ESA Reacts to NIMF Game Addiction Study

April 21, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on research data released by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and the National Institute on Media and the Family which suggests that one in twelve people between 8 and 18 show signs of video game dependency.

We also noted that Grand Theft Childhood author Dr. Cheryl Olson of Harvard questioned the survey methodology used in the study.

Not unexpectedly, game publishers' trade group ESA has now weighed in to dispute the NIMF research. Senior VP Rich Taylor (left) commented:

This is a report more in search of media headlines than scientific truth and facts. In an interview, though not in the report itself, Dr. Gentile said, ‘It’s not that games are bad. It’s not that games are addictive.’ Medical experts, including the American Medical Association, have already rejected the fallacy of video game ‘addiction,’ and we completely agree.

Like all forms of entertainment, computer and video games should be a part of a well-rounded lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise. It is up to parents to determine when and how often their children should play any game. For our part, the industry already provides a wide range of tools and information, including timers and parental controls, to help caregivers ensure that entertainment software is used appropriately.

Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, who has been known to drop by GamePolitics from time to time, offered some additional criticism of Gentile's research, reports USA Today:

Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health Science University, called the study "valuable" to the American Psychiatric Association's [upcoming] decision on whether compulsive computer and Internet use should be considered a mental disorder.

Block, an APA adviser, warns that the [NIMF] study has weaknesses. The research should be replicated because it is supported by the National Institute for Media and the Family, which he likens to a lobbying group. And the survey could have found higher game use because it was collected in January as opposed to summer. It also classifies 8.5% as addicted without a physician interview: "The people they are claiming have a problem, it's not entirely clear that they do have a problem."

UPDATE: GU Comics pokes a bit of fun at the NIMF study.

17 comments

Psychiatrist (and GP reader) Takes Issue with Grand Theft Childhood

November 13, 2008 -

Gamers and the video game industry were cheered earlier this year by the release of Grand Theft Childhood. The book, written by a pair of Harvard researchers, Cheryl Olson and Laurence Kutner, basically said that fears about the effects of games on children are largely overblown (see: Researchers's New Book Cuts Through the Negative Hype About Video Game Violence). In fact, the book was so well-received in the game community that the authors were invited to present at PAX 08 in Seattle.

Not everyone in the field agrees with Olson and Kutner, however. Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist and professor, works with patients suffering from video game addiction. He also happens to be a longtime reader of GamePolitics. Block's review of Grand Theft Childhood appears in November's Psychiatric Times, where he criticizes Olson and Kutner's perspective on game addiction:

The authors report being consulted by the mother of a 22-year-old man who is “addicted” to video gaming. The authors conclude, “Clearly, the young man had some major problems. The obsessive video game play was much more likely a symptom than the root cause.” Kutner and Olson do not seem to understand that while the computer use can often be a symptom of other disorders, it can also be a serious, self-perpetuating problem in its own right. The computer use is often an early defense against despair, but it can also socially isolate, perpetuate false feelings of power, and socially de-skill people; it can become its own source of pain and isolation...

Block also touches on the Shawn Woolley case:

In another example, the authors discuss, by name, a man who shot and killed himself in front of his computer. They dismiss the event on the basis of a magazine article that reported on it. They write, “It’s much more likely that his obsessive video game playing was a reflection of his other, more profound problems... and not the root cause of his suicide.” Having discussed the suicide with the man’s mother at several conferences, I found Kutner and Olson’s synopsis disturbingly trite and inaccu-rate. Moreover, the ethical breach of publishing the man’s name and speculating as to his diagnosis from afar was disturbing...

31 comments

Tech Deprivation: Did Removal of Xbox Spark Teen's Disappearance?

October 23, 2008 -

All week, GamePolitics has been tracking the search for Brandon Crisp. The 15-year-old Canadian gamer disappeared on October 13th after a dispute with his family which led to the confiscation of his Xbox 360 by his father, Steve.

Mr. Crisp has expressed fears that Brandon's "addiction" to Call of Duty 4 may be somehow connected to the boy's disappearance.

GamePolitics put that question to Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of Internet porn and online gaming addicts. While Dr. Block would not comment directly about the case, he offered his view on how the removal of a game system or PC might affect a hardcore gamer:

I caution against abruptly "cutting off" people from their compulsive computer use without much thought and preparation.  I often see extreme anger results, directed at oneself or the surrounding world.  When you think about it, it makes sense:  The computer (or gaming console) helps a person who is struggling with emotions (1) metabolize those emotions virtually without acting on them in the Real, (2) chew up time so they do not have the hours to act out in Real life, and (3) provides companionship...even if it is simulated or via Virtual relationships. 

 

When you cut the cord, you destroy the way someone is dealing with their emotions, you give them 30+ more hours [per week] to occupy, and you kill off their major source of relationships.  Is it any surprise anger often results?
 
Often the anger is directed at oneself with statements like, "What a waste I have made of my life" or "What do I have to show for the hours I spent in WoW, Civ, etc."  It can lead to suicide attempts or other pathology, like drug use.  Or, the anger can turn external:  "We all live in fantasy worlds, brutal places fabricated and controlled by others.  I'll be damned if I'll let them take away my world, where I am powerful, without first stripping away their fantasies and illusions."  This is what I believe happened at Columbine.

Shrink: WoW Addicts Feel More Shame Than Porn Addicts

June 9, 2008 -

Sunday's Boston Globe offers a fascinating interview with Oregon psychiatrist - and GamePolitics reader - Dr. Jerald Block, who specializes in treating online game addiction.

Block believes that "Internet Addiction" should be recognized as an official diagnosis.

