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A New Disorder is Born

Ending Note

People can develop dependencies on many substances and activities. Creating new psychological disorders for every substance and activity seems like overkill if behavioral dependencies are more tied to the person rather than the specific activity that the dependency tethers to. And singling out only a few activities as potentially addictive seems disingenuous and arbitrary. Indeed, why do we not just have a general diagnosis called "behavioral dependency" rather than picking and choosing which behaviors are addictive? Language shapes how we think about technology use as well as our role as technology users. The notion that "video games are addictive" frames us as the helpless victims, whereas the notion of "developing a dependency" frames the excessive behavior as a function of the individual's state of mind.

By calling it "online gaming addiction", the media encourages us to think that we're dealing with a very new problem. But if behavioral dependency is a general problem that tethers to many different kinds of activities, then "online gaming addiction" is actually a very well-understood problem because clinicians have treated depression and anxiety for a long time. If people can develop behavioral dependencies on any activity, then why are we surprised that some people develop dependencies on online games? Why is it news? I contend it is mostly because we've always used the word "addiction" to mark out deviant social activities in a way that treats them as unique predators, as emergent problems which we've never seen before. But once we shift our framework to one of general behavioral dependencies, then we have to abandon this view. What we're seeing is actually a very old problem.

See Also (more recent articles listed first):

- The Trouble with "Addiction"
- A Q&A with a Therapist
- Problematic Usage
- The Seduction of Achievement
- Addiction
- Understanding MMORPG Addiction


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


Kudos! This is a fantastic piece that looks at the issue quite intelligently. Interests such as interactive entertainment, pen and paper role playing games and Magic the Gathering - all which one can pursue to a deep level have all been demonized and persecuted for years as being addictive, while one who toils endlessly at work till all hours of the night is "dedicated". Any parental group or congressman commenting on games should peruse this article - but alas...they are probably watching televison.

Posted by: Carter on January 4, 2006 4:24 PM

Addiction is the latest buzzword. But many of the so-called "studies" out there are pretty biased.

For example, one of my primary duties is taking care of the company website, so I spend a LOT of time online besides any gaming I do - yet the methodology of some of these studies would put me in the severely addicted category....

Posted by: Kimi on January 6, 2006 6:15 AM

I could not agree with the theme of this artical more. My wife and I decided quite some time ago to spend our time together in the evenings playing online games together. In our opinion, this was much better than sitting silently in front of a TV and not speaking to each other for hours on end, while watching increasingly negative and objectionable material.

We each "2box" while sitting side by side and discussing what we need to do in a given situation. In my opinion, this leads to a more stable and rewarding life together.

We play, on the average, about 30 hours a week. So, I gues we are both addictted. As my daughter would say, "Oh well".

Posted by: David on January 6, 2006 6:43 AM

Bravo for such an intelligently written article. I coudln't agree more. My husband and I play MMORPGs together AND watch TV together, and personally, I prefer the interactive nature of the online game to sitting in front of the boob tube for hours on end.

Besides, hasn't study after study proven that keeping our brains active helps to stave off "old age" diseases such as Alzheimer's and dimentia? I think keeping my mind active by playing a game wherein I have to think, strategize, and plan is much healthier than watching a bunch of fake people solve fake problems on TV.

Posted by: Melanie on January 6, 2006 9:38 AM

This paper has but things into perspective that i havent thought of.
my main reason for commenting on this paper is the fact that anything and everything must be linked to some sort of disorder, or mental disease.
To my understanding a disorder is associated with an activity done in excess. but what is excess? what is normal? is excess to be more than natural, but than who can say what is natural for the human race?
So pertaining to the previouse question is working 40 hrs a week in excess to our natural state?

Posted by: Foehammer on January 6, 2006 9:43 AM

In any case, you cannot compare addiction to games to addiction to TV. The TV is simply a one way thing, the TV shows, you watch. Period. But games are different. You interact with them. Even more with MMO, where you interact with people. Is it an addiction to interact with people? That would be an interesting question

Posted by: Alexandra Erenhart on January 6, 2006 12:25 PM

I'm sure Mozart was "addicted" to music, and Einstein to physics. And Tennessee Williams to writing plays. Were these people balanced, normal, and/or happy? Perhaps yes, entirely in their addiction, and no, outside of that.

Passionate and obsessive involvement with something is not a bad thing. It can be a source of real joy.

When it's an escape from suffering, is even that "bad"? Instead of "confronting" it? If the escapism keeps you stuck in the circumstances that you could change to end or prevent that suffering, perhaps. That's why Karl Marx called religion "the opiate of the masses." Should religion be banned, because of its addictive/escapist nature? Marx thought so.

It all depends on what you're after. You want a balanced life, with well-regulated interests and desires? That's possible, but don't expect to write The Magic Flute while you're at it, or have moments you may find memorable the rest of your life.

Posted by: realtrance on January 6, 2006 2:53 PM

... religion addiction disorder (RAD) ... I like it! :)

Some of the parallels are interesting - a social virtual world with a masses vs. god framework.

