Professor challenges WHO “video game addiction”

When the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on June 18 that they were declaring “video game addiction” a mental health condition in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, Department of Writing chair David Leach felt compelled to respond.

Writing professor David Leach

“The announcement didn’t necessarily surprise me because there is a feeling in the public consciousness that video games are addictive and that kids spend too much time on them,” Leach told the Vancouver Sun in this June 21 interview. “My problem is when you label it addiction it conjures up visions of heroin and your 12-year-old kid living on the street and not talking to you anymore. It’s like talking about being addicted to movies when what you’re really talking about is being addicted to pornography.”

A journalist who is also an expert in gaming culture, Leach had just returned from Toronto where he’d organized two symposia on the social power of video games the week before the WHO news broke. He recently launched UVic’s fledgling Digital Storytelling & Social Simulation Lab to further these interests, he has also done a double-blind study about the use of gamification for education when he was director of UVic’s Technology & Society program.

The WHO felt labeling “gaming disorder” as its own unique addiction would allow governments, health care workers and families to be more aware of the risks and better prepared to identify and deal with them. But even though they admitted gaming disorder is rare — estimating three percent of all gamers (at most) are affected — Leach challenges this idea.

“Three per cent is a wild exaggeration,” he told the Sun, noting all the people in the world — including grown men and women — and all the platforms on which they play games. “That would be millions of people. It speaks to the lack of understanding of how predominant interactive games and media is. If you think of how many people play video games, that number must be much lower, something like 0.001 percent.”

According to the WHO, gaming disorder shares many symptoms with substance and gambling problems — which, says Leach, “feeds into media and parental concerns that already exist . . . it shouldn’t be disparaged as a gateway drug to addiction.”

Leach also spoke to CBC Radio’s On The Island on June 20, and was featured in this CHEK TV weekend news spotlight on June 25.

Leach recently taught the elective WRIT 324: Writing Interactive Narrative, which looked at the history of interactive media from which-way-books, to ZORK and VR Rollercoasters. It was also under his time as Technology & Society director that the popular History of Video Games & Interactive Media course was introduced. He was also the organizer of the Games Without Frontiers research forums, held during UVic’s Ideafest in 2013 and 2016, which examined the social power of video games.

“Video games have become both the mythology and a form of literacy for, I’d say, the last two generations,” Leach told the Times Colonist in this 2013 interview. “They experience the world through games; games are kind of their narrative expression.”

Leach still believes the variety and potential of video games and their technology need to be taken seriously, examined critically and understood in depth.

Quartet Fest West now in its 11th year

UVic’s campus will be alive with the sound of music this summer as Quartet Fest West returns for another exciting session from July 9 to 19.

The Lafayette String Quartet in rehearsal (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Now in its 11th year, Quartet Fest West is an intensive chamber music workshop, welcoming select students from universities across North America. Originally launched in 1993 by the School of Music’s artists-in-residence the Lafayette String Quartet, QFW offers an unparalleled string quartet experience, including a series of concerts, masterclasses and workshops — all of which are open to the public in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall.

See the School of Music events calendar for full details on all concerts.

This year features string players (plus a pianist!) hailing from Alberta, Texas, Arizona, Vancouver and Victoria. They will spend 10 days working closely together — divided into two quartets and two quintets — to hone their individual and ensemble skills. Alongside the LSQ, guest coaches and performers include their long-time friends and collaborators the Penderecki String Quartet, esteemed local violists Yariv Aloni and Gerald Stanick, and renowned pianist Alexander Tselyakov.

QFW students

A highlight each summer, QFW is an ideal example of the immersive study and supportive practice that has made the School of Music such an essential part of Victoria’s arts community over the past 50 years.

“The festival is a significant annual event for UVic’s School of Music,” says Susan Lewis, Dean of Fine Arts. “I extend my warm thanks and appreciation to members of the Lafayette String Quartet for their ongoing efforts, commitment, and mentorship of generations of musicians. Together, we strengthen the cultural fabric of the city, the province, the country and, indeed, the world.”

The highly-anticipated QFW concert series kicks off on July 14 with performances by the LSQ and Tselyakov, counted in the ranks of Canada’s leading concert pianists; that program features the beautiful “Viola Quintet in C” by Mozart and the rarely performed piano quintet by Ernő Dohnányi. The Penderecki Quartet will perform music by Beethoven and Kelly-Marie Murphy, as well as the Shostakovich Piano Quintet — joined by Tselyakov — on July 17.

Penderecki String Quartet

The Gala Concert on July 18 — a fundraiser for future QFW student scholarships — brings together the LSQ, PSQ, plus special guests and festival participants. On this program you’ll hear some of the most cherished chamber music literature throughout the ages including works by Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Haydn (Michael and Joseph) and more. The festival then culminates with a July 19 concert showcasing the QFW student participants.

All concerts are performed in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, located in the B-Wing of UVic’s MacLaurin building. Single tickets ($10-$25) are available at the door for all concerts, as is a festival pass ($60). The public is also welcome to observe daily masterclasses.

 UVic is accessible by sustainable travel options including transit and cycling. For those arriving by car, pay parking is in effect Monday to Saturday; evening parking is a flat rate of $3.