上一周，我出现在《The Sun》众多新闻故事中，即顶着“游戏与海洛因一样让人上瘾”这样的大标题。在故事被出版前，《The Sun》的游戏编辑Lee Price询问我是否能够提供一些问题去帮助读者明确他们是否具有游戏上瘾倾向。（在本文的最后我将会提供10个问题）。在过去几年里我已经为《The Sun》写过一些文章并很高兴能够对有关游戏问题的教育作出以下贡献。实际上，我最早写给《The Sun》的文章是于去年所发行，那时候的大标题是“电子游戏帮助我们成为更棒的人。”游戏编辑分享了他计划发布的一些文本内容，并询问我是否愿意添加一些内容到他的文章中。我所提交的文本如下：
然而我所提供的这一引用并未出现在上周的那篇文章中（可能因为与文章的主旨不相符）。大标题“游戏与海洛因一样让人上瘾”就比文章本身更像是感觉论者。我的博客中的任何固定读者都知道，我相信游戏上瘾是存在的，但上瘾的玩家数量只是小部分。《The Sun》的故事是从宣称：“英国深受游戏上瘾威胁，这跟酒精和毒品一样会对身体造成巨大伤害”开始。这篇文字同样也声称，来自伦敦的医疗所表示一年会接到5000个寻求帮助他们的孩子摆脱游戏上瘾的电话（我自己每个月也会收到大约2指3个这样的电话或邮件）。它同样也突出了一些声称对社交游戏（如《Candy Crush》）和在线多人游戏（如《英雄联盟》）上瘾的案例研究。同时还提到了一些与游戏有关的死亡事例，其中便包含最近发生的事，即三名男性为了玩《使命召唤》而自杀。
在《The Sun》文章发布的那天，来自Eurogamer的记者为了该文章的评论联系了我。最终的文章便是该记者对于我的访问（然后组成无数故事的基本元素并出现在包含Tech Times，The Fix，Digital Spy，Polygon以及Kotaku等在线游戏媒体中。）对方问我是否觉得游戏像海洛因那样让人上瘾。我的回答是：
Press to play: Is gaming really more addictive than heroin?
by Mark Griffiths
Last week I appeared in loads of news stories following a double page spread in The Sun newspaper under the headline “Gaming as addictive as heroin”. Before the story went to press, I was asked by The Sun’s gaming editor – Lee Price – if I would provide a set of questions to help readers determine if they had a possible gaming addiction. (I’ve reproduced the ten questions at the end of this blog). I’ve written a number of articles for The Sun over the years and have always been happy to contribute to education concerning gaming issues. In fact, my previous article with The Sun was one published last year under the headline “Video games make us better people”. The gaming editor shared some of the text he was planning to publish and I was asked if I would like to add anything to his main article. The text I submitted for inclusion in the article read:
“Gaming addiction has become a real issue for the psychologists and medics over the last decade. The good news is that playing excessively doesn’t necessarily mean someone is addicted – the difference between a healthy excessive enthusiasm and an addiction is that healthy enthusiasms add to life whereas addiction takes away from it”.
This quote I provided did not appear anywhere on the double-page spread (probably because it didn’t fit the main thrust of the article). The headline “Gaming as addictive as heroin” (almost certainly provided by someone other than the Gaming Editor) was arguably more sensationalist that the article itself. Any regular readers of my blog will know that I believe gaming addictions exist but that the number of gamers that are genuinely addicted comprises a small minority. The Sun’s story began by claiming that: “Britain is in the grip of a gaming addiction which poses as big a health risk as alcohol and drug abuse”. The article also alleged that a London-based clinic claimed it was receiving 5,000 calls a year from parents seeking help for their child’s gaming addiction (I myself get around 2-3 calls or emails a month). It also featured a number of case studies claiming they were addicted to social networking games (like Candy Crush) and online multiplayer games (like League of Legends). There were also a number of references to alleged gaming-related deaths including the recent story that a coroner had linked three male suicides to playing the game Call of Duty.
