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Defining Video Game Addiction 354

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-more-pindle-run dept.
1Up has a feature discussing where the line should be drawn when it comes to game addiction. The author speaks to researcher Neils Clark about some of the common characteristics of addiction, and how the high level of immersion in many modern games contributes to the mind's ability to drown out mundane tasks. We've discussed game addiction many times over the past several years. Quoting: "If we're not all dribbling addicts, then why are we playing so much? Clark puts this down to a theory proposed by The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien — primary and secondary worlds. The primary world is our own real life. The secondary is the fictional world: literature, film, videogames, and so on. 'It used to be that the imagery and artistic intent had to be fully available before you could really "find" yourself in a written story,' Clark says. 'Immersion has progressed to the point where entering a world [inside a game] is almost automatic. At the point we're at, playing healthy not only means understanding immersion but [also] recognizing that these secondary worlds are designed to be more fulfilling than the primary. Learning to balance them is its own technology. It's something that humankind is in a process of developing, even if on a subconscious level for most gamers.'"
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Defining Video Game Addiction

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  • It seems obvious that the only people who think MMORPGs are addictive are the people who haven't played them.

    • There is also a (thankfully) small number who have died from playing:
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4137782.stm [bbc.co.uk]
      • by RsG (809189) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:52PM (#24837193)

        Most of the cases I've run into of "death by gaming" boil down to extreme lack of self care. Which is often present in addicts - ie, your typical malnourished junkie - but not in and of itself a sign of addiction. To draw an analogy, it's like how drinking and driving can kill you, but doesn't always indicate alcoholism (or even heavy habitual drinking - there are cases of DUI accidents occurring simply because the individual lacked the experience to judge their own level of intoxication). OTOH, it would be irresponsible to claim a lack of correlation between drunk driving and alcohol dependency - the correlation is there, but you can't assume one equals the other without examining each case in detail first.

        A better rule of thumb for determining whether somebody is addicted to something is to ask them if they still enjoy it. Most people don't realize that your average addict has long since passed the stage where they want to quit, but are no longer able to. Your average sex addict doesn't enjoy boinking, your average alcoholic doesn't want to drink anymore, and your average smoker would love to quit (and probably has tried to at least once). This is one of the reasons why intoxicating substance use has a high rate of addiction - the brain chemistry gets literally rewired, to the point where stopping is traumatic. People have died from withdrawal, while others have developed psychosis, suffered from hallucinations, attempted suicide, and generally been miserable as hell.

        "Addiction" gets applied far to frequently to abuse or overuse of any kind. Human stupidity and lack of common sense must be given their due, as must simple hedonism and self destructiveness. Real addiction is pathological. It might very well be purely psychological, with no chemical basis (or at least no external chemical basis), but on some level it's become a disease upon the affected person, and often times they'll be the first to admit it. Take the bottle away from a problem drinker, and the problem goes away; take the bottle away from an alcoholic and all hell breaks loose.

        So, to get back on topic, I would define a gaming addict as a gamer who continues to play to great excess, despite a desire to quit. Somebody for whom turning it off, taking a break or unplugging is traumatic enough to make them jump right back in.

        • by shermo (1284310)

          Or as someone who stands around Orgrimmar all day going "I'm bored".

          I, on the other hand, treasue the couple of hours a night I get to play between work and other commitments

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I'll be honest, I love to play games. I used to play CS 1.5 nonstop in Uni, because it was fun. Same with Quake 2 and 3, Diablo 2, Dungeon Master, Planetarion.. Recently I've started playing ET:QW, which I love, because of the different character classes, the achievements system, the fun aspects of tearing around in tanks and APCs etc. Occasionally though, I'll play for a whole evening, trying to find a decent server. Most are full of douches who don't understand that being a Medic means they should be tryi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not sure if addiction is quite the right word in most cases. I think stupidity does. If you are on food stamps and spending most of your time on WOW. You have a problem. And your problem is your own stupidity.
    • Re:What a load of... (Score:5, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 01, 2008 @08:56PM (#24836705) Homepage
      It seems obvious that the only people who think MMORPGs are addictive are the people who haven't played them.

      Alright that's just not true, I've met several MMORPG players who consider themselves addicted and are not happy about the amount of time they've spent on their games.

      Personally I never got into the MMORPG thing, but I remember back when I used to MUD there were periods where I definitely exhibited the signs of addiction. That endorphin rush I got when I first logged in for the day is scary in retrospect.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        fun != addiction.

        • Re:What a load of... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:14PM (#24836863) Homepage

          If it wasn't fun there wouldn't be a risk of addiction. Nobody ever got addicted to filling out time sheets, for example.

          My wife freely admits to being addicted.. she sometimes looks back and wonders where the last 5 years went, tries to stop for a couple of days then back to raiding - she plays 18-20 hours a day, never leaves the house, or even the desk for that matter.. Not a lot you can do about it, except wait for the victim to get their act together and come out of it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Sounds like you've got your self a real winner.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by moniker127 (1290002)
            "Nobody ever got addicted to filling out time sheets, for example." I dont know if i'd define it as addiction, but there is obsessive compulsive disorder.
          • by Kjella (173770) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:05PM (#24837301) Homepage

            Not a lot you can do about it, except wait for the victim to get their act together and come out of it.

            I thought part of being an addiction is that you don't get out of it unless "something" happens. Most of the destructive ones it's crashing hard or running out of money or something like that - if they're just compulsive say like compulsive washers they can practicly ruin the rest of their lifes, and yours too if you wait around for it to change. I don't mean to be an insensitive clod and it's your life, but I'd fight or bail. Five years... what's to say it's not five more? Ten? You want to grow old like that? And if she comes about, expect it to be nasty either as in cracking up and for you to pick up the pieces or flipping out with OMG all she's been missing. Then again maybe you're enjoying it with a part time wife, but I doubt it...

            • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:17PM (#24837403)
              Most non chemical addictions aren't really addictions but simply obsessive behavior. After a time people get bored, that is why we aren't all playing space invaders on our 2600. Most people who play WoW or any other video game have a goal of some kind, be it to get to the highest level, to have all the greatest weapons and armor, to join a certain guild, etc. Once that goal is met and the player experiences it, usually they don't care much for the game anymore.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Kjella (173770)

                Ah, but there's the difference between a single-player game an a MMORPG. It doesn't matter how much of an addict you become, eventually you beat the game and it's not fun anymore. "All the greatest armor and weapons" is a moving target in MMORPGs, you can always throw on another set of ultra-rare epics only gotten by endlessly raiding the superultraboss. Remember, you got someone with a very strong interest in not letting you reach your goals...

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:28PM (#24837495)

            .. Not a lot you can do about it, except wait for the victim to get their act together and come out of it.

            You sir are an enabler. You most likely provide the power, the subscription, the food and probably don't care as long as she puts out every so often. If you've watched _any_ of the tv shows featuring the morbidly and often house bound obese, you usually find a loved one or close friend who is enabling them to get that overweight. If you're stuck in your house or even a chair/bed, some one has to bring you the food.

            As long as you just put up with it and enable her to just sit around the house playing all day, she will so STOP it. Stop putting up with it and force the issue, is she truely satisfied with the state of her life being tied to the game?

            I know I wasn't while I was addicted to a MUD for over a year.

          • Re:What a load of... (Score:5, Informative)

            by devnull17 (592326) on Monday September 01, 2008 @11:20PM (#24837897) Homepage Journal
            Fun isn't the right word. I was addicted to WoW for a long time, and while the game starts out fun, by the time I was raiding seven nights a week (five nights on mains; two alt nights on weekends), it wasn't usually any fun at all. What drives people to keep playing, in my opinion, is a complex and unending stream of carrots and sticks. I've heard guildmates say hundreds of times, "I just need that last piece of gear, and then I can quit happily," or "once this last boss goes down, I'm done with this game." But WoW is set up in a way that that seldom happens. You just can't acquire loot fast enough to be "done." (Raid bosses are generally once-a-week deals.) There's always something else on the horizon, and just before you can get that last piece of Tier X armor or whatever, a whole new dungeon is released with more purple pixels to acquire. This grind is bad enough on a single character, but most WoW junkies I know maintain several. There's always something to waste your life doing in that game. I think that's the crux of most WoW addictions: that phantom sense of accomplishment. The feeling that you've done something to progress your character over the course of that night. To most reasonable outside observers, the whole thing seems insane--and it is--but it's that sense that you're doing something with lasting effect that seems to keep most people coming back.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kingrames (858416)

            In order to be an addiction, I'd say that there has to be a dependency on it. It's easy to call the game addicting. It's filled with all sorts of stuff to keep you playing.

            But I've quit multiple times at the drop of a hat and wasn't shaking, convulsing, feeling empty, getting enraged at the slightest things, etc. I mean, where's the withdrawal symptoms?

          • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @02:36AM (#24839127) Journal

            Actually, that's not how (real) addiction works. Addiction to a substance happens when your brain chemistry starts adjusting in the other direction. Biology is largely about self-tuning feedback loops like that. If you have too little oxygen in your arm, e.g., because you do a lot of physical effort, your body grows more blood vessels. And if the brain has to work while disrupted by alcohol, it compensates its chemistry in the other direction.

            Addiction is that compensation in the other direction. And when you are properly addicted, it's not as much that your drug is fun, as that life without it is not much fun.

            E.g., Nicotine inhibits MAO-B, which breaks down Dopamine and Phenethylamine. It's part of a chemical equilibrium in the brain. When you're happy about something, you get a shot of dopamine, but almost immediately MAO-B is released to make that signal decay back to baseline. Nicotine perturbs that mechanism, so it originally makes you feel better. But soon your body adjusts its equilibrium in the other direction, so now you feel shitty without a cigarette. Eventually those cigarettes do nothing except bring you briefly to the point where a non-smoker is naturally all the time. That's addiction.

            E.g., Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which doesn't actually mean it makes you depressed, just that it makes certain individual synapses and pathways less responsive. But again, the body immediately starts to compensate in the other direction, and those synapses gradually become hyperexcitable. If you keep doing that, essentially to the point where they fire erratically on their own. See, delirium tremens. So essentially after a while you notice that without alcohol you're nervous, have less motor coordination, have hearth rhythm problems, and the like. Essentially your body just started telling you, "man, I really could use a drink." And again, gradually you need more and more of it, and eventually the first sixpack just gets you back to the normal "sober" point. (Alcohol tolerance really is just the road to delirium tremens, sadly.)

            Addiction to something fun isn't an addiction at all. There is no external chemicals perturbing the brain balance. It's just the normal way the brain works. There is no, say, nicotine inhibiting MAO-B so you get artificially elevated doses of dopamine, and forcing the brain to adjust. It's just the normal "this is fun" signal in your brain.

            So at best it's just lack of willpower, but not an addiction.

