In 1981 Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia sat down to write a song expressing how the nation felt about a virtual character that had captured the hearts and quarters of America.
‘Cause I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.
It’s driving me crazy, driving me crazy.
I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.
I’m going out of my mind, going out of my mind.
I’ve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever.
I’m going out of my mind, going out of my mind. (BucknerGarcia.com)
Pac-Man Fever was a one hit wonder, one of those songs that everybody could relate to and was stuck in your head for days and days. Long gone are the days of Pac-Man, but the virus has mutated into a more terrible beast than the ghosts themselves, in today’s world, we have true video game addiction.
Added to the ranks of drunks, druggies, and dope fiends—the dreaded video game player, so grab a pitchfork and torch, and join the morally righteous in their attempt to stop video games from gaining further ground in personal entertainment. Millions are suffering each day, trapped in worlds of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) living in fantasy of violence, romance and adventure; or lost behind PSPs (Play Station Portable) and Gameboy screens experiencing the same thing. Do video games seriously pose a threat to society at large?
Are we about to see an explosion of Video Game addiction treatment centers springing up around the world—the answer is overwhelmingly no. Patrick Isenberger, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, says video games can be seen as “problematic if they become someone’s whole life.” He also says that video games are more likely to become an issue to “people who have addictive personalities.” Like the alcoholic who substitutes alcohol with drugs or pornography, replacing one addiction for the other does not change behaviors, the habits just rearrange themselves to the new substance, or in this case activity. Hospitals are not in danger, at present or the foreseeable future, of being overrun with video game addicts seeking or needing help.
Uproar about violence in video games is nothing new, first reported in 1976 with the game Death Race 2000 where you earned “points by running over stick figures. Public outcry against video game violence gains national attention, and the game is taken off the market.” (Herman et al… 6) Violent video games have not been shown to make non-violent people violent; however, to those already in such an environment the violence of a video game, television show or movie can add fuel to an already out of control fire. In other words, normal people are not suspect to become more violent when playing video games.
In today’s world it is not uncommon for a player to spend 5 to 6 hours or more online in a virtual gaming community or even one hooked up to the TV. Blizzard, the current leader in online video game entertainment, has recently introduced parental controls allowing limits to the amount of time a child spends playing. After only one year, the game World of Warcraft (a Blizzard product) has jumped to the head of the pack in sales and subscriptions, boasting over 4 million active subscribers—with the average subscription cost of $15.99 approximately $63,960,000 a month and yet compared to the amount of alcohol sold in the world this is a single drop in the ocean. (Blizzard.com) “In 2002, 54.9% of U.S adults (18 years and older) reported drinking at least one drink in the past month.” (CDC), clearly this is more of a danger to society at large than a game or two.
Educators, health experts and parents are concerned when a child spends hours playing a single video game; nevertheless children are allowed to spend hours watching television programming. Violence in video games is also the target of many parents and experts, and yet violence and sexual content run rampant in television and movies. “If playing too much, it short changes them in other areas, but the same can be said of television or other activities”, says Donna Marschall, PhD with Washington, DC’s Children’s National Medical Center. In children it is a parenting issue, not addiction, parents “need to set appropriate limits”. Dr. Marschall also points out that some games help children learn to interact, communicate and build effective teams to accomplish tasks and meet goals, these are good tools for some children.
Video games are played by people of all ages as seen in a recent Washington Post article even senior citizens are into the game; Barbara St. Hilaire is a video game aficionado.
Like many gamers, she owns a PlayStation 2, a GameCube and an Xbox, and subscribes to Electronic Gaming Monthly, Computer Gaming World and Game Informer. She drives her red 1997 Pontiac Grand Am to a nearby GameStop, where she buys and exchanges her games, and also to Hollywood Video, where she rents them. But unlike many gamers, she’s been gaming since the early 1970s. Even with her hearing aids, she turns up the volume on games so loud that, one of her grandkids says, “her room literally starts to shake.” Her treasured strategy guides — the Cliffs Notes of tough-to-beat games — are tucked next to her equally treasured cookbooks. (Vargas A01)
Alcoholism, drug addiction, and gambling have been proven to disrupt lives, lead to bankruptcy, destroy families and can even lead to death. A physiological withdrawal is clearly seen in abstinence from alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; however, not so with the cessation of video games—there is no physiological response. “Almost anything could be an addiction,” says Chris Sarampote, PhD with the National Institutes of Mental Health. “There have been no studies to suggest a clear path to addiction from video games. While not as defined as standard addictions—alcoholism, drug addiction or gambling—the compulsion is so high addiction cannot be ruled out completely.”
Too much of anything can be a bad thing. There is no empirical evidence to stating video games are an addiction, it is all just virtual hype.
Blizzard Entertainment. Company profile page, http://www.blizzard.com/inblizz/profile.shtml
BucknerGarcia.com, Pacman Fever Story, http://www.bucknergarcia.com
CDC “Alcohol Facts”, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/factsheets/general_information.htm
Herman, Leonard, Horwitz, Jer, Kent, Steve and Miller, Skyler “The History of Video Games.” Game Spot.com
Isenberger, Patrick, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005
Marschall, Donna, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005
Sarampote, Chris, Telephone Interview, December 2, 2005
Vargas, Jose Antonio, “Grandma Gets Her Game On.” Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2005: A01