Posted by: Nick Yee on January 6, 2006 3:07 PM

I can attest to computer use being the effect of a disorder, as I have been diagnosed with depression and ADD. Because of my tendency to retreat into myself and not be able to concentrate on things, games and internet (ooh clicky!) often looks like something fun that I can do without having to deal with my real issues. But then, some of my real issues are that I find being around people I don't know stressful. That's it! It must be society that causes internet addiction! I'm off to forge a new disorder!

Posted by: JJB on January 6, 2006 3:56 PM

You would think that this would be common sense. Unfortunately, as you've pointed out, our society is in the bad habit of legislating taste without bothering to be logical or even reasonable about it. Cooking up bogus disorders like IAD is simply a way to try to give the mainstream's ignorant phobias some legitimacy, however shaky that legitimacy may be. It's the first step in protecting me (helpless victim that they percieve me to be) from my own "questionable" taste in entertainment. The fact that I need that protection about as much as I needed protecting from the horrors of boys kissing (which is to say not at all) doesn't matter.

Posted by: Azhrarn on January 6, 2006 10:34 PM

I believe that an addiction should be judged on it's merits and liabilities. Anything where the individual is unable to control their involvement (consumption etc) could be an addiction. Not al addictions are bad, for instance breathing. There are obviously many, many gamers that have issues with online addiction, but truly if it's not this, it will be another addiction. If this were 150 years ago, they may be opiate addicts; an old problem indeed. What makes online gaming "better" is when the consequences of their behavior aren't as bad, as a different addiction alternative; like TV.

As a side note, perhaps it's some neurosis, but I can't help but think that TV newscasters would want to paint this issue with dire colors to a) get ratings and b) get those damn kids back to watching tv!

Posted by: Amanda Rose on January 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Good article but it doesn't approach the cause of the problem which is the perceived general 'fear' that certain members of our culture have regarding new technologies. It is rather a matter fearing change than simply computer. This is an aspect of all cultures, all people. For example, last year I read an article from Robert Redford, in his cataloge Sundance, decrying that the art of reading is dying. It is not as can be seen by the proliferation of bookstores alone. Myself, I find it fearful that plastic surgery has become not only acceptable but anticipated to the degree of expectation among females under the age of 30.

The 'fear factor' is a well noted and historically observed human reaction to anything new, regardless if it is indoor plumbing to cellphones. Always there have been some individuals within any society that feed upon these fear and it is not a phenomenon that is ever likely to go away. There are always going to be the persons who charge ahead while others drag their feet.

It is only my opinion, but I believe the only way to alleviate or confront these types of alarms is with data collection that is not biased in one direction or another. Were we to do that, we would definately be able to show that tv viewing leads to more deaths than traffic accidents. How so? Obesity has become a problem that is directly correlated to the social acceptable increase in hours of tv viewing. There are mountains of documented and scientific data indicating the danger of obesity. However, my doctor and many of the people here in France had decided that the American hamburger is cause of obesity. I have seen numerous obese people here and overweigh is becoming more apparent yet the illusion persists that French women are thin which they were - immediately after WWII when the entire country was rebuilding and tv wasn't readily available.

Posted by: Sauveteur on January 9, 2006 3:46 AM

well, it has a name.
ive been told i spend way to much time on the net, but i dnt realy think so, 10hours a day is adverage for me so yea, but i like the 50hour runs, then i eat and slep for about 20hour and start aver again

Posted by: shade on January 10, 2006 2:21 AM

While it's probably not "fair" to single out internet use or online gaming as a particularly egregious type of addiction, it's a bit disingenuous to leap from that to the notion that there's nothing particularly different going on here. For one thing, it may well be that online usage and gaming produces changes in the brain that trigger an addictive behavior that might not have existed w/o exposure. Same as say, smoking or alcohol usage. Does "internet addiction" run in families? Could it be genetic or is it purely a social issue?

When something is potentially destructive, it's useful to understand the nature of it. IS what happens in the brain of a gaming "addict" the same as what happens in the brain of a drug addict? Do we know? Should we find out? If it's different, and certainly it may be different, what's wrong with discovering that? When we get defensive about what's going on because we personally have a stake in something--being gamers ourselves--we're out of the realm of investigation and into the realm of self-justification. Addictive behavior may be "all the same"...then again, it may not. At least one early study showed that online usage caused previously non-depressed people to become depressed. Now that's frikken important, frankly, if it's true. Has this been replicated? Disproven? Compared with TV watching? All of these are legitimate questions; there's no need to shuffle them under the rug. The internet is new to humankind, and clearly a two-edged sword in many ways. Know thyself.

Posted by: jj on January 18, 2006 5:26 AM

It is interesting that you solicit opinions from all us addicted internet users.

I had a friend back home that spends thousands of dollars a year buying old vehicles, refitting them, and then racing/wrecking them. If you were to draw parallels to sexual activities, then I would wager many people would be addicted.

Posted by: r2rknot on January 25, 2006 1:55 AM

jj, the difference between chemical and psychological addiction as I understand it is what their names suggest: chemical addiction is based on a physiological desire for the chemical effects that produce positive experiences. Psychological addictions on the other hand are based on rewarding behaviour or "habitual means to avoid undesired activity" (

You ask: "Does 'internet addiction' run in families? Could it be genetic or is it purely a social issue?"

