Aug 302009
 
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

If you’re making the time to read this column, you’re lucky. You haven’t fallen prey to video games, the hot addiction sweeping the globe. They’re the new meth!

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Gee, I play Halo and Wii Sports four hours a day, but I’m not addicted to them!” That may or may not be true, but either way, you should be worried.

Recently, numerous stories portraying video games in a negative light have surfaced. Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and Andrews University pieced together a travesty of a study that found the average gamer is 35 years old, overweight and depressed.

They neglect to emphasize the small sample size, the area in which the study was conducted –Seattle, which is known for its rainy, depression-inducing weather — the fact that no gamer under 18 was part of the study and myriad other factors.

Most importantly, though, their proposed correlation between gaming and being overweight and depressed is flimsy at best. Who says the former was a result of the latter, as opposed to vice versa?

Last Monday, the first video game addiction rehab center in the US was opened. We join countries such as China and the Netherlands in having high-priced clinics for tech-related dependency issues — the 45-day treatment program in Washington state cost $14,500.

We’re told that deprivation of Halo 3 drove a 17-year-old to kill his mother (the jury thankfully didn’t buy that), and that Grand Theft Auto IV caused teens in several cities to beat up random homeless people. Give me a break.

Several countries have instituted bans on violent games, and more are following suit, as evidenced by Venezuela starting the legislative process over the weekend.

This trend of viewing video games as a potential health hazard has gotten out of hand. It seems studies that seek to find a correlation between gaming and violence or depression are resorting to increasingly lazy tactics when compiling data.

The study above had so many quirks that skewed the results more than a little unevenly. Yet, it has gotten media attention akin to cancer research. The media has taken to blaming games for more and more of society’s problems.

In an age when more people than ever are playing video games, our collective notion of personal responsibility seems to have taken a hit. I enjoy playing my Xbox 360 from time to time, as do several of my friends, so I’m slightly biased I suppose.

That said, I can unequivocally say it is pre-existing circumstances such as depression that contribute to excessive playing. Ask yourself, who is more likely to play a lot of video games? You will probably come up with an image of a kid who is, you guessed it, overweight and depressed.

A few extreme cases have drowned out reality. For most people, gaming is harmless. Several studies suggest that it actually helps people with depression.

To all the non-gamers out there, I say this: anything you hear in the media about harmful effects of games is the exception to the norm. To most of us, games are simply a fun thing to enjoy with friends, nothing more. Yet, we also pride ourselves on personal responsibility, so we know when to put the controller down and resume normal life.

Gaming gives people a rush on par with playing music or watching a great movie. It’s a positive part of our lives. The same goes for 99.9 percent of gamers, media coverage be damned.

Those who get “addicted” to them are more prone to addiction or depression anyway. To link gaming with a person’s harmful psychological attributes is a stretch and an insult to statisticians and gamers everywhere.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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