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Are MMORPGs addictive? East Carolina University wants to find out

Are MMORPGs addictive East Carolina University wants to find out
Certainly there's a lot of anecdotal evidence that people are addicted to the Internet, and even more specifically, addicted to World of Warcraft. But what leads people to spend 10, 20, or even more hours per week playing WoW? Is the urge to play a very specific addiction, like that of a drug, or is it just an outlet for human beings who harbor an innate tendency towards addiction? The Department of Addiction and Rehabilitation Studies at East Carolina University (the crown jewel of the State of East Carolina's educational system) wants to find out.

Clinical instructor, WoW player, shadow priest, and WoW Insider reader Andrew Byrne is running a study on gaming addiction as part of his Doctoral dissertation. He needs to survey 200 respondents (some kind of Nate Silver nonsense), so if you want to do your good deed for the day, head on over to mmorpgresearchstudy.com and take the questionnaire.

Research participants needed for a study on healthy and unhealthy use of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games like WoW. Your identity will not be collected. If interested, please click on this link: http://www.mmorpgresearchstudy.com/

The survey is a set of 20 questions; completing it takes about five minutes.
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Filed under: News items

Player documents the two-headed monster of his own WoW addiction

Battling the addictive power of World of Warcraft
The slow, viscous slide into a life consumed by gaming has become a media tale standard, usually including a bleary-eyed shot of the player blinking in the thin light of the computer monitor. Penned by journalists unfamiliar with the enveloping nature of MMOs, these stories skitter across the surface of a passion turned fixation. Without an understanding of the many positive forces of games like World of Warcraft, writers are unable to do more than entwine readers within a Lovecraftian tangle of gaming's most mind-numbing temptations, pushing them back into the light at the end with a complete, triumphant rebuke of the game in question.

The tale of Sevrin's descent into and return from Azeroth takes a different turn. A third-year film production student from the United Kingdom, Sevrin hasn't blocked World of Warcraft from his every thought -- instead, he spent months poring over his experiences to create a documentary of his experience. IRL: In Real Life, a short film featured last week on WoW Moviewatch (watch it again after the break), takes a frank look at how incessant gaming nearly pulled a young man's life off track -- and then provided the fuel for the creative project that's helping him move on.

If anyone could understand this kind of rise and fall, this dance with the glamors that wetly suck players into the virtual vortex, only to spit them out coughing and gasping with a renewed appreciation for life, it's fellow WoW Insider reader Keelhaul, aka The Mogfather, the player who racked up an incredible 1 million gold only to turn around and give it all away. "Brilliant," he commented simply on last week's Moviewatch showing of Sevrin's video. "Change a bit of the storyline and that's me as well." We suspect it's many of us, to some degree. Let's look inside at Sevrin's take.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Jace Hall tackles media coverage of WoW addiction

Jace Hall is well-known for his comedy videos, but apparently he can also be a pretty serious dude when he wants to be. In a recent blog entry, the internet funnyman talks about a recent piece on "internet addiction" by CNN personality Campbell Brown.

Addiction is a tough topic, and WoW is an easy sell as a scapegoat. Like any activity you love, if you feel passionately about it, you should fight for its proper representation. Jace certainly is.

His stance on addiction:
"It is my opinion that human beings are capable of creating destructive relationships and associations with almost anything. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is a fundamental trait of the human condition. This trait can occasionally direct people toward the use of escapism. Sometimes this can be a necessary mode of survival and very healthy – other times is can lead to counterproductive personal and social behavior.

What that means is that, YES, someone can get so involved in watching movies, or reading books, or tweaking their myspace page, or surfing, or playing games, or swimming or drinking, or using drugs, or having sex, or ANYTHING THAT THEY FIND USEFUL TO ESCAPE WITH, that they actually begin to ignore other important aspects of their lives and it becomes a real problem."
Hall laments that news organizations and personalities seem eager to paint activities they're unfamiliar with or don't understand, like WoW, as unique and dangerous forces in addiction then countless other activities. Among those with addictive personalities or social difficulties, any activity can become addictive, and this particular report, he says, is pure fear-mongering "based ultimately on conjecture."

My personal opinion on these matters is that it's difficult to pin "WoW addiction" on any particular source, and that usually, like Jace says in his article, there are circumstances that extend far outside of the game that can cause these problems.

Filed under: News items

Study: Singapore teens play 27 hours a week


The topic of addiction comes up pretty often when you're talking about World of Warcraft -- as Dr. Hilarie Cash told us, this is exactly the kind of game that brings out addictive tendencies in people who already have them. They've dealt with it in Sweden and elsewhere in the world before, and the most recent place to step up and face the problem is Singapore. This article talks about a three-year study that reveals some interesting facts about how and why Singaporean primary and secondary school students play their MMOs. The average amount of playtime per week, according to the study, is 27 hours. That's over a day of playtime per week.