I think it is both. Personality related tendencies and characteristics can be, atleast to some extent, genetic, and lead to addiction. However, I believe socialization is more imporant a factor - the social framework and conditions under which an individual comes under the influence of potentially addictive activities such as success in social relationships, health situation, work satisfaction, rewards of hobbies etc.

Games are clearly addictive: they offer achievement, instant gratification, easy and reliable goals all of which life often fails to, and often free of any tangible risks.

So, what is bad about addictions then, and what makes one better than another?

Addiction is what we call the negative consequences of repeatedly doing something with positive consequences. Doing drugs might be fun, but it will derive one of health, money and eventually sanity with prolonged use. Gaming is also fun and rewarding, but when excessive, causes neglecting of social and other needs. The limit, and control is both dependent on and the responsibility of the individual.

We choose our addictions, or they choose us. Modern technology provides increasingly attractive forms of activities that prove harder and harder to resist. Is it their fault, or ours for the lack of self-discipline and control?

Just some thoughts on the subject.

Posted by: Jin Entres on January 25, 2006 2:26 AM

I'm happy that you chose to deal with this issue. Someone who likes doing something alot that society deems unproductive and unproductive is considered addicted by society. It's definetely holier-than-thou. The person who is called "addicted" usually isn't harming anyone but society still finds a way to demonize him and attack him for being different.

Posted by: Yes on January 30, 2006 1:13 PM

As a psychology undergraduate, I believe the reasons why IAD is being considered as a disorder is that, like Jin Entres had mentioned before, it could cause social and psychological consequences. Of course, there are other psych problems that were also present, but we must investigate whether people had these problems before or during the excessive internet activity.
On the matter of t.v. viewing, I was lead on the impression that people less t.v. and spend more on the computer.

Posted by: Janarius on February 2, 2006 11:27 AM

I would like to see a discrepancy made between video game addiction and addiction to MMORPGs. As a former WoW addict, I can clearly say that WoW was much more addictive than any other videogame I've ever played. When I play a non-MMORPG videogame, I can generally turn off the game whenever I want and just walk away. I won't think about the game at all for the rest of the day (even non-MMORPG online games). WoW was different.

Even after the game was shut off and I was back to real life, my thoughts were always on the game. With the unique blend of single character building and social interaction, my MMORPG character became a second life. I imagine, for a deeply depressed individual or one with low-self esteem, the importance of the second MMORPG life at some point overtakes the real life. Considering this, a line should definately be drawn between videogames and MMORPGs, because the addiction to videogames only exists on the surface. MMORPGs can satisfy several different needs, and thus be addictive on several different levels.

Posted by: Jess on February 4, 2006 10:16 PM

That was a very well written editorial, I have felt the same way for a long time about society and what it deems acceptable.

Posted by: VideoXPG on February 17, 2006 11:37 PM

Awesome, awesome article!

It hits the nail on the head with regard to what I feel is a society that seems to "cherry-pick" what they want to label as problems. I really see two problems:

1) People who have low self-esteem and depression and act out on those feelings in various ways.
2) A society that is more willing to attack the symptoms than the cause.

Thanks for your insights!


Posted by: Benjamin on March 3, 2006 3:48 AM

I must say this was a very interesting article. I've known for a time that 'gaming addiction' is a coined term, and I count myself among the legion of 'gaming addicts'. I had no idea that someone had actually come up with a disorder name.

As stated and in my opinion also, this 'disorder' is defined in too broad terms. Anyone who spends a great deal of time on the internet would be classified as an addict. This would include those who build websites for a living, spend hours mining for information for a term paper, etc. This brings to mind a story I read of two people who met while on vacation. They started a real relationship, but lived far from each other. They meet as often as possible, but wished to stay in much closer contact so used the internet (among other things) to communicate. Would these people who are just in love and wanting to talk to each other be labeled as having this 'disorder'? Under the guidelines stated, yes. Should they be 'treated' for their 'addiction'? Definitely not. People fall into this category who, in my opinon, absolutely do not belong here.

As far as gaming addiction itself goes, am I addicted to my MMORPG? Yes. Do I see it as a problem in my life? Sometimes, and when I do I tone it down a bit (spend less time playing). What would I be doing if I weren't gaming? Watching t.v. with my boyfriend. Which activity do I find more stimulating? Definitely gaming with my boyfriend. While gaming, I have to think. If I don't think, my character dies. Character death is in some games merely an annoyance, and in others a serious setback. Also, I get to interact with people from around the world. Yes, some of them are idiots or just plain rude. Those people quickly make it onto my ignore list. Many, however, have been good people and I count them as an extended family of sorts.

I look at it this way - I'm going to be doing something with my free time. What I choose to do will affect me. Would I rather sit in front of a television and watch sitcoms targeted at the lowest intelligence level of our society? Or would I prefer to play an interactive game and actually use my brain? I really don't want my brain to atrophy. It's jellied enough from my idiotic drug use as a teenager. I choose gaming. :)

Posted by: LadyBodnomoor on March 4, 2006 12:24 PM

I have been into one thing more than others my entire life. When I was a kid it was skateboarding, then snowboarding and tennis. I tend to be obsessive with whatever is is. Now it is the internet/ online games.

