Gaming addicts up 66%

Clinics in the Netherlands are waging Warcraft on gaming addicts, which have risen 66 percent in the last two years. 

More and more gamers are admitting themselves at clinics to kick the habit. The NOS requested the numbers from addiction clinics with a youth department, including Jellinek and Yes We Can Clinics.

Eight clinics treated 256 gaming addicts in 2011. Last year, the number rose to 426. The clients are also increasingly younger, sometimes even 10, 11 or 12 years old. Three years ago, it was mainly 15-year olds coming into the clinics. The severity of the problems is getting worse as well, clinic staff say.

Out of 400 young people with behavioral problems, addiction, or both, that the Yes We Can Clinics treat every year, about one in twenty is addicted to gaming.

Jan Willem Poot, from Yes We Can Clinics says that “the young people are increasingly more extreme with their obsession.”

“The amount of hours that they game, is growing, sometimes 18 out of 24 hours. More young people aren’t going to school anymore, are using a lot of drugs and are completely neglecting themselves.”

In a 2011 investigation from the Erasmus Medical Center, it appeared that 1.5 percent of young people between the ages of 13 and 16 are addicted to online games. That is 12,000 children. They play an average of eight hours a day, sleep badly, do badly in school and isolate themselves from family and friends.

Coworkers from addiction clinic Verslavingszorg Noord Nederland expect that there are far more young people walking around with gaming issues, who are not being helped. Team manager Eric de Vos says “young people at our clinic tell us, for example, that their friends are also addicted. And student unions call us with questions, because students also wrestle with this.”

Care workers believe that there is a taboo on gaming addiction, which causes many young people with the problem not to get help. “Many parents and teachers think too lightly about the solution: pull the plug out and then it’s done. But it doesn’t work that way. Gaming addiction treatment is comparable to alcohol- or drug-addiction”, Marius Naaburs, team coach at youth clinic IrisZorg in Tiel says.

This taboo has stimulated clinics for more awareness at schools. “Many parents don’t know what a reponsible amount of game hours a week is and what they have to look out for at the start of a gaming addiction. Just that is very important. If you are there on time, the chance that it escalates is a lot smaller”, Ellen van Geffen, head of the youth department at Jellinek says.

Dutch Games Association calls every addict ‘one too many.’ “But in the total amount of young people this is a small group”, president Horst Streck says. He thinks that game designers should have ethical responsibility when it concerns addiction. “There’s nothing wrong with most games, but with games such as World of Warcraft, where the social pressure is big to keep playing, a line is being crossed.”

WOW cosplay

A World of Warcraft Warrior cosplayer at WonderCon 2012. Source: Flickr/pop culture geek

According to Streck, gaming addiction is both a problem of the game-industry, government, addiction clinics and health care. “It would be good to be in discussion with each other about this and to find out how big the problem is, which factors play a role in addiction, which games are the most addictive and what we can do about it.”

Streck thinks that warnings on packaging would be a good idea, if it has been proven that games really are addictive. “But they can also have an adverse effect: that young people will be drawn to precisely these games”, Streck thinks.