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Game Addiction: Myth or Reality?

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May 15, 2007 4:00:54 PM

In 2001, Elizabeth Woolley's son, a heavy EverQuest player, committed suicide. Woolley believes her son's addiction to the popular MMORPG is to blame, and as a result, she started a 12-step support group called On-Line Gamers Anonymous. TwitchGuru talks with Woolley about the issue of game addiction.
May 15, 2007 4:39:15 PM

Sad case. Anything can pretty much become and addiction. My belief is that people with adiciton problems are predisposed to addictions.

Things can be physically adictive or mentally adictive take your choice.

I think a true adiction to a computer game is a fairly rare thing.

More people are ceratinly adicted to gambing/lottery than computer games.

I am sure there are a few people out there that are addicted to board games or role playing games etc.

Treating people with mental health problems is difficult and usually takes a long time. The insurance companies want a quick fix and don't want to pay for long term treatment.

I would be willing to bet that this young man who killed himself had a history (from a very young age) of mental health problems.

“Whatever you do, do it in moderation” :wink:
May 15, 2007 4:43:09 PM

I feel that the responsibility should fall on both the gamer and the game manufacturer. I also feel that there needs to some sort of help more readily/easily available for people to get the help needed, and as with gambling and alcohol addiction the game manufacturer should be stepping up and offering some support. These are "only" games and people need to realize that, it is ok to have fun and immerse yourself in a game but life must go on and you have to take responsibility for that either by realizing you have a problem or by accepting other peoples help....you are not always right and often cannot see that you have an issue.
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May 15, 2007 6:47:07 PM

Good article, good interview. She has a fair assessment of what role games have in all of this. (violence, addiction...) I appreciate that she is not out there using the memory of her son trying to "ban" games as so many others have used for guns, drugs and the like. She does her son honor by taking the approach she is and weighing where the responsibility lies. I also think the reference to gambling is spot-on.

I am an avid player, founding a local LAN organization and I love working with all kinds of related things. Personally, I do not have the time to devote to any online game. (Plus I get annoyed that they demand full price for the game AND a monthly fee) I have 2 kids and do keep up on all of this though, b/c as they get older they will be confronted with mmo's.

I feel that all the issues with games outside of the addiction problem (i.e. violence) are not a problem if parents are involved in the kids life. Just like monitoring the movies kids watch, parents need to know what they are playing. Woolley mentioned games that her son played and that points to her knowing what was up. Naturally, we are talking about a grown man so she does not have the same influence as if her son were 10 yrs old. Most parents I know do not even know those names though, let alone the ratings or content. They let their kids run their own life with no supervision. (I am not referring to Woolley here, just a general observation)

Interesting that there might be a correlation with ADD. There could be something going on there that we have yet to unlock. Or perhaps the developers of these games have already done so? Perhaps they hired some of the developers from the gambling industry? There is a connection there, and I think Woolley is on to something there.

Overall, good word.
May 15, 2007 6:52:12 PM

Maybe it's just me but if my kid had low-grade depression and schizoid personality disorder and ADD to boot they wouldn't be playing videos games even if I had to take a hammer to the computer.

I'm really sorry her son died but maybe there are some other issues to blame besides the game itself. I used to play for 15+ hours a day on EQ and WOW and I still managed to work end up getting married have a kid and do other things. Granted everything had it's own day. For instance if I wanted to go the movies it would be Friday and it would a movie night or if I wanted to table top game it would be Saturday and it would be a gaming night. Yet, that's neither here nor there I still whole heartedly believe it's the individual gamers to blame and not video game companies. I play CS:S everyday and I've never shot anyone.

Just my 2 copper though.
May 15, 2007 6:57:53 PM

Interesting topic.

I think a lot of research needs to be done. I have read an article stating that people with mental conditions tend to be more addicted than people without mental conditions. I wish i can find the article but i'm sure you'll find one relating to it with an internet search.

Research should be done to find out a link between someone with ADD which isn't serious to then turning the kid to schizophrenic depressent. If that's the case well then lets find out. Get a study together and figure out what is causing the personality paradigm shift.

I know EQ eventually put up a timer that would log you off after so many hours you allotted for. I really liked this idea because i'd play and then it would log me off and shut the game down after 2 hours of play. After that i'd say hey 2 hours i'm done and move on with life. Just got another idea, offer parental control on the account where the person has so many hours to play per day. I think, not sure, World of Warcraft does this. Should every game be forced to program these into the game? I think perhaps it should. It doesn't take much effort to put it in. Would putting this in save lives? hey perhaps it will as it detours addictive play.