Obviously if you want to excel at something it will take a concentrated effort, and that means it will take time away from other things. Sadly I would only classify myself as average at any of the hobbies I have had. LOL

Regarding depression, I would say that I am slightly depressed at times. The internet provides a way to interact with people and that makes me feel better. Mostly I just play because it is fun though. :)

Posted by: COF Infinity on March 9, 2006 10:42 AM

Whilst I agree with pretty much every you've stated on this, and any of your other articles, I'm not too sure I agree on the issue of 'addiction' being used as a word to stigmatise whats socially acceptable and whats not? Personally I believe the media interest in subjects such as online gaming addiction is nothing but a good thing, in as much as it helps people to realise it IS possible!

I was a Counter Strike addict for about a year or two whilst I was at what you Americans would call 'High School' (about 4-5 years ago) and I had no idea online gaming could be as addictive as it was, I wish I could have known in advance it was possible, the same way I was informed about narcotics whilst growing up (I see a drug addiction and online gaming addiction as pretty much the same things, having experienced both, at the end of the day it's just a dependancy on something to feel a certain way)

Posted by: brendan on March 11, 2006 10:24 AM

Nice, well thought out article. I have to say that as a former WoW addict, the issue should be taken seriously. Its not just about spending too much time playing, its about how it affects the other areas of your real life. I have joked about being "addicted" to video games many times, but WoW made it not so funny.

You compare MMORPG addiction to pretty much anything that people do in real life. Too much time spent doing anything is considered an addiction equal to too much time playing a game. However...all of those things have real world implications, WoW does not. If I spend too much time golfing, or writing a play, or even sitting silently next to my wife watching a movie, it has "real" world implications, both positives and negatives. The ONLY positive implications that come from playing MMORPG's happens inside the game, and to a singular source. There are NO positive real world implications from the game, and that is why it is so disturbing that millions of people are addicted to MMORPGs.

Posted by: John on March 20, 2006 12:11 PM

Really an interesting article here (not that the others aren't, but this one gives a lot to think about).

I'd probably be right in the pool of people with "IAD", but all things considered, things weren't that different in my life back when I didn't use internet yet. Sure, I wouldn't spend ours online, but I'd watch TV or read magazines instead... Not that productive.

Oddly enough, I think this "addiction" of mine has been, overall, positive in regards to what I do. Drawing? Getting on the comp has opened me new means in that regard, and through the web, I've found techniques and advice. Writing? If it hadn't been for going to writers' forums and sharing ideas and feelings with other aspiring authors, I'd still be looking at my navel thinking "one day, I'll be published", and never actually writing. Gaming? My knowledge of English language and writing has never been as strong since the day I've started online roleplaying, and decided to write short background stories about my characters. People tend to think I'm an English major now, or at least know it well, when it's not even my mother tongue.

There is ONE period in my life when this time spent online was, in retrospective, likely a very bad thing, but I also think that hadn't it been for this, I'd have collapsed. These two years passed in a blur. I'd moved, had a 3-4 hours commute everyday, my boyfriend would go to bed at 9 almost everyday because he was tired, and I felt like at least getting online instead of staying alone watching TV and, overall, feeling like I hadn't any life, was better than realizing everything sucked and getting depressed about it. A blur, indeed--and I guess it was better this way. Right now, just thinking of this make me shudder.

My take, in any case, is that the use of internet is only a symptom. I have an obsessive nature in general. If it wasn't for the internet, it'd be something else. At least, it is something where I can actually communicate and look up for information; I wouldn't want to spend this time watching and recording sitcoms instead.

Sidenote regarding the obesity problem: getting on the web to order a dance pad, and downloading StepMania, has allowed me to lose weight. It's not all bad... ;)

Posted by: A. on March 28, 2006 8:49 PM

Interesting. I did answer 'yes' to five of those questions. I am, however, not addicted. I have the Asperger Syndrome, which means that I find certain things so interesting that everything else seems insignificant - including such things as cleaning and social life. My main focus has always been RP-gaming, though I'm also interested in anime, and science and fantasy fiction (I currently have over 2400 books in my collection).

One might say that it is some kind of addiction, but Asperger is not defined as such - there's no 'cure' for Asperger, no more than there's cure for being black, or cure for being gay. Makes me wonder how many of those who supposedly have IAD actually have Asperger or something similar, and should be diagnosed as such; I wonder how many are trying in vain to get rid of an 'addiction' that cannot actually be cured without doing damage to their personality.

