People, myself included, often refer to video games as “addictive” intending it to be a complement. After all, if most of us call a game addictive, it probably means we enjoy playing it to the extent we struggle to put it down, which is what a good thing, right?
Of course, “addictive” is a word that also has more unfortunate, darker connotations. It’s because of this that Jo Twist, head of the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), thinks it’s time we stopped linking video games with “addictive.”
GamesIndustry reports that Twist addressed her problem with the world during a talk at Develop Brighton, where she said that we should start to look for a better way to describe games we’re really enjoying.
People who know me know that I care about words a lot. Semantics and language matters. I get really annoyed when I see game reviews and they say [this game is addictive], when actually what they mean is, ‘This game is really well designed, this game is good, you should play this game’. It’s not f*cking addictive. We need to mind our language when we’re using these words because, unfortunately, what happens is the public sphere, politicians, press, people who don’t understand games, listen to this, and they believe us when we say, instead of this is a really good game or a really well designed game, it’s addictive.
Whether you agree or not, it’s certainly not hard to see where Twist is coming from. These comments come just months after the World Health Organisation (WHO) made the controversial decision to classify “Gaming Disorder” as a mental illness, and literal addiction– a move which was widely decried by various Entertainment Associations around the world.
An argument could certainly be made that our constant referral to games like Tetris and Fortnite as “addictive” had some negative consequences, leaking outside of the gaming community and getting twisted out of context, which is especially dangerous in an age where politicians seem to be looking into regulating the industry more and more.
As Twist argued, video games do still suffer from a “cultural bias” because they’re still fairly new. She reasons that because of that, we need to take more responsibility in “shaping the narrative” around video games ourselves, as a community and an industry.
We’ve got to just step up and go, ‘Okay, listen, this is a cultural bias you have’. It’s not necessarily generational, but it is going to evolve. People will understand that this is the way this world works… It’s how people choose to be entertained, as well as watching Netflix, as well as watching these things that we call TV. It’s just part of our culture now.
The WHO has confirmed that the ICD-11 will officially go into effect on January 1, 2022, while a Republican Senator also recently announced a bill that would aim to ban loot boxes in video games.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.