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Kevin Bakker (right) helps young compulsive gamers at his unique clinic in Amsterdam. He says most young people aren't addicted to gaming, but compulsively game due to social problems.  (Source: BBC News)

Some gamers, like "George", one of Mr. Bakker's patients, find games such as Call of Duty 4 a convenient outlet for very real rage.  (Source: Activision)
Study hints that there may be a bit of exaggeration when it comes to gaming addiction

Recent studies have shown that 97 percent of children and teenagers in America -- the majority of both boys and girls -- play video games regularly.  Some experts fear that this feel-good recreational activity may give rise to a new type of addiction -- video game addiction.

Anyone who's friends with an extremely active World of Warcraft player may be familiar with the phenomena -- a tendency to spend more and more hours online every day and to withdraw from real world relationships in favor of virtual ones.  In some cases, gaming addiction has led people to die from physical stresses of gaming marathons, particularly in countries like China and South Korea where internet cafes are popular.  While few have hard numbers on the topic, many psychologists and medical professionals haven't been afraid to chime in on the topic and how widespread the illness might be.

Now one of the foremost experts in the field has come forward to say that some figures of the prevalence of gaming addiction are greatly inflated.  Keith Bakker, the founder and head of Europe's first and only clinic to treat gaming addicts -- the Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam -- says that while many of his young patients have a serious problem, most cannot be labeled as addicts.

He says that about 10 percent of patients respond well to a tradition abstinence-based treatment regiment, the hallmark of an addiction.  Many of these patients are cross-addicted to alcohol, sex, and/or drugs.

The vast majority of patients though show little response to the traditional addiction recovery programs.  The reason says Mr. Bakker -- they're not addicted.

He says that close to 90 percent of compulsive gamers, people with a serious problem affecting their lives, are not addicts.  Rather, he says they have social problems.  He describes, "These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies.  But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a social problem."

The clinic, already a pioneer in the field, is now leading it further by developing a unique treatment regimen.  The regiment places compulsive gamers into simulated social scenarios to help them rejoin society and learn to socialize.

Mr. Bakker states, "This gaming problem is a result of the society we live in today.  Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old fashioned communication."

Thus far the treatment is working -- the vast majority of the clinic's patients have gone out and been able to live normal lives.

Who's to blame for this problem, though?  Mr. Bakker says that parents do indeed deserve the blame in some cases.  However, he aptly points out 87% of online gamers are over the age of 18.  After 18 he says, much like alcoholics, compulsive gamers must realize themselves that they have a problem.  However, for younger gamers parental intervention works well, he says.  He states, "It's a choice.  These kids know exactly what they are doing and they just don't want to change. If no one is there to help them, then nothing will ever happen."

Young people like George [name changed], an 18-year old who played Call of Duty 4 ten or more hours a day, are excited to finally find a place that is willing to look at their problem in a unique light.  Says George, "Call of Duty was somewhere I felt accepted for the first time in my life.  I was never helped by my parents or my school. At the clinic I also feel accepted and have come out of myself... I was aware that I played too much but I didn't know what to do. But it helped me because I could be aggressive and get my anger and frustration out online."

Aggression, both online and in games, adds Mr. Bakker, stems from social isolation.  He reminds psychologists and medical professionals worldwide, "If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have.  It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people.  In most cases of compulsive gaming, it is not addiction and in that case, the solution lies elsewhere."   

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RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By BZDTemp on 12/1/2008 12:56:06 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think it's games doing it to kids. If anything the games allows the kids with social problems to perhaps ease into being social with the help of on-line gaming.

Lots of todays heavy gamers would just be loners doing all sorts of single person activities. Gaming has just been looked down on by society because the older generations did not get it. Today most parents have tried computer games them self so many get that it's just gaming and not the devils work.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By mindless1 on 12/1/2008 2:46:14 PM , Rating: 1
Nonsense. The game keeps people inside away from others in real life. They'd be out and about, not doing single person activities because there aren't that many single person activites a young adult wants to do.

No it's not "the devil's work", it's rather destructive to a person's self esteem and cripples their social skills to the point where they can't interact as well with other people, meaning they often end up missing out on opportunities in life from both the lack of social skills and lack of being out there IRL to catch as many opportunities when they come along. The same would be true of many other loaner activites, in that it's not the activity itself that is the problem, it's the being preoccupied with something other than normal healthy interactions in the world, reality versus a scripted interactive cartoon.

