Are video games the drugs of the new generation?

5:23 PM Jordin van Deyl 0 Comments

I would like to give a heads-up that this is an opinion piece. I wrote this based on my own experiences and background in psychology. I will leave it up to you, the reader, to choose your own view on the matter.

On the 3rd of august I came across a newspaper article in "AD - Utrechts Dagblad". The headline read: "Addiction - hundreds of game addicted youths end up in rehabilitation-clinic", and my first thought was: "This is ****shit"...

Let me start with a quick summary of the article. It tells the story of Daniël. His situation at home is described as "not always the best", and he would be often hiding in his room playing games. The article quotes Daniël explaining that games made him feel at ease and allowed him to leave his worries behind, so more and more he took this way out when things got hard. At first everything was well, as he could combine his gaming with school, friends and he even played in a band. But then matters took a turn, and as the author states his "hobby" became his "addiction".

Now what interests me are the problems he had at home. His girlfriend had an unplanned pregnancy; soon after he started showing up late to work, came up with excuses not to meet friends and stopped studying. Then, the way I see it this boy did not need help with his addiction, he needed help in his personal life! I find again and again that healthcare focusses on treating symptoms instead of the root cause. Gaming was not the problem for Daniël, his troubles at home were. If he had not had games to turn to, he would have found another way to vent or escape. Maybe drugs. Maybe alcohol.  In my opinion, there is no difference to taking a bottle of whisky and getting wasted, the goal is the same: escape.

Media often puts video games in a bad light, and there are many articles like this that rub me the wrong way. Who has not heard about the controversy concerning violence in video games and how they supposedly make kids more violent? The potential of games in general is often misunderstood. Let me give you one great example... God games are games where the actions of the player impact a virtual world - think of ecosystems, economies or the lives of generations of NPCs (non-player characters). These games are a great way to learn and experiment, and give players a new way of looking at their own behaviour and its influence on everyone’s future.

It is my hope that people will see the truth behind games and their hidden potential to better the lives of everyone, instead of simply blaming this (relatively new) and for many unknown concept to grab readers attention with catchy headlines.