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A New Disorder is Born

I want to start off by saying that it is clear that sometimes gamers play too much and their game playing impacts their work and relationships in negative ways. There are many many anecdotes by friends and family of gamers as well as gamers themselves who describe how extreme game-playing can become. On the other hand, making this observation in no way necessitates creating a new psychological disorder with which to stigmatize games and gamers. It is this distinction and the gap between those two notions that I want to explore in this article.

A New Disorder is Born

The American Psychiatry Association does not officially recognize Internet Addiction Disorder (even though that term has appeared in academic papers quite often recently). There are several reasons why. The foundational work behind the concept of Internet Addiction Disorder derives from survey studies using a set of criteria developed by Kimberley Young (1996).

1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous on-line activity or anticipate next on-line session)?
2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
5. Do you stay on-line longer than originally intended?
6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

A person who answers "yes" to five or more of the above questions is considered to have Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). Thus, in the original survey work, it was found that some people fell into this criteria and thus a new disorder was born. The primary objection to this methodology of creating psychological disorders is that for any given media form, hobby, or activity, it is probably true that some percentage of people will fall into this criteria of "addiction". The only difference is that researchers choose only certain activities to investigate for addiction disorders. And thus, we have IAD and we are asked to believe that people never watch TV too much, never play golf too much, and never work too much. The Internet is dangerous whereas other activities are wholesome and good. But if any and every activity can have its very own addiction disorder, it's not clear that such a notion is meaningful. On the other hand, picking and choosing which activities we deem "addictive" seems more and more arbitrary.

Another problem is that it conflates all kinds of things that people do online. In this model, shopping online, chatting online, looking for information online, and playing games online are all the same thing. It were as if any normal activity suddenly becomes potentially deviant and dangerous when it happens online. And by fudging the important differences among those activities in terms of motivations and social interactions, these survey studies typically manage to sidestep the most important question of all - what causes people to become addicted to the Internet to begin with? What is it about the Internet that is so dangerous?

keywords: mmorpg addiction, online gaming addiction, problematic usage, mmo addiction

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Posted on January 3, 2006 | Comments (44) | TrackBack (0)

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