Jones' Outlook

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Video games as mental illness?

OK, I've heard enough about arguments about video game addiction.

There are now groups that want to have "video game addiction" added as a medically-recognized form of mental disorder.

Can video games be addictive? Without proper restraint yes, there can be some people who will habitually spend their days in front of the screen, however I see that as true in other parts of human nature. Pain pills, alcohol, drugs are just some of things that people are addicted to. But I think it comes down to wanting to feel good and feel pleasure.

I think it's human nature that we have that addiction potential - when something pleases us, endorphins are released in the body and we get that rush. Then we want to sustain that feeling.

I love to play video games and have been well known for sitting down and playing a game until it's beaten. Do I have an addiction? I don't think so, I played the game 'til it was over then generally left it alone. I haven't played most of my games for over two months now and I haven't had withdrawal.

What attracts me to play a game is the ability to do something that I can't do in real life. I can't step into the shoes of Peyton Manning and lead the Colts to a repeat victory of the Super Bowl. Or step into the shoes of a soldier in World War II and experience a major battle. It would never be world-changing battle. I have my own life, but it's sometimes nice to suspend reality and try on a virtual reality for a little while.

Is there a problem with kids playing video games too much? I think that there are some cases that would support that. I have seen where people would use a Gameboy or something like that to keep kids entertain and quiet. There are times that electronic toys come in handy.

My parents would let me take my Gameboy with me on long trips or if I had to go sit in my Dad's office from time to time. But sometimes it's being used as a surrogate babysitter or to replace family time or outdoor recreation, and that just isn't right.

So if the video game habit proves to be seen as an official form of addiction, what happens next? Are people going to have to apply for a card to get approval to buy a video game? Sure that will work real well. Instead of having prostitutes and drug dealers on the corner, I can see a guy standing on the corner with a long coat. "Psst. I have Mario but if you need the hard stuff - Halo or Need for Speed - give me a day and I can hook you up."

Sadly millions of dollars have been spent on studies to prove and disprove problems with games. Can this be an issue? Yes, but as people die from real diseases, hunger and other killers, we as a society spend money on a trendy social issue like game-playing.

I think that we need to remember that most things are okay in moderation. A little bit of gaming isn't going to ruin a kid. It is when we give in to a desire to overindulge in our pursuits of pleasure that our own passions can turn against us.

I will admit to eating too much pizza or ice cream now and then, but every unwise thing doesn't have to be a disease.

It feels like as a society we have to classify everything into some category complete with an excuse for why it isn't our fault for not being able to control ourselves.

Can't we just live a humans and enjoy life? Don't worry about classifying my mental state or my choices. I'll save you the money and tell you to go use it on something useful.

* Reach Jeff Jones at jjones@stormlake pilottribune.com