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NIMF Urges 'Thoughtful Conversation' In Game Addiction Study Debate
NIMF Urges 'Thoughtful Conversation' In Game Addiction Study Debate
April 29, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

April 29, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

The National Institute on Media and the Family is weighing in on an ongoing debate surrounding a recent study that claims to prove gaming addiction, urging attention to the over-arching issue.

A study recently released by Dr. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University purported to show that 1 in 10 gamers suffer symptoms of traditional addiction, like lying about play habits, becoming irritable when not playing, and stealing to support their habit. Its release was followed by dispute from the Entertainment Software Association, which claimed that the research methodology was flawed.

"Everyone knows at least one child who has struggled with balancing healthy game playing with academics and family life. Unfortunately, as Dr. Gentile’s study suggests, some children have more significant problems with gaming," wrote NIMF in a statement released today.

Rather than address the issue of gaming addiction specifically, the ESA pointed out that Dr. Gentile's study, which gained attention because of the specificity of its statistics and its claim of a 3 percent margin of error, was unreliably based on an opt-in, possibly incentivized survey sampling and not a random population.

But NIMF now asks that statistics aside, the study opens the doors for needed discussion: "Regardless of whether you agree with the exact statistics in Dr. Gentile’s study, it provides the gaming industry, medical experts, and public policymakers with a new opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation regarding the effects of video games on kids," says the organization.

"One study will not determine if gaming is addictive for some kids. Again, additional research is required to determine if video games are as 'addictive' as gambling and alcohol. With this additional research, the medical community can make an educated decision on video games and addiction."

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Christopher Wragg
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/begin rant

Hrm, considering the symptoms used, and the nature of gaming, I would say it's more likely that excessive gaming would either be an impulse control disorder, or a psychological dependency caused by some pre-existing mental illness. I'd also like to point out that "irritable when not playing" is a very weak case for withdrawal, which is why it's more likely to be an impulse control disorder than addiction (of which withdrawal is a major part of). Also suffering one or two symptoms of addiction is not indicative of addiction, it's extremely questionable how many of the subjects actually shared more than one of the symptoms, compared to the number who displayed just a singular symptom.

Using games to escape problems in and of itself is a deeper pathological problem than mere dependency, and if the games were not present they would find something else to use as escapism, games here not being the root of the problem. Lets not even get into the sample used, it's size and selection being inadequate and poor to say the least.

I have no real problem with studies into this being conducted, and if there is evidence that children suffer some form of impulse control disorder involving gaming, then steps should be taken to treat them, there's no reason to get up in arms about it, most of use enjoy a drink of wine, but realise that people can indeed become dependant on it. But the study could at least be done well, and not make a large number of conclusive statements that are overwhelmingly misleading if not false altogether.

It's studies like this that label gaming with a bad name it doesn't deserve, and make parents more likely to inhibit their children's gaming. Now to be honest if a child is't doing their homework because they're playing a game then good on the parent for taking away or limiting the game, that's good parenting, and children have been dodging homework for years, it's nothing new. But if parents take away the game believing it to be the root of their child's problems, when all it is is a symptom of something deeper, the parent isn't helping their child at all. Hell there are considerably worse things to use as an escape mechanism, drugs anyone?

The NIMF is right about one thing, it will open important discourse about the issue, but my concern is that a parent who thinks their child "addicted" to gaming, will do a quick google search, find something along these lines, and treat it as canon. In addition it fuels people like Jack Thompson, who can gain considerable influence simply because they can cite an "official study" and the under educated will check it out and again, believe it unquestioningly. Ultimately I fear poor studies like this cause more problems than they help find solutions for.

/end rant

WoW Kid
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I think if you want some real evidence of gaming addiction, and the fact that it is real and can be damaging....

You need to reference

40,000+ posts cannot all be wrong.

It's just sad that certain game developers are still just chasing the all mighty buck while knowingly not doing much to help those that get caught up in their games.

Kevin Baba
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This bothers me. Widely publicizing a study that makes fantastic claims with almost criminally misrepresented [poor] methodology and then backing off to the more reasonable-sounding approach of "well it opens a dialogue" seems disturbingly similar to the [tabletop] RPG witch hunt of a few decades ago (wow, has it been that long already?).

Personally, I do believe that gaming "addiction" is something that should be looked at more closely (and more scientifically/professionally), but this is an excellent example of the worst kind of propaganda, and it reeks of political interest.

...just checked out the NIMF website, and I was pretty pleasantly surprised. It is actually rather reasonable and espouses positions I agree with, for the most part. That said, their endorsement of this study bothers me. It also bothers me that their FAQ contains a [broken] link to their 2006 financial report -- though this is probably the result of poor maintenance, not anything shady. (The 2007 report is available and has no immediately obvious [to me, anyway] red flags in the donations acknowledgment list.) It'd be nice to get a newer list.