Tonight BBC's "investigative" Panorama TV show is scheduled to reveal the hidden psychological devices in games "that are designed to keep us coming back for more." Annoyed already? Join the club. The "Panorama: Addicted to Games?" episode has already sparked controversy and it hasn't even aired, provoking retaliations by Blizzard Entertainment and the trade association representing the UK's games industry, TIGA.
"What we can say is that there is absolutely no proven link between video games and addiction," said Dr. Richard Wilson, TIGA CEO, in a statement. "The World Health Organization has no official medical diagnosis of video games addiction. Playing games is a hobby and people can certainly become passionate about them. This is no different from a passion for a particular book, TV program or sport."
He goes on to talk about how the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's Kinect can improve fitness, and that a fifth of UK's developers create educational titles. "There is a world of difference between people who claim, in the colloquial non medical sense, that they are addicted to games, music, football or a TV program and people who are clinically addicted, in scientific parlance, to drugs or alcohol. People may claim to be addicted to something like games or football, but in most cases they are not," he added.
Blizzard also issued a statement ahead of tonight's airing, saying that its games are designed to be fun, however like all forms of entertainment, day-to-day life should always take precedence. "World of Warcraft contains practical tools that assist players and parents in monitoring playing time," the company said.
So what's ruffled everyone's feathers? The reporter behind the investigation, Raphael Rowe, told CVG that he spoke to numerous young gamers about their "addiction." One Call of Duty player revealed that he engages in 12-hour sessions or overnighters; another gamer admits to skipping school for weeks at a time just to play Blizzard's MMORPG, world of Warcraft.
But in addition to the gamer testimonies, Rowe also said that a developer showed him "some of the invisible psychological devices in video games which keep players wanting more."
Panorama: Addicted to Games? is on BBC One and BBC One HD tonight at 8:30pm. So far it's not appearing on BBC America's schedule, so we may need to wait for the rerun to discover what new villains in the gaming industry are eating our brain cells and draining our souls.