Counsellors call for more help for 'gaming addicts'

04/10/10

Addiction counsellors have told Newsbeat they're seeing more cases of people worried about being hooked on playing video games.

There are now calls for the gaming industry to offer more support to people who can't switch off.

Technology or computer addiction isn't officially recognised as a clinical condition.

But the group representing games companies admits there needs to be more research into the problem.

20-year-old Joe Staley from Nottingham says he didn't know where to go for help when he got hooked on console games.

He ended up hundreds of pounds of debt and dropped out of university: "I know it's an addiction because I can't go a day without gaming.

"Even if it's a flash game on the internet, I can't physically say, 'I'm not going to play anything today'."

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Treatment

Peter Smith is a counsellor at Broadway Lodge in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, which started offering residential treatment for computer addiction last year.

He told Newsbeat: "Most of the people that are getting into difficulties tend to be in their teenage years and early 20s.

The word 'addiction' is quite emotive. If we're talking about clinical addiction, proven to be something that people want as a dependency, then we have to look at the evidence and the research
Andy Payne
Chairman of UKIE

"As that generation moves through and others come on behind, I think the problem is going to get bigger."

People who stay at Broadway Lodge will normally have to pay, although the Department of Health says GPs are able to prescribe treatment for an addiction problem if they think it is serious enough.

Peter says some gamers are showing symptoms similar to gambling addicts or alcoholics.

He thinks there could be a video gaming equivalent of GamCare, a charity funded by gambling companies which offers counselling to people who can't stop betting.

Newsbeat's also been to meet young footballers who've been warned playing too many computer games could ruin their careers.

At conference side Fleetwood Town, the whole squad has been banned from gaming before matches.

The club's psychotherapist Steve Pope, who used to work at the Priory clinic, thinks it can really affect players' performance on the pitch

"When we were travelling to away games, players were on their PSPs on the coach and there was no socialising and no banter.

"After the evening meal, we were going into bedrooms at one or two o'clock in the morning and confiscating games from the players."

'Emotive'

Andy Payne is chairman of UKIE, the trade organisation for the video games industry.

He insists they're taking the issues seriously but says there's lots of evidence too about the positive effects of playing games.

He told Newsbeat: "The word 'addiction' is quite emotive. If we're talking about clinical addiction - proven to be something that people want as a dependency - then we have to look at the evidence and the research."

Andy reckons the industry should be willing to pay for more research into the harm that games can cause: "I do think we need more research and we're very open into receiving that. Let's be open and see what's out there.

"If people are finding they've got problems in their lives, and we can help solve those problems, then we should be able to do something positive about it."