Reasons, symptoms, treatment of online MMO game addiction

Multiplayer online role play games or MMO RPG are one of the most addictive facets of the internet.

Online MMO Game Addiction

For example, one of the most famous MMO RPG’s WoW (World of Warcraft) is an online game massive numbers of players easily log onto each day. Although there are no clear cut figures as to be expected, one has to wonder how many thousands out of the millions of players have trouble logging out.

The consequences of failing to identify or combat an online gaming addiction can lead to extremely stressful situations in real life. These situations may include failing school or university, losing one’s job or gaining family and relationship problems.

Reasons for Game Addiction

MMO RPG’s are built in fantastical worlds where one is supposed to be represented by an avatar or character which one plays during the course of their participation in the game. This character’s success or failures depend solely on the amount of skill the user has which in the case of most games, is directly linked to how much time the user is willing to put into the game.

While many roleplay games in general are supposed to provide hours and hours of entertainment, for example the Final Fantasy series, the latest of which can be rushed through in probably no less than sixty or seventy hours of game time (not counting post-plot activities) for the semi-serious gamer. MMO RPG’s due to their pay-monthly nature stretch this time limit out exponentially and due to the content in the each fantastical world, players can effectively stay logged in weeks at a time without ever being stuck for something to do.

This is the basis of the addictive quality in online gaming, creating a strong character, being psychologically and emotionally tied to this character and this character’s ‘friends’ or party members (other MMORPG players) create the virtual world addicts would more readily reside in rather than their everyday lives.

Online MMO Game Addiction reasons

In fact, according to Ng (2005) in his work ‘Addiction to the Internet and Online Gaming’ the MMO RPG players that took part in a conducted study reportedly enjoyed the social aspects of the in game world more pleasant and satisfying than their social lives in the real world.

This can be attributed to the fact that once users are familiar with the in game world, they can train and power up their characters, creating online game gods who have the strength and ability to do as they please in the in game world. They are powerful, popular, rich, equipped with the best weapons and armor and they are envied by those with lesser characters. In short, the in game characters become a fake personification of the user’s dream self.

Game Addiction Symptoms

Game addiction symptoms include; the inability to log out even when the user has responsibilities elsewhere such as lectures or classes resulting in regular absences or sick days from work, constant lack of sleep or changing one’s sleep pattern to coincide with gaming schedules or ‘events’ happening in game, the apparent lack of social activity outside of the game, a dislike or disinterest in real life people and happenings.

Yee (2002) in his work ‘Understanding MMORPG Addiction’ reports anecdotal evidence from a conducted study where an addicted user states that the game he was addicted to EQ is a game that is extremely difficult to quit. He attributes this difficulty to the fact that successfully quitting will result in a substantial loss; “After all, if you do quit… everything you worked so hard for (your stats, equipment, friends) is gone forever…”

These symptoms are not only hazardous due to the consequent failures of addicted users in real life but also because of the increased stress and lack of care their bodies receive while being constantly in the middle of gaming marathons. The most disturbing factor is that these symptoms are very similar to those attributed to drug addictions. Yee (2002) offers that people who suffer from substance addiction “need the substance to sustain a sense of normality and well-being.”

Video Game Addiction Treatment

MMO Game Addiction treatment

Video game addiction should be treated as any other addiction with the most straightforward and hardest ‘treatment’ being to quit the game and go ‘cold turkey’. Young (2008) in her work ‘Addiction to MMORPG’s: Symptoms and Treatment’ states that many users, after their addiction is realised or brought to their attention by caring participants in their real lives are able to destroy (delete) their characters along with the game, terminate their subscription and move on with everyday lives. However, true addicts who have this ability are reportedly rare cases.

Most users would find other ways to get back into the game either by utilizing friend’s accounts, creating new characters, even buying new software or computers in order to regain the rush and power of being there in game characters.

Young (2008) continues by stating that true treatment can only be found by taking a look at underlying issues that push users into being addicted to the games in the first place. Reasons such as a dissatisfaction with real life and other key issues need to be addressed and dealt with before they can successfully move on with their real lives, without the help of their online characters.

To conclude, online gaming addiction is a serious issue for those affected. It has several negative effects that could have long term damage on user’s real lives and as such, it needs to be explained and viewed in a way that would allow users to understand and identify if they have a problem and how they would go about solving it.