From the story:

[Block] believes that psychiatry needs to do a lot of catching up in order to understand why people get stuck in games like Warcraft. One problem: Most therapists have no idea what a "guild" is or what it means to hit Level 60. Because of this language barrier, many gamers wind up begging for help in online support groups rather than seeking out mental health professionals.

Interestingly, Block said that addicted gamers feel worse about their habit than those addicted to pornography:

BLOCK: ...the computer gamers tend to be harder to treat. People feel a lot of shame around computer games. Whereas, it's socially acceptable to have a porn problem.

IDEAS: You can't be serious. You mean your clients are more ashamed of ...

BLOCK: ...playing World of Warcraft than looking at porn. Yes.

IDEAS: Why?

BLOCK: As a society we understand that porn is something people do, and you can see a psychiatrist and get treated for it. But gaming is hard to describe to anyone else. So these people can't explain their situation to friends. In fact, it's hard to give you an example of what my clients talk about, because gaming is enormously complicated.

Block has also studied the relationship between violent games and school shootings, but believes the issue is complex and enmeshed in the shooters' "relationship" with their PCs:

With these shooters, their last act was to turn against their own computers. As a psychiatrist, I think that's relevant.

 

39 comments

Shrink: Doom Deprivation May Have Sparked Columbine Massacre

July 27, 2007 -

Video game critics commonly hold that violent video games, including Doom, contributed to the 1999 Columbine massacre. But an Oregon psychiatrist theorizes that not being able to play Doom may have been a far more significant factor in the murderous rampage carried out by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Psychiatrist - and GamePolitics reader - Jerald Block MD (left) discusses his theory in a lengthy interview with Destructoid. Block's recent research paper, Lessons From Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage was recently published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry.

Dr. Block - a gamer himself - has a professional fascination with the effects of technology on individuals. He told Destructoid:
 

I knew that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold played many computer games. I had even played some of the same games. So I was curious and began reading the data… It was consuming, compelling, and disturbing reading.


Of the criticism often leveled at games, Block doesn't see it as unfair:

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Andrew EisenNintendo has launched its YouTube Creators program. https://r.ncp.nintendo.net/01/28/2015 - 10:58pm
ZippyDSMleeand a book on ninjustu....really..... it made more sense to be a pet a rat of a great master ><01/28/2015 - 9:13pm
ZippyDSMleeI seen the new one they tried to take to many liberties with the foot clan of which the frist movie evuantly overcame. /drunken no spell sheck post01/28/2015 - 9:12pm
WymorenceTMNT talk? In my Game Politics? *goes off to don his classic TMNT cartoon shirt*01/28/2015 - 8:43pm
Goth_Skunk... This is relevant to my interests...01/28/2015 - 8:19pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.pcgamer.com//cd-projekt-explains-why-the-witcher-3-has-16-hours-of-sex-scene-mo-cap-data/ I do not mind that they have it, but 16 hours of it?! what is this Game of Thrones.01/28/2015 - 8:04pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.polygon.com/2015/1/27/7921837/grim-fandango-remastered-interview-double-fine-disney-lucasfilm-sony a interesting read, or listen.01/28/2015 - 5:28pm
Wonderkarpyep. but they werent bebop and rocksteady yet. so technically i'm right :P01/28/2015 - 5:00pm
E. Zachary KnightBebop and Rocksteady have already been introduced in the human forms. They were the duo after Shredder's helmet.01/28/2015 - 4:55pm
Wonderkarpmy only complaint is no bluray boxed season sets yet. WTF Nickelodian!01/28/2015 - 4:42pm
Wonderkarpthe voice acting and story telling quality are awesome. Its like they took everything that was great about the original show, and Batman Animated Series'd it but kept it funny too01/28/2015 - 4:41pm
WonderkarpIts Awesome. Bebop and Rocksteady are going to debut this weekend. The new take is Bebop is a thief while Rocksteady is an arms dealer. took 3 seasons to get them on the show.01/28/2015 - 4:41pm
Goth_SkunkAhh! I see. I'm afraid I'm too invested in Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, The Walking Dead, and Hemlock Grove to notice the new TMNT on TV. :(01/28/2015 - 4:40pm
E. Zachary KnightMy kids love watching the 90's TMNT movies. They love the new TMNT cartoon on Nick. Yet, none of them really enjoyed the the new one.01/28/2015 - 4:39pm
Wonderkarpexecution and if there is a real wanting for something new on the big screen. There is somewhat of a wanting for new Ghostbusters on the big screen, but most people seem to agree that the new film shares little with ghostbusters beyond its original premis01/28/2015 - 4:38pm
Wonderkarpadding homages to classic via good storytelling. The new TMNT movie was just a crappy Bayformers affair that did nothing to develop character, with a mishmash of a story. Nerd Culture can accept new takes on older franchises. It just depends on the01/28/2015 - 4:37pm
Wonderkarpactually, Goth_Skunk, TMNT is a thriving TV show on Nickelodian which has enough old and new storytelling to create a thriving new product. its in its 3rd season and it just gets better as a show. The CGI Show is universally praised for being new yet01/28/2015 - 4:36pm
Goth_SkunkI propose that the new TMNT movie was not about making nostalgic adult nerds smile, but introducing the franchise to a new generation of younger fans. And some of those fans may even be kids of the nerds that grew up with the original TMNT.01/28/2015 - 3:55pm
Goth_Skunk...disservice to the franchise. But when I look at it, I see a franchise fanbase that, the last time anything major happened in the franchise, all its fans were kids. Those kids have now all grown up and are adults.01/28/2015 - 3:54pm
Goth_SkunkRemember how Escapists new EIC was talking about nerd culture being "curmudgeonly?" This ties right into that as well. These people I talked with complained about how the new TMNT wasn't being true to its roots and because of that it was doing a great...01/28/2015 - 3:53pm
 

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