Totally Hooked on Games…

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It is a common enough phrase used in our circles. We have a deep and abiding love for everything games: It’s Good to be a Gamer.

Let’s look at Addiction.

Loving something doesn’t mean you are addicted. It is perfectly okay, and even healthy, to dive into what you love head first, revelling in the spoils of your desire.

As mentioned in Gaming, Fiber for the Mind, there are protective benefits in Gaming for those who live with mental illness, the roof keeping the rain from our heads.

Gaming cops a bad rap for its association with those who have a history of Mental Illness or even the more aggressive individuals who walk the world and their attraction to the more graphic media available. Violent games don’t make people violent. Gaming isn’t going to snag you on chemical hooks besides a little dopamine.

The truth is anything is vulnerable to abuse. Addiction has less to do with the substance or behavior of addiction than it does with the cage the individual is living in. A growing catch cry in rehabilitation circles is “Change the Cage!”

The origin of this term comes from an experiment called Rat Park carried out in the late 1970’s by Bruce Alexander, in which he experimented with drug addiction in mice. Researchers would put a mouse in a cage without any stimulus, company or substance other than a drug and regular water. Following on from this observation he constructed rat park, gave the mice as much company, stimulation, sex and food as they could possibly want, they didn’t touch the drug.

The concepts described by the experiment do oversimplify addiction, primarily because we don’t live in an ideal world everyone gets bombarded with stress and trauma, the boss is a monster, bills keep piling up, the 5-year-old is rocking a 20-year-old attitude and only the lucky few are appreciated by their co-workers or employer.

At the same time the Rat Park experiment was being carried out there was a real-life experiment being carried out by the orders of President Richard Nixon. He believed we needed to know more about addiction, and learn we did. The results of keeping track of Veterans who tested positive in Vietnam to Heroin mirrored the results of Rat Park. Once no longer in a war zone many veterans spontaneously stopped using heroin.

There is a principle called harm minimisation, when presented with two options the preference is for the option with the lowest risk. It is for this reason that everyone isn’t immediately whipped into exploratory surgery for every abdominal pain, even small procedures are not without risk. It is due to this principle that gaming is by far a preferred escape for those who struggle with mental illness, alongside sport and crafts. They may at some stages show signs of addiction, withdraw to play solo, allow play to hijack essential sleep, overtake all routine and responsibilities, ditch work for a week to binge the latest World of Warcraft expansion, unshaven in their boxer shorts beside a case of red eye. While it may have an impact, their kidneys are undamaged, they are not in a drug house vulnerable to abuse, risk of overdose is miniscule, (although my cupboards straining with Cthulhu Wars figures may disagree) besides a couple of pounds on the derriere and a wallet lighter for the wanting, we are no worse off physically for overindulging while simultaneously benefiting from the protective factors of Socialisation. Everything in life is a balance of Pro’s and Con’s.

Individuals who are diagnosed with Mental Illness will continue to have to manage and maintain their mental health with conscious awareness of stress levels and risk factors. However, there is absolutely no harm in each of us doing the same to ensure we reduce our risk of developing depression, addiction, or anxiety.

Be mindful of our Cage, there is no miracle cure there is only doing our best to reduce risk.

Find fulfilment in our employment, find purpose in our daily life, maintain and build connection, even when we don’t feel in the mood, particularly when we aren’t in the mood.

Revel in our Gaming, it is good to be a Gamer.

Welcome to Rat Park.

Written by Margaret Walker

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