            And people get pseudo-"addicted" like that all the time. The village gossip who goes around bad-mouthing the local WoW "addict", is, funnily enough, herself "addicted" to her own "hobby". She gets her brain signals out of that social interaction, to the point where she has to even poke into someone else's life to have a topic. The guy who obsessively watches football or soccer or baseball, to have something to talk about to his group of friends, essentially is again just doing something to feed a similar addiction. It's his way of getting his daily shot of "I'm happy and appreciated" brain mediator. The guy who's doing overtime all week and goes fishing every weekend, ok, he's probably more like keeping himself away from getting an "I'm unhappy" signal at home, but nevertheless that's the same pseudo-addiction. Etc.

            There's really nothing special about WoW. If your wife was out gossiping with the neighbours 18 hours a day, well, you'd probably just think some stereotype about women instead. But it would be the same thing, essentially.

            At any rate, addiction it ain't.

            Not a lot you can do about it, except wait for the victim to get their act together and come out of it.

            Except if it were real physiological addiction, that wouldn't happen.

      • Not Just MMOs (Score:4, Interesting)

        by saxoholic (992773) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:03PM (#24836757)
        While I'm sure we all first think of those people who can't tear themselves away from wow, MMOs aren't the only culprit. As a teen, my friend and I definitely spent more time than we should playing fpses and rtses. We would probably play 4 - 6 hours a day, to the point where my friend's school work suffered. I would definitely consider myself addicted. You're still in a second world, be it one of trebuchet's and woad raders, or .44s and rocket launchers. (but, for the love of god, please don't let that world be second life). There are definitely high school students who suffer, like my friend did, because of an addiction to video games. They're fulfilling, and parents might not know how to deal with it since it's a newer problem.
        • Re:Not Just MMOs (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cgenman (325138) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:33PM (#24837527) Homepage

          Single player games tend to have explicit end points, which help prevent addiction. Plus, the most eggregiously long single-player games generally are slated to last for 160 hours with massive grinding. I've seen Everquest players pull that in two weeks.

          Non-massively multiplayer games can be additive, but usually focus more on "sport" aspects. As such any sort of character development mechanics are explicitly removed to create level playing fields. Playing for another hour is its own reward, rather than the tempting "I need just one more level." This also self-limits in that due to the competitive nature the barrier for entry is high: Counter Strike has become notoriously impossible for new players to enter.

          MMORPG's really hit a sweet spot with RPG character development (I invested so much time in this character! I'll just play tonight until I get that piece of armor.) and human aspect which keeps gameplay fresh. Also, MMORPG's are the only game structure where the planned primary gameplay curve stretches out for thousands of hours. Oblivion and Nethack are probably the only major single-player game that comes close to this time scale, and both have similar levels of addition for many players.

          There is definitely discussion within the industry itself as to when compelling is too compelling. There are a lot of techniques utilized in game development to keep people interested, just like there are in movie and television show development. Soap Operas have their toolbox to keep people coming back day after day, but they can only consume one hour per day. MMORPG's have their suite of techniques to keep players interested and playing, but can absorb much more of a person's life.

          Of course, we saw similar additions in the early days of television and radio. This may just be growing pains as society evolves to absorb new technologies.

      • Re:What a load of... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Brigade (974884) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:15PM (#24836877)
        I refuse to play MMORPGs any longer. To be honest, I think that they encourage and reward "addiction." I refused to play MMORPGs .. until FFXI. As a Final Fantasy nut (I've played and finished every US-Released version of every FF game on the console it was released on) .. I wanted to skip it .. but thought .. "eh .. what the hell." MMORPGs require a high level of investment in order to produce rewards. Oh .. I have to grind for 5-6 hours a day to level, and then I get a sub-job, but in order to level my main job I have to grind levels for my sub-job, and I have to quest/craft for equipment to level the main job, or camp NMs, etc. etc. Plus, they're social: you're making friends, a virtual lifestyle, that is SO much more rewarding (discrete/measurable awards at that), and appealing than the Real World. I literally spent 6 months in game. That's actively playing the game, logged in, leveling, crafting, etc. Not sitting idle on 'bazaar' or anything of that nature. The only times that I was logged in and not holding a controller or typing on the keyboard was when I was in the kitchen whipping something up, or (maybe) outside having a cigarette (but still eyes on the TV). That was over a calendar period of 9 months. I spent 2/3rds of my life for the better part of a year plugged in to that game, sacrificing school, social life, and the only reason why I didn't explode was I barely ate enough to keep me alive. 'Addiction' can be a very abused term, however, in the case of MMORPGs, that's a lot of what drives them. You need to be 'addicted' in order to be successful. The worst part is, I managed to keep my character well-equipped, and leveled up, and I never managed to make it to level 75 RDM. Burned out @ 73. Even had most all of the other jobs leveled up (every job to 10, lot of jobs to 20/25, and NIN, WHM, BLM, DRK, SMN all up to 40). Finally stepped back and said "Can't do this anymore." Lot of my (then) non-gaming friends didn't understand, then started playing WoW. I still get hassled about not playing WoW with them (and now Age of Conan), but I know I have a problem and like any other addict (be it alcohol, or drugs), I know better than to tempt fate, because it will just suck me right back in. The difference is, "normal" games have an END, and a "save state." I can mess with Gears, or Dead Rising, or almost any other game for a few hours, maybe even upwards of 16-20. I can knock Halo out 24 hours after launch, and it's done. It's finished. Or play through a 6-hour session of Blue Dragon and walk away, come back later. MMORPGs are persisting, you're missing out when you're not plugged in, and on top of that, they do NOT end.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Brigade (974884)
          Here's the line-broken version of that rant, because I screwed up and can't find the 'edit' button.

          I refuse to play MMORPGs any longer. To be honest, I think that they encourage and reward "addiction." I refused to play MMORPGs .. until FFXI. As a Final Fantasy nut (I've played and finished every US-Released version of every FF game on the console it was released on) .. I wanted to skip it .. but thought .. "eh .. what the hell."

