Games Addiction

Are boys addicted to games, and does it matter if they are? (And what is addiction anyway?) Online Graduates has sent me an infographic on the subject. Have a look at it,and maybe discuss it with your students. I’ve decided to be a bit of a devil’s advocate in my response to it!

Programmed for Demise
Created by:

Using this infographic

The statistics cited are very interesting, and each section could be used as the basis for a rich debate on the subject. Even if you teach primary (elementary) pupils, you can still have a discussion with them because some of the figures relate to that age group.

Who are you calling an addict? Picture by Bryan Gosline

Perhaps you could conduct a survey of your own, in your school, or just with one class. This is something the students could do too. The kind of questions to find the answers to might include:

  • Are the statistics for your own class similar to those cited here?
  • Are the gender differences fairly typical?
  • Does any of this actually matter? (See below.)

The students could conduct interviews on the topic with members of staff, other kids, or people in the local shopping centre. They could research on the internet to see if these figures are typical, and to find out what various experts say about it all.

In short, you could use this infographic as the basis for a rich and extended project.

My Take On IT

I think the following:

  • Regardless of the accuracy or otherwise of the figures quoted, the text itself is designed to lead you to certain conclusions. This in itself would make a useful point of discussion in a subject like Media Studies. For example, the opening section states that game addiction is ruining boys. If you do something a lot, does that mean you’re addicted? And what does “ruining” mean in this context?
  • Kids aged 8 to 18 are spending more time on playing games than reading apparently. Well, that’s a pretty wide age range. It would be more meaningful to look at different age bands separately. After all, presumably 18 year-olds spend a lot of time studying for exams, whereas 8 year-olds may not be. Even if you accept the stats as they stand, surely that indicates that the sorts of thing kids are asked to read are not as interesting as the games alternatives. If you want kids to read, give them engaging books and other reading matter!
  • Three million US children are “addicted” to games. This is the equivalent of Stephen Potter’s suggestion of rendering people speechless by quoting meaningless and context-less statistics:

    An effective statement in the right context can sometimes be: 'I have had 140 days' illness in my life.' Listeners are unable, without a lame pause for calculation, to know whether to commiserate or admire. (See The world according to Potter Part (1) Going Metric.)

    I don’t know if 3 million represents a large percentage or not, as I haven’t a clue how many children there are in the US. What’s addiction? Is the term being used in some clinical sense, or just loosely?
  • Boys generally chose aggressive games, whereas girls tended to choose puzzles. Well, there’s a surprise! I happen to be one of these quaintly old-fashioned people who believe that allowing boys to play with toy guns, play soldiers, or play shoot-‘em ups is probably a good way of channelling their natural aggression, rather than wait for them to kill someone due all that pent up testosterone-induced energy.
  • 70% of low grades are given to boys. I could argue that that’s because the sorts of assignments that are set don’t test what boys are good at in a way that is likely to allow them to show they are good at it. If these figures have come about because of game addiction, which is what we’re meant to infer, then examiners should set assignments in the form of video games: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
  • Young men’s SATs scores are the worst in 40 years. See the preceding point.


I think these statistics are interesting, but they raise at least as many questions as they answer. What about the benefits of game-playing, for a start? The authors of this infographic have done a good job collating these statistics from a range of resources. Now you, your colleagues and, especially, your students and their parents have a choice: use the infographic to support a position they already hold, or as a starting point for further research. They could even use the (now old) ICT Programme of Study criteria to guide them: are the data plausible? Are they accurate?

They may even end up agreeing with the infographic, that boys in particular are addicted to game-playing, and that that, by implication, is bad. But at least they would have arrived at their conclusions through a process of investigation and research.

I think all this highlights something else. If you come across infographics and other sorts of statistics that make you raise an eyebrow, don’t just dismiss them out of hand, but use them as a starting point for a discussion, some research or a longer-term project.

My thanks to Sarah Wenger of for sending me the infographic.

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