VIRTUAL ACCUSATIONS

Addicted to Games? Panorama BBC, Monday 20.30

Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t be surprised, mind you. Some people believe that videogames are the source of all evil in today’s youth. I don’t know if this is true but I did once accidentally run over a badger near my house. It just ran out in front of me late one night. I was devastated; my therapist concluded that the whole episode was possibly a result of playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The effects of violent videogames are sadly seen everywhere, everyday.

This half-hour investigation takes a look at videogame addiction and manages to find a handful of examples of kids that have ‘lost it’ a bit when told their World of Warcraft session must come to an end. One ‘addict’ even smashed a vase. An Ikea vase.

There’s not much wrong with playing videogames as a hobbie. When I first lived in London I played a lot of Halo 3 online every evening. With not much cash and no girlfriend it was an excellent way to pass time. It was even sociable, with a lot of my mates playing online too and, with today’s gaming peripherals, that means online banter with your real-life friends, usually planning which pub you’ll go to on Friday after work.

So how is it that young men of my generation, who did grow up with games consoles, can pick up an Xbox controller for seven hours one evening and completely abandon it the next? What is so different about today’s youngsters that makes them unable to control their hobby?

Is it the games themselves? The gaming industry is bigger than ever before and the latest must-have titles have bigger opening weekends than big budget films. Their shelf life is vastly increased by online accessibility, meaning every ‘session’ is different. For sure this could be a cause – when I play online I’m always thinking ‘Just one more game’, but is this really the reason behind fully-fledged addiction?

In a word, no. Blaming videogames themselves for these addictive tendencies is like blaming horror films and games for spiraling teen crime. Is Grand Theft Auto really the reason that 14 year olds hang around car parks and offer some vocal abuse to passers by?

I have got to try this next time I'm in town...

The problem isn’t the games, movies or books: it’s the role models. Using myself and all my school friends as examples, we loved playing games but we were told when we could and couldn’t switch our consoles on. If we were hidden away in our bedroom all evening our parents actually gave a shit what we were up to, making sure we did our homework and got to bed at a decent hour. If we wanted to play a videogame they’d let us have an hour or so put by for the joyous act. Sure we’d be upset when the allocated time was over but if we put up a fuss we’d lose the right to have a go the next evening, or not be allowed any pudding. It was all part of learning how the world worked.

Games should not be held responsible for videogame addiction, nor should they be blamed for violence, but it’s easier for the powers that be to blame a game. Not to mention easier to try and solve than the real underlying issue.

I wasn’t addicted to videogames when I was 13, nor was I loitering on street corners trying to verbally intimidate an elderly man walking to buy his daily paper – because my parents ensured my upbringing was balanced and they set the right examples for me to follow. Just like watching a film in the cinema; adult or violent videogames come with an age certificate, yet I’ve played countless games against opposition who clearly don’t meet the age requirements. I’ll hazard a guess that they didn’t buy the game themselves. It’s could be as simple as that.

I’d back up my argument by quoting some ‘experts’ from the show itself, only I didn’t listen to it. I was busy playing Call of Duty: Black Ops and I will be until early tomorrow morning. Then I’ll probably go out and start a war.