          MMORPGs require a high level of investment in order to produce rewards. Oh
          • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

            You're so lucky you got out in 6 months. Coping with someone at 5 years plus is really touch. They played FFXI too.. and had 3 level 75 characters before defecting to Wow (where they have 5 level 70 characters and another 2 on the way).

            In a way it's not entirely the games.. some people just seem to find it hard to prioritise properly.. if gambling could be done for $10 a month they'd be addicted to that too... probably alchohol too for the same reasons. Getting out is realizing that although 'X makes me

          • The difference is, "normal" games have an END, and a "save state." I can mess with Gears, or Dead Rising, or almost any other game for a few hours, maybe even upwards of 16-20. I can knock Halo out 24 hours after launch, and it's done. It's finished. Or play through a 6-hour session of Blue Dragon and walk away, come back later. MMORPGs are persisting, you're missing out when you're not plugged in, and on top of that, they do NOT end.

            The fact that MMORPGs have no end is by far the largest advantage to them. For example, a dedicated player can complete the storyline of most "normal" games in a weekend. After that the game gets shoved in a box or possibly resold and the gamer feels like he or she wasted $50. On the other hand, a MMORPG will always be new and changing. The $100 you spent on an MMORPG will last you ~2 years, compare that with 2-3 months casually playing a normal game.

            A lot of people like that an MMORPG has no ending,

        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          For fuck sake. If someone spent 6 months of their life building a boat, no-one would say they were addicted to boat building.

          You're just diluting the meaning of the word. Go take up heroin - then you're qualified to talk about addiction.

          • I know heroin addicts who later became addicted to Everquest, after cleaning up from heroin.

            • Its common nature to switch out one activity for another. Be it more or less healthy. For example people who used to drink or smoke might replace drinking alcohol with drinking a soda and people who smoke might replace that with eating. There are people who stopped watching TV 5 hours a day to take up flying RC airplanes, some who replaced the time reading magazines with reading the bible. It only makes sense to replace one activity for another.
          • Actually Psychological Dependence (i.e. compulsive WOW playing) is generally considered to be a type of addiction:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_dependence#Psychological_dependency [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tempestdata (457317)

            at the end of 6 months, that person would have a boat.

            All a gamer has at the end of six months is a little character that a corporation says you have and that you must keep feeding $15 each month to keep alive for you.

      • by EXTomar (78739) on Monday September 01, 2008 @11:40PM (#24838041)

        Do "football super fans" get an endorphin rush when their favorite player on their team? I've seen people get livid if they miss their favorite games. Why aren't these same people concerned for them? Oh yeah...being obsessed about football is "healthy" but a computer game is not.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @11:53PM (#24838135)

      I've played MMORPGs. I played for 3 years. I almost lost my job to playing. I wouldn't go to sleep at night, I would try to get in a few hours at work. I used to dream about the game.

      I also set aside my IRL goals to accomplish in-game goals. I quit building my IRL business so I could build my in-game business because it was easier.

      Maybe it's not addiction, but the results are basically the same.

      You may call me names or whatever because of the extremes I went to. There is a great deal of substance abuse in my family and I believe that my game playing was just an offshoot of that genetic predisposition.

      To my credit (I think), I recognized the problem and I canceled my account. My life is back on track after a 3 year hiatus and my business is doing well enough, I may be able to leave my "day job" soon.

      If I was still playing, i don't think I could say that.

      One side of the issue is this (and it may piss some people off for me to say it), but in-game, it's easy to become "successful". it takes a trivial amount of real talent (intelligence, reflexes, strength, memory, etc) and a trivial amount of time in comparison to real-world pursuits, to accomplish any goal.

      To imiprove your standing in the real world takes YEARS of work, day in and day out. I can level (or whatever your game mechanics allow) in just hours. In just a few months of really dedicated playing, I could be near the top of the heap in terms of skills. What real-world activity can you master in a non-trivial way, with a low degree of inborn talent, in just a few months? that's the allure.

      It doesn't always stem from addiction. I notice the majority of MMO players are teens and college students who have a lot of free time. There's nothing wrong with wasting a little spare time (hello Slashdot), but there is a point at which it can impact your quality of life.

      But that's just my story... fwiw.

      For humors sake, let me add...

      OMGWTFBBQPWNAGE!!

      Oh.. sorry... flashback. :-)

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Monday September 01, 2008 @08:38PM (#24836575)
    addiction is an over used term these days, and it vastly over simplifies why some people spend their life in front of a video game.
    • Exactly. Addiction isn't defined as how MUCH you do a certain thing, but the consequences doing that action have on your life.

      You could be a perfectly normal person if you like to play WoW 60 hours a week, as long as you can keep a job, actually carry a conversation, and move forward in your real life.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So despite nicotine being an enormously addictive substance, those millions of people who smoke cigarettes constantly and can't quit even though they want to but still manage to carry on normal lives aren't actually addicted?

        • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:10PM (#24836825) Homepage Journal

          ask wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

          The term "addiction" is used in many contexts to describe an obsession, compulsion, or excessive physical dependence, such as: drug addiction, alcoholism, compulsive overeating, problem gambling, computer addiction, etc.

          In medical terminology, addiction is a state in which the body relies on a substance for normal functioning and develops physical dependence, as in drug addiction. When the drug or substance on which someone is dependent is suddenly removed, it will cause withdrawal, a characteristic set of signs and symptoms. Addiction is generally associated with increased drug tolerance. In physiological terms, addiction is not necessarily associated with substance abuse since this form of addiction can result from using medication as prescribed by a doctor.

