The lives of some people very close to me have been shaken by one man’s long-denied gambling addiction. I can’t go into details. As in many cases, there is a complex mix of mitigating and exacerbating factors and I think I can understand what the man is going through and why he feels what he is doing is the right thing for him. But in light of its impact on his family and his career, I wish he had pursued a different path. In light of what I have seen gambling do to others in the States and here in China, I detest that institution and the vermin of the industry who prey on the vulnerable.
The gambling industry’s primary source of profit is the slot machine. It is amazing how addicted people become to slot machines, sitting in front of them for hours and hours as their savings or borrowings are whittled away. The Atlantic Monthly has an excellent read about the design of video games and their deliberately designed features aimed at creating and rewarding addiction. Please see “How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts” by John Rosengren. I feel it’s important to understand how the Adversary and his corporate allies have so artfully and craftily designed these systems to destroy their victims through addiction. In fact, this would be a good article to discuss with your kids, with your home teaching families (as I have done in one case so far), and others in your ward and circle of friends. It’s a painful read because of the gritty details in a few lives shattered by gambling, but I think you will benefit, especially from the background information about the industry and its designs on you and your loved ones.
There’s a science to the design of addictive slot machines. A profound understanding of human psychology and the response to various forms of stimulus is employed to keep people hooked. The principles used are similar to those employed in modern video games. They are designed to keep people playing for long periods of time. It’s a design that creates addicts. Here in China, where a large fraction of the young men show signs of addiction, it is greatly damaging their lives. Video game addiction is less costly than gambling. There are probably very few suicides and less financial fraud driven by this addiction compared to gambling. But too many people quit advancing intellectually, spiritually, and perhaps even physically (less exercise) as they get pulled into the empty illusory world of video games. (Tip: If you are giving up sleep, work, school, and social interactions in the physical world to spend every possible minute gaming, you may have a problem.)
Many LDS families struggle with this challenge. What are the best practices parents can take to reduce the risk of addiction? Some of the more successful families I know have strict rules to limit TV and games and do much to encourage other activities like reading, sports, and other aspects of a healthy life. What are your suggestions?
Update: Yes, I recognize that there are important differences between gambling games such as slots or video poker and gambling-free computer games. Computer games have been used to teach useful schools, can be wholesome and fun in social settings, etc. But addiction can be devastating. I’ve seen too many bright people drop out of school, perform poorly at work, and show general lack of motivation for anything except video games. In one case I was close too, a young man with a great new job lost almost everything due to the after effects of research fraud driven by his addiction to a really stupid video game.
Measuring video game addiction is challenging and controversial. Is addiction a genuine problem in just 0.5% of video game players, as mentioned in a valuable article from Psychology Today? That number seems surprisingly low compared to the number of parents I see who believe that their kids are addicted to video games and compared to the number who seem to me to be messing up their lives with excessive, compulsive video gaming. But perhaps the level of addiction considered there is more extreme, especially given some of the examples of tragedy mentioned there. If not 0.5%, is the level of addiction closer to the 3% or 8% figures from studies mentioned in an article in the Economist? Or is it 50% (here in China, for example), which still may seem low in the eyes of some parents, educators, and bosses frustrated with the vigor-impairing apparent addictions in those they are trying to strengthen and motivate? If you have a reliable measure, let me know.