On the day The Sun article was published, I was contacted by a journalist from Eurogamer for my comments on the piece. The resulting article was basically my interview with the journalist (which then formed the basis of countless stories that appeared in the online gaming press including the Tech Times, The Fix, Digital Spy, Polygon, Kotaku, etc.). I was asked if I thought gaming was as addictive as heroin. I responded by saying:
“It depends how you define addiction in the first place. I’ve spent my whole career trying to say if you’re going to call something an addiction it has to be similar right across the board. The criteria I use for video game addiction would be exactly the same as in heroin addiction in the sense that this is an activity that becomes the most important thing in your life, it compromises everything else in your life including your relationship, work and hobbies. It’s something you use as a way of modifying your mood. It’s something that builds up tolerance over time, so you need more and more. It’s something where you get withdrawal symptoms if you’re unable to engage in it. And it’s something that if you do manage to give up for a short time when you do the activity again you relapse. The good news from my perspective is on those particular criteria, the number of genuine video game addicts is few and far between. If we’re talking about genuine video game addiction, it doesn’t matter what the activity is if we’re using the same criteria. It’s a bit like that trick question my physics teacher used to give us, which was, if you’ve got a ton of feathers and a ton of lead, which weighs heavier? Most kids put down a ton of feathers, but the whole point is it’s a ton. It’s quite clear that some, whether it’s kids or young adults, have some problems around the fact they seem to be unable to control the amount of time they spend gaming, and maybe it’s impacting other areas of their life. But just because there are some addictive-like components there it doesn’t mean they’re genuinely addicted”.
I also told the journalist that to be genuinely addicted to a behaviour (like gaming) that I would expect to see conflict in every area of the person’s life – their relationships, their work and/or education, their other social activities. The Sun also claimed that: “Britain is in the grip of a gaming addiction”. I was asked by Eurogamer whether I thought this to be the case and I said that in my view this was “incorrect”. I then went on to say:
“I’ve spent well over 25 years studying video game addiction. If we’re going to use the word ‘addiction’ we have to use the same concepts, signs and symptoms we find in other more traditional addictions, like withdrawal and tolerance. By doing that the number of people who end up being addicted by my criteria are actually few and far between. The [ten questions] I did for The Sun is actually based on real criteria I use in my research. The number of people who would score seven out of 10 of those items I put in The Sun today, I’d find it very hard to believe there would be more than a handful of people out there that would score high on all those things. You’d probably get a lot of people who might endorse three or four of them, but that doesn’t mean they’re addicted. That might be somebody who has problems with it. 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…There is no evidence the country is in ‘the grip of addiction’. Yes, we have various studies showing a small minority have problematic gaming. But problematic gaming doesn’t necessarily mean gaming addiction. They’re two very separate things. Yet the media seem to put them as the same…Every time I do a piece of research, if it’s something that’s negative, 90 per cent of the press cover it. If it’s something positive, 10 per cent of the press cover it. Bad news stories sell”.
Speaking to the press (and writing journalistic articles for the press) is something that I do on an almost daily basis and I will not stop doing it as I believe that we as academics have a public duty to disseminate our research findings outside of academia and to the general public. As I noted in a previous blog, I’ve had a few horror stories when what I’ve said is taken out of context but a few bad experiences are never going to be enough to put me off sharing my work with the mass media.
Finally – and as promised above – here are ten simple ‘yes/no’ questions about gaming that I had published in The Sun. If you answer ‘yes’ to seven or more of them, in my view, you may have a gaming addiction.
Do you think gaming has become the most important thing in your daily life?
Have you jeopardised your job or education because of your gaming activity?
Have you experienced relationship problems (with your partner, children or friends) because of your gaming?
Do you feel irritable, anxious or sad when you try to cut down or stop gaming?
Do you play games as a way of making your mood feel better?
Have you lost interests in other hobbies and leisure activities because of gaming?
When trying to cut down or stop your gaming, do you feel that you can’t?
Do you feel totally preoccupied with gaming (for example, even if you are not actually gaming you are thinking about it)?
Have you lied to anyone because the amount of time you spend gaming?
Have you spent an increasing amount of time gaming every day over the last six months?
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK(source:gamasutra)