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UK Newspaper Says Gaming Could Be Next "Global Pandemic", Is Immediately Shut Down

UK Newspaper Says Gaming Could Be Next "Global Pandemic", Is Immediately Shut Down

Gaming disorder is a thing - but not that much of a thing, so sit down

Mike Diver

Mike Diver

We're all tired of gaming horror stories in the tabloid press. And yet, they still come, like clockwork. Usually full of nonsense, always targeting video games as some 'nasty' to keep away from your kids in case they become serial killers or car-jackers or bright blue hedgehogs. The latest comes from British 'paper The Telegraph who, on August 3 ran a piece titled, 'Spiritual Opium: Could Gaming Addiction Ruin A Generation'?

It feels like only yesterday - it was actually May 2021 - that we were last saying, hey, newspapers, stop making out like video games are a bad thing. But at the risk of stating the absolutely bleeding obvious: no, video games will not ruin a generation. Enjoying video games will not ruin your life. Playing video games a lot will almost certainly have no negative impact on your career or anything else. Will it have an impact? Yes, if it's all you do. But there aren't a lot of you out there who just play video games, to the detriment of everything else.

Timely reminder: video games don't make you violent

As VGC summarises, the Telegraph article bases its take on information from the actual Chinese State media - China being a nation with incredibly strict controls over gaming. Its question of whether or not gaming is becoming a health crisis - which runs as wholly overly dramatic in the text as we'd best all take action "before teenage screen addiction becomes another global pandemic" - was swiftly answered by bona-fide professionals in the field, who curtly commented: no.

In response to the article's account of one child getting hooked on Fortnite, and comments from their mother - Abi Silver, the author of a completely fictional novel about a YouTuber who may or may not commit IRL murder (yes, this is the expert the article cites) - Ukie's head of campaigns and comms George Osborn tweeted a counter argument that used actual research to underpin their validity.

"And what is the journalistic basis for such a piece?" he asks. "An author who has written a work of fiction about games who claims the industry is unregulated (it isn't) and cites figures claiming 86m 'gaming disorder victims' worldwide (UK clinic reported 56 cases in Q1 2020)." He later adds: "If you see a poorly constructed hit piece written by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, you need to call it out."

A Ukie (the trade body for the UK's games and interactive entertainment sector) spokesperson - who may or may not have been George - later issued a statement to VGC, saying:

"It's disappointing to see pieces like this extensively misrepresenting games. It both unfairly demonises the 37 million people across the UK who find games to be a relaxing source of healthy entertainment and undermines evidence-based efforts to support the very small number of people who do need help managing play. We are a responsible, regulated industry that has demonstrated it takes concerns seriously by running campaigns such as our Get Smart About PLAY initiative to support safe and sensible play."

While the World Health Organisation does recognise gaming disorder - note, that's disorder, not addiction - as a genuine illness, research shows that playing games is beneficial to mental health, and there is no link between in-game violence and real-world crime. There are not 86 million people with gaming disorder in the world, obviously, and pieces like this one from The Telegraph spread the kind of misinformation that, as George says, needs calling out. So consider us doing so, here.

Featured Image Credit: AR & Erik Mclean via Unsplash

Topics: Fortnite, News