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The hating game

Opinion: Why did The Sunday Times give GTA IV to kids, asks Tim Ingham...

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Not that you'd know it if you weren't au fait with the massive differences between these games and the Warcrafts and EVE Onlines picked on in the piece.

Author Anmar Frangoul has it in for games from the start. Two paragraphs in, he's already claiming: 'Kids start by watching CBeebies; a few years later they're playing Call Of Duty.' Yes, Anmar, they are. If they're part of a heavily orchestrated photoshoot. Widely distributed by the newspaper you work for.

And it goes on. 'Next time you see your son, daughter or flatmate glued to a video game, take a keener interest. Have they eaten properly, washed themselves, been to the toilet?'

Quite how one would ascertain if their flatmate had loosened their bowels of late without breaching the most inappropriate of enquiries mid-FIFA is unclear; Frangoul's agenda far less so.

The journalist cites two recent studies on the terrible addictiveness of video games. One is a 2007 study published in the journal of CyberPscyhology and Behavior, by Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, 'which found that one in every nine gamers displayed at least three signs of addictive behaviour'.

Two pages later - ineffectively stuck near the predictably scaremongering denouement of the article - Griffiths clarifies: "I've spent the best part of 22 years studying technological addictions and the people I've met who have been genuinely addicted have been few and far between... TV was demonised when it first came out; the internet is getting the same treatment."

The other study cited is the Government's infamous 2008 Byron Review, from which the piece prints: "It is clear that even in the absence of a diagnosable addiction, many children do show excessive game-playing behaviour."

So, just to be clear: Two studies from two people - one who doesn't believe clinical addiction to games exists, the other who believes very few people suffer from it.

Whether or not compulsive playing of video games is a cause or syndrome of a desperate situation for some teens is still inconclusive, then - making the best course of treatment for those 'hooked' on MMOs still very much open for debate. Unless you need to hang a Sunday Times article on a bit of fabricated certainty, that is.

Pardon me for getting a touch anecdotal, but if games really are the be-all-and-end-all of these kids' problems, may I suggest their parents emulate my own mother - who perennially removed my Atari STE (never forget the E) from my room during school term time. I was grumpy about it, but, you know, she gave me food and that. Problem. Solved.

Do kids really need to go to a cash-gobbling 'games addiction clinic' to achieve the same outcome?

The Sunday Times seems to think they do. It interviews Broadway Lodge in Weston Super-Mare, which last year opened its doors to 'games addicts' - for a hefty price. 'Several gamers have already been treated here,' reports the paper, 'and [Broadway] is convinced that the numbers will increase.'

I should suppose they will, too: Helped particularly by the phoney panic generated by this weekend's Sunday Times Magazine, and the shameful images its creators used to emphasise their assumptions.

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