Request from Sunday Times

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Marion Walton

May 27, 2009, 11:06:03 AM5/27/09
to Games and Learning South Africa,
Hi All
Please see the correspondence below - apparently the Film and
Publication Board has contacted Prega Govender about a study of games
and addiction that they are releasing soon. Were any of you involved
in the study? I'm not an expert on addiction, so I could only refer
him to the article that Steve posted here a couple of months back, and
try to answer as a mom who also plays games. Perhaps some of you know
a bit more about the topic?
At any rate I think we should keep our eyes out for the Markinor
research study and discuss it here.

>>> Prega Govender <> 5/27/2009 2:50 PM >>>
Hi Dr Walton

Great chatting to you just now. As indicated to you, my brief is to
look at the issue of computer games in light of new preliminary
by Markinor which indicated, among other things, that parents believe
that their children can become addicted to interactive computer games.
would love to hear your frank views on this issue.

Kind Regards
Prega Govender

Hi Prega
Thanks for getting in touch.
Unfortunately I am really not an expert on addiction so please DON'T
quote me as an expert on the topic of the clinical problem. I can't
comment on the FPB study either until I have had a chance to look more
carefully at their findings and evaluate their methodology, questions,
It is interesting though, that gamers tend to refer loosely to an
engaging and enjoyable game as 'addictive' (it's considered the
praise for a game), while book-lovers would refer to a really good
as a "page-turner". We should probably not take this use of this term
'addictive' too literally though.
I thought this was quite a good article, which explains the difference
between certain compulsive behaviours associated with gaming and other
addictions (which are apparently treated quite differently in clinical
As I mentioned to you, I'm a parent, and I tend to approach gaming as
an activity that I'd prefer to share with my son when possible. As a
fellow gamer, I understand his feelings of frustration all too well -
such as when he's almost reached his goal in the game, and I interrupt
him to call him for supper - 'But can't I just finish the level,
(he's 9 years old). I've often felt that annoyance myself!

Because games are usually designed around a chain of interlinked
challenges, I
need to understand the particular nature of the challenges in my son's
favourite games, and teach him how to set objectives for himself
the game, and then to manage his gameplay - just as I need to teach
how to manage and monitor the other things that he enjoys about life,
whether that is reading detective stories after bedtime, eating too
marshmallows, watching DVDs all day long, chatting to his friends on
phone, or even playing the piano for hours sometimes! He's
told me that he wishes his favourite games came with a automatic timer
and shut themselves down automatically after one hour, saving all the
progress he'd made :D I think I find it easier to engage with him
because I understand that figuring out how to beat a tough level in
Sonic Heroes without any false moves is similar in some ways to the
intense concentration and learning that's going on when he's learning
play a new piece on the piano without any wrong notes.

I do think game designers could do more to design games in a way that
helps gamers manage their gaming time. I also think parents should
the effort to understand what their children enjoy so much about their
video games, just as they understand the appeal of competitive sports
some children. Parents probably would know better than to run onto the
field at a crucial point during the last ten minutes of a soccer game
and insist that their son should immediately go and tidy up his
or do his homework, or to stop a child just as she is learning the
delicate art of staying balanced on a bicycle.

Similarly, if they are taking an interest in what their children are
doing with games, parents
will probably be able to identify if there is a more serious problem
that needs to be addressed - such as when a child is using the
reinforcement she gets from success in the game to feel better because
she is socially isolated or because she has a teacher who makes her
incompetent at school, or if they are occupied by a game to the
exclusion of getting enough physical exercise, for example.

You may want to chat to Steve Vosloo about the question of how
educators are starting to study the appeal of games and the nature of
learning that takes place in games.

Alan Amory

May 28, 2009, 2:46:57 AM5/28/09
Hi All

I also had a discussion with Prega and while some players may become addicted, a direct relationship between playing games and the cause of addition would be very difficult to quantify in my opinion. A comment that while playing gamers get angry and from this what should be inferred? Games lead to violence. The fundamentalists at work again? Ther is publication bias in this research and again it is the question of how to link playing games with violent behaviour. It is very difficult to prove causation - many have tried and failed? Do violent game feed violent behaviours - only in those that already use/experience violence as part of their world.

So I sent him all kinds of papers (eg JISC report, Quest Atlantis) about playing games and kids.

Best wisehs
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