CANADA'S MENTAL HEALTH & ADDICTION NETWORK
A simple search of video games on PORTICO reveals tools for youth and professionals focused mostly on problem gambling.
But is the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health doing enough to study the harms of traditional video gaming on the Mental Health of adults?
Even the CAMH department charged with dealing with video gaming - Problem Gambling Treatment Services - under-represents the mental health threat that video games have in today's world.
The very real controversy over #GamerGate is frightening. Grown adults threatening others with violence over the content of articles and beliefs and opinions expressed. Proponents of ANTI #GamerGate and PRO #GamerGate would have you believe that issues in the industry are very black and white but ultimately what suffers most is the mental health of all participants in the GamerGate controversy.
The video game industry is now 40 years old. The field has been left widely unstudied.
Mark my words, to avert tragedy, more research dollars need to be applied to studying the culture of video games.
If you are a professional at CAMH, please read up on #GamerGate.
Wikipedia on #GamerGate...
One week of #GamerGate threats on Twitter...
Hi PeerSupport. You raise some excellent questions. CAMH does provide clinical services for people with video gaming problems, and for their families (for example, https://www.problemgambling.ca/EN/Documents/GroupTech_Feb2015.pdf and https://www.problemgambling.ca/EN/Documents/GroupTech_Feb2015.pdf). However, the mental health impacts of video gaming and gamer culture would indeed be an important area of study.
#GamerGate is a disturbing window into some aspects of gamer culture, as are some of the more violent video games. I think #GamerGate is a particularly blatant example of the widespread struggle in online media to address the entitlement that anonymity brings. There are elements in common with women's experience of street harrassment, and of bullying, misogyny and racism both online and off. The stress and misery caused by these behaviours does indeed affect mental health.
Although I'm not aware of CAMH studies in the area, academic research does exist on the mental health impacts of online harassment. But thank you for your suggestion; I would like to see such research here.
I think one problem is the reduction of the argument to one that fits the us vs. them narrative of American Conservative/Liberal politics. On the international level, that just doesn't work for independent thinkers. #GamerGate has proven time and time again to slut-shame, fat-shame, issue violent threats, be transphobic, be homophobic, etc.. The traditional gaming media has overlooked this in their attempts to perpetuate the status quo of the male-dominated industry.
As one of the main contributors to the debate, games critic and writer Leigh Alexander recently released her list of some of the problems in gaming press including...
I was wondering if you had any opinion on these broader issues as outlined above that reach beyond the scope of strictly an addictions-only perspective!?!
I would argue, as have others, that #GamerGate is no less than emotional terrorism.
Also amazing is how little traditional media has covered it as awareness is low. CBC has featured Brianna Wu, one of the vocal opponents of #GamerGate recently.
Am I fueling an irrational fear of video game culture? I admittedly used to be a part of this global community of gamers but no longer find the community offers any sort of redeeming qualities.
I contacted @MentalHealthCop (Inspector Michael Brown, National Mental Health Coordinator at the UK @CollegeofPolice) on Twitter to ask his opinions but his response was that he "doesn't do video games" and I was disappointed to find this response. Why is hip-hop culture sometimes on the radar of police while the gamers' community goes unchallenged?!?
At what point do we take the collective anonymous threats of this community seriously? Most people are under the assumption that gamers are children but data indicates the average gamer is 35 years old. I noticed that some of the CAMH initiaves dealing with problem gaming are indicated at a limited age group. 18-25.
Are more resources being diverted to studying and helping adults outside this age group?
Just some of my questions. I'm sure some of the experts around here could better inform me...
We do work with clients older than 25 with video gaming / internet overuse; we just don't have enough of such clients to run groups for them, as we do for the 18 to 25-year-olds.
Thanks for the links; I wasn't aware of the association between arms manufacturers and video games, although in retrospect I'm not surprised. That's a grim connection. My own thoughts about the broader issues include the corporatization of entertainment. There are huge profits to be made from designing games to be as addictive as possible. I also believe video games are designed to provide the elements that are less readily available in young people's lives: skill-building, cameraderie, challenge, adventure, risk-taking. All of this with no regulation on the features that may impact the player neurologically, ethically, socially or any other way. Following the money and power associated with gaming leads us to some frightening places.
Here's an update on #GamerGate in Canada.
The Globe And Mail, Canada's National Newspaper called out #GamerGate for being the source of a rise in SWATTING (the practice of anonymously calling out police services on a person)
Also, several new gaming initiatives have started to address gaming issues by gamers themselves.
Offworld - http://offworld.com/ - a place for women & minorities in gaming to discuss the industry without harassment
American broadcast network NBC show Law and Order:SVU did an episode on gamers and took some of the main opinion leaders of the movement and fabricated them into a poorly-received episode in February of 2015 - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4419540/reviews - IMDB has some criticism here for allowing dozens of #GamerGate reviews that purport to be from GamerGate followers and others critical of the episode to promote a different agenda. Be warned some of the interviews are said to be by GamerGate opinion leaders when they are only impersonations...
