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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Sarah Hamid-Balma

Reprinted from the "Problem Gambling and Video Gaming" issue of Visions Journal, 2018, 14 (2), p. 4

This is our 'hot topic' issue. It's also the first time in 20 years of Visions we’ve looked at the issue of problem gambling and video gaming. Is it ironic that the issue after we change our name away from the language of ‘addictions’ to ‘substance use’ we focus an issue entirely on so-called ‘behavioural addictions’ that don’t involve substances? Perhaps not. If you weren’t already aware, the connections with both mental health and substance use, too, will become clear in the pages that follow.

Ten years ago, I don’t think I would have really connected to this theme, but in recent years, it seems around me in a new way. I’ve had two friends affected by it in their close relationships. Even more personally, I experienced a month a few years ago when I played a game app (2048) and spent more time trying to master it each evening than I care to admit. I was suddenly reminded of that period preparing this issue. How I’d say to myself: “oh, you were so close that time, just one more try…” The goal orientation and perseverance and that were drilled into me in school as virtues suddenly were a curse! Thankfully when I reached the goal, I was satisfied enough to stop. But I had a tiny window into the lure.

Since having children, I’ve also become acutely aware how early I’ve had to explain gambling to my kids. Whether it’s explaining what a 50-50 draw is at a baseball game, or how the contest scratch tickets we used to sometimes get at Safeway work, or the different risk-reward levels of the arcade games at Playland, they were exposed to all these concepts and more by the age of six. It’s easy to see the fun; I’m not sure they really understand the risk part yet. But that’s also by design. After all, many adults still struggle with that part.

The contributors in this issue are incredibly diverse, but they are all exceptionally articulate and reflective. They help us see how their behaviour makes sense in context. I also applaud their courage. Early on, I had a few people decline to write because of the shame around these issues or fear that just talking about it might do harm. Fortunately, I think you’ll see that as with other mental health and substance use problems, talking about it is one of the first steps toward recovery.

About the author

Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division

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