Addiction Switch

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Most societies are marked by one or more characteristic, high-profile addictions: khat in Yemen, for example, coca leaves in Bolivia, vodka in Russia, etc. Some might be tempted to add “weed in the Netherlands” to that list, but apparently that really isn’t true anymore.

How about “video games” instead? The Dutch newspaper Trouw has a piece up now about that. (Game industry must warn against addiction; it’s credited to the Novum news agency, based in Amsterdam, of which I had never heard before.) Its starting-point is a recent report from the Rotterdam-based research bureau IVO, which must be an interesting place to work since it indeed specializes in “lifestyle” and addiction issues. (Check out its English page here, and you can download their video game report here, although it’s in Dutch and they’ll first ask you to enter some information about yourself.) IVO claims that the gaming industry is shirking its public responsibility by doing nothing to counteract video game addiction. In the meantime, the estimated number of such addicts in the Netherlands has reached between 30,000 and 80,000 (out of a population of 16 million).

Not only is that a conclusion that these companies don’t enjoy having made public, but IVO conducted the report in the first place on a commission from the Dutch Ministry of Health. Reaction has been swift from the NVPI, the Dutch industry association for “the entertainment industry.” Yes we do act against addiction, a spokesman claimed: we put recommended-age indications on the boxes of all such games, together with additional warnings if they involve such nasty things as sex, drugs, or violence. What else can you do?

That’s a valid point: what else? A further action discussed here is putting on some sort of “Watch out! This game can be addictive!” warning-label on as well. But that won’t work because 1) It’s lame; 2) If it has any effect, it will merely attract more buyers; and 3) For most players by far, the game will turn out not to be addicting.

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