Thursday, March 02, 2006

Are MMORPGs a disease?

Internet Gaming Addictions

John Stith
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-08-26

China just announced they are placing limits for playtime for their myriad online gamers. They've limited users to five hour periods after which they must take a five hour break. Internet gaming addiction is becoming a real problem in some places and people have died from this addiction.

Many times, in gaming magazines, when a game is reviewed, the addictiveness factor is discussed and sometimes used as part of the rating criteria. I certainly spent a great deal of time plugged into various Sid Meier creations over the years. But in recent weeks, a death in South Korea by an online gamer after playing for two days straight with little or no sleep, to the point giving up his job and some of the other pleasantries of life raised more than just a few eyebrows.

Back in 2001, a 21-year-old shot himself after playing Everquest 12 hours-a-day. He had quit his job, didn't see his family and was totally immersed in the popular online game. While many may blame poor child rearing for much of this peers play a much stronger factor in people's behavior than parents plus this gentlemen was a legal adult at 21 and living in his own apartment. His mother blames the game but has no way to find out exactly what happened.

China has been studying online game addiction for sometime, having released much research on the matter in recent months. They have been encouraging the online gaming as a growth industry for the nation, having seen the $500 million in sales in 2004 alone.

The online gaming industry is shaping up to be a strong, multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. Just yesterday, Disney and Sony announced a partnership for their own, online gaming aimed at children and families. It has also become quite obvious though that these games can easily go too far an AP story pointed out that Internet café owners say these gamers in South Korea do all their eating and sleeping in the cafés. They'll get changes of clothes at home and some other menial things but for the most part, all their spare time seems to be spent at these cafés doing the online gaming.

Perhaps the more important questions here come where the responsibility lies for these tragedies. Are these purely just personal screwups with some people obviously having problems or should these game companies exercise encourage users to take a break from these games occasionally and actually go to sleep, eat, shower etc. There are far too many similarities here for the addiction term not to be used and addictions are generally considered diseases.

Are MMORPGs a disease?


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