Perhaps gaming companies should be responsible to provide the tools to detour addiction. Ie a timer like the one i explained. As far as the actions of people who become addicted well gaming companies can't be responsible for what others do. Ie violence - that is entirely different than addiction.

I've been playing violent video games and watching violent movies since i was 7. I've never had any urge to kill anyone. If you blame violent video games you need to blame violent movies, music, parents, kids etc ... You can't exclude one violent medium over the other because you favor, listen, are, seen that other medium.

All in all lets be real addiction is real and parents need to pay attention to it and be a parent. Gaming companies need to take responsibility and offer tools to detour such addictions.
May 15, 2007 7:01:09 PM

I was involved early on with some beta testing of the first on-line games and to tell you the truth it was scary how many teens spent 60-100 hours a week playing them. Some would literally play non stop through the weekend. I cannot believe spending literally 35-60% of your life in a game is healthy. I do not believe the industry is deliberately planning these trends but they certainly are turning a blind eye to it and making lot money in the process. A little proactive activity by the industry could prevent some serious backlash later.
May 15, 2007 7:17:11 PM

Quote:
I was involved early on with some beta testing of the first on-line games and to tell you the truth it was scary how many teens spent 60-100 hours a week playing them. Some would literally play non stop through the weekend. I cannot believe spending literally 35-60% of your life in a game is healthy. I do not believe the industry is deliberately planning these trends but they certainly are turning a blind eye to it and making lot money in the process. A little proactive activity by the industry could prevent some serious backlash later.


Ya i don't get it how kids can spend so many hours playing. where are the parents ya know?
May 15, 2007 7:46:06 PM

The cause of gambling addiction is reasonably understood:

"norepinephrine is secreted under stress, arousal, or thrill, so pathological gamblers gamble to make up for their underdosage"

See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling_addiction

"Gambling addiction" can involve various activities other than gambling - addiction to stock market trading, incessant sports viewing, etc.

Shawn Woolley's unfortunate death was not caused by a video game. It was caused by his depression and other mental issues.
May 15, 2007 7:53:13 PM

here we go again, you cant blame the developers for anything just because there is and absolute minority of people who get addicted to any particular game. as far as suicide is concerned i dont fully believe it had anything to do with a game i think there is something more to it, there are levels of addiction but its an addiction non the less. personally i do have a history of game addiction back at 05-60 i moved away from LA the city i lived in most of my life i just got done with high school too, i pretty much lost contact with my friends because of the distance. eventually i got my hands on World of Warcraft i started to play online until i found myself in my room the whole day playing i would wake up at 7am to play go to sleep all the way till 5am at time although not really continuos gameplay it was really close. this is where things get interesting i fell into depression soon after, my parents would plead and talk to me to stop playing the game or at least in moderation and to go outside and go place i really did not listen eventually suicide came to mind but luckily around that time my dad canceled the my internet with the provider. soon after things got worse all i thought of and even dreamed was suicide and i even had anger towards my parents, but i think that getting in touch with my emotions completely helped me break the depression, something i noticed from all this is that i kinda used the game almost like a depression pill, you know to numb or to make me forget whats really going on and although it felt good while playing it really was not helping. my only opinion to those that are dealing with something like this, and if you find yourself in a similar situation you have to talk to somebody i know that someone who is addicted like me did not ask for help because i really did not know i was doing so bad. so thats why parents have to stay alert its not really that hard when you see your son on the computer for way too long and if this becomes a continuos thing or with any other thing you first talk to them and if does not work you target the the problem cut the internet take the pc cut the money do something and be more responsible. and with addictions you can be sneaky when my dad just took my power cable i rushed the same day to comp usa and got spares so even take the damn harddrive if you have too or sell the pc.
May 15, 2007 8:26:08 PM

I totally agree with you on parental involvement in kids' lives. Heck, my son and daughter will NOT have a comp in their bedroom. It will be in the family room or something. Same as the xbox or whatever. Same as the board games and other stuff. The availability of porn and all the other crap on comps prevents me from letting that be a private thing.

I did not feel that there was total blame being put on developers though, only a connection to how online games are made to keep you "strung out" on the game while other games are not. I did not think she was saying it was all their fault. She just made a very strong connection to how they are made. She even said Doom and others were not a problem. To me, that is a pretty fair judgment.

