When Good Games Go Bad

24 September 2008

There is a growing number of stories in the press about gamers who play for extended periods of time and whose lives and mental stats suffer as a consequence. But is online gaming as addictive and dangerous as some claim?

kitteh is addicted

kitteh is addicted

I know I for one have stayed up late playing computer games in the past. I have even noticed the detrimental effect it has upon other elements of my life but continued playing regardless. Increasingly horror stories about online gaming’s side effects has prompted a growing awareness of the problem, with some gaming companies even facing court cases brought by bereaved parents.

Online gaming addiction is most prevalent in Asia, with many of the more extreme news stories about them coming from South Korea. Thirty percent of South Korea’s population is registered with online games, and they also have the highest broadband connectivity rate, at seventy percent. Any people who don’t have broadband can visit one of the country’s popular internet cafes, which can charge as little as $1 an hour. In this kind of environment, it would be easy for anyone with an addictive personality to get addicted, so can you really call it an addiction?

Researchers say that gamers share important reactions with drug addicts. One of these is “drug memory”. A crack-head will be tempted to abuse the drug when they are presented with “trigger” circumstances – If they have entered a building in which they have frequently used the drug, for example. Gamers have the same reaction to game-related stimuli.

just one more game plz!

just one more game plz!

One of the earliest stories concerning online gaming addiction was ofa 21-year-old man who was discovered to have been playing the game within minutes of killing himself. His mother, who claimed he had been playing the game for 12 hours per day, took game manufacturer Sony to court.

Players of one popular online game, ‘EverQuest’ have dubbed it ‘EverCrack’ because of its addictive qualities and online help forums have been set up for the partners of obsessive gamers, such as the “Widows of Warcraft” forum.

In August 2005, a 28 year old man died, not after committing suicide, but after playing Starcraft at an internet café for 50 hours straight. He had not slept properly and had eaten very little, and is thought to have died of exhaustion.

So what kind of person is likely to become an online gaming addict? According to researchers, those most likely to become addicted are those who tend to be isolated, lonely, and prone to boredom or have little interest in sex. Other factors include low self esteem and poor body image.

Isolated, lonely people, who are unsure of themselves, turn to online gaming as an opportunity to reinvent themselves.  It is seen almost as an alternative to going to a bar, enabling participants to compete against and win the respect of their peers.

Whilst online gaming obviously has severely detrimental effects for those who are hopelessly addicted, you can’t really blame the pub for the alcoholic. Increasingly online gaming addiction is being treated as an addiction, rather than a bizarre consequence of ill-conceived games. It is up to the individual to use alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and computer games responsibly and you can’t always blame the manufacturer for the abuse committed by a few obsessive addicts.

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3 Responses to “When Good Games Go Bad”

  1. Lipitor Says:

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