Monday, April 2, 2012

VR, Peanuts, and Willpower

I have a friend who's a recovering video game addict. She* knows this, and has it under control, but she cannot play video games alone because she knows she will come to three days later realizing she's forgotten to go to class. I am the reverse; I enjoy video games, but I will go months before realizing that I haven't played in a while, and maybe I'd enjoy it. In this way, addiction to virtual worlds is different from addiction to drugs. It doesn't affect everyone, only a certain fraction of people who for some reason are psychologically predisposed to it. It's a bit like food allergies. Peanuts, e.g., are not generally considered poisonous, but they are to me, just as video games are not inherently addictive, but they are to my friend. Almost any activity can be addictive to someone; the result is what is usually termed a 'nerd'. The prevalence of video gaming, however, ensures that video game addiction occupies a special place in the public view. While this awareness fuels public worry over the problem of gaming addiction, the very same awareness leads to the extinguishing of that worry. Video game addiction has already started to fade from the public view as it becomes an old problem that we know to expect and know how to deal with. The negative impacts on the lives of gaming addicts are not a result of any inherent feature of games, though the features of a game may make it more or less potentially addicting; they are the results of susceptible people not knowing how to deal with something new, or to recognize when they personally have a problem. And the solution is correspondingly nothing to with video games themselves. It's teaching people to exercise willpower and effectively manage their own lives.

*Yes, female.