          However, common usage of the term addiction has spread to include psychological dependence. In this context, the term is used in drug addiction and substance abuse problems, but also refers to behaviours that are not generally recognised by the medical community as problems of addiction, such as compulsive overeating.

          The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as problem gambling and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usuages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state or social life.

        • by e2d2 (115622)

          But smoking does effect them. It may hurt them. They don't carry on "normal lives" in the sense that they may get cancer or emphysema, etc.

          I don't think "addiction", in the vague sense that something dominates your life, becomes an issue until it harms you. But that's just my opinion. Arguing the meaning of the word itself is kind of pointless. We all know what people mean when they say "addiction", they mean that it somehow is hurting your life.

      • by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @12:29AM (#24838395)

        Well, if you'd asked me while i was playing MMOs for 50 hours per week, I would have said I was fine... and I did keep my job, even though my performance suffered somewhat... but I did what was needed.

        However, after i quit the MMO, I was able to start a business, start working out, get back into shape AND volunteer in the community.

        I regard my time in the MMO world as a low-level addiction, yes... along the same lines as a "functioning alcoholic"... where someone CAn maintain a job, but simply CANNOT get through a day without drinking... or at LEAST being completely preoccupied with NOT drinking when you can't do it.

        lol

        I used to try to sneak time on the MMO at work, even tho it could have got me fired. It was scary!

    • by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:12PM (#24836833) Homepage
      The summary is horrible, but that is expected on slashdot. Riiiiight? The first two paragraphs of TFA pretty much sums it up and pretty much parallels what you had said.

      In 2005, Lee Seung Seop of South Korea died after playing StarCraft for 50 hours. In 2007, Xu Yan of northeastern China died after playing various online games for 7 days. Just six months later, an unidentified 30-year-old in Guangzhou province died after playing in an Internet café for three straight days. Addiction to videogames: It's happening to them, and it could be happening to you, too!

      Well, OK, not really. Game addiction is a term that's thrown around pretty liberally these days. Horror stories of people spending their entire lives in front of World of WarCraft are even making it to the TV news. But for most of us, gaming's just a hobby -- even if it's a hobby that we tend to take rather seriously. The line between hobby and habit is a blurry one, though, and it's not easily understood. When it comes to doing something you enjoy, how much is too much?

    • by PPH (736903)

      addiction is an over used term these days

      We seem to be addicted to it's use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by knutkracker (1089397)
      'Addiction' is also a guilt-free term that transfers blame away from the individual and their personal/social circumstances and onto the game as the active agent which causes the problem. The real question, as with any addiction, is what is it about their life that makes the alternative state of mind so attractive.
  • by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Monday September 01, 2008 @08:43PM (#24836607)

    but I have a number of auctions to check on in Ironforge and a bunch of mining to do. That Jewelcrafting skill won't level on its own you know!

  • I can, have and currently am going without most of the games I like. Whether or not I get immersed in a game is entirely down to whether or not I want to be immersed in it; assuming, of course, the game is good enough to get immersed in in the first place. I can spend hours or even months playing Civ 4 or Medieval II: Total War if I let myself get immersed. I don't enjoy them if I'm distracted by something else. I've sunk just as much time into Morrowind and Oblivion, and when Fallout 3 finally gets her

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2008 @08:48PM (#24836651)

    Most of our parents are addicted to television; I don't see any hysteria or treatment programs for them. In fact politicians and advertisers actively exploit that addiction.

    Some argue that refined sugar is addictive, too, and most Westerners are in fact addicted.

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

      No they're not. They don't give up their lives to sit in front of the TV. They go to work, cook dinner, talk to each other.. normal things.. like non-addicted people do.

      Game addicts do none of these things. I'm sure TV addicts exist but don't trivialise the term by confusing it with normal behaviour.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:34PM (#24837045)
        So wait... somehow the person who gets home at 6:00 and watches TV almost endlessly until 12:00 for 6 hours a day 5 days a week and for about 7 hours on the weekends for a total of 44 hours a week watching TV isn't addicted but yet if you told someone that you played WoW for 40 hours a week somehow you have to be some slob who never exercises and has no social life and is addicted to it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)

          If they hold down a job and remember to eat and have the occasional friend over they're not really addicted are they?

          A game addict (or a TV addict) will generally be unemployed simply because leaving the house to work will be less important to them than playing/watching. Or eating. Or anything for that matter. Addiction takes over your life.

          Trying to describe people who watch excessive amounts of TV as addicts just because that's what they do in the evenings doesn't work. Same for Wow players or anyone

          • Trying to describe people who watch excessive amounts of TV as addicts just because that's what they do in the evenings doesn't work. Same for Wow players or anyone else. That doesn't mean that addiction doesn't exist - it's real and it's painful to watch people go through it.

            So unless you forget to eat and you don't have a job you aren't addicted? In this case MMORPGs are totally not addicting there have been what? 20 documented cases of someone forgetting to eat because of it? And as for a job you could argue that skipping a day of work to do *insert activity here* means that you are addicted to it.

          • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:21PM (#24837433) Homepage
            Smokers hold down a job, and remember to eat. Are they not addicted?
      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Ya know, back before the tv became a fixture in our lives, people used to talk to their kids at the dinner table.

        Crazy shit, I know.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    MMORPG's Are addictive. I seen the damage its done. For a majority of people certainly gamers who have learned to control there online time it isnt a problem , agreed. But for those who have stood by and watched Kids go unfed till way to late at night, Having the TV or DVD's parent the children while a partner spends the entire weekend online until its become to much and it wasnt the marriage you signed up for...

