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'Addicted' to Addiction

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

As I get older one thing that annoys me more and more is the quantity of what passes for journalism. The rise of editorial over actual reporting. The need to have a journalist at the scene of the event to give a live report to camera and have a nice chat with the studio where a recorded piece with more information used to do quite nicely. Especially when the journalist is standing on a bridge over the motorway reporting on a predicted snow storm that may trap motorists (and presumably the journalist and their crew) on the motorway or reporting from the edge of an outbreak of foot and mouth. Or in its most vile incarnation reporting from outside the home of the victim of an act of crime when they probably want to be left alone.

Today’s story to get my goat comes from the BBC: Hordes greet Warcraft expansion followed by ‘Addicted’ to Warcraft?. What follows is an amended version of my comment on that post.

From Jazz to Horror Comics through Rock and Roll to Dungeons and Dragons then Computer Games and now Online Gaming the press has found an ideal target for writing stories like this one. They appeal to a wide readership either horrified by the harm to kid or kids who are offended by the inaccuracies and broad brush descriptions. I sometimes wonder if such accusations were leveled even earlier against the Waltz, Orchestral music, printing or maybe cave painting?

Yes I’m one of the people who’s enjoyed some (not all) of these and for 20 years found the claims made about them to have little in common with my experience of any of the activities.

Over the years professionals in various fields and concerned pressure groups (some eventually shown to have hidden agendas to push, political campaigns to start rolling or books to promote) have provided studies of the damage figures are quoted levels of addiction, cost or suicide. I wouldn’t mind so much but usually the figures start to fall apart when a back of the envelope calculation is carried out.

Take this story as an example: 11 million registered players for World of Warcraft. 10-15% become addicted. That equates to 1.1-1.65million addicts worldwide. I’ll leave it to others to draw their own conclusions from those figures. If this were a real addiction on a par with the addiction to, say Cocaine, wouldn’t there have been more than 2000 people waiting for the midnight sale? I don’t see a horde of Warcraft destroyed souls wandering the streets begging for the £8.99 a month subscription. Nor do I see a large number of older people whose lives have been ruined by their rock and roll habit from their youth.

Maybe an interesting article would consider the widespread use by journalists of the word addiction. Then place this addiction in the context of a spectrum of addictions from illegal drug use through alcohol and tobacco on to football and people who regularly buy books, magazines and go to their local library. Finally you could look at how journalists are addicts to writing articles about addictions.

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