Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Steady stream' of young game addicts seek help

Experts are worried that parents and teenagers cannot cope with issue well.
By Oo Gin Lee and Alfred Siew
Help for gaming addicts is mainly focused on changing their habits, through 'cyberwellness' instead of getting them to go cold turkey. -- REUTERS
THE thrill of killing powerful monsters and seeking glory online has turned a small but growing number of youths here into cyber addicts, who need help to maintain sanity in ther real lives.

Some 150 of them have approached a new centre set up in August last year to help computer gaming addicts manage their obsession.

Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, manager of the Planet Crush cyber wellness centre, said he has seen a 'steady stream' of cybergamers asking for help. About 60 of the 150 cases have to go for counselling sessions.

'There are many reasons why gamers play games. Some to escape from real life, some to achieve what they can't get in real life and others to simply meet their social needs,' said Mr Poh.

Almost all of them who approached the centre were students and youths, with just a handful of adults.

'There was also one girl who called to seek help for her father,' said Mr Poh.

The centre is part of non-profit Touch Community Services' youth outreach programme. Since 2001, Touch Community has reached out to more than 200 schools and 250,000 students, parents and teachers with its cyberwellness programmes.

The problem with gaming addiction was highlighted in Parliament on Monday by Ms Ellen Lee, MP of Sembawang GRC, who said her nephew was a cyber addict. She asked three ministries what was being done to help such youths.

Experts say most gamers can manage their lives and do not end up as addicts. Help is mainly focused on changing their habits, through 'cyberwellness' instead of getting them to go cold turkey.

Mr Thomas Chong, director of education initiatives at Infocomm Asia Holdings, a leading game publisher here, said: 'Gaming is like fire. It can be a good master or a bad slave. You just need to manage it properly.'

He allows his eldest child, 12-year-old Daniel, play computer games. Initially, he worked out a schedule with him but over time he drilled the values of balance and prioritisation into his child.

'Now, he paces himself without our help and automatically stops completely when the PSLE was near. But we still monitor him in the background to make sure he does not step out of line,' added the father of three, who also lectures educational psychology part-time to National Institute of Education trainee teachers.

But some cyber addicts can play non-stop for more than 12 hours a day. Mostly male youths, they may also skip school, or rush to a cyber cafe while on holiday overseas, to log on to a game they cannot live without.

Dr Munidasa Winslow, director of the Community Addictions Management Program at the Institute of Mental Health, said he has seen patients who even fought with their parents when told to quit playing.

Though he has only handled a handful of gaming addiction cases this year, he noted that more parents are starting to get worried about the issue. They are concerned that what started as a hobby may turn into an obsession.

Student Bryan Toh, 16, for example, failed several subjects in Secondary 3 last year because he spent all his time playing the MapleStory online game.

He would play for 12 hours straight, even pretending to be ill so he could stay at home to log on.

He recounted: 'When I started playing, I thought I could stop when the holidays ended.' He did not - until the the O levels beckoned this year and he was forced to kick his habit to prepare for the exams.

Academic and avid gamer Angeline Khoo, 54, suggested that parents should try to understand why games matter so much to the young ones - by playing the games themselves.

'There's a lack of understanding as well, and what we need is a bit of balance,' she said.

Read Confessions of a not-quite-reformed gaming addict.

Taken from

Hahaha i think i'm one of them addicts, but i'm not young anymore.


Fishman said...

You think in time to come, there will be the same issue with blog addicts??

dcyk said...

ehhh i highly doubt so, blogging vs online games, online games are making the money hahaha

kljs said...

Blog addicts? I don't think that's a big problem.... since blogging is like writing a dairy.

online game however,is like using money, using time, and using health to play....... a very bad lifestyle....