How Byronic: Tanya Byron’s new show could be no friend of videogames

Dr. Tanya Byron, who won herself many admirers with her fair and even-handed Byron Report, will no doubt cause some of that admiration to be broken if her new TV show, Am I Normal? is anything to go by. The show, which visually compares videogame addiction to heroine addiction, provides Byron’s view on what a hardcore videogame fan should be:

“Most of us think of games as the preserve of the teenager; young people escaping into a virtual world of fantasy. It’s an attractive but artificial world where they can give themselves a new identity and a status and power unobtainable in reality … 

… Michelle Hart is not what you would imagine as a dedicated gamer. She’s an intelligent, 39-year old woman with a decent job and no history of psychological problems.”

I’ll admit I know a few dedicated gamers who are young, stupid, unemployable psychopaths, but Jesus. I thought we were trying to step away from such stereotypes, especially as Byron herself knows that the average gamer age is far older than the common belief, and that gamers come from all walks of life.

I haven’t seen the show yet, as I don’t watch TV, so I won’t comment too much on the content, but the quotes seem somewhat at odds with Tanya’s game-friendly appearances of late. She’s sure to make a few people unhappy with calling World of Warcraft a “childish fantasy game,” in any case.

As for the subject of videogame addiction itself, I must raise the point made by Naomi Alderman’s brilliant opinion piece — if Michelle Hart spent all her non-working hours reading a book, would she be labeled an addict or an enthusiast? If she watched television, or listened to music, or played tennis every hour of the day, would she have an addiction? Why is it that games have to be comparable to heroin, and not these things?

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James Stephanie Sterling
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