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Video Games 'As Addictive As Heroin' Claims The Sun. Do You Agree?

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The Sun has become the target of criticism online after it claimed video games were "as addictive as heroin".

A splash inside the paper on Tuesday said that Brits had reached "the next level of mental health risk" by playing games.

"Our probe showed how more and more lives are being ruined by thrill seeking players," the paper wrote.

The paper quoted an expert, Dr Aric Sigman, who said that games produce dopamine in the brains of players in a similar manner to drugs like heroin, and who said that "violent games have been found to make young people more likely to cheat, be impulsive and unable to control their emotions".

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The paper also spoke to Steven Noel-Hill, a therapist at The Alchemy Clinic, which treats addicted gamers, who said games were "the scourge of our generation". He also said that Call of Duty specifically has been "linked" to three or four suicides, including the sad case of 14-year-old gamer Callum Green.

The piece, which can be read here behind The Sun's paywall, has been criticised by gamers in various quarters, though particularly on Twitter.

Some took issue with the headline specifically, pointing out that games (unlike heroin) have never caused anyone to literally overdose and die, while others pointed to the wider causes of mental health issues, and the difficulty in ascribing single causes to complex and individual tragedies such as teenage suicides.

Here is a sample of the reaction on Twitter:

While the negative reaction from gamers is understandable, it's worth pointing out that video games "addiction" is not the invention of the tabloid press. There is a broad consensus among medical professionals that games can be compulsive, in a broad sense, and that like most pursuits when taken to extremes can potentially be detrimental.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -- a standard reference text, though one which has come into criticism -- lists "internet gaming disorder" as a condition "warranting more clinical research and experience" but says:

"Further research will determine if the same patterns of excessive online gaming are detected using the proposed criteria. At this time, the criteria for this condition are limited to Internet gaming and do not include general use of the Internet, online gambling, or social media."

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It adds that it can cause symptoms of withdrawal "in the same direct and intense way that a drug addict’s brain is affected by a particular substance" but does not describe the disorder itself as an "addiction".

Meanwhile Eurogamer spoke to one of the experts involved in the piece, Dr Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, who said:

"Most kids can afford to play three hours a day without it impacting on their education, their physical education and their social networks. Yes, I believe video game addiction exists, and if it is a genuine addiction it may well be as addictive as other more traditional things in terms of signs, symptoms and components. But the good news is it is a very tiny minority who are genuinely addicted to video games."

Furthermore, while the claim that games might be as addictive as drugs might seem instinctively outlandish, other studies have found evidence that everything from Oreo cookies and rice can be as compulsive as drugs -- though that research too, and the reporting of it, has been criticised. The point seems to be that the issue is complex - perhaps more complex than be adequately described in a short news article or, indeed, a 140-character response to it.