Posted by: Jukka on April 27, 2006 4:44 PM

Hmmm. Very thought-provoking. Always wondered if there was something wrong with me... it seems the point is still moot.
How and why are certain modes of behaviour stigmatised? Why, indeed, does golf=good, and internet/MMO's=bad? Whence come these value judgements? Is "online gaming as the enemy" a result of conservative techno-fear, as a previous post suggests? Or is it, a la homosexuality, seen as bad because it does not "contribute" anything "concrete" to the community? (Not my opinion. I think that people have always been down on gays because "if you're not breeding, you're freeloading". Which is crap. That's it and that's all. It got mixed up with "morality" later, just for added convincing effect. But I digress).
It seems that doing anything at all, a lot of the time, that does not directly result in the triumphant propagation/maintenance of our fabulous species is subversive, retrograde, antisocial/evil, or just a plain waste of time. This is understandable from an evolutionary viewpoint, in a very basic, planktonic sort of way. However, our success has afforded us the luxury of looking at the bigger picture, if we can stomach its bleakness. I don't see a profound lack of humans anywhere, and I do see an awful lot of horror and damage done by people "with good intentions" who simply impose too much of their will on the rest of the planet, as they desperately try to justify their existence.
I will freely admit that I am depressed (and why not? seems a reasonable reaction to most things today) and that I play way too much WoW, to escape. But I can tell myself that while I'm not contributing much, nor am I doing any harm. There is a lot to be said for that.
Log out, young white middle class male, and DO something. Like what? Smash phonebooths? Sniff glue? Convince yourself that the answer to your ennui is to work yourself to death trying to afford that house, that polluting SUV? If that's all too difficult, why not just pass the existential buck like everyone else and spawn another generation of confused consumers to further wreck the globe?
Addictions are real, and often highly destructive. But they are also an answer to an unanswerable question, a cheap filler for a massive void, a pacifier for seekers who realise that 1+1 doesn't equal 2, despite what everyone promised you when you were little. An addiction masquerading as productive, socially acceptable behaviour is still an addiction, its motivations just as sad as any obsessive habit.
IAD is a sophist, feeble, meaningless acronym invented by people just as aware of the void as any addict, but too cowardly to admit it, and too quick to blame someone else for their quandary; the frustration of knowing that they can never know everything. Get off your soapbox, log on and join the club, Poindexter.
An internet addiction is one of the lesser of many, many evils, and may even mean redemption for an unfortunate few who would otherwise destroy themselves or others with something else.
Leave us be, psycho-twerps.

Posted by: Alison on May 10, 2006 7:06 PM

I simply love this article.

During all these years since Ultima Online saw daylight and I became part of this new art of MMO's, I have also been interested about the development of social barrier breakings. That's why I find myself reading what other people think and many, many many think MMO problematic use is something new, governors should make decisions to ban MMO's because it's so dangerous etc. (Hard to laugh knowing people say those things meaning it).

I bow to the author.

Posted by: Raybarg on May 16, 2006 4:45 AM

I read through this article and most of the comments with a clearly biased opinion in favor of games, but I can clearly see what the problems are. There are 3 key points I make Here.

1.)We are all addicted or depressed by someones standards. It becomes an unnacceptable behavior when people start to agree on it and form some sort of group against it. I believe alcohol consumption wasn't demonized until religious groups(some who use wine in ceremonies) decided to form a group against it. Any group that can gain enough power starts to make the rules.
I will never drink alcohol in my life, but I recognize that it wasn't as bad as it is now before people fought against it.

2.)My parents regularly get mad, genuinely angry to the point of screaming, when I have anything to do with computers let alone games. My parents always tell me to go outside more and/or watch some TV. I try to convince them it isn't a bad thing, and they just say that I don't understand anything about the world and it becomes a big arguement that happens between every parent and child since our species learned how to argue. They were raised in the outdoors and were introduced to TV in their teens. That sounds a lot like how I was raised. I was raised in front of the TV and introduced to computers in my teens. I now am on computers more than I watch TV, and many people would blame that on my parents. I agree that computer use, especially online, feels very good at times, but my parents and most of the world could say the same about TV and playing outside.

3.)My final point is that obsession, depression and addiction are overused and were once unknown. Someone had to invent the concept, and they were probably describing something that they disliked. There are so many different types of people in this world with their own views of good and bad. I would have used right and wrong in that sentence, but even those words have been twisted in favor of a particular view too many times. We have no reason to label anything as bad because someone is having more fun than us. My parents are always telling me I should find a job where I work more. My dad works 84 hours a week for 6 months out of the year, and he always uses that arguement to justify any point he is trying to make. He genuinely hates politicians because they get paid to do work he believes isn't work at all. I can't say I blame him for hating the people who came up with the term philibuster(spelling?) that pretty much means delaying something enough so that it fails or is ignored. Modern media does spread all these issues to more people than ever. This is a good thing and a bad thing, as all things are. We know more about the world around us now, but we are against more things than ever. No media can ever be unbiased, unless maybe people and emotions could not affect it. Someone could invent a group that sounds like it is good for us, call it TATHO(Telivision Addicts Trying to Help Others), and start advertising on TV and in Newspapers that TV is bad for you and the internet is better. It may make a lot of people shun TV and advocate the internet more, but even that won't change everything. The anti-smoking group TRUTH hasn't stopped smoking and never will, but it did help to change some peoples' minds.

