WoW Addiction is Real
First, let me address the stubborn disbelievers who doubt that video game addiction even exists and would argue that many gamers simply game because they have nothing better to do or aren’t motivated to do anything else. The subject is beginning to be investigated scientifically, and researchers have found that gamers who spend more time playing video games than average gamers appear to have patterns of social dysfunction and extensive time usage similar to that of other addictive disorders like gambling. (1-4)
This is probably obvious to all of you and a massive waste of tax dollars, however what may not be so obvious is the nature of the spectrum of WOW addiction out there. What separates the casual WOW player and the WOW player who plays 80+ hours a week? What percentage of WOW players are actually “addicted” in the sense that people become addicted to smoking or drinking? This initial video game research is important in sorting all this out and laying the foundation for further research and future treatment of video game addiction.
Below, I explore the way that heavy WOW users may even exhibit WOW abuse and dependence in much the same way a heavy drinker may exhibit alcohol abuse and dependence. This is an area of video game addiction that still holds lots of unanswered questions. Lets explore the road to WOW addiction…
When does a casual WOW player become addicted?
A causal player tips towards addiction when the feeling of control that the player attains in their game environment and relationships starts to surpass the amount of control that they have in real life. At this point, WOW players begin to lose control of their WOW habit much the same way an alcohol drinker loses control of his drinking habit. He or she begins to lose control of how much time they spend playing and even the times the choose to play. I’ve read about and have known WOW players who have snuck out of bed to play WOW under the cover of night when their significant other has passed out. My first year of medical school, one of my friends started playing right in the middle of lecture… in freakin’ medical school!!
What is WOW abuse?
Casual WOW addicts can even become WOW abusers in the same sense that heavy drinkers can become alcohol abusers and exhibit social dysfunction, financial issues, poor performance at work or at school. This is not to say that all WOW addicts are abusers. A WOW addict becomes a WOW abuser when the before mentioned social, work, and financial dysfunction occurs. A good screening tool doctors use to screen for alcohol abuse is the CAGE questionnaire:
1. Have you ever tried to cut down on your drinking?
2. Do you ever feel annoyed when people ask about your drinking habit?
3. Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking habit?
4. Have you ever had a drink as an “eye-opener” (first thing in the morning)?
An positive answer to 2 or more of the questions is indicative of alcohol abuse. I think this questionnaire can also be applied to screen for WOW abuse with some degree of success. At the very least, it can serve as a way to probe how serious a WOW addict’s habit it.
Can a WOW player ever become dependent on WOW?
Alcohol abusers become dependent on alcohol, when they begin to exhibit dependence like behaviors and/or withdrawal and craving symptoms. Researchers have investigated whether WOW can cause similar dependence changes to your body and have found dependence-like behaviors to occur most strongly in minors. Moreover, dependence-like behaviors were found to more likely occur in children who start playing video games at younger ages. (5) This is alarming given that on average, kids are being exposed to video games at younger and younger ages.
SO… what about wowaholics and warcrack.
Many may read all this and say, “So what, this is nothing new… people have been taking warcrack for years now!”
True, but the problem is the extent and breadth to which people become addicted is not being taken seriously enough, especially by the medical community. There’s no doubt in my mind and there shouldn’t be any left in yours that Warcraft may carry the more potential for harm to some people than smoking does. I’m not saying we need to start putting addiction black box warnings on every MMORPG out there, but what we should start having is more discussion on the issue. More people need to realize is that like all other vices in life, moderation is key.
1. Dejoie JF. Internet addiction: a different kind of addiction? Rev Med Liege. 2001;56:523-530.
2. Leung L. Net-generation attributes and seductive properties of the Internet as predictors of online activities and Internet addiction. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2004;7:333-348.
3. Chak K, Leung L. Shyness and locus of control as predictors of Internet addiction and Internet use. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2004;7:559-570.
4. Tejeiro Salguero RA, Moran RM. Measuring problem video game playing in adolescents Addiction. 2002; 97:1601-1606.
5. Griffiths MD, Hunt N. Dependence on computer games by adolescents. Psychol Rep. 1998; 82:475-480.