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Video Game Addiction & MMO Addiction - Are You At Risk?

26. December, 2012Tags: MMO Blog, MMO Industry

MMORPG addictionThere’s a topic I light-heartedly broached a few weeks ago - in our World of Warcraft Achievements article, I suggest you take a look - that has been on my mind since I mentioned it. Gaming addiction, specifically those most at risk for MMORPG addiction, has been and still is a very hot topic in the industry. Is it a real thing? Can people die from gaming addiction, like they can from alcohol or addiction to other drugs? Can gaming ruin lives? It’s not a topic that I believe we’ve discussed in the past, so hopefully this will help dispel some myths and make us all understand a little better the risks (if there are any) of gaming to excess.

Excess and Gaming Addiction

And I think that’s an important distinction to make right off the bat. People who do anything to excess are putting themselves at risk. You could eat salad to excess and be at risk, a fact that the people telling you how you should be raising your children rarely bother to mention. To be doing an excess of something means you’re doing too much of it. If you’re playing games for 20 hours a day, if you’re not really eating or showering or if you’re finding it difficult to get to the toilet without feeling disconnected, there’s a deep problem.

Gaming addiction is not necessarily the fault of the game. This is valid for MMO Addiction too. There are people that would quite happily fill out the next 800 words by telling you that playing games releases endorphins not unlike the ones released when taking opiates. Others would tell you that your children are receiving brain signals not entirely unlike those they’d have if they were having an orgasm. When people talk about gaming addiction, they actually mean an addiction to the feeling of wellbeing and happiness somebody might become attached to over the act itself.

MMO addiction and heroes

Sometimes, it takes a hero to beat an addiction...

There are any number of things that can trigger endorphins (and I’m sure somebody more scientifically minded could explain in great depth what some of those things are and why they can be so wide-ranging and unusual), but most people realize they have responsibilities outside of just doing the things they enjoy. Most people understand that they can’t just sit playing games all day and that’s when we come back around full circle: if somebody is playing something to excess, it’s not because they’re addicted to gaming. You have to question, well, what they’re doing with their life that they can play so much, but also why they find the lure of the digital world so much more enticing than the real world. But how much is too much?

What is Video Game Addiction?

There are doctors out there – people with medical degrees and used car dealer smiles – that want you to think your loved one is on the very edge, that at any minute, any second they’re going to stand up and jump out of a window. Gaming, they’ll imply, could be as bad as drugs. They want to help, but only if you open your cheque book and know how many zeroes it takes to heal somebody.

Video Game Addiction - MMO Addiction

But before you start to panic, it’s best to understand a couple of things. How much is too much is important. If you’re worried that your child is addicted to gaming, you have to question if they’re playing to excess. If they only play when you’re watching TV, you ought to be as worried that you’re addicted to TV. If you read books for 4 hours a day and your child plays games for 4 hours a day, you ought to worry that you’re addicted to reading. Understanding that gaming isn’t really any different to watching TV, reading a book or listening to music is an important first step. There’s a difference between a hobby and an illness.

There are days, thanks to work, that I’ll be sat in front of a computer screen for 8 or 9 hours, longer if you include the time it takes to research and write. Once I’m done, I might go and play a game with my girlfriend on one of our consoles. But I can still function in the real world, I can still jump in the car and socialize, I can still jog to the shops without feeling out of breath. If you’re worried about somebody being addicted to games, you have to ask if they can still function, if they can still work or perform tasks. They’re not addicted simply because they play for a long time. I’ve seen it first hand: making your child turn off a game just so they watch TV doesn’t make you a good parent. If you think escapism in the form of Hogwarts, Middle

Earth or Panem is better than escapism in the form of Azeroth or Tyria, you’re the one with the problem, not your loved one.
Escapism is escapism is escapism; it’s only time and societal acceptance that implies that any of it is better than any other.

If your loved one is around 13 and is becoming withdrawn and standoffish, there’s a good chance that they’re just becoming a teenager. If your loved one is above 16 and doesn’t want to join you in watching the latest X Factor or Jeremy Kyle show, they might just not have your fine taste in televisual programming.

On the other hand, if your loved one is spending more and more time at the computer, is lethargic or unable to function as they would have done or if they seem depressed or anxious when away from their game, there’s a good chance that they’re suffering from a gaming addiction, or MMO addiction and the gaming part of that phrase is the least you should be worried about.

MMO Addiction

The most common form of gaming addiction is MMO addiction. People become so engrossed in their virtual lives that they can’t really function in their real lives. It’s tragic to see, but it’s more tragic when people presume that it’s somehow a fault with the game. If your friend’s life in World of Warcraft is more interesting than their real life, if your child is finding solace in the arms of a Night Elf instead of his prom date, your first question shouldn’t be “what has this game done to this person?” They’re hurting, they’re longing for something they haven’t got in real life that they can get in a game.

Put the cheque book away. Tying them down while they go cold turkey isn’t going to help. Questioning how you can support them and putting the money up for that would be a much better thing to do. They’re not addicted to a game, but to the things the game offers that life doesn’t – achievement, friends, fame, honour. I sometimes almost find myself envying the avatars in games, people with opportunities to prove themselves, with the chance to overcome adversity. How many of us can say we have ever truly had this chance? Especially the younger amongst us; these people rely on cookie cutter education, a boring, perhaps menial job and their games.

Those at risk from MMO addiction are the same people at risk from any sort of addiction. These are people who are depressed, lonely, stressed, desperate or otherwise afflicted. The game is an outlet for an inner pain, for some hurdle that doesn’t feel at all possible to overcome.
That’s why the word addiction shouldn’t be used lightly. MMORPG addiction, like any sort of addiction, is an effect, not a cause. Excess is never good, and you should seek a professional to help you with anything you’re partaking in to excess. At the very least, try to solve the issue as it is, don’t just try to heal the gaming “symptom.”

The Secret World

He believes...

Final words on Video Game Addiction

Back when I was receiving tons of press releases on a weekly basis, I can’t tell you the amount of emails I received telling me how bad gaming is or how healthy it can be. On a daily basis, I’d get something with a title like “University of Scumville proves gaming leads to violence” or “Nowhere U shows benefits of gaming on the teenage mind.” The truth of the matter is that it’s a brand new form of entertainment, and the ultra-real violent stuff hasn’t been around for enough time for us to ascertain the effects on the brain. At the very best we can say that gaming won’t and can’t hurt 99.999% of people, and anybody not in that percentage is probably either already mentally ill, has a predisposition towards intense addiction or has an issue in their life that needs sorting.

I’m often been very cautious when believing too much from the anti-gaming crowd. Especially when it's come to video game addiction. They have an agenda, of course they do. Something inside of them – the bit that says “I don’t like people doing what I don’t like to do” – really makes them want gaming gone. These people would rather spout bull on Fox TV than give an informed, honest opinion because it fits their world view to skew their viewers opinions. I don’t expect you to view me as especially unbiased either, this is a gaming website after all. But be sceptical, especially of people claiming they can heal gaming addiction. They don’t care if your loved one is addicted to gaming, but that they have friends and family who love them enough to pay their problems away. Many of these people would probably agree with gamers everywhere that gaming addiction doesn’t exist, but they’re still willing to charge you for a cure.

That’s not to dismiss gaming addiction – it’s as real as the people who believe they have it and who have suffered with it. It’s important to make the distinction, however, between somebody who really likes gaming and somebody who would attack you physically if you tried to drag them away. If you know somebody like the latter, their problem is deeper than an unusually passionate obsession with an MMORPG.

What do you think?

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