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Tuesday, 07 December 2010 09:51

Boffins claim that computer games are addictive

Written by Nick Farell


At least to rats
The BBC claims that computer games are as addictive as crack, leading the Daily Mail this morning to see the industry as the latest plague to bring down Western Society.

In what many would dub bad science, the BBC's Panorama programme was based on an interview with an award winning games designer Adrian Hon, chief creative officer of SixToStart. He “admitted” that in the 1950s scientists discovered that rats which had been trained to feed themselves by pressing a lever, would press it obsessively if the food was delivered randomly. Hon said that this works on humans too. If you give people a lever or a button to press and give them random rewards, they will press it all the time.

In computer games players are randomly rewarded with extra lives or extra in-game features and this creates a compulsion loop that keeps them wanting to play on. Hon said that people don’t understand how powerful some game mechanics can be. The Beeb documentary so worried the Daily Wail took time out from worrying about Gay Plagues, Immigration Floods to cover this latest threat to children.

IT claimed that the situation is so serious that the industry body United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment is now calling for more research on the issue and promising to publish advice for parents helping them to look out for excessive and problem gaming traits in their children. It feared that the arrival of high speed broadband, which is scheduled
to be rolled out across the UK in the next five years, will also cause more problems because it will enable easier access to online gaming.

It cited the case of Joe Staley, 21, from Nottingham who was so obsessed with Britain’s most popular game, Call of Duty, he lost his place at university. He said that he wouldn’t move from his bed. "My controller would be at my side table, I would turn it on, play, and then I would realise it was about three o’clock in the afternoon," he said.

The Daily Wail points out that this is the terrible game that allows a player can choose to take part in a massacre of civilians. Professor Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit has warned the issue needs further investigation. The UKIE said more research was needed in to the problem, the Daily Mail said.

However calling for more research is not the same as agreeing that there is a problem. It is just saying that the Beeb interviewing a games designer who thinks that it is all about rats is not enough to get worried about. If games were as addictive and Panorama and the Daily Mail fear, then there would be a lot more casualties than one student from Nottingham who could not get out of bed. In fact we have met a lot of students who could not get out of bed and they still managed to scrape a 2/1.

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 December 2010 10:39
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