Well, I better cut this short. This should be a published project, but with a broader focus, but it seems that people only defend topics that are being attacked by another group. This is one of the first articles I have seen that tries to get a bigger picture of the situation.

One more thing, most of these comments will be biased in favor of games and the internet because it isn't accessible to anyone but internet users as far as I know. In fact, I only found this article because it was a link from the Massive Magazine site. This should be an article in Time Magazine or a book, but the best place for it would be a show on the Discovery Channel.

Posted by: Tom on July 2, 2006 11:21 AM


I'm just doing a study of the relationship of addiction and immersion. Although I'm using users who play online games like WOW, it could be anything we get immersed in (reading/movies/hobbies/work etc). If I find anything useful, I'll let ya know :)

(one of my friends has sent me The addiction treatment magazine, which this month shows a new clinic in Holland has been set up exclusively for gamers)...could be useful for some of us ;p

Posted by: Eddie on July 6, 2006 9:26 AM

That clinic was bound to be opened at some point. That wasn't really what I was trying to get at though.

My point was that anything can be considered an addiction or obsession, and it will always be determined by those with power. History is always written by the victors seems like a good summarizing sentence.

Anyway, language and emotions allow for so much flexibility in definitions of words that we will never have a clear understanding of what is good and bad or even the concept of good and bad. Confusion is only natural.

Posted by: Tom on July 7, 2006 12:14 AM

----- Read if you think you are addictid to mmorpg and would like to get rid of it ----

Yeah! I made it! Im no longer addicted to mmorpg!
Well, now im addicted to a new thing but it is much better. Its called Dungeons&Dragons, you probably know it. Its an old game (30 years now) but it has updates all the time. All todays online games have some roots in that game i would say, but this one is HUGE, you need months just to learn all game rules, and levels, story and so on are indefinite, thay only depend on your imagination (mosly DM imagination).

So you say, what about it. Now you are addicted to a new thing. Yes thats true, but this new thing is better in many ways:
- you can play it only with real ppl sitting near you - no chances of becoming asociative!
- you dont sit like a piece of stone while you play, you dont watch at the monitor and so on so its much healthier for your body
- it develops your imagination - after 2 weeks of leading the game i felt like my brain is much more creative

- yes, its sometimes hard to find few ppl that are willing to dedicate their time to such a complex game
- you need to have much more energy to play this game then to play PC game, so its more like working something than like watching TV but if you like it why not

Posted by: InTruder on August 31, 2006 5:25 AM

To the folks who talk about how much better gaming together as a couple is than watching TV: fair enough, but what about doing other things together like sports, dancing, sex, or !gasp! talking?

To the comment about Mozart & Einstein being "addicted" to their respective disciplines: perhaps, but at least those two created something of lasting value, something gamers are unlikely to ever do.

Truth is, gaming is never going to be anything but a meaningless diversion, which is fair enough, why should it be more? Whether you are "addicted" or "obsessed" or not depends on whether you can really spare hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours from your finite life span to devote to an inherently meaningless pursuit.

Posted by: Portia on September 25, 2006 3:10 PM

Value and meaning are socially-constructed. They are also period-dependent. Many people who we now admire were considered crackpots or relatively unknown in their own time. Some, like Galileo, were persecuted. Others, like Marx, produced work that wasn't considered influential till after they had died.

The problem with meaningfulness is that it's a social construction. Most activities (beyond eating and other biological functions) are inherently meaningless. I, for one, don't understand what the hoopla is around chasing small white balls on pesticide-laden grass or other forms of ball-chasing (or worse, people who are obsessed about watching others chase balls).

Moderation is important for any kind of activity, gaming or otherwise, but I think pulling meaningfulness into the equation is somewhat disingenuous.

Posted by: Nick Yee on September 25, 2006 3:40 PM

Going to agree with Nick there. The idea of something being “meaningless” is a completely useless label, have you ever spoken to one of these “We could be just brains in jars!” types, who will try and convince you that all life is meaningless? They’re obviously at the extreme end of the scale (one step away from “I’m just going to kill you and eat your liver because nothing means anything anyway.), and likely don’t actually believe what they’re saying anyway. But once your in the business of deciding which human activities are meaningful and which aren’t, how far away from judgement and censorship are you? Religion, sports, music, art? You could say that someone like Victoria Beckham (insert pretty much celeb. name here) has created something of lasting value, but really, has she? And while she’s a pretty rubbish example, the person who’s really wasting their time here, is the person who’s sitting on the sidelines making the criticisms.

At the end of the day, the only effect we have on the world is how we influence others lives, and how we take our own journey. A “meaningless” conversation in a chat room is just as likely to actually influence someone else’s life as viewing a random Monét. Any… I guess I’m getting bored with making nonsensical arguments against someone who, in all likelihood, will never read this, Portia.

P.S. My Mum died recently and I split my free time between going out drinking and playing MMORPGs. Guess which one left me feeling miserable, depressed, and broke? I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t my time spent online.

P.P.S. I kind of wish I hadn’t read that comment at all, since now I've written this instead of writing about addiction, which is what I should be doing, given; I studied it at university; my mum fought alcoholism for years; and my stepmother was a total junky.

