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Are Games too Addictive?

I'll say this right off the bat: I love video games. They're a great diversion, they're rewarding, and best of all, they're fun. Video games keep me entertained, giving me something to do during my Washington state winters, where by the time I get home from school, it's dark all ready. In fact, I've played so many of them that I write about them, evaluating what's wrong and what's right with the gaming world's latest title. This skill has given me a good source of income, as selling the games that sites like CV-Games give me helps me get enough money to buy some of the things other teenagers can only imagine having. Writing for these sites has given me knowledge about the real world, knowledge that no school could give me. Things like if you send in an article late, people in the real world won't be nice and accepting like teachers are with late assignments. As you can see, games have been very good to me, and the day I quit playing them will be the day hell freezes over, but sometimes I wonder something. Are games taking up too much of my time? Or, to put it on a grander scale, are games simply just too addictive?

Recently this summer, I have stepped up how much writing I do for game sites, and because of that I have spent a whole lot more time inside. Sure, I can buy all the dopey hard rock CD's I want with the extra income, but right to my left while I'm writing this is a large screen door. A screen door that when I look through I see a beautiful summer day, a day where children are playing, flowers are blossoming, and normal teenagers are out actually doing things, unlike me. When I look out that screen door I can't help but think I'm wasting my time, even though I know what I'm doing is far more productive then what I usually do with my summers. That is, lie around and be bored.

I know I'm not alone. A good friend of mine got a laptop a few months back, and instantly he was playing PC games for hours and hours each day. His addiction got so bad that soon his parents wouldn't allow him to get any new games because of it. Now, gaming didn't hurt his grades or his social life (he got straight A's and he still eats everything in the fridge when he comes over to my house), but it did take up hours of his time. Gaming can do something that no other media can; it keeps people interested long after they first get the system. Think about getting a new toy when you were little; for a while it's the most predominant thing in your life, but after a while, the novelty wears off, and the toy gets thrown into the bottomless abyss known as the closet. What frightens parents so much is that games aren't like that. As long as you have a steady stream of good games, you're going to play that system as much if not more than you played the first day that you got it.

This gaming habit can have its repercussions too. Look at the millions of Counter-Strike and EverQuest players. While they are taking part in one of the most enriching gaming experiences there is, many of them are losing their lives in result of it. Come on, we've all heard the stories about the divorces as a result of the husband who spent more time with EverQuest then his spouse, or how about the even more numerous stories of kids failing high school because they spent their computer time wasting terrorists instead of writing essays? The scary thing is that a good amount of these stories are true, not urban legends. Think about that, real people have lost control of their lives because of an uncontrollable gaming addiction. The thing that worries me is that that's the exact same thing that happens to people when they do drugs. Sure, not everyone who plays games is going to have their life go down the toilet, and it's a lot easier to give up games then drugs, but people have had those awful things happen to them.

Possibly even more numerous are the stories about small kids. We've all heard some father complaining about how his kid doesn't do anything but play his new Gameboy/Xbox/PS2/etc. Many gamers, myself included, can even attest to being the basis for some of these stories. Usually though, the kid gets tired of his or her gaming device sooner or later, and goes on with the rest of his life. What's important to note about these short spurts of addiction is that they can happen to any young child, and furthers the notion that games are a powerful medium.

In conclusion I'd like to tell you about how I spent Friday this week. Instead of tending to a game that I had to review, I went rafting with my friend in Lake Washington. We paddled around a bit in our tiny inflatable raft, feeding the passing by ducks some Doritos as we went along. After we got tired of that we went swimming, sometimes crawling up on the docks to jump off of them. At some point during the day my friend said very thoughtfully, �This is how you spend a summer day.� As I thought about his comment I realized that he was right. The water we swam through was real. The boat we paddled around in was real. This was an experience that no book, movie, or even a videogame could replicate. What I'm saying is, don't give up games, but get out and do other things as well. Life's short enough as it is, and I know that when I'm sitting on my deathbed, I'll be looking over my life. And when that happens, the last thing I'll want to see is myself with a controller in my hands the whole time.

By Alexander Fitzgerald - 07/20/02

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