote that their findings suggest “not that gaming leads to aggression but that more aggressive girls are attracted to gaming as recreational activities.”
Related? Unrelated? Well, if you’re the self-important author of Unplugged: My Journey Into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction, yes, it’s related.
The (Joystick) and the Damage Done
On November 13, 2010, over 1,880 libraries across the United States participated in the largest national video game tournament ever held. This glorious occasion for newbies (or n00bs, if you will) and those bottle-fed on the NES was deemed National Gaming Day.
Sounds like fun, and it was sponsored by libraries, so it can’t be that harmful, right?
Aforementioned self-important author Ryan G. Van Cleave, Ph.D., disagreed. In an article for Psychology Today (an article he admitted was bumped from a “very respectable newspaper” that had a “big-time snafu”), Van Cleave said that National Gaming Day set a horrendous example for youth.
He also made a wonky analogy:
… to encourage video game playing without discussing video game addiction is like announcing the pleasures of drinking wine without discussing hangovers and alcoholism.
Hangovers … and alcoholism? That’s a stretch. Clearly Van Cleave was feeling headline-hungry that day. Maybe that’s why that “very respectable newspaper” had a “big-time snafu” and didn’t publish his sensationalist drivel.
Van Cleave goes on to explore what he deems video game addiction, providing misleading information, cited from nowhere and no one.
He says that in 2007, the American Medical Association (AMA) found that 5 million American kids between the ages of 8 and 18 “might be addicted to video games.” The problem with that study is that the AMA dropped their efforts to classify video game addiction as a behavioral disorder due to a lack of convincing research.
While that opinion may very well be revisited after further studies, it probably won’t make it in time for the DSM-V, even though Van Cleave claims that all signs point to inclusion.
(As a source, Van Cleave quotes his orange tabby, Mr. Whiskers.)
Maybe it will be added, but consider this: the DSM-V is adding gambling to the manual as a behavioral addiction but is not including Internet or sex addiction as classifiable psychiatric disorders. To skip sex and the Internet and go right for gaming’s gullet seems highly unlikely.
Is Van Cleave’s article all fire, brimstone and stupidity? No, he does manage to create one excellent proof.
If video game addiction is, indeed, an addiction, it is thereby worthy of at least a modicum of sensitivity. Van Cleave, however, calls the victims of his made-up malady “geeks and nerds,” thus proving, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he’s a petulant asshole.
If you still believe in video game addiction—and I’m not denying the possibility of its existence; I’m merely citing disagreements amongst the psychiatric community that, at this time, haven’t built hard supporting evidence—you can check out Video Game Addiction Awareness Week from June 4 to June 10, 2011.
Judging from the cause’s shitty Geocities website, I suspect the conference will be held at a Super 8 Motel somewhere in South Dakota, replete with gritty TP and smoke-stank mattresses.