An Open Response To The BBC And WHO
TL;DR - addictive personalities are gonna get addicted, parents need to play a role in their child's development, stop demonising video games.
Dear BBC (and WHO),
Over the years I've come to rely on you for unbiased and fairly accurate journalism and news. However your latest piece on Gaming Addiction is shambolic for a variety of reasons, and looking back over the Gaming and Technology sections of your news site it becomes clear to see that there is a fairly cynical and negative slant.
I've been playing games on a PC since I was 12 (now 17) and have sunk countless hours over a plethora of titles. Some of the greatest times of my life have been at conventions, competitions and meetups with friends made online and I wouldn't trade them for anything. There are undeniable benefits to online interaction, and the continually negative coverage from journalists who sometimes come across as knowing the bare minimum about a game or scene is infuriating for so many who dedicate their time professionally or casually to the world of video games and esports.
If we take a look at some numbers in context, the statistic that some of those young people (and you deliberately picked a group of young teenagers let's not forget) gave of 20 hours a week and put it into a bare bones timetable, it is really much less of a panic.
The following is based on a standard 7 day week of which a teenager would spend on average 56 hours sleeping (based on minimum recommended sleep time per night for an ADULT (I'm being really generous here)) and anywhere between 30-40 hours at school.
That takes our running total to a generous maximum of 96 hours used in a 168 week. If we then add the 20 hours for time spent playing video games, that jumps to 116 hours. This leaves 52 hours spare in the week, which is ample time for a young person to eat, socialise, do school work and more. It becomes easy to see that actually, the 20 hours per week (or roughly 2.8 a day) is not particularly excessive. Someone sitting down to watch the World Cup for example for between 2-4 hours for its duration would not be considered a TV addict, even people that watch that much television on a regular basis aren't lambasted for their choice of recreation.
There is always a possibility for addiction with anything and as many people have pointed out, people with personalities susceptible to addiction will become addicted. This shouldn't be news to anyone. The shock factor with video games is the young age of those that are "addicted" and this is more often than not parental negligence, not enforcing rules on time allowed for video games or monitoring their children's online behaviour.
Your one example of an older individual was Neil Robertson who is 36 years old, (who never once mentioned in his interview that he was referring to video games or that the addiction he spoke of was connected) which many would argue is not a particularly old age. Despite this, he makes a fair point, people that have an addiction often don't confront this. This, again, is nothing new to video games and having parents and role models that factor into a person's online activity would have a clear effect on reducing the number of outlier cases such as the ones you cherry picked.
I'm sure you can tell from my writing that I am an avid supporter of video games and will continue to be, despite the scaremongering and poorly researched information that mainstream news continues to publish on elements of the online world. I write this not out of malice but as a voicing of a frustration that, as we are seeing a huge surge in the popularity and consequently economic impact of the gaming industry, there is so much fear and so many alarmist pieces coming out from outlets that do needless damage.
if you ever need a young person who is passionate and knowledgeable about the topic to discuss this with you, I'm happily available, or look to a myriad of professionals who I'm sure are much more articulate than myself.