As teachers, we regularly come across some of the hazards of the addictive qualities of computer games. I'm sure you will be familiar with the students who enter the classroom in a dream-like state, collapse into their chair and promptly put their head down on the desk and when you enquire as to the reason for their exhausted condition they mumble something like "I was playing 'Call of Duty' until 1am". Similar situations, such as the one described above, are played out in classrooms across the country and I'm sure that student's obsession with computer games is one of the main reasons that homework does not get completed on time.
There is, however, a more sinister consequence to gaming addiction.
In 2007, a 13 year old Vietnamese boy from Hanoi strangled an 81 year old woman for just $6.20. When the police interviewed him he said he needed the money to fund his obsession of playing online games.
In 2008, a teenager from Ohio, Daniel Petric, was convicted of shooting his mother and father because they had forbidden him to play 'Halo 3'. In court, Daniel's Defence Attorney stated that he was obsessed with the 'Halo' series of video games, which he played 18 hours a day when he had the chance!
In 2012, an online 'Xbox live' skirmish pushed a 17 year old to exchange his joystick for a knife and a gun, enter 20 year old Kevin Kemp's home, shoot at him and stab him 22 times.
Research, such as the study that was carried out by Chih-Hung Ko, a neurobiologist at the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues in 2008, has proved that the extreme desire to play that gamers, who are obsessed by their favourite games, demonstrate, has the same neurological symptoms as drug addicts craving their next fix. The scientific study discovered that under MRI imaging the same areas of the brains of gaming addicts 'lit up' as those of addicts craving narcotics.
Dr. Ko's research was carried out as a consequence of the fact that there are now well over ten million people engaged in the online game 'World of Warcraft' and game statistics have exhibited that some players are spending incredible amounts of time playing the game - some spending 16 to 20 hours a day engaged with the game. This frequently results in their personal life acutely diminishing, they lose touch with their family and friends and their health deteriorates rapidly.
The phenomena of gaming addiction is increasing so rapidly that in the United States an online group, 'On-line Gamers Anonymous' ( www.olganon.org) has been set up with the aim to help gamers recover from personal issues that have arisen from excessive game-playing. Through an online community of recovering gamers, family members, friends and concerned others, OLGA hopes to support those at the early stages of addiction but encourage professional help to players who maybe exhibiting more serious symptoms. OLGA also exists as a one-stop shop for the gathering and collating of information and research on this new and not necessarily fully understood condition.
It would be easy to dismiss gaming addiction in young people as purely extreme self-indulgence by immature, lazy, teenagers who need to get a grip and concentrate on 'real life'. With the considerable number of people around the world now playing computer games however, coupled with the highly addictive qualities that game designers engineer into their creations, this attitude would appear to be remiss and irresponsible as plainly the condition of gaming addiction is very real and set to increase at a rapid pace. It is imperative therefore, that more research needs be carried out to fully understand what triggers the condition and to discover what are the best methods of treatment.
As teachers, it is our job to offer information, awareness and knowledge and to educate people, both young and old, of the dangers becoming addicted to computer games, to ensure that individuals can recognise if they themselves or a friend or relative are demonstrating symptoms that could indicate that their passion is becoming a dangerous addiction.
To assist you in preparing for your lesson or assembly plan on gaming addiction here are some helpful websites:
www.video-game-addiction.org - This is a great American site that offers advice to both parents and teenagers on the condition. It offers an explanation of the addiction, describes the symptoms in both adults and teenagers, the different consequences of the condition and possible treatments.
www.videogameaddiction.co.uk - Although this is a commercial site (part of ADT Healthcare) it contains a lot of detailed information that is clearly explained. There is also additional information on Internet Addiction.
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wlmj0 - This BBC Panorama site contains some excellent short videos that would be really useful to break up the pace of a lesson and clearly show how computer games affect some people.
www.newvision.co.ug/news - This article describes the deceptive behaviour that some computer game addicts can exhibit. It describes how the condition impacted on children, and one child in particular, in a village in America. It is interesting as it describes the different perceptions of both parents and a primary school teacher.
If you would like to share your teaching tips on tackling this with your students, please add your comments below. Alternatively, visit our lesson plans and assembly plans page for ready-to-use teaching resources supporting this topic.