    Well "Widows Of Warcraft"... its a joke for some people and a reality for others.... or did you

    • MMORPG's Are addictive. I seen the damage its done. For a majority of people certainly gamers who have learned to control there online time it isnt a problem

      Books Are addictive. I seen the damage its done. For a majority of people certainly gamers who have learned to control there reading time it isnt a problem

      School is addictive. I seen the damage its done. For a majority of people certainly gamers who have learned to control there studying time it isnt a problem

      Notice the pattern? MMORPGs are not addictive. Sure, some people might be obsessed with it, but not addictive.

  • They just aren't, they might be an activity that people get passionate about, obsessive about but they are not addictive. Any obsessive behaviour is labelled as addictive and it is just plain wrong.

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

      How utterly clueless can you be? Of course they're addictive. Just because the majority control it doesn't mean they're not.

      • So wait, what do you define as addictive?

        Because if video games are addictive then I have a long list of other things that are addictive too

        Football
        Books
        Soccer
        TV
        School

        Etc. Sure, some people obsessively play video games, some people obsessively study schoolwork, some people obsessively read, some people obsessively play sports. Yet I wouldn't call school, reading, nor sports addictive. But I suppose because video games are the new thing to be paranoid about, they are addictive, much as how
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Except that's not accurate either. People do get addicted to sex and exercise and by your definition that's an obsession. Problem is that people who are hooked on those things have been known to go through withdrawal symptoms and to be unable to stop doing them.

      Or how about gambling, I mean clearly nobody loses huge sums of money gambling day after day after day because they can't leave the tables. I mean people don't ever skip personal care and gamble the rest of their lives away at a black jack table.

      In t

      • Problem is that people who are hooked on those things have been known to go through withdrawal symptoms and to be unable to stop doing them.

        That is still an obsession. If you take away a 3 year old's blanket that they carry with them everywhere you might see the same symptoms. But honestly, (hopefully) no one thinks that a 3 year old is addicted to the blanket. It is simply a habit, or perhaps an obsession. Not an addiction.

      • In this case, it's a rather moot point whether it's an obsession or an addiction. When a person can't leave the game to bathe, eat, work or possibly have sex that's a serious problem regardless of what label you put on it.

        That is escapism and is a symptom of other larger problems. Escapists are trying to be distracted by real world problems. If it wasn't videogames it would be television or stamp collecting or disco dancing. It still is not addiction.

        I am a smoker, I also was a long time wow player, wow was easy to give up I just had to be tired of it. I got sick of it, and stopped. Cigarettes on the other hand I was sick and tired of those long ago. Yet I still have to smoke. Being a proper addict gives you perspective on a

    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:09PM (#24837331) Homepage

      The standard for addiction is when people give up on healthy developmental goals, understood however makes sense for that person, and opts instead for the addictive behavior or substance.

      In other words, when you start to lose thing that matter to you, but carry on with the addictive behavior, that's addiction.

      I have seen marriages dissolve because people played MMOs instead of spending time with their family. I've known people who have failed out of college and graduate school, because they became obsessed with MMOs. I play MMOs myself, and I can see it at work. The "secondary world" aspect misses the main addictive element of MMOs - which moves it from obsession to addiction. That's the reward structure: you can play and predictably get rewards.

      One can be obsessed with Tolkien or Star Trek, in that the secondary world becomes more important than the real one. Since films, books and television don't offer an ongoing, unclosed reward structure that works to the extent that you put time into the activity, those obsessions don't become addictions.

      That's why I think it makes sense to call MMO's addictive. They are always there - they never "satisfy" but promise the next reward, and then the next, and then the next. There is a social reinforcement element to it (which is an aspect of other addictions as well - alcoholism can certainly have a social aspect to it.)

      The research observed that while people were playing, they identified the relationships with other players in-game as meaningful, but when they stopped playing, they ceased to describe it as such. To me, that is a lot like a heavy drinker's "bar friendships" - when they stop drinking, those friendships mean a lot less.

      The defensiveness by gamers when confronted with this sort of analysis is depressingly predictable, as well.

      • That's the reward structure: you can play and predictably get rewards. One can be obsessed with Tolkien or Star Trek, in that the secondary world becomes more important than the real one. Since films, books and television don't offer an ongoing, unclosed reward structure that works to the extent that you put time into the activity, those obsessions don't become addictions.

        You just described the US market for any copyrighted work. Of course you play and get rewards, if you played and got nothing people wouldn't play it Blizzard want your monthly dues, so clearly they want you to keep playing it. And guess what authors do the same thing if you are obsessed about *insert book here* that ends in a cliffhanger you will probably buy the next book that comes out in the series and you are rewarded with the ending of the book.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Psychochild (64124)

        Caveats: I am not a researcher or psychologist. I am an MMO developer.

        The major problem I have with the "addictive" label is that it makes a value judgment. There are few things that are "addictive" that are considered good things; the big exception is computer gaming, where the word is often used with a positive connotation. An "addicting" game is awesome! A better word would be "compelling", which has less judgment associated with it.

        The research observed that while people were playing, they identifie

  • by AmericanPegasus (1099265) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:14PM (#24836861)
    If you draw the line where the only way to get addicted is to chemically alter your brain (alcohol, tobacco, hard drugs, etc) then sure, there is no way to become addicted to video games. But if you believe that someone can become addicted to an activity that stimulated pleasure release in the brain (gambling, sex, shopping) then you have to make an entry for video games too.

    Me? I believe that it's possible to become 'addicted' to video games, but the actual cases are probably so small that it shouldn't receive any more attention than gambling.

