The IUSB Vision Weblog

The way to crush the middle class is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. – Vladimir Lenin

Online Gaming: The New Addiction

Posted by iusbvision on January 12, 2008

If anyone has been paying much attention to gaming in the past few years, they will notice a large epidemic currently taking place. Online gaming was not always as sophisticated as it is now. Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming, in particular, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) has taken online gaming to a whole new level. The premise behind these games is to immerse the gamer into a new world of fantasy, and allow them to build up a character persona, a reputation and pursue their own goals, dreams and fantasies. Critics of these online games wonder whether they lead to an unnatural addicted escape to a world “better” than reality.

As an avid gamer myself, I’ve played MMOs since the original Everquest. Everquest was a fantasy based game that took place in a medieval world and was released in 1999. Often coined the term “Evercrack” or “Neverrest” by its users, many who played the game ditched real life social contacts to participate in their online gaming community for grouping to fight enemies. This appears harmless at first, but what was once a mild social game became dangerous for those few who ditched real life responsibilities to participate in their online gaming community.

There is an online support system called gamerwidow.com dedicated to those who have loved ones with an addictive problem to these games. A Gamer Widow, according to the site “is a term for those who have a relationship with a Gamer (one who plays video games, be it on a console or on the computer) who pays more attention to the game than to their partner…” One case within the site of an individual addicted to their games describes his situation, “Eventually I could not tear myself away from the screen even to greet family at the door.  My wife started referring to herself as a Video Game Widow. My finances were going down the toilet.” It is clear there are certain individuals who struggle with the capacity to prioritize real life responsibilities over digital ones.

There was always a draw for an individual such as myself to these games. The encapsulation of a social network and community within a realm of fantasy and entertainment is a wonderfully enticing concept. Within this social framework, one can make friends and enemies where the rules and subject matter of the game bring to the table a social structure normally not allowed in real life confrontations. Gamer anonymity even furthers the ability to create social networks and comfort zones. As an individual, one can make “friends” by representing their personality behind an avatar (or character profile) and maintain these relationships with little to no risk of rejection. All players already share their love of the game and their love of games in general, allowing a generalized topic to discuss and grow on.

The reality hits hard, however, when people realize these online relationships rarely if ever come to some kind of tangible fruition.  Almost all, if not all, of my online social relationships established through an online game rarely last longer than a couple months. I had a personal short term stint of online gaming addiction with Everquest, where a few of my good friends were lost until I quit and gave them a phone call with an apology. The realization of the damage these online games caused to my own relationships did not occur until the game was removed as an option from my gaming repertoire.

Now the epidemic branches out to the wide-spread popularity of World of Warcraft who recently reached over 8.5 million subscriptions. According to Wikipedia.org even China has seen the dangers of countless individuals spending a majority of their time contributing to a digital world. “In August of [2005], the government of the People’s Republic of China proposed new rules to curb what they perceived to be social and financial costs brought on by the popularity of games such as World of Warcraft. 

The measure would enforce a time limit on China’s estimated total of 20 million gamers.” Although government regulation is far from what I would suggest as a solution to online gaming addictions, it illustrates the severity of the digital “escape”. Furthermore, Wikipedia also states “Dr. Maressa Orzack, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, was interviewed August 8, 2006, stating that of the 6 million subscribers “I’d say that 40 percent of the players are addicted.””

There have also been cases as well of individuals dying from exhaustion after playing days straight on some of these games, locking their children in closets, skipping meals, skipping work and not paying bills. Moderation is the key to enjoying these games without putting harm to social relationships. If one finds themselves in the realm of gaming far more hours than making contact with real life social contacts, perhaps it is wise to shift away for a bit and put a little more work in maintaining those real life relationships. If you find yourself struggling with online gaming addiction, or want to learn more about what it is, you can visit OLGA (On-Line Gamers Anonymous) online at: http://www.olganonboard.org/.

Craig Chamberlin
 

One Response to “Online Gaming: The New Addiction”

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