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Gaming Addiction: Reality or Myth?

by Mercurie

Most of us have heard the slang term “EverCrack” at one time or
another. The term refers to what many feel are the addictive qualities
of EverQuest. Of course, the supposition that any MMORPG is addictive
is a highly controversial subject among gamers. Many gamers will get
defensive at even the slightest intimation that MMOs are addictive. To
a degree this is perfectly understandable. The mainstream media has
often emphasized the negative aspects of MMOs, including the idea that
people can become addicted to them. Those of us who started out playing
pen and paper games long ago can still remember the 80s, when the
mainstream media demonized Dungeons & Dragons.

But are MMOs really addictive? Perhaps part of the reason that many
gamers do not see them as such is the simple fact that they view
addiction as a dependency upon a physical substance, such as alcohol or
drugs. Here I should point out that they are confusing physical
dependence (in which usage of a substance can result in withdrawal
symptoms if one stops using the substance) with addiction (compulsive,
uncontrolled behavior regardless of the consequences). Today the
medical community recognizes a wide variety of addictions--from
gambling to shopping to sex addiction--which have nothing to do with
substance abuse. In fact, there are some who recognize cyber addiction
as a disorder; cyber addiction being a broad term referring to things
such as habitual use of the Internet to, well, playing games.

Gaming addict src=""
style="width: 104px; height: 99px;" align="left" hspace="4" vspace="2">Regardless,
many gamers have sometimes joked about being addicted to
gaming. That said, it may well be questionable as to whether they
really are addicted. What is the difference between someone who simply
enjoys playing MMOs a lot and someone who is addicted to them? First,
someone who is truly addicted to gaming would be totally preoccupied
with it. When not gaming, he or she might insist on reliving past
glories in MMOs, planning extensively for their next gaming session,
and so on. Second, the individual would be restless or irritable when
they have not gamed for some time. In effect, they would have the
psychological equivalent of withdrawal symptoms. Third, the individual
might well risk his or her relationships, job, or other important
aspects of his or her life just to engage in gaming. Quite simply,
spending several hours a week gaming is probably nothing serious.
Spending several hours a week gaming to the detriment of one’s family,
friends, employer, and so on could point to a possible addiction.
Fourth, the individual would even lie to those important in his or her
life to conceal the extent of his or her gaming activities. Fifth, the
individual would not be able to control their behavior with regards to
gaming. In simpler terms, the addicted gamer simply cannot stop gaming.

While many of us have joked about being addicted to gaming, I doubt
most of us would fit the criteria for addiction. We can go without
gaming for weeks without becoming grumpy or irritable. We don’t let
MMOs dominate our lives. Of course, the question is whether there are
those who do let MMOs dominate their lives; who do become grumpy or
irritable when they don’t game for awhile; who do jeopardize the
relationships in their lives all for the sake of gaming. I don’t know
that I can answer that question. I can honestly say that I have never
known anyone who was addicted to gaming, nor have I ever seen any
statistics on the subject. I do have a trusted friend who says she
knows a couple who game to the point that they neglect both their house
and their children, but not knowing the couple myself I cannot say if
they are truly addicted to MMOs.

It seems conceivable to me that individuals could become addicted to
MMOs. Pathological href=""> alt="Another gaming addict"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 95px;" align="right"
hspace="4" vspace="2"> gambling has been recognized as a disorder
in the
psychiatric community ever since the publication of the DSM-III
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1980. It
seems to me that if an activity such as gambling (which shares much in
common with playing MMOs with regards to winning, losing, et al) can be
addictive, so can playing MMOs.

I am not sure that addiction would be very common, however. Consider
this: according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 86% of all
Americans have gambled at some point in their lives and 60% have
gambled in any given year, yet only about 2 to 3% of all Americans are
problem gamblers and only 1% of all Americans have such problems with
gambling that they are pathological. If MMO addiction is comparable to
gambling addiction, I suspect that only about 2 -3% of all gamers have
a problem with gaming and only 1% are truly addicted to playing MMOs.

In the end, I have to say that I do believe individuals can become
addicted to MMOs, but I do not think that the number of individuals
addicted to them are anywhere near the number that the media has
sometimes led us to believe. As gamers, I think this gives us two
things to keep in mind. First, regardless of what the media says,
addiction is not common among gamers. Second, we have to always be
alert to the possibility that someone we know, even ourselves, could be
addicted to gaming. While I believe MMO addiction is probably very
rare, I also think it would be as serious a condition as any other

you a MMO addict? Know a MMO addict?

Or maybe you don't believe such an addiction exists.

Share your thoughts with Mercurie and the rest of us on our forums.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.