Is there such a thing as a gaming addiction?

Addiction… What is addiction? As described by Marion-Webbster dictionary addiction is:




1: the quality or state of being addicted
2: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

Now, a hotly debated topic on the internet for parent groups, online game advocates and online game critics is “Can someone become addicted to video games?” Even more so, are MMOs/Online games directed at those with compulsive or addictive personalities? There are even detox programs for gaming addicts. Now I will save my opinion until the end of this post and simply try to show the facts of the subject.

How can a MMO/Online game player play to point of starvation or dehydration or even massive heart failure? There have been several documented cases of these situations, many of which have occurred in South Korea were online gaming is like a sport. Internet Cafes, where the majority of South Koreans access the internet, are a 24-7 haven for online gamers in the country. There are even dedicated television stations that will show strategies for the most popular game, Starcraft a Real Time Strategy game released in 1998 and its expansion Brood War in 1999 which is still wildly popular.

So back to the topic of MMOs. Can someone become addicted to video game in the same sort of a way someone becomes addicted to a drug or another activity such as gambling? From the reading I have done throughout the net, there are many documented cases that compare video game addiction to a gambling addiction. A constant thought of the activity, impulsive stints of long hours of play, belief the person cannot live without the activity are all symptoms of this “condition” or “addiction”. It has also been seen that people can become violent, angry, or depressed with long periods away from the activity, in this case gaming.

WebMD describes several symptoms to watch out for in addiction:
• Playing for increasing amounts of time
• Thinking about gaming during other activities
• Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression
• Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming
• Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming

Ok, now it is time for my opinion.

The Question: Can you become addicted to MMO’s?
My Answer: Yes, Absolutely.

In my view, you can definitely become addicted to gaming. Why do I say this? Because I can guarantee I was a MMO gaming addict, especially during my time with World of Warcraft.
To document my case, I will present these facts.

• I played for long periods of time. (3-6 hours a night)
• I constantly thought of the game, its strategy, and gear I might get in the next raid.
• I even spent work time developing strategies for raids and DKP for the guild I ran.
• If I had to spend time going out with my wife for other activities, WoW was constantly on my mind.
• I would bypass other activities just to be able to raid.
• I even lied to my wife about the amount of time I was playing.

As a little background, I have a very impulsive and addictive personality. I get "hooked" on something and only go at it with 200% of my ability. I put lots of time into the activity and tend to be tenacious with the activity.

So my view, base on these facts I was completely hooked on WoW as were all of my real life and gaming friends. We raided hardcore for close to 2 years. Every spare minute of my life was spent playing this game. My life revolved around playing World of Warcraft. My wife didn’t like to be around me, I gained weight, my friends didn't matter unless they were involved in the game, and was not “happy” unless I was raiding, getting ready for raiding, or planning a raid.

So where do I place myself now? I place myself as a casual MMOer after much work of weaning myself off of this type of play style. Do I still log long hours in a game? Yes, I do, but I do it much less often (maybe once a week). I still consider myself a videogame junkie and have been working on spending more time on other activities. I try to go to the gym more. I spend more time with my wife. My main point here is…don’t let this happen to you. Enjoy the game, raid if you like, and spend the amount of time you believe to be acceptable, but don’t let raiding, gaming, or any other activity for that matter rule your life.

Also, fellow gamers don’t take this as a hit at the gamer life style. MMOs take an amount of dedication, time, and resources for progress within the game. And with the current style of MMO such as EQ2, WoW and other hardcore gaming in order to raid, it doesn’t look like it will be changing much in the coming year. With many new releases such as, Age of Conan, Warhammer, and the much rumored Starcraft Worlds to be released in the next few years, they may or may not be as hardcore as the current gaming generation.

Make sure you follow a lifestyle of moderation. Do not put yourself in a situation where could have to battle off addiction.

That will be enough of my rant for now. I hope this post has given you a little insight into the view of self-proclaimed recovering gaming addict. I believe my life has improved due to my change.

In other news, I will be starting a LotRO journal inspired by Tolbold’s post. This journal will give insights to the game from a casual MMOer perspective. I also hope to put in 2-3 posts a week on gaming and other topics.



Anonymous said... May 12, 2007 at 6:11 PM  

I can identify with gaming addiction, considering we were both addicted at concurrent times and had similar if not identical goals. I don't regret putting down WoW, and I don't plan on picking it back up in the near future.

I often felt like my schedule was revolving around the game, and would miss out on potentially fun activities to play because I had grown to love the color purple.

Sean said... May 16, 2007 at 12:30 PM  

I know what you are talking about as well with the need to play. It was WoW for me as well, no other game in my life had such a stranglehold on my every thought as that game did.

It was the hardest thing I did when I let my subscription expire and never look back, but I am much happier now and can say I don't feel the same way I do about lotro as I did about WoW.

There isn't the pressure for another level, I enjoy myself completely and just have fun.

Anonymous said... April 9, 2008 at 12:40 PM  

I've been addicted to nearly every Blizzard game they've made since Diablo. In high school I'd stay up until 4am playing Diablo. I almost flunked my freshman year in college playing Starcraft. I almost flunked my Sophomore year in college playing Diablo II. Now it's WoW.

The underlying appeal of an online game is that you can take achieve difficult tasks - and gain social acceptance and praise - with 0 risk. What's going to happen to you if your raid wipes? Nothing in real life. But the internal human reward system is chemically fed by virtual success in the same way it's fed by real-life success.. only without the risk. and that's the hook. Look at online social networks. Same thing. Friendship without risks. If you screw up, create a new character, hide behind your avatar. You can project your fantasies on that character whose attributes are completely at your disposal.

One of the most uniquely fundamental human needs is to feel important. Online all it takes is time, and a negligible amount of ingenuity, and you'll finally become the big badass you never were in high school. But it does feed that human need and feeds it well, so it can't be all bad.. Or is it?

Instead of developing our own true selves, we neglect our problems at the expense of our most precious asset. Time. This creates a personal stasis, a lack of personal growth, and the slow destruction of our relationship with the non-virtual world.

It does appeal to the absurdist in me though. Life IMO has no intrinsic purpose, and our only true goal as humans is to have a heart that is at peace. Fun, laughter, achievement, singularity, these are all things that are possible online. And why are those any different than "real-world" achievements? How can we distinguish the online world from the real world? They both exist and thus they are both real. Think "The Matrix" here.

It all comes down to this: will you truly be content with your life if by the end of it, your crowning achievement is a few lvl 70s in tier 6 and no. 1 on your server? Will that bring you the peace you desire?

Honestly, I don't know the answer to that. Only you do.

Creepy said... August 23, 2008 at 5:45 AM  

Being addicted to a game only happens ones in a lifetime. Once you know the feeling of being addicted to a game (mostly online games) you know how to stop ! That's my experience with being addicted :D

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