Comparing Fortnite with heroin is nonsense: creating a disproportionate social alarm is no way to solve problems
"Choose life. Choose a job [...] Choose a big TV that you shit on. Choose washing machines, cars, compact discs and electric openers. Choose health, low cholesterol and dental insurance ... Choose to sit down on the couch to watch telecontests that dull the mind and crush the spirit as you fill your fucking mouth with junk food.
Choose to rot old by shitting and pissing on yourself in a miserable haven, being a burden to the selfish and dusty brat you have sired to replace you. Choose your future. Choose life ... but why would I want to do something like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you have Fortnite? "
Fortnite and heroin? Really?
Yes, this you just read is a shortened version of the opening monologue for 'Trainspotting'. Except in the Fortnite part, of course. In the film they talk about heroin, but in light of what the press is saying these days ... it would be the next step. Is it really proven that playing Fortnite is similar to using heroin?
It seems. This last week, some media have been in charge of spreading that idea. For example, the Twitter profile of Antena3Noticias published a tweet that, without hot cloths, said "Proven: playing Fortnite generates an addiction similar to heroin." In it, he linked to an article titled "Experts Compare Fortnite Gambling Addiction to Heroin" and referring to an article in La Razón in which a psychiatrist literally said that "Fortnite addiction" is not the same than alcohol, drugs or gambling. But what nonsense is this?
What are we talking about when we talk about heroin?
Between the summer of 1978 and 1982, tens of thousands of young people learned to inject a heroin that was flooding the black market at the beginning of the decade. Before 1976, the illegal consumption and trade of heroin was almost unknown, but in the summer of 1977 and by court order, the first two heroin addicts entered the Psychiatric Hospital of the Barcelona Provincial Council, generating a huge stir because of the novelty of the event.
At that time, before the great sanitary reforms, the psychiatric ones were great drawers of tailoring in which they lived from people with paranoid schizophrenia to drunkards. And the novelty was "heroinomania" not the heroin that had been discovered and marketed at the beginning of the century with total normality until it was discovered that it was better to stop using it. The heroin epidemic was
In 1992, the number of heroin addicts who went to detoxification in Spain according to official statistics was 37,232 people. At that time, the epidemic had already reached its peak and, despite the fact that new users had been reduced since 87, crime rates (linked to the epidemic) and death rates had turned heroin into a social drama. in full view of the entire country.
More than 300,000 people were treated for addiction, more than 25,000 died of an overdose, and about 100,000 became infected with HIV. All that in a handful of years. Talking about heroin is not an innocent metaphor, it is a deliberately chosen comparison to rekindle past fears and generate social alarm. A comparison that also forgets the role that the same press had in the epidemic of the 1980s.
Around the corner with video game addiction
As we have explained other times, from what we know so far, there are video game designs that can be analogous to games of chance. That is, they are games that use "random reinforcement patterns" and that, being very rare in nature, generate a "pathological game" problem that "shares etiological mechanisms with addictive behavior" (with drug addictions, for example).
But we also know that most do not. Most video games do not "share etiological mechanisms with addictive behavior". That is, they cannot cause addiction even if they wanted to. This is why talking about "video game addiction" is still so problematic: "video games", due to their diversity, are not a good category to define an addiction.
Does Fortnite generate addiction? As far as we know, no. In fact, in January of this year, the most problematic element for its resemblance to games of chance (the 'lot boxes' or loot boxes) were removed from the game. That is, with total sincerity, we have no elements to say that Fortnite is addictive.
But beware, that does not mean that a player cannot be abusing the game. Regardless of the name, both are serious problems and both require specialized attention. But understanding its mechanisms helps us offer better treatments and solutions. At a medical and psychotherapeutic level, addiction is not treated the same as behavioral abuse and mixing everything to generate alarm is enormously reckless if we are really concerned about the problem.