Gambling machines are made to keep you on, giving out small doses of what you crave to keep you there. Is that the fault of the designers? You bet it is, they designed the "game" with that in mind. Are they taking advantage of the human condition to become addicted? Yup. Should they be punished? well... This is almost a "chicken or egg" argument. Is it your fault for letting yourself (or your kids) get addicted or is it the fault of the one that gave you the addicting item/substance/whatever? Honestly, fault is on both sides from a moral perspective. Gambling "game" designers maybe take more than not because they are predatory in their designing. JMO of course.

Should we legislate it so that designers are at fault? I don't believe that is a solution. Ppl with addictive personalities will find what they crave from wherever they need to look. Legal or otherwise. Education to friends and family is the only fix. If those who love you can't get to you and help pull you out (or show you your folly) then you may be lost for good. That is why groups like Woolley's are such a good thing. Information and providing a path for redemption are the only real solution.

It is the sick that need a physician, not the healthy. If you do not know yourself (or your friend) to be sick, then you do not need to get better. This does not mean that developers of addictive "traps" are off the hook, but it does place some of that blame on the ignorance/naivety of those getting caught.
May 15, 2007 8:29:20 PM

This is a complicated issue.

First off is the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. The depression and Schizoid Personality Disorder or the game addiction.
Depression at least is a disorder that has a strong biological component, so at the very least he was strongly predisposed to depression before EQ. Schizoid Personality Disorder could have manifested after the addiction as a response to the combination of addiction and depression.

Overall, he sounds like he was at risk to begin with. Does that mean that nobody is at all responsible? That is hard to say. On the one hand, everyone should be held accountable for their actions, but on the other hand, he was clearly diagnosed as mentally ill and there was no effective treatment available for him. On the other side of the coin you have a company whose profits depend upon people keeping a fairly expensive subscription to their service, and as a result, they program it to be addictive. In fact many of these games are praised for their addictive nature. On the other hand it does exacerbate existing mental problems to extremely unhealthy proportions. Should they carry any blame for that?

Blame and responsibility are difficult to assess when we are talking about the mentally ill. They, by the very fact that they are mentally ill, are not normal. I think the best way to handle it is to try to deal with this as a culture and not try too hard to point fingers.

Violent video games quite clearly (based upon violent crime data over the past 20 or so years) do not cause violent behavior. Unfortunately I do not have access to good statistics on percentages of population addicted to video games. It is difficult to say we need to make large sweeping changes either legally or ethically if this only affects .01% of the population. On the other hand if it affects 10% of the population we have a rather notable problem and probably should enact change.

Given that Olganon has seen a high percentage of ADD people addicted to MMORPGs and that ADD people make up between 8% and 15% of the population depending on who you ask, one would think this is cause for alarm, but keep in mind, we may still only be talking about .1% of people with ADD here. There could easily be other factors involved. I personally have been diagnosed with a rather strong case of ADD, but I have yet to suffer true video game addiction despite my time played. Most of my friends are clearly ADD, but still have lives outside of their games and hold stable jobs.

I would say that the safer assumption is that we are talking about less than 1% of the population and quite possibly less than .1% of the population. Does this mean we should ignore the problem? Absolutely not. But it does mean that legislation would probably be misguided, hamfisted, and ineffectual. The best solution is to find effective means of helping people with MMO addictions and making the gaming population aware of the contributing factors, signs, and effects of video game addiction as well as where they can go for help.

Now I hate to say this but 12 step programs are not likely to be the best solution, or even an effective one. Studies have shown that they have about the same success rate as any other support group and have the side effect of not being at all effective with atheists and agnostics since the 12 step formula relies upon faith in god. With this in mind Olganon could do a great service by being a reliable point of contact for these people and their loved ones who can then direct them to other treatment centers and such.
May 15, 2007 9:29:51 PM

Its a reality, im not pointing out the finger to no one but at least his parent should have shutdown is pc and force him to work or something. Im telling that because i was myself addicted to World of Warcraft, i was playing 7 day and from the morning to midnight, we were raiding hardcore more then 10 hours straight and when i was not raiding with my guild well i was doing pvp or something else in the same game. At some point my parent was wondering what happen to me, etc.. Well after i realize with them how this is a waste of time etc.. so i stopped the game sold my account, believe it or not for 1700$US and im back to school and learning a very good profession. The game was fun but for me it was the 50-60 people on ventrillo and speaking while playing was better. If i have kids one day and i see my kid play that kind of game, i will warm them or something to stop them to be addictive. After all i dont regret my 2 year hardcore world of warcraft playing. But for someone that don't have a job, profession stable and don't affect them in real life its okay.
May 15, 2007 9:59:40 PM

