Blog: Video games and social work
Labeling young gamers as computer game addicted does not necessarily help young people out of a difficult life situation. We must stop regarding gaming as the main reason why people seclude into their rooms and isolate themselves, and rather consider gaming as an important part of the youth's solution to a difficult situation.
The outreach social work unit in Bærum municipality meets many youths who are preoccupied with computer games. We also meet youths who have dropped out of school or are in danger of dropping out of school. Many, not all of them, do spend a lot of time in their rooms online playing games. A lot of adults experience gaming as frustrating and hopeless in meeting a phenomenon that they are not familiar with or do not even like.
In the public support system we have had a tendency to call these youths video game addicted. The computer game addiction concept leads us into a mindset. We see that the youth are sitting in front of the computer screen, dropping out of school and having little contact with other youth face to face. In a computer game addiction perspective, we explain this with the computer game. The addiction mindset tells us that one of the problem areas that needs to be delt with, is gaming.
Gaming around the clock is not good. As with everything else, it's important with a balance in life, not too much and not too little. Our experience shows that young people do not have to stop playing games all together in order to move on in life.
Computer game club
In talking with youths about their passion for gaming, the gamers told us that there are other reasons beyond gaming as to why people choose a life online rather than in real life. These are the reasons we need to get hold of.
In Bærum, together with computer-interested youth, we have launched a number of projects where we want to facilitate their interest for gaming and gaming culture. One of these projects is the Gaming house (Spillhuset). A computer game club run by gamers for young gamers.
Having a child who plays a lot of computer games is shameful
Common to all of the projects is that the same young people we previously regarded as video game addicted and unmotivated,are not. By meeting the young people on their premises and based on their passion in life, we see completely other sides of their personality. The young people move out of their rooms, show up, are engaged, look happy and appear to us as something completely different from what we thought they were.
We meet many parents who also retire and isolate themselves because they do not want to tell others that their children are into computer games. In Bærum we work to turn this around. These are knowledgeable youngsters who are often stigmatized because they play games.
Very often, withdrawal from the normal community has to do with hurtful experiences with others, with difficult relationships through the onset of bullying for instance. We must stop watching gaming as the main reason for people retreating, and rather, look upon gaming as an important part of the youth's solution to a difficult situation.
Gaming provides a lot of community both online and real life and we have talked to many youngsters who have said that gaming has been the rescue for them in a difficult time. Gaming-interested youth deserve respect and recognition in the same way as anyone else with a passionate interests. If we want youth to come out of their rooms, we as a helping system need to invite them out and meet them with curiosity and respect.
Utekontakten i Bærum kommune – Outreach work in Bærum