It's a bit like the Matrix, you can spend your time pretending the world is what's on a computer screen and preoccupy yourself with it or instead wake up and adapt to what's outside. This is not an argument against gaming, it's one against an excessive amount of gaming which is each individual's choice to make. If someone really wants to game it is their life but it's far too easy to let one day go by, then another, then another, seeing a gaming session as a short term reward when it delays or prevents normal human activites.

It's not that the older generation doesn't get it, it's that the older generation realizes what people are missing out on by gaming while the younger generation hasn't lived through that period and looked back to realize what they're missing out on. I'm old enough to be the father of someone my age when I started getting into computer gaming, my views may not represent those of others but the general idea is there's a time for games, there's a time for work, and there's a whole world full of people out there waiting to meet you and lots of interesting things to do in the finite amount of time one has on Earth. Each has their time and place.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Gannon on 12/1/2008 4:37:52 PM , Rating: 1
"Nonsense. The game keeps people inside away from others in real life. They'd be out and about, not doing single person activities because there aren't that many single person activites a young adult wants to do."

I'm going to call bullshit on your little reply, gaming is a catharsis for those who are bullied and ostracized in life and school and for those who's parents are workaholics and don't do jack for their children. I know because that's exactly what I used gaming for.

I came from a fucked up family who had serious problems, I'm not sure what I'd do without having gaming there to ease the bullshit. Most human beings are inhuman towards others, especially the socially clueless.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By mindless1 on 12/1/2008 11:12:24 PM , Rating: 2
I think you just proved my point, instead of calling BS.

Only after you stop gaming, then becoming bored from not gaming, will you venture out and find the things that were lacking because you spent so much time gaming.

Yes parents and bullies can cause harm, but it's very important to remember that at some point a person can see the habits that developed and choose different ways to spend their time that more directly address their needs instead of distracting from those needs.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By MightyAA on 12/1/2008 7:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree.. it's not like the Matrix where he was living a life inside a program without knowledge of the real world. Computer gaming is very real. It preoccupies yourself with the entertainment. What entertainment doesn't; ones you don't like won't do that to you. I know car guys, online stock traders, gardeners, fantasy league sport nuts, skier & boarders, jet setters, and even workaholics. They have the same "symptoms" where they can't stop thinking about their interest. What's your reality, and do you do anything to "relax" that is your personal hobby/interest unrelated to the daily grind? Better seek help...... resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By mindless1 on 12/1/2008 11:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
Computer gaming is very real? LOLROFPMPWTFBBQ.

Remember something, the article is not attacking all people who play games, not even those who identify themselves as gamers, it's addressing people who play games to such an excessive extent that it interferes with other normal activities.

yes, nutso personalities can find many ways to obsess over something other than games, and it is no proof that it's all ok, it's just another way people try to distract themselves from something, "IF" and when they feel they don't have what they want in life and yet are still spending time on something so clearly not apt to put them any closer to what they claim they want.

It's like saying, I want to shoot a hole in one in golf but I can't yet, and it bothers me, so I will distract myself playing HL2 instead of practicing more at golf.

It's not a hobby to these people going to a *rehab*, it's a hobby to people who don't think it's a problem. There is the difference, perception of what matters and wanting to change habits. Not all habits need changed, not all habits are bad, but those who run this rehab are going to play up the "need" to change as much as they can because that is the money trail.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By ilikepop on 12/3/2008 7:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
Remember, it's only abnormal behavior


RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Myg on 12/1/2008 8:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
This guy is dead on, being a former hard-core gamer for alot of my life; I can look back and see the effect its had on me and what I have missed etc.

Kudos for your clarity on this subject.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Lerianis on 12/1/2008 8:40:28 PM , Rating: 2
No,he isn't 'dead-on'. The fact is that most gamers who are really 'hard-core' retreat to gaming because they do not like the outside world.
They have tried being in the 'outside world', have been looked down upon because they do not understand or do not accept the world like it is, and retreat to gaming and solitary pursuits because other people are always trying to force their 'morality', religion, etc. on them.
That is the reason why I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to go outside to things with other adults, and spend most of my time at the local park hanging out with some young friends: because I understand them a whole HELL of a lot more than I do most adults, and they understand me a lot more than most other adults do.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By derwin on 12/1/2008 10:23:31 PM , Rating: 2
[they] retreat to gaming and solitary pursuits because other people are always trying to force their 'morality', religion, etc. on them.