First off, I just want to say that I appreciate that the comments on this thread have been thoughtful and intelligent (so far). This is a sensitive and controversial topic, obviously. I can't say that I wasn't worried how some readers would respond to this interview, but I think you guys have handled it maturely and respectfully, even if you disagree with the interview, on this forum.

Second, I personally think Liz Woolley makes a great point about game addiction vs. violent games. From my own personal experience, I've never met or spoken with anyone that felt that violent video games affected them adversely or somehow harmed them mentally. However, in the short time that I've been covering MMOs, I've met and spoken with dozens of people who freely admit they were seriously addicted to EverQuest, WoW or others MMOs and that their compulsions to play hurt their personal relationships, career, etc.

I'm not saying I want the government to regulate MMOs or start legislating games to be non-addictive, but I do agree with Liz about addiction being a bigger concern that violent games.
May 15, 2007 10:16:01 PM

Quote:
First off, I just want to say that I appreciate that the comments on this thread have been thoughtful and intelligent (so far). This is a sensitive and controversial topic, obviously. I can't say that I wasn't worried how some readers would respond to this interview, but I think you guys have handled it maturely and respectfully, even if you disagree with the interview, on this forum.

Second, I personally think Liz Woolley makes a great point about game addiction vs. violent games. From my own personal experience, I've never met or spoken with anyone that felt that violent video games affected them adversely or somehow harmed them mentally. However, in the short time that I've been covering MMOs, I've met and spoken with dozens of people who freely admit they were seriously addicted to EverQuest, WoW or others MMOs and that their compulsions to play hurt their personal relationships, career, etc.

I'm not saying I want the government to regulate MMOs or start legislating games to be non-addictive, but I do agree with Liz about addiction being a bigger concern that violent games.


No one is responsive and no one need to regulate MMOs its on the market and its your own choice to play it or not. I know i am pushing it far but take exemple of cigarette, smoking can kill you long term; its your own choice to smoke them. But all i have to say is about weapon wich in the usa its too easy to get one. Sure people buy gun to use it for deer hunting etc.. Its your choice if you want to use it for that or something else... But the best choice is to make some advertising on the games maybe on the box that the game can make the gamer addictive. This is simple do to and people will be warmed before they play.
May 15, 2007 10:21:43 PM

Can games, especially online video games, be addictive? Although some have already mentioned the underlying neuro-chemical factors and the reward schedule similar to that of casino games, I would urge you to read A Behavioral Approach to Video Game Design. It covers the basics of operant conditioning and reward schedules quite well. The inclusion of a bibliography also lends credibility. (I did not check the sources. Although I am still a student, it conforms to what I have been taught so far in psychology.) After reading the article, I'd be surprised if you said that video games - especially online video games - are not addictive.

However, because I am currently in a Sleep Mechanisms and Sleep Disorders class at the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin, I find the behavioral changes in sleep to be a very intriguing aspect of the gaming addiction. An intermittent or irregular sleep schedule can cause profound changes in a person's mood or personality. Depression, antisocial behavior, and irritability can all symptoms of insomnias and circadian rhythm disorders. However, there are also increased cardiovascular risks associated with sleep disorders (including circadian disorders and sleep apneas). With such a large body of anecdotal evidence over the marathon sessions online gamers engage in (my own anecdote included from when I played "Evercrack" when it first was released), there is a good probability that some cases of mental illness are a side effect of playing the game.

How should we treat recovering online gamers? First, a slight correction to the nature of 12 step programs - they require acknowledgement of a higher power than oneself and not a god specifically. This is useful as it helps the person understand that many things are in their control, but not everything. However, since the disorder involves both mood and personality changes, short term use of pharmacological agents may be needed in moderate to severe cases of addiction in order for psychological therapy to be productive. These could help the patient restore proper sleep hygiene and stabilize a their moods until natural circadian rhythms take hold.

