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04/01/11

Video Game Play and Addiction: Interview with Kourosh Dini

By Wendy Armington and Neda Nabavi, Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

March 31, 2011, Chicago, IL- The winner of a Mom’s Choice Award and the National Parenting Publication Award for his book, Video Game Play and Addiction: A Guide for Parents, Kourosh Dini, MD is a psychiatrist, author and musician. Dini’s other works include Creating Flow with OmniFocus and his blog, KouroshDini.com, through which he shares his musings on the mind, music, play, productivity, and technology.


Video Game PLAY AND ADDICTION: A GUIDE FOR PARENTS
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Dini attended Northwestern University in Chicago, where he completed the Integrated Science Program with a focus in the neurosciences. Further studies include the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Dini earned a medical degree, and the University of Chicago, where he studied child and adolescent psychiatry. Presently, Dini keeps a private practice, plays the piano, gives weekly musical performances, writes about productivity, and still manages to play video games a couple of times a week.

What was your first inspiration to write about gaming addiction?

While going through my residency and fellowship I would continually run into discussions with colleagues who tended to look down upon video game play. I myself had played for many years, since childhood, starting with the TRS80 and Atari 2600, and had been able to function well - becoming a physician and psychiatrist while maintaining my other hobbies and a social life.

Since I had to write a paper to graduate from the fellowship at the University of Chicago, I decided to make video games my topic. To some extent, I was defending the play of video games. However, since I knew that there are those who play problematically, I researched this area as well.

The book then evolved from that point and has since become an attempt to be as even-handed about the benefits and detriments possible in association with video games.

What games do you recommend or discourage? If you prefer, you may classify the games by age group.

I can’t really make a broad recommendation. Each person is an individual. One person may do just fine with a Grand Theft Auto game while another may do rather poorly with Farmville, and vice-versa.

What you are looking for is a match between the person and the game.

Any parent will readily tell you that kids mature differently. There are some ten-year-olds who seem more able to process and understand the social world better than some sixteen-year-olds. But, as we have such a large society, we have had to make arbitrary distinctions of maturity by age.

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) does a good job of rating individual games by distinguishing relative levels of maturity per game. They also describe what specifically is involved in the game, be it cartoonish violence or realistic depictions of drug use.

Knowing your own and your child’s maturity level will be a good guide towards deciding on good games.

In addition to knowing your child, you need to know the game. The best way to do this is to play some of the game itself. It only takes a few minutes to know what type of game it is. You can also search YouTube.com for footage of the game, prior to making a purchase.

What is the one piece of advice you would give parents with a child who is addicted to video games?

The question itself is misleading. You cannot readily use the term “addiction” without defining it. If you feel that there is some sort of problematic playing occurring, I would suggest trying the game yourself. Play at least enough to get a first-hand understanding of it.

Games offer a form of learning. Though the type of learning may be one with which you do not agree, they do offer a learning experience. The type of learning becomes much more apparent when actually playing the game.

In addition, you may find a connection with your child in playing the game. You may even consider letting your child teach you how to play.

Having said that, there are many other considerations as well. Getting a therapist involved can certainly be a useful step. It is rare that the video game is the only problem; it may be symptomatic of a larger problem that is not always apparent.

Has gaming ever positively or negatively impacted your life?

Positively in that they’ve provided the makings of a playground. Any game, video game or otherwise, provides a sort of playground in which a person can learn. Successfully learning from games means being able to adapt that knowledge to create playgrounds for those projects that one holds dear to themselves.

Much the same as music or a sport, one learns how to construct their environment to be a fun place to learn. If one gains that skill, then they are much better positioned to create projects and be successful in the world because they can create the conditions under which they thrive.

For more information on Dr. Dini and his work, please click here.

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