    No, in all likelyhood labels like 'addicted to video games' are the previous generations ways of trying to understand our modern entertainment cycle. I'm sure their parents were worried they were 'addicted to comic books' or 'rock music'. I just cry a little cry for little Johnny who's mom will take away his Xbox 360 because she's afraid of him being 'addicted'. Parents need to stop guarding their children like pets and teach them to make smart decisions so that when Johnny is 20 and moves out (we're being optimistic here folks), he won't turn into an obsessed World of Warcraft fiend because he can finally access everything his parents never taught him how to deal with on his own.

    It's the same as dad's who are sexually overprotective of their daughters, just as it's the same as parents who teach their kids that tobacco and drugs are bad-evil-horrible without giving them reasoning to justify that position, etc.

    Teach kids to make smart decisions if you want them to be truly well off.
    • I just cry a little cry for little Johnny who's mom will take away his Xbox 360 because she's afraid of him being 'addicted'. Parents need to stop guarding their children like pets and teach them to make smart decisions so that when Johnny is 20 and moves out (we're being optimistic here folks), he won't turn into an obsessed World of Warcraft fiend because he can finally access everything his parents never taught him how to deal with on his own.

      Exactly. Whats the best way to keep kids off of sweets? Either A) forbid them to ever have them so they binge sweets while at school or at a friends house or B) Let them eat all the candy they can get over a weekend and watch how they get a stomach ache and don't eat that much candy again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ygorl (688307)
      Things like alcohol, tobacco, addictive drugs in general, gambling, sex, shopping, and video games - all these things *DO* chemically alter your brain! Not because they add external chemicals to your brain (though some of them obviously do) but because they stimulate the release of neurotransmitters. All the activities I mentioned (and, as far as I know, anything that can be addictive) can activate reward centers in the brain. This can lead to addiction - your brain grows used to the release of these neuro
    • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:06PM (#24837309) Homepage Journal

      Why not consult the DSM-IV for an actual definition of addiction, as arrived at by thousands of doctors interviewing millions of people and researching the topic? It's amazing to me that people who consider themselves experts in one area (technology) refuse to see that other disciplines have put in as much work figuring out their corner of the world.

      Consider the following points from aforementioned diagnostic manual. These relate more directly to substance abuse but it's the same reward centers in the brain that are being stimulated:
      1. TOLERANCE
      2. WITHDRAWAL
      3. LARGE AMOUNTS OVER A LONG PERIOD
      4. UNSUCCESSFUL EFFORTS TO CUT DOWN
      5. TIME SPENT IN OBTAINING THE SUBSTANCE REPLACES
            SOCIAL, OCCUPATIONAL OR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES
      6. CONTINUED USE DESPITE ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES

      Just because someone spends a lot of time gaming doesn't mean he is addicted. But especially note #6. That one alone is a key component of addiction.

      Personally, I'm fine with lots of people playing lots of video games. It just means that the gyms, trails and museums are that much less crowded.

  • Blur the line. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:20PM (#24836927) Homepage

    I find the Primary and Secondary worlds thing fascinating. Even more so, I find it fascinating that as humankind advances there will probably be a merger of the two. For instance, if you've read Alastair Reynolds' The Prefectyou probably know what I mean. In this story a huge community of habitats orbit a central planet. This community is called the Glitterband. Within it, each habitat is different. And I don't mean different in that one is painted grey and the other is blue. Every habitat has an abstraction core, which when combined with the right wetware and advanced technology in the citizens bodies allows them to live in virtually any sort of environment they please. Similar to being able to queue up anything on the Holodeck, even including changing your basic body type, or having no body and being a floating wisp of energy, or whatever you can imagine.

    The cool part here, to me, is that this was originally a Secondary world as taken from Tolkein's theory. But for these people their Secondary world has become integrated with a democracy and a community of other Secondary worlds, all of which participate in this democracy (if they choose to). So in effect, their Secondary and Primary worlds have merged, and if they want... for good.

    This is where I see games starting to take hold of this possibility of a merger. You can almost pay for your bills by playing WoW, if you choose to sell gold. What am I say, almost. People do. Lots of them. They literally live off of WoW. I'd even wager that for some of them their Primary world is WoW and their Secondary world is having to feed themselves and sleep, because they probably don't do much else outside of WoW.

    No, things aren't nearly to the point where I'd say there can be a true merger. But when it happens, are you going to call these people addicts? What if they are richer, happier, and live longer than you? At what point does it stop being an addiction to WoW, and become YOUR addiction to the 'old ways'?

    Just food for thought..

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by The_reformant (777653)
      Are you suggesting that the first transhumans will being doing if for "teh epic lootz" and "ganking nubz"?
  • This reminds me of the anime "Welcome to the NHK", where the protagonist is a "hikikomori", a socially-incapable person who never leaves his appartment. In one of the episodes, he joins a MMORPG which leads him to the idea of getting rich through gold farming. The result was frightening, to say the least. [youtube.com]

    (BTW, I really recommend this series, it might give us an insight of what's happening with MMORPG addiction, at least in japan)

    • Haven't you already realized that media (and even geek/Japanese media such as anime) tend to over dramatize things?
  • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Monday September 01, 2008 @09:37PM (#24837075)
    Considering computer games are essentially a simulated world what component of the game is the addiction? And wouldn't that component be the addiction not the game itself?