It is interesting to note that several of the posts seem to be assuming a demographic of teenage males (and teenagers already have a phase advanced in their circadian cycles that are fully natural and cause minimal disruptions). Although male dominated, I think the demographic is slightly older than what is being assumed. While I had encountered a large number of minors playing the game, I find that there is a significant population of college age and young adult players. I have no data on this, so I cannot say if they make up a majority. However, I would be shocked if minors were the majority.

Where does responsibility lie? Both with the players (or their parents) and the game companies. To say one or the other is solely responsible would be a bit foolish. However, I do feel the industry currently hold a slightly greater responsibility at this time. Had the industry acknowledged that their games are designed to have an addictive component akin to that found in casino games, would Elizabeth Woolley had the same difficulty in finding proper support for her son prior to his committing suicide? I think the industry needs to step forward before individuals start pressing for government regulation, much in the same way they founded the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) before the government implemented legislation.

For the specific topic of minors, the parents play a significant role. I am always astounded by parents who want the industry to restrict what I, as an adult, can watch in general or during specific time periods when they have a TV in every bedroom. The same applies to internet use and computers. I've also heard the comment "but they'll just go over to their friends house if I take it out of there room". My response? So why would to let them go there - and if they are going there without your permission, then why are you letting you children set their own rules? Although there are truly extreme cases where children are uncontrollable, there are also just as many cases where parents don't want to put forth the effort in raising their children. My experiences at Denny's as a waiter taught me this. Many parents would let their children throw food, yell, scream, run around, and scribble with crayons on menus and tables. We all have seen misbehaving children in grocery stores. Sometimes, parents don't control children because of fear that they will be seen as abusers and thus reported to child services. Usually it is because they don't want another "fight" with their child. In the end, though, the parent is just that - the parent. There are times when, no matter how much it may cause conflicts, they have to say no. No, you can't have a TV or computer in your bedroom. No, you can't watch that program or go online right now. No, you can't go to your friends house because their parents allow things we don't - but your friend can come over here! No, you can't have a personal cell phone - but you must take a family phone with you any time you go out so we can reach you. No, you can't stay up all night reading a book. No, you can't buy a toy today. Unfortunately, parenting involves saying no a lot.

In conclusion, online games are most definitely addictive. However, like all addictions, use of an online game does not guarantee a player will become addicted - just as going to a casino or buying lottery tickets does not guarantee you will become a gambling addict. We do not expect casinos to show that gambling is 100% addictive, and we should not make this same requirement of online gaming companies. The industry has a responsibility to acknowledge the harmful side effects that their product can cause and educate their uses on the potential hazards. These can be subtle such as total playtime reminders during play or more direct such as working with various professional organizations like the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to increase awareness of the hazards so that people like Elizabeth Woolley can get the help they seek. Once the industry acknowledges and informs the public of these risks, then individual responsibility will become more important. When talking about minors, the importance of strong parenting must be emphasized. The industry should not be required to be 'surrogate parents' for the child when they play such games.

Does any of this help Elizabeth Woolley? No. Unfortunately, tragedy must sometimes be endured to bring out strong leaders. One example that comes to mind is John Walsh. Perhaps both will find comfort in knowing that their battles will spare others from the pain they have endured.

[I apologize - I intended a brief response. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and viewing the article on the reward schedules of video games.]
May 15, 2007 10:53:49 PM

Quote:
No one is responsive and no one need to regulate MMOs its on the market and its your own choice to play it or not. I know i am pushing it far but take exemple of cigarette, smoking can kill you long term; its your own choice to smoke them. But all i have to say is about weapon wich in the usa its too easy to get one. Sure people buy gun to use it for deer hunting etc.. Its your choice if you want to use it for that or something else... But the best choice is to make some advertising on the games maybe on the box that the game can make the gamer addictive. This is simple do to and people will be warmed before they play.


You make some good points, and I think your examples show why some level of regulation may be needed. Both cigarettes and firearms are regulated products. These products are restricted because our society feels that a minor does not have the proper faculties to adequately weigh the risks of using the product. For cigarettes, they may not recognize the physical dangers to their health. For firearms, they may not recognize the danger the weapons may pose to other people.

