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Goodbye, cigarettes! Video gaming is the next big addiction

By Gabby Katz

Section: Arts

January 21, 2011

The dorms are bustling, the SCC is humming and the library is empty—yes, a new semester has started. Everyone is back and excited to take advantage of new classes, clubs and midyears. Brandeis students are unique in that we have a wide array of diverse interests; many students participate in clubs ranging from Bollywood to the Console Gamers X club. With all these activities going on, I personally find it puzzling and potentially unhealthy to discover so many people glued to their television screens playing video games. I’ve never played “World of Warcraft,” “Halo” or “Call of Duty” but I can’t imagine being on my butt for hours and getting carpal tunnel in my thumbs. My suspicions were recently proven true on Fox News by the statements of Douglas A. Gentile, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University.

Douglas conducted a two-year study of more than 3,000 school children in Singapore and found that one in ten were labeled as video game “addicts,” and many were considered chronically stuck with this label. He also remarked that “when children became addicted, their depression, anxiety and social phobias got worse, and their grades dropped.” Douglas suggested that these addictions are long-lasting and detrimental to being well-rounded in people’s lives, especially those of male teens. Even though I realize sitting for hours may not be healthy, my first response is to question Gentile’s concept of addiction and evaluate its true applicability to our peers.

In an attempt to research this further, I presented the article to an avid Brandeisian gamer, Joseph Sloman ’12, in which he remarked, “The only statistic I know is my own. I stay inside all day, I rock my 360 and I’m pretty f***ing happy. My so called ‘addiction’ doesn’t seem to be ruining my life.” Apparently, he feels that his video gaming does not negatively impact his happiness.

In my opinion, if your grades, nutrition, physical health, social and/or love life is impacted by video games, then maybe it is a problem. Framing this concept using the terminology of “addiction,” however, is a bit of stretch. Gentile simply fails to recognize the use of video games and television as a popular social gathering tool now. His message may have been more respected if he outlined some basic detrimental effects of sitting for long periods of time instead of exercising, but his theory of addiction discredits his more important points. My thoughts on this concept in relation to college students is that health is based on moderation. If you play video games to relax, I don’t see that as a problem. I think this activity only becomes a problem when this takes precedence over other daily, necessary tasks. We should spend equal time moving, sitting, working, relaxing and sleeping.

In the end, who knows how sound this study is? Considering that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you watch no more than two hours of television per day, you should probably just limit yourself to no more than two hours of video games per day as well. I think that includes chatting with your avatar girlfriend. Other than that, study hard and play hard!

Hope you had a great first week of classes and are getting back into the swing of things. As always, tune in this semester for more health tips and send me an e-mail at gkatz10@brandeis.edu with any health-related questions you may have.

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