What are you talking about man? Thats not the real world I live in. Yeah, its got plenty of sticking points, but seriously? That is called rationalization. It is a part of addictive behavior, although it does not imply adictive behavoir. If your mind is made up that you are going to do something, you will convince yourself you should, regardless of whether you really should or not.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By mindless1 on 12/1/2008 11:37:07 PM , Rating: 2
He's not dead-on, but his initial impressions before he tried to inject his own interpretation were mostly correct.

Yes, gamers retreat because they don't like the outside world (in some cases, not all, maybe not even most cases remembering that the majority of people who own a PC eventually find a game or two to play on it).

Whether someone retreats because of others forcing their ideas largely has to do with three things:

1) Being used to it. If you isolate yourself from this fact, instead of dealing with it as the norm, you don't build up coping skills, thick skin, self-identity, or whatever the popular term is at the moment.

2) The people at this place go there because they aren't confident their life has been what they want. Having that lack of confidence, they aren't as resistant to others trying to impose ideals upon them. They don't stand up for what they believe in so much because they don't have enough experience dealing with what negativity they will encounter when someone disagrees, and that will only come with getting away from the console, getting out there and talking their minds to lots of people. They may be genius, or idiotic, but either way will learn more from being among other dynamic people than from a pre-scripted game.

3) The reason why you understand certain people more is you spend more time with them. Granted, older people will do two things, try to idealize that because they are older, they are automatically wiser and you should be inclined to learn from them, but this is not so far from the truth (what did you ever really learn from playing video games compared to what you might have if out anywhere in public interacting with people who were different instead of like you?), and also expect you to do the same as they did and as society needs, that young people spend lots of time making the world a better place through study, through socializing if their career is aligned to that, through being out among other people so they have more awareness of what is going on in the world around them.

Remember something very important. In the blink of an eye years will pass and you will be one of "those adults" and the next generation will be looking at you for guidance. You will be in a leadership position of some kind whether you want it or not. If you retreat from it, that can make it harder, or embracing it through time spend out there in the world around diverse people can make a person well rounded and ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

If you understand your peers, or anything really, it's time to move on!!! Next, confront the thing you don't yet understand. Refuse if you must, but remember is it your life and you will always grow more given new stimulus than the same old thing over and over again. Any changes you make benefit you, not so much anyone else.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Noliving on 12/2/2008 5:30:29 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree with your #1. Again video games most of the time by research are shown to be played with atleast one other person. Most people who play video games do not play it by themselves. I disagree when it comes to thick skin and self identity. Considering all of the trash talk that takes place over the internet gaming and during living room game session you need to develop a thick skin. Your online personality and gamertags, etc are your self identity.

When it comes to developing coping skills, that is debatable as it involves more of your self independence rather then physical social interactions and just social interaction by itself. In fact the only thing that helps with coping skills that requires a socializing with others according to psychologists is having a good support system and that support system can be done through phone calls, emails, regular letter mail, internet, group therapy, exercising with others or by yourself etc. The rest of developing coping skills are things that the person has to do by themselves like having realistic expectations, just exercising even by yourself, Self-efficacy, the ability to talk yourself through challenges, relaxation(which is taught that the person is to be alone so they can get rid of all distractions).

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By tential on 12/2/2008 12:03:43 AM , Rating: 1
I agree. I used to play online games compulsively. I didn't go out and meet new people didn't talk much at school and never really fit in. Gaming was an easy way to fill the time and to have friends. But the thing is that it isn't real and it isn't something you can talk about with people who you do see face to face. In the end it truly socially impairs you.

It was only when I got into my Senior year of high school, got a car and job, that I was able to actually able to start doing normal shit. I still play games an unhealthy amount of time probably when I'm at home but when I'm in college I am usually out with friends. It was only when I stopped playing games that I realized the affect it had as before I always told my parents that gaming was being social. The funny thing is that I know some people in college who game and it really screws up their social interactions. One of my friends who plays WoW right now is completely confused and anti-social. He's like 19, and never had a girlfriend, even though there are girls he definitely has a chance with (good looking ones too) he just doesn't know how to approach the situation and makes it so awkward now because he is used to online interactions.

