Cross words: A geek tragedy?

Head to head Can computer games seriously damage your life? Games aficionado Mike Goldsmith battles it out with addiction specialist Dr David Greenfield

"Playing computer games is not about the teenage geek in the back room any more: it's an increasingly social activity. A lot of the developers are placing increasing importance on the social activity aspects of the games - playing together as a family or as a group of people coming back from a club or the pub. People don't label watching TV and videos or sitting in and playing board games as insular activities, and computer games are just the modern equivalent of these. In the same way that everyone's got a dusty old Cluedo or something like that in the back room, everyone will have a PlayStation under the TV. It isn't some kind of conspiracy. It's because people like playing them. There's nearly four million of them in people's homes these days.

Nobody's saying you have to sit there and play the game for 24 hours non-stop. You can go at it really hardcore, play all the time and get every last penny's worth out of it, or you can just enjoy it for a few hours. The old horror stories of these games being violent and sexist really doesn't apply now. The games magazine I work at sponsors a student network and they are reporting a 50:50 split of boys and girls at their gaming nights.

Games like Tomb Raider have characters that inspire both genders and involve incredibly complex puzzle-solving. They don't involve running around shooting everything in sight. There are linear plots that would rival any Hollywood film, fully rounded characters and original storylines. You have to use your brain. Games aren't passive any more: they require you to think.

They can be addictive only in the same way that any medium can be addictive - football, music, you name it. It's the person's responsibility to regulate how much they play. The idea that people are sucked in and become intoxicated by these games to the extent that they are controlled by them is a complete fallacy."

Mike Goldsmith is editor of the `Official Playstation Magazine'

"Any time you're staring at a screen it's not social. The Internet, computers, and computer games are isolative and are not an adequate substitute for normal social interaction. You may be able to play some games in groups, but that doesn't mean it's equivalent to the kind of social interaction you get playing a game of soccer or having a conversation. It is a very sedentary activity - you do not exercise one muscle in your body, other than your fingers and maybe your eyeballs. It's eye-candy, probably not much better than TV. It may be more interactive than television but that's not necessarily a good thing - the more interactive it is, the more addictive it is, in my opinion.

It's hogwash to say that people don't become addicted to these games. I think there's something inherently addictive in the activity of staring at a screen. The scanning rays of a screen can be trance-inducing, leading to a state of disassociation whereby time flies by and you're not even aware of it. As I say to people who are suffering from computer addiction - when you're online, on the computer, playing games for five or six hours a day, that means you're not doing something else. You have to ask yourself, what is the effect on your life from not doing these other things?

The thing about computer games (in common with the Internet) is that they are never over. When you pick up a magazine or a newspaper, you read it from cover to cover and then you put it down: it's done. It's not like that with computer games, because there's always a higher level to play, another game to try, a different way to do things, a different strategy:it's never done. It's a lot like a slot machine. You never win enough so you keep putting money in."

Dr David Greenfield is the author of `Virtual Addiction', published this autumn by New Harbinger Publications

Interviews by Fiona McClymont

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected