The video game industry earns billions of dollars every year. Kids, teenagers, and adults all over the world are sucked into video games every day, sometimes for hours upon hours at a time. Game makers create these games to be fun, enticing, and stimulating – they know that people flock to these games for entertainment. They know that people get wrapped into them. Are some of these people addicted to these games? Medical research has shown that about 1 in 11 people who play video games are addicted and exhibit dysfunction in multiple areas of their lives.
But video game addiction is a sensitive matter to these large game-making companies. If they admitted that these games were addictive, then they risk the potential of losing money, a lot of money. In fact, when Representative Shin Eui-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party in Korea submitted a law entitled the Prevention, Management, and Treatment Law which labeled online game addiction as strong as drug addiction, the U.S.-based Entertainment Software Association (ESA) called it “not rational” and expressed concerns about it. (1)
Are video games like drugs? Here is something to consider. Video games are used for pain management in painful medical procedures. While burn victims play a video game called "Snow World", nurses are able to scrub and treat burns in pediatric and adult patients. (2) So if video games clinically reduce pain perception, similar to narcotics, then they are likely acting on the mind and body like a digital pain killer; thus, there will be people who will overuse and abuse video games, similar to people who overuse and abuse prescription pain killers. Clearly, additional research is needed in this area, which has incredible medical applications. But if these games are like digital pain killers, then Korean law makers are not completely off-base to label game addiction as strong as drug addiction.
Did you know that rehab for addicts costs nearly $25,000 monthly? That is an incredible amount of money for people to pay and if the ESA recognizes that the products they’re making have the potential to lead to addiction, there is a chance that they will be held accountable for that, and that means possible liability for addicts' actions and negative press, in addition to the loss of money.
The bottom line: The gaming industry doesn’t want regulations or controls, especially the Korean game industry due to the country’s huge usage rate and ability to threaten global sales.
What do you think about this? Do you believe that the ESA should recognize that games can trigger addictive tendencies? Should the ESA take responsibility for the products they are dedicated to putting out?
1. Sung-won, Yoon. “Global game makers oppose addiction bill.” The Korea Times. June 12, 2014. Accessed online October 27, 2014. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/tech/2014/06/134_158983.html
2. NPR. Virtual Penguins A Prescription for Pain? Feb 12, 2012. Accessed online October 27, 2014. http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/146775049/virtual-penguins-a-prescription-for-pain