In the latest spasm of anti-game hyperbole, a therapist in the U.K. has claimed that two hours of gaming generates the same kind of high as doing a line of coke.
The Lancashire Evening Post has apparently "discovered" that hordes of young children have become dangerously addicted to videogames and that more and more are "seeking professional help after becoming hooked on the fantasy word of console games." Three out of five kids under the age of 16 play games to the point that it's cause for concern, the report said, while four out of five under the age of ten play games "at levels showing signs of addiction." Four out of five!
Why do these games have such a powerful grip on our children? According to one "expert," the reason is simple. "Spending two hours on a game station is equivalent to taking a line of cocaine in the high it produces," said counselor and therapist Steve Pope. "It is the fastest growing addiction in the country and this is affecting young people mentally, as well as leading to physical problems such as obesity."
"I saw one 14-year-old Preston boy who played on games for 24 hours non-stop and had not eaten and was showing signs of dehydration. When his parents tried to take his console away, he became aggressive and threatened to jump out of a window," he continued. "Computer game addiction can also spiral into violence as after playing violent games, they may turn their fantasy games into reality."
And it's not just children who are being victimized. Pope said that he is currently working with a 74-year-old grandmother who's addicted to online poker, her daughter, who's addicted to eBay and her granddaughter, who is addicted to Facebook. "The poisoned chalice is being handed down through the generations," he warned.
Even professional athletes are struggling with the negative affects of gaming addiction. "Many footballers are playing on hand-held consoles and computer games before a game and this is resulting in a natural high which is causing a chemical imbalance which is leading to them not performing their best on the pitch," Pope explained. "I am the psychotherapist for Fleetwood Town and they ban their players from using any form of console for at least 24 hours before a game."
One 49-year-old mother who wished to remain anonymous bought Call of Duty for her son but realized only in hindsight what an impact it had on him. "Now that I look back on it, it's like I went out and bought him his first shot of whiskey," she said.
Gayle Brewer, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire and whose living is presumably somewhat less dependent upon keeping people convinced that they're desperately in need of her help, took a bit of a more balanced approach. "It is important to find a balance," she said. "It is easier for parents if they set ground rules from the start about how long their child is allowed to spend on these types of games."
The U.K. Interactive Entertainment Association declined to comment on the matter and "whether they believed it was an issue they needed to tackle," which is hopefully a polite way of saying that it refused to dignify such stupidity with a response. The Lancashire Evening Post, meanwhile, promised to follow up with a "full special report" in last night's print edition.