These are very interesting links, Peersupport; thank you for continuing to share information as you come across it. I asked around about whether anyone's line of research at CAMH touched on this area, but came up empty. The only area I can think of that might come close is the work done on road rage, and that's not particularly close. But I'll keep my eye out.
Online behaviour has to be a goldmine for social psychologists, and I would expect a number of theses to emerge on GamerGate. You might want to check Google Scholar on the subject.
Anita Sarkeesian is one of the most admired figures in video game culture. She is also one of the most reviled. Those who love her see Sarkeesian as an important critic of sexist tropes in pop culture media, particularly video games. Last week, in fact, she was named one of Time’s 100 Influential people. The viewpoint of her detractors—who are many, vocal, and perhaps more accurately described as “trolls”—is a little less easy to parse, but ostensibly stems from the belief that Sarkeesian’s “radical” dissections of much-loved games will encourage censorship in the gaming industry.
When Sarkeesian launched her website, Feminist Frequency, her goals were simple: to put forth accessible, feminist criticism of pop culture staples. In 2011, Sarkeesian partnered with Bitch magazine to create a series of videos called Tropes vs. Women, which examined problematic depictions of female characters in sci-fi. A segment of the series that focused exclusively on video games aired in 2013. It was not just an intellectual exercise: Sarkeesian is a gamer, and she wants to see the industry do better.
But the Tropes vs. Women video game series was met with hysteria from a subset of (predominantly male) gamers. Sarkeesian was assailed with a barrage of death threats, rape threats, and otherwise vicious harassment. Undaunted, Sarkeesian continues to move forward with her efforts to make the gaming world a friendlier place for women.
In an interview with Women in the World, Sarkeesian spoke about angry trolls, the need for more female developers, and the importance of advocating for better, more inclusive video games.
Women in the World: Why do you think the video game segment of Tropes vs. Women struck such an angry chord?
Anita Sarkeesian: Women and girls have been playing and making video games for about as long as video games have existed. In spite of this fact, for decades game designers and publishers, along with gaming magazines and websites, have catered almost exclusively to young men. Unsurprisingly, this has created a culture of men who feel entitled to that territory, and as a result anyone or anything that suggests that gaming should not be exclusively the realm of young straight men is threatening to them. They feel like their cultural domain is being invaded by evil feminist interlopers out to ruin their “fun.” So they lash out at those who suggest that games can be more diverse and inclusive.
This isn’t to say that men invested in maintaining the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space don’t accept women gamers at all; some women can be welcomed in this culture so long as they don’t rock the boat by challenging the culture’s pervasive sexism. However, if women do “step out of line” and challenge that sexism they are viciously attacked.
WITW: The gaming population is more or less split between males and females. But the development world is still dominated by men. Do you think gaming culture would change if more women were involved in content creation?
AS: There’s no question that getting more women working inside video game studios is a huge and essential part of the cultural shift that needs to happen. Developers can’t use the excuse anymore that they didn’t feature women in their games because they didn’t know how to write and design them. Hire women, talk to women, involve women in the creative process from the very beginning.
But while getting significantly more women involved in designing games is absolutely necessary, the male-centered (and hetero-normative) culture of game design has been so deeply entrenched for so long throughout the industry that the current situation also calls for very conscious, very deliberate efforts by men and women alike to reflect on the creative decisions they’re making and to stop perpetuating sexism in the design and advertising of games. Game publishers and studios need to be deliberate and intentional within their company environments to move away from the high-school boys locker room atmosphere that has dominated game development for far too long.
WITW: What else needs to happen to curb the violent sort of online sexism that is displayed by male gamers?
AS: This is a problem the industry itself has created by selling to young straight men that gaming is their exclusive domain, and now the industry has a responsibility to address that problem and undo the damage. The silence from most publishers and games media sites in the weeks after GamerGate started viciously harassing women was deafening. Even when faced with such stark and horrifying evidence of the problems inherent in making straight men feel entitled to video games for decades, these companies didn’t want to risk hurting their bottom line by upsetting some of the people they’ve catered to and profited from.
That kind of unwillingness to clearly condemn such harassing behavior in their fan-base is unacceptable. Publishers and games media sites need to play an active, constant role in challenging and changing the culture they’ve helped create, making it clear in their forums and communities that any kind of harassment will not be tolerated. And social media platforms where much of the harassment takes place need to take responsibility for it and implement structural changes that actively discourage the use of their platforms for harassment.
WITW: Your criticism of video games has made you the target of vicious harassment. Why is it worth is for you to continue with Feminist Frequency, in spite of it all?
AS: As a feminist, I’m interested in media representations because I believe that TV shows, movies and video games have the power to influence our values, beliefs and attitudes as a society, for better or for worse. Media images and narratives can inspire greatness and encourage values of social justice, but unfortunately, they are more often (consciously or unconsciously) constructed to reinforce harmful myths about women and people of color. There is never a question in my mind about continuing to advocate for better media representations as one way to build a better, more just world. The overwhelming, intense harassment targeting women who are working for change in these male-dominated fields is just more evidence that these efforts are crucial and necessary.