Updated Wed, Dec 15, 2010 by Saia
You see, Britain has a history of sensationalizing the negative effects of popular video games, our tabloid newspapers have been doing it since the nineties whenever a big release comes along or it's a slow news day. The same applies to other forms of entertainment like violent films or certain kinds of music and I'm sure, in ten years time, some other form of entertainment will gain the ire of the tabloid press. As a gamer and a journalist, the whole thing drives me absolutely nuts.
Now I'm not saying that WoW isn't addictive, but it's all about how you play the game. If you're under the age of maturity, normally 18, then it's up to your parents to set limits on play time. If you're an adult, then - in theory, at least - you should be old enough to know when you're playing the game too much. Blizzard added in parental controls ages ago and they are now part of Battle.net. This allows them to limit the hours that can be played, receive reports on account activity and choose whether voice chat can be used or not. The trick here is using these facilities and it was obvious the families in the film didn't even know they existed.
I'm not saying that playing games like WoW and StarCraft II aren't a problem for some people, from the case studies featured, it's obvious they are, however, I think the problem lies in the lack of personal or parental responsibility. Instead the games these kids play are vilified and turned into scapegoats. If World of Warcraft is addictive then so are other games, they have exactly the same chance to be addictive as something like Bejeweled or Minesweeper or even that old favourite Solitaire.
To remind us of this, the film mentioned other games like Medal of Honor and Prius Online, even visiting a Korean boot camp for game addiction. I think gaming addiction exists and needs to be recognized but just because a small number of people are addicted that doesn't mean every human being who enjoys games, whether on or offline, is addicted to them. That's like saying everyone who enjoys a glass of wine or a frosty beer on a hot day is an alcoholic. It just doesn't make sense.
And the thing is, documentaries like this don't help. There was nothing constructive just sensationalism. And right at the end, there was just one, lone comment from Blizzard in which the company stated, "Our games are designed to be fun... but like all forms of entertainment... day-to-day life should always take precedence. World of Warcraft contains practical tools that assist players and parents in monitoring playing time." It felt like the filmmakers only made the effort of contacting Blizzard to justify their crusade, not to get the company's side of the story or even to give them the chance to defend themselves.
Christmas and a new game launch are periods when gamers traditionally play in a more intense manner than they might usually enjoy. There's time to kill on cold winter days and what better way to enjoy time off work than with friends, real or virtual. You just need to be able to tell the difference between this and addiction, something which the Panorama obviously aren't able to do.