Online interactions are completely different from real life interactions and too much gaming will make it not only hard to be social but it will make it next to impossible to move up in the work force to a meaningful level when it's the social people who have leadership skills are the ones who move up and not the smart brainy ones.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Nirach on 12/2/2008 7:29:12 AM , Rating: 2
My concern with the very first paragraph is the way you sound so sure. I am in the UK, so my situation and experience could well be very different to yours.

Games don't keep me inside - My lack of desire to socialise with people outside of my current group of friends (Of which there are four) keeps me indoors. I play games as a by-product of not wanting to be around people. Before video games, I played with Lego and other such toys. I currently have a WoW account, which I log into once, or twice a week (More so during the Lich King launch week, as I wanted a DK, but I've slacked off since then), I have four consoles (All current gen), and yet, I am not even remotely addicted to any game I own, and very rarely actually sit down gaming for longer than 2-3 hours at a time.

My point being, games are not the cause for people to stay inside (I expect that what is true for me is also true for other people), but something to do when we're not socialising, if we even do.

I have tried to be social, and have in the past one out and so on, what would be considered 'normal' for a man my age, but I can't talk to the majority of people, because my interests are no where near in line with theirs - I am a gun nut, I love guns, the way they look, how they sound, their feel. I love computers, much the same reason as I love guns, and I love modding. No one, bar my very few friends, are interested at all in the same things as me.

How can I socialise when I can't talk about anything, I can't empathise (I never have been able to, it's not something new for me), and generally can't be arsed to deal with people, when most of them are likely to turn out to be douchebags that weren't worth the time or effort?

I'd rather be alone than around people I don't really like, and even the people I do like, I see very infrequently (Once or twice a fortnight, bar the one I live with). I game for the sake of something to do. I don't even socialise on WoW, as far as I'm concerned, it is just an easy to pick up time sink when I've got no desire to think about another game.

I probably rambled a lot here, so forgive me.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By SharkManEXR on 12/2/2008 11:23:21 AM , Rating: 2
i totally agree with you, except the part about loving guns. I really think it comes down to the fact that there aren't very many things for us to do outside of the gaming modding world. Like I really like photography, but i see it as something I do by myself, to experience what I'm photographing and putting that experience into my photos. I couldn't imagine doing it with another person, it would just feel awkward. Our hobbies are mostly what people do together to socialize but with computer modding for me its something I do by myself and would feel less meaningful if I did it with someone else.

A few of my hobbies can be used to socialize but not in the "real world" like online gaming, or collaborative mapping projects. I just don't see anything that is interesting to me outside that I could do with someone else.

RE: Now we're getting somewhere
By Noliving on 12/2/2008 4:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but you do realize that the vast majority of research shows that people that play games play with atleast one other person the majority of the time. The vast majority of people who play games like call of duty play it online versus the single player. So it's not crippling their social skills or self esteem when playing video games, as shown by research, is not a "loaner activity" even if they are alone in the room and playing online.

There is no such thing as "normal" interactions in sociology or in psychology. There can be healthy and unhealthy interactions but there is no such thing as "normal".

No the older generation doesn't get it because it still views video games as anti socialization and loaner activities when the vast majority of research shows that it is indeed a social activity. The older generation is more used to person to person contact because of the lack of communications technology that we have now.

No one pretends that when playing the games that the world is whats on the screen. The reason why they play so long is because they feel it is the only culture/society that accepts them. Those people they are playing with over the internet are real, the voices they hear over the voice chat are real. The only thing that isn't real is the display and they are not playing for the display, they are playing for the social interaction over the internet and that social interaction is real.

Because they feel this social interaction over the internet is the only one that accepts/understands them they are going to spend almost all of their time socializing over the internet. This isn't about games or how games keep people inside away from others in real life, in fact playing video games with real people including people over the internet is real life so its not keeping people away from others in real life, it's about how young people during their childhood don't fit in with your so called "real life" and no one, the parents, the school is there to help them in getting accepted into your so called "real life" and once they become adult the same behavior continues that they formed during childhood.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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