Gaming not an addiction, parents to blame

Are you addicted to the world of the World of Warcraft? Or is it merely compulsion?
Are you addicted to the world of the World of Warcraft? Or is it merely compulsion?

The issue of 'gaming addiction' has been hitting tabloid headlines of late, following the recent release of a new expansion pack to Blizzard's mighty World of Warcraft earlier this month.

However, a specialist from Amsterdam's Smith & Jones Centre claims that compulsive gaming is NOT an addiction and should not be treated as one.

Keith Bakker is the founder and head of Europe's first clinic to work with young gamers. He and his staff prefer to consider compulsive gaming as a social rather than a psychological problem in the young people they work with.

"These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies," Bakker told the BBC, talking about the youngsters he works with, many of whom seem addicted to MMOs (WoW being by far the most popular of the genre).

Parents and teachers failing

"But the more we work with these kids these less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem," adds the addiction specialist.

"Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication."

The root of the problem in under-18s, in Bakker's considered and experienced opinion, is bad parenting. Not addictive videogames.

"It's a choice… These kids know exactly what they are doing and they just don't want to change. If no one is there to help them, then nothing will ever happen."

The Smith & Jones Centre has carried out research which strongly suggests the compulsive gamer's feelings of anger and powerlessness pre-exist the desire to play MMOs and violent videogames.

"In some cases these people find each other in the gaming world and form a bond based on those feelings of alienation and anger," the BBC reports.

Adam Hartley