    Some games allow gambling within the game for example. If someone gambles in the game obsessively isn't that a gambling addiction rather than an addiction to the game?
    What about item hording that many MMORPG players suffer from? Isn't that obsessive compulsive disorder rather than game addiction?
    And the people who compulsively dress up as Furries and Cyber in Second Life. Isn't that just sex addiction?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378)

      People cybering and such in Second Life is only sex addiction if it is an activity people continue to engage in even when it threatens things they value. In other words, if it screws up your marriage and you continue to engage in it, yes, it's (part of a) sex addiction.

      I think there's a lot of resistance to the idea that anything that's not a chemical being "addictive." But that's kind of an artificial mind/body distinction at play. What makes chemicals addictive, after all, is the patterns of responses in

  • "civilization iv"

    it's the only game i ever played where i would blink once, and it wuld be 6 am, blink again, and it would 6 pm. i had to bend and break the disc in order to have a life

    "just one more turn" always turns into 500 more turns

    that's some serious video crack right there that game

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by caitsith01 (606117)

      I went through a phase in my late teens where I would get up on a sunny Saturday morning at about 11am, turn on my computer, and fire up Civ II. At 3am on Sunday I would realise that I was still wearing my dressing gown, hadn't showered, hadn't eaten or drunk anything, and in most cases hadn't moved except to go to the toilet.

      On the other hand, I have conquered Europe more times than most people...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      How do you play Civ 4 for twelve hours straight? Even a Marathon game on the largest map should be over in less than that. Are you firing up a new empire the moment you finish the last one? Chain-civving? That sounds like you have a problem :-)
  • by James Lewis (641198) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:08PM (#24837323)
    One problem with comparing game addiction to substance abuse is that substance abuse only gets more addictive with time. Games are the opposite. The more you play games the more you see the same game over and over and its immersion becomes weaker and weaker. Pretty soon it's boring. Not to mention games won't kill you.
  • The so-called 'primary' world is already secondary. People live and aspire in a mental world where success tends to be productive of survival in the primary world. For example, the objects you see are all secondary cartoon representations of primary things. There are frequencies of light in the primary world, which are represented by different colors in the secondary world, but there is no color in the primary world. Similar things can be said about many or most of people's beliefs about the 'real' worl

  • In the Military we are taught how to recognize various forms of addiction among the younger troops. It doesn't really matter what the addiction is, and we can't punish the addiction. What we can do is punish the behavior that stems from someone who is addicted. I have had to do administrative action on several individuals now who continually showed up late for work or fell asleep on duty. All because they stayed up late every night playing WoW. Couldn't state that in the report though. Whether you call

  • Addiction.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:30PM (#24837505) Journal
    There's something I do that takes up a huge part of my waking life. It involves sitting in front of a computer for long stretches, doing things that, while they differ from day to day in the details, are pretty repetitive in the long run. I don't particularly like to be doing this. Yet when I couldn't do this for a time, I got anxious. Further withdrawal symptoms would have included depression, malnutrition, the loss of my house, my bank accounts, other assets, and eventually, perhaps death. Yet no one thinks I'm addicted to this activity... because it's "WORK".
  • by oracle128 (899787) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:33PM (#24837533)
    "A lot of people say games are addictive. Well, they're addictive in the sense that anything you like doing you repeat endlessly. But no one would say, 'Mr Kasparov, you have a chess problem,' or 'Tiger Woods, you have a golf addiction.'"
  • Why we play? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by houbou (1097327) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:33PM (#24837535) Journal

    To escape.. that's the reason.

    Life is tough, games are fun. But, like anything else, gaming can be addictive, and if we don't learn to balance our play time with other activities. Well, it's not called addictive for nothing.

    In the end, I suspect most people who are addicted to games, are also running away from something about themselves, who knows, low self-esteem, frustrations, etc..., so, really, just like drugs and alcoholism, in the end, addictive gaming isn't going to make things better, it just postpone the day you need to truly deal with the issues which you don't want to face.

    But there are actually a few out there, who are hardcore gamers, and have no issues, they are just having plain ol' fun. I've seen actual couples who are both into gaming, and they love it.

    So, unlike booze and drugs, gaming isn't always addictive in a bad way.

    It is a question of defining one's quality of life and happiness.

    Can they be happy, have a normal life and a gaming life at the same time? Do they still go to work, pay the bills, etc...

    If yes to both questions, then, clearly, it's not addictive to these folks, they are just doing what they like to do and are obviously able to function well in what is most important for them, without shying from their responsibilities and duties.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday September 01, 2008 @10:58PM (#24837745) Homepage Journal
    and even neglected my classes in university because of it, a lot of other things and whatnot.

    now when i look back, i can understand that it wasnt the games that got me addicted. i was passing time with them - as if i was perpetually in waiting.

    later observation of other people seemed to nail that idea, i saw many people taking to gaming to great extent when they were in a waiting period in their life - waiting for military service, marriage, between jobs, wake of big decisions about their life etc.

    especially in school era, this 'waiting' concept climaxes, because the individual is actually passive, taking in information but not producing anything on his/her OWN initiative and planning. subconscious knows any homework, project, intermediary goal that is set are just temporary, therefore is still aware of the passivity of the individuals willpower.

    once the individual is out of school and at the control of his/her own life for real, and when s/he sets a real objective, one soon discovers that all gaming habits change. first it lessens to the extent that it becomes a stress outlet, a relaxation, then some way to rest the mind, then, at some point, the struggle for reaching the objective that is set becomes a game in itself, and the person resorts to gaming less and less.

    im at that point in my life. games bore me out of my mind now. and by games, i mean everything. i played everything from defender of crown in 1986 to crysis, from fate of atlantis, star control 2 to europa universalis 3.

    then again i dropped out of college and set out to establish myself as an entrepreneur on the new world that is internet. that IS a game in itself.

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