Posted by: on September 26, 2006 8:25 AM


It's very important that you divide "addictions" into 2 types. They are both essentially caused by the same thing. Your brain/body becomes accustom to having various chemicals in it, and your mind becomes accustom to a particular “state of being”.

1- Addictions caused by putting a foreign substance into the body. Such as Heroin, Alcohol, Nicotine, Caffeine.

2- Addictions caused by a natural chemicals being released by the body by a particular mental stimulus. Such as T.V., the Internet, a friend or lover.

Now, we normally decide to start labelling the behaviour as an addiction when the behaviour the addict exhibits in order to procure their fix, or the effects of the source are detrimental to the addict in some other way, such as health. In the case of caffeine and nicotine, this behaviour isn’t considered a problem, so the addict gets away with it. Same applies to both types of addiction.

But when this behaviour becomes a problem, the solution to the addiction has to be entirely different. In both cases, the addict is has achieved a desirable state of being, thus any attempt by a friend/family to stop the addiction is seen as an attack on the state of being, not the source of the addiction. Now with a type 1 addiction, removal of the substance is obviously necessary in order to remove the behaviour/harmful effects of the substance. And in order to cure an addict of this nature you must entirely remove the substance from their world and body.

But in a type 2 addiction this is a very dangerous approach, because they are using the source as a method of achieving a natural and desirable state of mind. Such as self esteem, relaxation, or as simple as happiness. When the addict is told “You mustn’t see/do X anymore.” They hear “You mustn’t feel good about yourself”. And you are not fighting this feeling of contentment, but the behaviour that the addict feel necessary to achieve it. You can’t stop the addict from feeling that way, you have to change the way in which they obtain this natural high.

So, if you were to set out to cure an addiction such as MMORPGs(if the subject is indeed, addicted at all), you need to remember you are no, in fact, curing an addiction at all. Rather, you are modifying the behaviour they adopt in order to reach that high. Everyone is a junky to the happiness drugs that our bodies produce for themselves, we each just have different methods for triggering their production. Since you are not getting the drugs out of their system, and just teaching different methods of self fulfilment, traditional methods of curing addictions, such as total abstinence, are rather pointless as it will just increase their need for the source further.

And as Nick said in his original article, are MMORPGs real a source of harmful addiction? I very much doubt it. You can have a type 2 addiction to absolutely anything, a boyfriend, a teddybear, tennis, East Enders. But how much harm is it really likely to do? When we look at it as a whole, MMORPGS are “addictive” because they fulfil so many basic human needs. A sense of accomplishment, socialising and personal empowerment.

Are these things that people should be denied?

Posted by: Mongoose on September 26, 2006 9:14 AM

“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.”

Studies targeted at an activity you like to engage in may make you feel like you’re being picked on. I hope you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are plenty of studies having to do with TV addiction, work addiction, and any other kind of addiction which is prevalent enough to warrant public attention. Pointing your finger at other kinds of addictions does not help your case. It only creates a “feel good” sensation among the majority of your readers.

Posted by: Ryan on September 26, 2006 12:25 PM

---Moderation is important in any activity--

I agree.

I am not sure that the word "addiction" applies to excessive gameplay, but there really does seem to be something way more powerful in today's games. I am a non-gaming 42 yr old mother of a 15 year old son who had never played video games excessively, but who insidiously got sucked into the mire of World of Warcraft this summer to the point that other formerly enjoyable activities were being pushed aside--including hanging out with friends. This was a totally new way for this fairly outgoing child to behave. This may not be labled "addiction", but it was wierd for me to observe. I knew nothing about the game, but it looked fairly tame as I glanced over his shoulder, no porn, no blood and gore, rated T for teen. I had no idea of the depth of the game. The concept of virtual peer pressure (from one's guild) was totally off my parental radar.

When I went online and read how many people have problems controlling game play with MMORPG's, especially WOW, I was shocked. Gamers themselves seem pretty uppity in their comments "It's just a matter of self control". Perhaps, but it seems like there needs to be some way to let parents know about the potential "problematic usage" that so many people seem to fall into, so they can help train their children to "play responsibly". When my son is of drinking age, I will hope to be able to have an open discussion regarding responsible drinking, because there is a danger in not learning how to do this. Now that I have read quite a bit about the game, we are working together to develop the concept of responsible game playing, because it seems there is a danger in not learning to do this also. I have chose not to utilize the parental controls, because I figure that is external control from me, and I want him to develop internal self regulation, so that when he turns 18 and goes to college, he does not end up among the ranks of college kids flunking out because they never learned how to keep gaming in perspective.

I don't think MMORPG's are necessarily bad. Certainly it does seem a lot cooler to be playing a game with people from accross the world than sitting and watching American Idol or some other such foolishness on TV. However, learning to recognize that it is just a game, and only a game, is a lesson that needs to be taught to the kids (and many adults) If people get defensive and deny that problematic usage can develop, brushing it off simply as a matter of self-control, then this discussion will not begin, and many more kids will flunk out of college because of a game, which is a shame.