Your analogies would suggest that restricting the sales of the software and time cards to adults would be warranted. Although your post seemed to imply you would not be for this, I think there would be a significant portion of parents who would welcome this restriction. Remember, when these games first were released they required the use of a credit card. Thus by design they were restricted to adult use since a minor could not legally own a credit card. Unfortunately, the online subscription cards have now changed that model. Perhaps it is time to reinstate it.[/i]
May 15, 2007 11:39:54 PM

At the time, I took a very critical and skeptical point of view of these treatment facilities and help groups like Olganon. It wasn't that I outright dismissed the notion of some gamers having a compulsion to play far too many hours. However, I felt the responsibility was on the individual gamers and not the game designers or publishers. For the most part, I'm still reluctant to blame game developers for the problems that a small number of gamers have in being able to quit - or at least control their playing time with - an MMORPG like World or WarCraft. But after talking with many people over the last year who have been consumed with MMOs, including members of Olganon, I've come to feel that the issue isn't as black and white as I once believed it was.

This part of your article is a very critical piece because you are right nothing is just black and white. Things are always much more complicated than they appear on the surface. There are numerous situations/categories that people can fall under and the number is as large as there are people on the planet. In your own family you can probably identify family members who suffer from some kind of mental condition that may not be serve enough to diagnose. Most people have some point in there life when they have a difficult time. Easily things can spiral out of control if they go unoticed and even if they are noticed some times there is nothing that a person can do to help. I imagine if this person was not adicted to Evenquest and had never been exposed to it he probably would have still developed a mental illness and would have probably ended his life anyway.
May 15, 2007 11:40:30 PM

It is truly sad that she lost her son, and again I don’t want to finger point, but what about the responsibly of a parent? Why is it always someone else’s fault? Last I checked Everquest has a monthly subscription, who paid that? I doubt it was her son, according to her he stayed away from people and was a loner. Who's computer did he use, Family, did he have his own in his room, Why did it not get taken away when there were problems?

So many unanswered questions. This issues lies deeper then just a computer game addiction; there were severe mental issues that were not addressed with her son. This is not someone else’s fault, look in the mirror. Take some responsibility as a parent.
May 15, 2007 11:41:13 PM

In my young life I have had many addictions at one time or another. From nicotine to coke and alcohol. Most of these addictions were terrible enough I never stuck with them for too long fortunatley with the exception of alcohol. I got into WoW as my first MMO when it was released nov.23 04'. At first it was like any other game, I played relativley casual and just to escape the tediums of life. After a while I really started to get into it, with raiding and being involved in a fairly large guild, I was quite enjoying the power positions in the game heirarchy and whatnot. Soon after the game began to consume me, and for quite a while I chose to remain ignorant of the damages it was doing. In the end I stopped working for a year, to drink beer and raid. The effects though were equally as bad if not worse as a hard drug for me in MANY ways. At least with drugs you are usually doing it with ppl and have a stong social life. With WoW it rly did a number on me and damaged my relationships and the ability to maintain or make new ones.

As in the past realizing I was addicted and I was damaging my life eventually started to sink in. So I withdrew from WoW to play other games on a very casual basis, as well as work on gettiung my life back on track. I still drink ocassionally, I play LOTRO maybe a few hours a week (great mmo by the way), and live a more balanced life then ever before. I think once I get more physically fit, I will get the great words of wisdom "moderation is key" tatoo'd across my chest so I never be so ignorant of what I had been preahed a million times.

I admire the ppl who are speaking out about this because it is a very real thing and certainly can be dangerous. I am going to go as far as to say this: it is even more dangerous than a hard drug, because if you are a person predisposed to addiction, and dont know it, you wont even realize it until it has already hurt you bad. At least with almost any drug, you would have to be a complete idiot nowadays to not realize what you were getting yourself into. Most gamers wouldnt even consider any game being so addictive as to seriously sidetrack your life for the worse.


Anyways I look forward to seeing how these issues develope :p 
May 16, 2007 12:23:22 AM

Online game addiction ~ WOW ~ what a huge topic and what a bigger issue. Reading through these first few posts I see a tendancy to peg this as a male centric issue. Let's keep in mind that Second Life draws more than 50% of it's membership from the female gender.
How's that for a segue? Talk about online addiction...I've personally teetered on the edge of serious Real Life disruption over a recent 6 month period as an active Second Life citizen. Not dismissing the seriousness of suicide related to online addictions, I will say there is more likely a much greater percentage of people just consumed with the coitel experience of being immersed who would never consider taking one's own life ~ but the question still remains ~ by way of giving up their Real Lives, haven't they committed suicide in a Virtual kind of way? Ponder that...
I know one gal, an employee of a major medical services provider in the New Jersey area, who spends nearly every waking hour connected to SL ~ including sneaking on any chance she gets during business trips to Atlanta. This gal pulls six figures, and yet, gets away with living a dual role on the fly during what accounts for a typical 50 hour work week. Now if shiat like that can exist in the medical industry we should all be asking ourselves what has our society gotten itself into with this online revolution... I for one have a much better grasp of what contributes to high costs associated with health care...

