Opinion// Plumbing the Depths of Video Gaming Addiction 'Discussion' on TV

Posted 8 Apr 2010 16:59 by
One of the best things about my day job is that I get an awful lot of holidays – at the moment I’m in the middle of two weeks off. One of the worst things is that I get pretty bored and end up watching awful, awful daytime TV like This Morning (which seriously has never recovered since Richard and Judy left).

Yesterday morning This Morning tackled the meaty subject of Children’s Addiction to Video Games. This is a serious subject that, when debated properly, can throw up a range of interesting opinions. Unfortunately – as with the debacle that took place recently on The Alan Titchmarsh Show (another ITV production) – viewers were presented with yet another scaremongering parent who didn’t exactly give us the full story.

This time around, however, the team behind the show did not make the egregious mistake of actually including somebody on the panel who actually knew anything about video games or was prepared to defend them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, colour me not surprised in the slightest.

The handling of video games by the mainstream media is generally pretty skewed to fit whatever the production team of the day want to say. Most of the time you’re lucky to get someone who takes a pro-gaming viewpoint – yesterday’s report was, as mentioned, a rather one-sided piece.

A journalist called Linda Duberley spoke about her son’s addiction to games, saying he would often play for up to 10 hours at a time, and there was little she could do about it or the huge depression that it was causing. Of course, the idea of her stopping paying his subscription for whatever game he was playing never came up. Nor did the concept of taking her son’s computer away from him (which she actually did according to an article she actually wrote in 2008. That article also mentions her son's troubles with depression:

“He himself admitted that school wasn't the problem: he liked it there, and he had plenty of friends. The real problem - it began to emerge - was that Ned was frightened of the world. Life for teenagers has become incredibly pressured and complicated. You have to look the right way, have the right gear, get the grades - Ned just didn't want to engage with it all. Helping him to avoid it was his computer. Ned's cyber habit was feeding his fears of the real world, allowing him to hide in another, parallel world, one of his choosing, where he could defy reality and its complications.”

The worried mother, journalist and founder of her own media company then asked and answered her own question: “Was depression something that Ned would have suffered if he hadn't become addicted to video games? His doctor says he would always have been prone, but there is no doubt they helped create an environment that stopped him communicating with the outside world and made it worse. “

A short discussion on the nature of addiction was then held (punctuated by various shocked gasps from Holly Willoughby) with Consultant Psychologist Dr Richard Graham. By the way, Dr Graham happens to be behind one of the UK’s more expensive private mental health institutions, and just happens to run a Young Person’s Technology Addiction course. Just to let you know, like.

Linda Duberly
Linda Duberly
Now, please don’t get me wrong. If someone is indeed addicted to anything, they should be helped. However, what basically amounts to a free ten-minute advertisement for this clinic does not sit well with me.

The good doctor even admitted that, as yet, addiction to video games isn’t a recognised psychological issue, to which Ms Duberley responded, “it doesn’t matter”. She spoke about how her child had “recently” been involved in an accident, was being bullied at school, and was generally having a pretty bloody awful time – however, video games were portrayed as the 'Big Problem In His Life'.

(As an aside, Dr Tanya Byron, author of the government's Byron Report, actually told SPOnG, "The thinking is that very few people are truly addicted to video gaming. What I mean by 'truly addicted' is they show a number of behaviours that, put together, would indicate with other behaviours (that are considered an addiction) or even with substances, would indicate they are addicted. So, they can't live without it, will stop socialising because of it, will skip meals, will become very agitated if they can't do it, and so on... which is how you understand an addiction.")

Back to Ms Duberley, who seems to have something of an agenda – none of what she was discussing was actually recent. She was responsible for an episode of Tonight with Trevor MacDonald on the subject of gaming addiction in 2006. At least that show included an ELSPA representative.

Things will, eventually, change. Parents who play and understand games are now becoming more prevalent. They take an active interest in the games that their children play, and realise that this incredibly cheap journalism is meaningless, narrow minded and – in some cases – downright dangerous. I honestly hope that Linda Duberley’s child is doing well, and I hope he can play games without fear of his mother yanking his pad out of his hands. I am really quite unimpressed at her dragging the poor kid through the muck again. Let him move on. Hopefully she’ll find something else to bang her drum about, but if you see her on screen again? Turn it off.

As a coda to the 'debate', Ms Duberly has posted the following on her own company's blog: “Earlier today I appeared on ITV’s This Morning programme. Apart from the fact that it was a pleasure to meet Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby it was also a chance to talk about how relieved and happy I am that my son has turned such a corner in dealing with his computer game compulsion.

“He is genuinely happy at school and has knuckled down to his GCSEs with a view to studying Maths, Geography and History at A Level. With me in the studio was Dr Richard Graham a consultant adolescent psychiatrist who has just opened a unit for technology addiction at the Capio Nightingale Hospital.”

“Before we went on air he asked me what had worked for my son. I told him that in the end - after a lot of heart-ache, micro-management and therapy - it was simple; my son simply rebuilt his own confidence. His school, Hampton Court House, gave him the right structure to develop some self-esteem and he came to the conclusion that Real Life was worth a try after all. Which just goes to show no matter how compelling a virtual game is, it cannot match the Real Thing.”

Strange that the TV audience was not treated to the fact that, “after a lot of heart-ache, micro-management and therapy - it was simple; my son simply rebuilt his own confidence.”

Yesterday SPOnG requested a right of reply from the representatives of This Morning, in which a pro-gaming voice could be heard. As yet we've heard nothing at all back.

Michael Fox regularly presents the ever-wonderful Joypod podcast and site. You should definitely listen to it.

The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.

Want to vent your gaming spleen? Send 900 words max of well thought-out, deeply analysed opinion and we may even run it. Send in 900 words of incisive but mostly brutally angry invective, and we almost certainly will.

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