ITV’s “Tonight : A Dangerous Game”

I have just flicked on the television and ITV’s “Tonight” is doing a follow up on a program from three years ago featuring three children who were ‘addicted’ to gaming.  Here is a summary of the program

  • The program starts with a flashback to three years ago, three gamers, Sparky aged six, Grant aged fifteen and Robin aged fifteen are featured. “Robin was playing games for 20 hours a day, his mum believed he was addicted.” The six year old, Sparky, has tantrums when his games are turned off.
  • They are now featuring a clinic in Amsterdam that helps people addicted to games. According to the scientist, gamers release endorphins when they play games so get addicted to the ‘rush’.
  • They are now featuring a teenager who rearranged his bedroom so he can game better
  • The gamers are being portrayed as introverted shy paranoids.
  • The mother of a gamer from America is now being interviewed. She says her son was addicted to gaming. One day she went to her sons door, opened it and he  had committed suicide.  She blames gaming – no evidence is produced. She has set up a gaming addiction website. She says all gamers enter a fantasy land and suicide is common.
  • Now featuring Mathew Pike from the UK who was killed by another gamer, David Hyce, from Germany. “Like a character in a game, David decided to eliminate Mathew”. In September 2008, David stabbed Mathew 86 times the headed back to Germany “and his computer”.  David was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Back to the Tonight experiment from three years ago. In a week Sparky has played for 71 hours,  Grant for 106 hours and Robin for 168 hours in a week.  A Doctor recommends that all computers and consoles are removed from their rooms and the kids are limited to one hours gaming a day.
  • The presenter is saying her own son had a problem with excessive gaming. No details given
  • The Priory clinic say the number of gaming addicts has increased.
  • A survey has been conducted by the program. They questioned 785 children aged 10yrs-16yrs. 46% percent said they were angry when told to stop gaming, 14% believed they were addicted.
  • Back to the children featured, they are now interviewed again three years on from the original program. Sparky is now aged nine and has  “calmed down”. His mother decided to limit the time he as allowed to game, Sparky seems to be a normal articulate boy. Grant is now eighteen – lot more thoughtful, helpful, pleasant. His mother says hes found a girlfriend and concentrates on his studies rather than gaming. Robin now aged eighteen is still gaming, He has never worked,  never finished school. His mother is upset and suffers from sleep deprivation. “Robin wasted his life away”. Robin does not think he is addicted.  His mother taking him to Sydney in Australia to take him away from gaming. Robin says after his holiday he is going t0 stop gaming and get a job.
  • “Reconstruction” with zombie like kid staring at screen.
  • A “Gaming Expert” is interviewed very briefly to end the program. The industry is “keen to promote sensible gaming.” The advice is take regular breaks, do not play for hours, do not sit near screen. The presenter asks “Should there be a time limit on games?” Expert:  “No, parents should take responsibility for their kids.”

Where do we begin? The sensational nature of the program? The lack of evidence for any ‘facts’? Do you know any six year old who wouldn’t throw a temper tantrum if you took away their toys? 46% of children being angry when their parents tell them to stop gaming? Didn’t we all do that at that age? What about the presenter asking if  games should have a time limit? Scientists saying endorphins are released when gaming? Endorphins are released when you do anything exciting. The blindingly obvious solution to all the problems highlighted in one sentence by the expert – Parents need to take responsibility for their children. Its very hard not to type a lot of swear words at the moment I’m so angry – why on earth did the parents not take a firm stance and get rid of the children’s computers if they thought they were addicted? The program never asked this question preferring to highlight sensational stories and blame gaming, not the inadequate parenting skills.

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If you wish to watch the program it is now on ITV player.

Editor’s note: I believe that the American woman whose son committed suicide after suffering from an addiction to gaming may have been Liz from OLGA who I spoke to when researching my own article on gaming addiction (Unfortunately the ITVPlayer isn’t showing past the first 3 minutes for me so I can’t be sure). She (and OLGA) seemed friendly, understanding and reasonable when I had dealings with them.

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