Gaming is big business but it has its downside. People have died from gaming and the world is recognizing that game addiction is serious and spreading fast. Mental health professionals opine that gaming can destroy lives, keep students from focusing on learning, workers from working, and women from their duties. There are instances where gamers have not left home for years.
Games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and others are popularly referred to as heroinware. And symptoms of addiction according to Computer Addiction Services at McLean Hospital are: obsession with the game; inability to stop; neglect of family and work; lying to hide activity; problems with studies and work; health problems, muscular as well as vision related; neglect of personal hygiene; as well as sleep disturbances.
The games provide social interaction to lonely people, gamers gain acknowledgement as well as power denied elsewhere due to their gaming expertise, and the game weaves a spell on the mind—one gets so absorbed by the virtual realities that it is hard to get away.
The addiction is so real that it requires intensive therapy. Treatment programs include: behavioral therapy, anti-depressants, as well as prescription drugs.
Not all agree that gaming is addictive. MIT’s Games-to-Teach project manager opines that games sharpen critical thinking, improve social skills, and increase empathy. Many others do agree that games inspire imagination, creativity, and team work.
However, the problem is real and countries world over are taking measures. China has set up a clinic in Beijing for net-frazzled addicts to be treated with sports, acupuncture, and medication. The inmates according to the clinic’s director have: depression, nervousness, fear, interaction problems, panic, agitation, shaking and numb hands, as well as sleep disorders. Gaming is a serious problem in Korea — 1-2% of South Korea’s online gamers are addicts. The government is taking steps and requesting game developers to create advisory patches to alert gamers to the impeding dangers.
A hard core gamer is one who is completely absorbed by his online fantasy, he isolates himself from family and friends, lets everyday activities fall by the wayside, spends over 16-20 hours a day playing the game and games at work, at home, and while on the road. Gaming becomes his whole life, a thirst that is never quenched.
Treatment is long and hard and like other addictions the first stage is the most difficult, getting the gamer to acknowledge that he or she has a problem. Addicts find it extremely painful to “kill” the characters of the game and to erase /destroy the software. Most are unable to “keep away” and return to the game addictively. Studies indicate that hard core players are often neurotic, shy, have emotional as well as behavioral issues, and problems in the home environment.
To overcome the addiction, the player must consider and analyze the issues underlying the game—it is the question of power, social standing, respect, and emotions.
Gaming is set to become a global epidemic and needs immediate attention as well as solutions.