It’s time to drop our obsession with the word addiction

An article published on Kotaku a few days ago read “OK, I’m addicted to Hearthstone“.  It is the sort of turn of phrase we throw around all the time without giving it so much as a split second’s thought.  Seemingly every game that we play and enjoy elicits a claim of addiction.  That Skyrim was so addictive.  My god Planet Puzzle League is addictive.  Dark Souls II addiction has set in.  Of course what we’re saying is that we are enjoying a game so much, that there is almost nothing we’d rather be doing.  Claiming game addiction has become a badge of honour.  The internet laughs and moves on to the next ‘addiction’.

But ask people with problems with addiction and its probably not a laughing manner.  Addictive behaviour is a serious condition, in some circles considered a mental illness, that has serious social and personal implications for both those addicted and their friends and families.  In most cases these addictions are hidden from love ones and left untreated for long periods of time. Gambling addiction is one of the more publicised illnesses, and according to the Australian Government, up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming, or are problem gamblers, at an estimated social cost of $4.7 billion every year.  And depending on who you ask, cases of internet and video game addiction are on the rise.

The fact is there are people all around Australia and the world, that are or are at risk of becoming seriously addicted in some form.  It isn’t something they are proud of in most cases, and rarely are they likely to publicise their addiction as something to be proud of. So while we laugh at how ‘addicted’ we are to games, the reality is we can and do stop playing of our own volition.  That isn’t addiction and nor should we trivialise it as such.  So let’s try and remove it from our vocabulary, in respect of those people that are suffering from some form of legitimate addiction or addictive tendencies.

And not to pick on Kotaku, but you know what, homelessness isn’t very funny either.



  1. Agreed.

    I think the last game to truly deserve the addiction label was World of Warcraft; and “Addictive” was usually wielded as a warning label, not a complimentary label.

    Distraught teenagers/young adults lost themselves in WoW and developed truly obsessive behaviors that destroyed their real lives. Their in-game social bonds meant more than their IRL bonds, their guilds replaced their blood families, their in-game accomplishments mattered more than school or college or whatever.

    Addiction in relation to World of Warcraft was taken seriously (as I recall it, at least) in the media when it really did cause a lot of problems for several families. Ruined marriages, destroyed parental bonds, etc. One of the developers for WoW lost her husband because he chose the game over her. It was saddening, sobering, and not a welcome catchphrase to say you’ll become addicted and lose yourself inside said game.

    I can’t say I’ve heard tales of Dota 2, League of Legends, Starcraft 2, or any competitive multi-player game single-handedly obliterating IRL relationships.

    1. Thanks for the super thoughtful comment!

      I’ve been compelled by games, intrigued, drawn in, perhaps even fixated. But never addicted. Some of that may be in part due to never having really played online games (and certainly never WoW), but even with games i’ve loved and spent a lot of time with I’ve always been able to walk away.

      I do hope that games enthusiasts grow up; but unfortunately with the games media being as immature and thoughtless as it is a lot of the time, they certainly aren’t leading by example.

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