The Game Addiction Clinic Interview Outtake

Even though I’m not on the team anymore, I still write articles for Dutch games mag ‘”Power Unlimited”:’ once in a while. Such as my piece about the “Dutch game addiction clinic”: in the issue that just hit store shelves. This is a piece of my interview with the clinic’s head honcho Keith Bakker that I couldn’t use in my article, but felt would be fun to read anyway. Keith sort of takes control of the conversation here…

Keith: “I don’t know anything about games, only about addicition. It never happened to me that at three o’clock I suddenly ‘woke up’ out of a game and thought: my god, is it that late? You have, haven’t you?”

Me: “Sure. But you are also still addicted, right? You’re addicted to your business.”

Keith: “There’s always something. I love it what Buddha says: real freedom is the possibility of choosing what you’re chained to. Personally, I’m obsessed with fighting addiction.’

Me: “What’s your definition of addiction?”

Keith: “Addiction is addiction if you’re experiencing negative consequences as a result of what you’re doing. Furthermore, the question is, can you game safely? My mom doesn’t have an alcohol problem, she drinks two glasses of wine every night, and she always sleeps at half past nine. She’ll never drink a whole bottle. But if I drink two glasses, I end up in Mexico. Drunk. In jail. Thinking: how the fuck did I get here? So there’s a difference between my mom and me. In the same way, there’s a difference between those who buy ‘GTA’, play it, think it’s nice, then go out to get some food, and the percentage of people who can’t game safely. Can you say to me: I can always tell you that I can control my gaming behaviour?”

Me: “Yes I can. Let me tell you about my ‘World of Warcraft’ experience. I played till level twelve in one weekend, then stopped, because it started to conflict with my other obsession: work. Even though it was a Sunday, I saw my working week filling up with ‘Warcraft’. I didn’t want that, so I never touched the game again.”

Keith: “So you can make that choice. That’s good. You have some foundation in you that enables you to say: OK, it’s hurting me, I stop. But there are a lot of people out there who can’t make that decision themselves. They’re so deep in it. But I want to ask again, if I came to you halfway through the game, could you quit?”

Me: “I could, really! I only played it for research purposes, you know. I had a report to write.”

Keith (laughs): “Yeah right, but could you see that you were starting to get obsessed?” Pause, as I don’t reply. “You’re doing the same as I am. I used to be an addict, and now I’m busy with addiction all day at Smith and Jones. Games still run your life. Addiction still runs my life. So both of us never really quit, we’re just using our obsessions in a different way.”

Me: “Let’s change the subject, I’m getting uncomfortable here.”