Still, while that seems high (and remember, it's just an average according to this study, which apparently isn't done until the end of the year), I like the government's take at the end of the article: regulating it, either by attacking the games or putting unenforceable rules on the Internet, just won't work. If these kids are playing too much (and generally the rule is that if your life is suffering, you're playing too much -- it's hard to believe that a kid going to school can play for 27 hours a week and still have time to do homework and sleep as they need to), then it's their and their parents' responsibility to get educated and fix it. Lots of people play MMOs, but it's up to those who do it unhealthily to get help for themselves.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items

Addiction therapists trying to help addicted in the game

Britain's Telegraph newspaper has news about addiction therapists joining the game themselves, specifically to find and seek out players who might meet the definition of addicted to World of Warcraft. They're actually looking for official Blizzard support, too. I'm not sure how much help you can actually provide by chatting with a player in the game ("Hello, it looks like you've been online for the last 16 hours, are you addicted?"), but they want to do it.

Dr. Richard Graham wants to launch a program by the end of the year that includes some in-game outreach, and even he agrees that it'll be tough sell. Then again, maybe the guy just wants to play some WoW for free:

"While a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they're probably not going to be very good at playing
World of Warcraft. We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end."

Right. "Work.".

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard

WoW Moviewatch: World of Warcraft Addiction

Today's Moviewatch is a little different in that it's not machinima. It's a live action, satirical documentary created by adam3039 titled World of Warcraft Addiction. While we're pretty focused on machinima around here, Adam obviously put a lot of hard work into his creation, and it's defintiely got some laugh out loud moments in it. Besides, we should never miss a chance to have a little chuckle at some of the zanier accusations of WoW Addiction out there.

This is a spoof documentary, including a lot of over-the-top scenarios. The actors obviously work hard to mock/mimic some of the Jerry Springer-esque moments we see in documentaries, but it'd be hard to miss that they're, yanno, making fun of the stuff. The piece is a little longer than it needed to be, but I think the writer(s) spent enough time working on details to make it worthwhile.

The summary at the end, however, is probably the best part. I found a lot of appeal in the idea that our addicted-hero spends his time wandering the earth, living wherever he can find a stable internet connection.

Thanks to Adam for the tip!

If you have any suggestions for WoW Moviewatch, you can mail them to us at machinima AT wowinsider DOT com.

Previously on Moviewatch ..

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Moviewatch

Advice columnist covers WoW addiction

This just keeps coming up. This time, anonymous husband "Walking on Eggshells" wrote advice columnist Amy Dickinson for help. His wife of 20 years has succumbed to the dread WoW Addiction, and is forsaking both Walking and their mutual children. Apparently, she's had an affair with a Guildmate and everything.

Of course, Walking is feeling dejected, and especially burdened since he's picking up the slack around the house. He wants to get therapy, do something to help the relationship -- but his wife's just saying that he needs to love it or leave it.

It's always a little frustrating as a WoW player to read about this kind of thing. My personal stance is that if they're having this kind of problem from World of Warcraft, the same would have cropped up with something else eventually. Issues like these don't appear magically on their own, wrecking houses as the login screens comes up.

Amy does direct Walking to Online Gamers Anonymous. As she points out, they've got a 12 step program and everything. Well, good luck to them. I really do hope they manage to get the problem worked out. Quitting WoW can be done, but they'll need more to solve their family issues.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items

WoW player more ashamed than porn addict

Image via Boston GlobeIt's not the first time WoW addiction has been addressed, and it won't be the last. This one, however, is a nice change from some more sensational pieces. In an interview with The Boston Globe, well-known psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block discusses what he calls "pathological computer use." His clients, he says, can be "more ashamed of playing World of Warcraft than looking at porn."

These kind of interviews aren't uncommon, like the CNN editorial from a few months ago. However, a few things about Dr. Block's interview struck me as pretty well-balanced. First, Dr. Block has quibbles about the phrase addiction. He feels that word addresses the wrong issues and nuances. Dr. Block prefers "pathological computer use." In my opinion, that word indicates the game itself isn't the problem, but instead the manner in which the person uses the game.

Dr. Block also discusses a patient who was very successful at EVE Online. After a fairly disastrous event, he felt betrayed by everyone he knew in the game. Dr. Block spells out the problem isn't only how subject deals with that issue, but that the subject's (out-of-game) friends can't understand. What might be a legitimate, troublesome event is being related-to by people who don't have context to an individual issue. Of course, while it probably ended the player's addiction -- I don't know if I'd list this kind of disaster as a way to quit playing WoW.

It's a refreshing view on WoW addiction, and worth a bit more look at Dr. Block's web site.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items, Interviews

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