do anything long enough to escape the habit of living

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the escape becomes the habit.” - David Ryan

“Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both
called users?” - Clifford Stoll

dependency, compulsion; these words often evoke
mental images of junkies huddled around a hobo warming fire or old men
bulbous red noses pounding down drink after drink at noon on a Tuesday,
could they also be used to quantify gamers? I do not seek to raise an
alarmist cry
that video games are evil and that all who play them are doomed to
obesity and an odorous lack of personal hygiene, but rather to
elucidate on the
fact that like all pleasurable things in life, video games and more
specifically, massively multi-player online role playing games, can be
extremely habit forming.

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style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;" /> style="font-style: italic;">A.K.A - NeverRest

There is a long running debate amongst
academics and
doctors who specialize in addictions as to their ultimate root cause,
but I
have no desire to further widen the gap between the genetics and
crowds. Whatever they may ultimately deem to be the trigger is
irrelevant; the
fact is that addiction and addictive personality types exist and many
are drawn
like moths to the flame of the MMOG genre. style=""> 

recap of video game history should be needed here. Most
of us are fairly well versed in this or we wouldn’t be
reading an article on a
gaming site, but it stands to reason that since Pong was first
introduced there
have been those with an unhealthy appetite for the escapism of digital
The scope of gaming addiction really began to come to light with the
surge in
popularity of EverQuest.

News stories
are plentiful about the inherent danger of too much online game play,
from the
benign blurb at the end of an evening newscast about the kid who played
for 18
hours straight, to the alarming full feature report on a national
news “magazine” about the seemingly well adjusted
son who took his own life
while the loading screen for EQ glared in the background. style="">  Ever
since we became fascinated with
immersive social gaming the evidence of all levels of addiction have
exponentially, from support groups for the gamers themselves to
of self describe “ href="http://gamerwidow.com/">widows.” style="">  One
of the first widely publicized stories to
garner national attention was the href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/17/48hours/main525965.shtml">suicide
of Shawn Woolley. Shawn was an
avid EQ player and according to his mother
the addiction drove him to suicide:

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style="margin: 10pt 0in 14pt;"> style="font-style: italic;">“That damn
game. He shot himself because of the game,”
says his mother. She says he was completely addicted to it. He may have
other problems, but she thinks Everquest pushed him over the edge.
Spencer reports.
style="font-style: italic;" />

couldn’t stay off it. That’s how
strong that game is. You can’t just get up
and walk away,” she says. In the end, she says, the game
became his life.

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guesses that something terrible happened in the game, to a
character he
called “iluvyou” - a rejection or betrayal,
something that crushed him.

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was so upset. And then I was trying to talk to him about
it, and I said,
‘Well, Shawn, you know, those aren’t people-
they’re not real people.’ He was
so upset. I mean, he wasn’t angry, he was hurt.”


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style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;">Did gaming push him over
the edge? 

news article fails to mention his history of mental
health problems and other underlying causes, but it does ramp up the
sensationalism around video games. Mrs. Woolley started an href="http://www.olganon.org/">organization
to help those who admitted
their addictions in memory of her son.
While SOE and the EverQuest style="">  team
never did
accept any culpability in this case (as well they shouldn’t
have) they did,
shortly after it came to light, add an in game timer to help remind
players of
their play time as an attempt to help. Certainly this is the most
version of what addictions can ultimately lead to, and most who study
this case
objectively will find that the game itself was a small factor in a much
picture of mental problems, but it still can serve as a wakeup call to
needing help and the formation of OLGA does make the best of a bad
situation if
it can help even one person with a serious problem.

are all MMORPG players addicts? Can you play the game 10
hours a day and not be an addict? The answers to those questions really
with the individuals. 
Many an avid
practitioner of any form of recreation or serious hobbyist can devote
hours to their craft and not be labeled an addict, but it seems almost
these days to label anyone who plays an MMOG as an addict. Felicia Day,
star of
and creator of the hugely popular web series “ href="http://www.watchtheguild.com/"> style="">The
Guild, style="">” attributed
her online
gaming addiction to her “obsessive personality
type” in an href="http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/691239/Web_Exclusive_Felicia_Day_The_Guild_Interview.html">interview
with G4TV. She stated that it
took an intervention of her friends to get
her to break free of an unhealthy obsession with the game and, during
impromptu discussion at Blizzcon, stated that writing her web series
was a
cathartic way to both keep the addiction at bay and yet still have a
to something that, when done in moderation, she really loves.

about the genre itself makes these games so prone to
attracting addictive personalities? Many of us have friends and
associates that
love to play FPS games, RTS games or console style single player RPGs,
but to
many of them there is no allure or desire to play MMOGs. Many of them
see the
repetitious play style as boring and would never want to keep paying a
fee for a game they have already bought. style=""> 

it is the built in
system of never really beating these games
that keep us coming back, or maybe it is the social element that grabs
attention of many players. I feel that main reason that persistent
world games
are so appealing to us is that they offer us a system of achievement
Much like when we were introduced to Kindergarten and found out that we
get a sticker for every set of pictures we colored or paychecks we
receive for
doing our day to day jobs as adults, all our lives we have been
conditioned for
this in a reward based society. MMORPGS hyper accentuate that system as
well as
allow escape the mundane world we live and accomplish feats that few of
us will
ever experience in real life.

never ending persistent world is also a huge draw to our current
celebrity culture. Players rush home to log in and see what new drama
has unfolded among their friends, guilds and general server population.
Part of the allure is tied to those "virtually" tangible elements in the
games in the way of loot, gear and currencies, but much of it can also
be tied to ego and the desire that every human has at some level to be
needed. Many of the more obsessive personality types are drawn to those
pivotal classes that all games tend to revolve around, whether it be
the mighty tank to lead the group into battle or the pious healer that
saves the day by mending the wounds of their comrades. The hero factor
built into the games allows the average to become extraordinary and
allows those that feel insignificant in any way a means to be mighty.

How do
you know when your gaming habit has passed the hobby
point and gone into full blown addiction? Is there a litmus test that
really answer that out there? The short answer is no, there is no one
test or
set of criteria to tell you. There is no one answer for all gamers, it
is as
much an individual case by case basis as any other addiction. Of course
are warning signs that can alert us but even those will vary. The
answers and barometers given on most of the sites and new stories about
addiction can alarm even the most casual among us, but even if there is
physical or mental addiction to the game any time it begins to
impact your real world responsibilities it is time to re-evaluate your

As the
husband to a wife who absolutely despises gaming and
games I do not seek to come across as pious or speak down to anyone who
has an
addiction issue , I certainly struggle myself with play time and lose
track of
the hours.  I
have found a way that works
for me and my family to balance to the time played, but I admit it has
more a concession on my significant others position than on mine. style="">  I
think the answer to our dilemma, when we
find there is indeed a problem, lies in the middle ground. Most of us
never be able to give up completely on our passion for gaming and the
joy it
brings us, but we need to remain grounded in the real world and not
allow it to
overtake our lives. If I have helped one of you to gain some
perspective with
this article then I will consider it an unmitigated success. Online
offers hours of fun and wonderful social interactions that are hard to
duplicate anywhere else in the video game world, but like any other
good thing
in life there exists a fine line between healthy recreation and

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016