TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, and Blizzard have responded to claims that video games can be addictive as physical substances. They join an increasing chorus of condemnation aimed towards a BBC Panorama investigation set to broadcast this evening, which labels video games as addictive as physical substances.

The Panorama special, entitled ‘Addicted to Games?‘, will attempt to investigate the methods video game developers use to entice gamers to keep playing. The show also explores the effects this has on some of its users, showcasing the extreme effects games have had on a number of users. These include, according to the Panorama website, a Call of Duty addict as well as an obsessive player of Blizzards’ popular World of Warcraft MMO.

The program’s website promises to:

“… reveal the hidden psychological devices in games that are designed to keep us coming back for more”.

The program’s producer and researcher Raphael Rowe has promised that the show will remain impartial, though the airing of it in the same week as the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is obviously not just be a coincidence. Nevertheless, he has already expanded further on what he hopes the audience would take from the show, explaining to CVG:

“If you give people a lever or a button to press and give them random rewards, they will press it all the time. In computer games… players are randomly rewarded with extra lives or extra in-game features. The idea is to create a compulsion loop that keeps them wanting to play on.”

This hasn’t stopped the video games industry moving to defend itself from such claims and accusing Panorama of sensationalism. TIGA CEO Dr. Richard Wilson has already dismissed Panorama’s claims that games can be medically addictive, stating:

“What we can say is that there is absolutely no proven link between video games and addiction …. the World Health Organisation has no official medical diagnosis of video games addiction.” … “Playing games is a hobby and people can certainly become passionate about them. This is no different from a passion for a particular book, TV programme or sport.”

Furthermore Blizzard, one of the games developers directly targeted through the program, commented on accusations that its video game is addictive:

“Our games are designed to be fun… but like all forms of entertainment… day-to-day life should always take precedence,”

It’s intriguing to see this argument unfolding at a time when the video games industry is in such a boom period. With Call of Duty: Black Ops breaking sales records recently and anticipation for World of Warcraft high, there’s never been a more important time to ponder the effects that video game addiction can have.

As Game Rant explored earlier this year, addiction in video games can be a big issue, however, to explore it in such a sensationalist way can only prompt such reactions from people within the industry. Without seeing the program it’s hard to comment on it’s content, but it’s hard to imagine the program offering a balanced and fair outlook that will reflect well on video games. I say this because the description implies it will only be consulting the very people it wants to highlight and not the “average” gamer.

Yes, there are extremes to people liking video games but the same can be said of any form of media. Is this just the modern day couch potato argument or should the video game industry be looking to change its perception?

Do Ranters believe the show will offer a fair view of video games? Do you think the claims are justified or are video games unfairly targeted?

Addicted to Games?‘ will air on the UK terrestrial channel BBC1 tonight at 8:30pm.

Source: CVG / BBC Panorama

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