Poke­mon brings gam­ing ad­dic­tion to fore

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - SAMSHAY

You col­lide with lamp­posts, parked cars, and/or pedes­tri­ans at least once a day. On your ACC claim, you write ‘‘head on col­li­sion with a parked car, chas­ing af­ter a Poke­mon’’.

On the same ACC claim, you write un­der the sec­tion ‘‘if sport­ing in­jury, name sport’’, the word ‘‘hunt­ing’’. You are late for an ap­point­ment be­cause you got lost in dis­cus­sion with other ‘‘PoGos’’ (peo­ple who play Poke­mon Go), show­ing off their re­cent Squir­tle catch. You seethe with jeal­ousy when you hear about some­one’s Squir­tle catch.

Satire aside, I’ve healed my­self from more than 25 years of video game ad­dic­tion, which started in 1988 in the times of Sega Master Sys­tem and Nin­tendo En­ter­tain­ment Sys­tem. The rapid pop­u­lar­ity of Poke­mon Go is a bit alarm­ing, par­tic­u­larly be­cause this aug­mented re­al­ity game (putting dig­i­tal images onto re­al­life sce­nar­ios) has thrust video gamers into our pub­lic lives, cre­at­ing walk­ing haz­ards, in­ad­ver­tent tres­pass­ing and even dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

Video games were nor­mally con­fined to a chair in soli­tude or among friends also sit­ting in their re­spec­tive chairs. How­ever, on a re­cent Sun­day morn­ing I watched a skate­boarder coast through a busy foot­path with his iPhone up and scan­ning for Poke­mon. He was a col­li­sion wait­ing to hap­pen.

Video games were al­ready a grow­ing prob­lem be­fore aug­mented re­al­ity showed up. We used to think of a gamer as a stereo­typ­i­cal teenage male fran­ti­cally click­ing his mouse in World of War­craft or aim­ing his sniper ri­fle in Call of Duty. Yet it may come as a sur­prise that even be­fore Poke­mon Go the num­ber of gamers had grown rapidly among all de­mo­graph­ics.

So how would you know if you might be gam­ing too much? The fol­low­ing three mea­sur­able signs may in­di­cate you need to hit pause and re­flect to see if there might be a prob­lem.

Gam­ing for longer than you sleep at least once in the past month. If you ever play video

Sign one:

games for longer than you sleep, it’s def­i­nitely a prob­lem as you’re ei­ther los­ing sleep or play­ing too long. If you game six hours, yet sleep five (or less), then you’re los­ing sleep. If you sleep eight hours, but game for nine (or more), that’s a lot of video games in one day.

Gam­ing more than 14 hours a week or more than two hours a day. This is a part-time job’s worth of video games. If you game this much you fit my def­i­ni­tion of a heavy gamer, which I based on the Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol’s def­i­ni­tion of heavy drink­ing. Though you can’t call some­one an al­co­holic based on the num­ber of drinks they have, count­ing the num­ber of hours video gam­ing per week is a good in­di­ca­tion to have a closer look to see if there’s a big­ger prob­lem.

Sign two:

Gam­ing for more than four hours straight. That fits the def­i­ni­tion of a binge gamer.

Sign three:

Take these signs se­ri­ously then have a look if there are other signs of de­struc­tive be­hav­iour that in­di­cate an ac­tual ad­dic­tion to video games.

Just to be clear, hav­ing fun and be­ing able to stop are very dif­fer­ent from an ad­dic­tion, where the be­hav­iour be­comes de­struc­tive to one­self, oth­ers, or one’s sur­round­ings, and one can’t or won’t stop de­spite the destruc­tion left in one’s wake.

The word ‘‘ad­dic­tion’’ in as­so­ci­a­tion with video games is fre­quently met with hos­til­ity and de­fi­ance, ei­ther from those who play video games or from mem­bers of the ad­dic­tion com­mu­nity who don’t see video games as a real ad­dic­tion. For­tu­nately, there is help avail­able.

Sam Shay is a video-game ad­dic­tion coach based in Welling­ton.

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