Posted by: Erika on November 11, 2006 4:47 PM

i am addicted to mmo's.

i'm also addicted to: music, reading, grapefruit juice, crocheting, shopping, video games, and webcomics, among other things i can't think of right now. i used to be addicted to anime and downloading/reading fan-translated manga off of irc, but not so much anymore. strangely enough, i never saw the big deal about drinking booze, for personal/medical reasons i don't smoke any form of tobacco, and i have every intention of staying the hell away from drugs, just on principle.

but basically i just have a compulsive personality. if i encounter something i enjoy doing, i do it till my interest wanes, then i cast it aside in favor of the newest shiny thing. i'm not completely antisocial, but i do require my quiet time (which runescape fills quite nicely >.>), which my boyfriend of 3 years has come to accept (we aren't exactly joined at the hip).

i think my point is i'm 100% in agreement with the people who think that while mmo's can be "addicting," there's probably something underneath it psychologically that is really the problem, although imo whether it's a really a problem or not depends on the player and the extent to which they play.

Posted by: nekobawt on April 6, 2007 11:03 AM


"but basically i just have a compulsive personality. if i encounter something i enjoy doing, i do it till my interest wanes, then i cast it aside in favor of the newest shiny thing. i'm not completely antisocial, but i do require my quiet time (which runescape fills quite nicely >.>), which my boyfriend of 3 years has come to accept (we aren't exactly joined at the hip)."

I think that what is going on here is very basic. Someone earlier said how they had never seen this before with their child. The child suddenly didn't want to do anything else that they formerly enjoyed. The trick here is not to stay confused.

First of all, MMO's are -NOT- games. They're a community where people form an identity. The identity that they form is varied. It can have its ups and its downs like real life. The reason people get "addicted" is because the "game" becomes a part of their identity, and like their family, it is important to them. If people are spending excessive amounts of hours in online worlds, it is an indication that they have a very developed online personality/identity that they're feeding. Cutting off this source of identity too quickly is more destructive to the person than its worth. The way to reduce it is to feed their real world identity so that it becomes as important or more important to them than their online identity. Another method, ofcourse, is to encourage them to have the same identity for both cases (online and real). Ultimately, the solution to this is to treat online worlds as part of the real world rather than making them purely fantasy (which is itself the problem).

Second Life is the closest match we have to this. People need to bring their real world identity with them when they go online. The time they spend online needs to be persistant and convertable to the real world. In other words, time you spend online can be returned to you. An example of this would be you making a virtual sword and then selling it to someone for real world money - there is a huge market for such things because people want to feed their identity whether it is online or in the real world. This feeds both your virtual and real identity, and ultimately it becomes mutual and we would then realize it is the same.

The reason there is so much animosity for online worlds is because they're not trully persistant. In order for online worlds to be trully persistant, the time users spend in them must have a real world value that can be exchanged at will. If I build a virtual house, it means nothing, if the time I spent on it has no real world value. Unfortunatley, for me, it does because time itself is not free. If, on the other hand, I can sell my virtual house and make real world money in the process, then it can be considered trully persistant. This is the future. It is being realized today by Second Life, and even Project Entropia. However, it is still in its infancy. More and more people will find identity in virtual worlds as they continually merge with the real world. As this happens, a huge market will open up and we will see less fear of virtual worlds, and instead more examples where identity (of users) has merged (virtual and real). I do not see a bright future for fantasy MMO's because they isolate themselves by not trully merging with the real world economy. The true leaders will be the ones that merge virtual and real economies, and thusly merge virtual and real identities. Having done this, excessive amounts of time online will be seen as no different than excessive amounts of time on the stock market or on the job.

If none of this is making any sense to you, check out:

That will explain it in further detail. And its much simpler than the mess above.

Posted by: jon on June 24, 2007 7:47 AM

The author makes some great points. MMOs do unfairly get a lot of the blame for addictive behavior.

But I'm not sure that avoiding the term "addiction" will be any more helpful than overusing it. You're just swinging the pendulum in the other direction. True, not everyone who plays 30 hours a week is addicted. But some are. Let's call a spade a spade.

I don't think that acknowledging this fact "stigmatizes" MMORPG-players any more than acknowledging shopping addiction stigmatizes shopping addicts.

And by the way, there is a "behavioral dependency" diagnosis in the DSM-IV. It's called "Impulse-Control Disorder." And I think that this diagnosis functions pretty well and we don't need new diagnoses for every behavioral problem. But the heart of this diagnosis and any other addiction diagnosis are the same: the victim has lost control and their life is being negatively impacted.

Posted by: Jason on October 19, 2007 8:29 PM

Whoops, that should read "I don't think that acknowledging this fact "stigmatizes" MMORPG-players any more than acknowledging shopping addiction stigmatizes SHOPPERS"


Posted by: Jason on October 19, 2007 8:32 PM

Give please. Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.
I am from Northern and also now'm speaking English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: "Save on last minute airline ticket los angeles atlanta los angeleslas vegas atlanta las vegassan francisco atlanta san franciscolast."

Thanks for the help 8), Kachine.

Posted by: Kachine on April 5, 2009 4:59 AM
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