Uh oh, here we go again. BBC current affairs series Panorama is looking at the games industry on Monday night – but through what kind of lens? As reported by MCV today it would seem the programme will be looking at... the addictive power of games. A preview on the BBC website states:
As pester power kicks in and the computer games' industry launches its latest products on to the Christmas market, Panorama hears from youngsters who've dropped out of school and university to play games for anything up to 21 hours a day. They describe their obsessive gaming as an addiction. Reporter Raphael Rowe, meets leading experts calling for more independent research into this controversial subject, and reveals the hidden psychological devices in games that are designed to keep us coming back for more.
It is, of course, wrong to judge the programme before it actually airs, but...
"Reveals the hidden psychological devices in games that are designed to keep us coming back for more."
I'm just wondering; are they refering to the 'hidden psychological devices' that we converts tend to know as, 'reasonably good game design'? Are they similar to the 'hidden psychological devices' that screenwriters use to ensure audiences don't fall asleep halfway through a movie? Or perhaps the 'hidden psychological devices' used in portentious TV trailers to ensure viewers go on to watch the show?
"Reporter Raphael Rowe, meets leading experts calling for more independent research."
More independent research? More?! Academia is absolutely flooded with research on gaming addiction. I'm hoping the producers of this documentary have at least glanced at the Byron Review – an exhaustive analysis of digital entertainment which lists copious amounts of research (little of it in any way conclusive, by the way – a comment made in the report itself).
Of course, taking a negative stance on gaming is not in itself a risible endeavour – there are plenty of dark stories to be told about this industry. But gaming addiction? Really? Again? This is 2010, isn't it? Games have been around for 40 years. Society hasn't collapsed. There are game addicts, of course, but occasional addiction is an absolutely inevitable by-product of the chemical processes that bring us pleasure. Any pleasure.
But, let's watch the material first, assess it objectively and judge afterwards. You know, just like good documentary makers do.