Point being in all of this ~ online addiction affects way more people than single stories of suicide tend to reveal. Again I'm in no way suggesting matters of suicide should be trivialized, addiction resulting in loss of life (fatal) is indeed a tragedy and needs a serious look ~ but so is the greater community of folks addicted to online nonsense and where no one is necessarily suicidal but no less lifeless.

...and certainly evolving into a vast pool of non contributors to the society as a whole!

Unplug folks.
Second Life is an awful trap created by a group of profiteers and consumed by a vast majority of people in need of some serious help...
May 16, 2007 12:41:21 AM

Game addition is an absolute reality and a problem. Don't blame the game manufacturers. This is not cigs. Don't blame the stores. This is not drug dealing.

The game makers make the best games they can and some have done it very well (EQ, WoW, BF2 to note a few).

It is personal responsibility and it is up to the individual to manage their life. We each have our demons and we will each overcome (or not) as our brain directs.

Freedom of choice is the heart of American society, and for better or worse, this is part of it.

Keep making good games. People take responsibility for your own actions.
May 16, 2007 2:31:03 AM

Until I see a 14yr old kid selling his body on a streetcorner to pay his monthly MMO fee, it isn't an addiction.
May 16, 2007 3:22:03 AM

Thank you for interviewing her. This is a very insightful article and I am glad that there is a support group for people who are addicted to games. But I am going to disagree because policitians like Hilary Clinton and lawyers like Jack Thompson would try to use game addiction at more ammunition to try and "ban/regulate" the sale of games with sex and violence. The line between influence of video games and addiction is a very thin line, and sadly some people cannot see the difference and will try to find a connection between the two.

I think it's ultimately up to the individual themselves to decide whether they are fit to play the game. At the same time, if developers added some kind of disclaimer about the effects of this game and whatnot, added in with better education for the gamer, the gamer's family and friends, this problem might not become very rampant. I know Jagex Limited has put a small guide on how to lay Runescape moderately. Towards the end of their little guidet they say that Runescape is just a game and that you should just have fun, not indulge your entire life into it.

If the government tried to hold the developers accountable for things like this, we could possibly see less of a viable market for MMO's, FPS, ORTS, etc etc. If company A were held responsible and charged or something with the death of an individual company B would most likely change their plans and develop games in other genres and push away the consumer that was originally catered to the consumer of that specific genre.

Both the developers and the gamers themselves should take a more proactive approach with the though, "Anything is addictive, why shouldnt this game be any different?" Anyone can be addicted to almost anything, people must come to realize that no matter how strong theire will or how determined they are, their just as easy prey as say the Alcoholic or Heroine addict. Moving on, adding a disclaimer into the game could help diffuse and warn the gamer and the gamer's family and friends about the dangers of constantly playing an MMO for extended periods of time. But ultimately is up to us as individuals to decide when to put down the controller, keyboard/mouse.
May 16, 2007 4:03:06 AM

Thank you, Rob, for this article, and for taking the time to explore this topic further and consider all the implications. There need to be more discussions like this, and more education of the general public. As you can doubtless tell by my nickname, I have a personal perspective on this problem.

I have a 20-year-old son who became addicted to the World of Warcraft. He was a bright, social, witty young man with all A's and B's in high school, a bunch of hobbies, and a boatload of friends. He had NO prior mental health issues of any kind. No addictions, compulsions, obsessions, anxiety, depression, or psychosis. He comes from a loving 2-parent church-going family. He went to a university 2 hours from here and became addicted to the game to the point where he was not eating, not going to class, and cut off communication with us (turned off cellphone and unplugged room phone). He did not read his e-mail or his campus mail. He missed registration deadlines and finally flunked out. He came home an anxious, phobic shell with a vacant stare. He could not converse with another human being, could not even make eye contact. He could not put two words together on a piece of paper. It was the most frightening thing I have ever seen. I am a family physician and I would not have believed this if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. He went through actual withdrawal symptoms when he came home. Extreme hypersomnia--slept 20 hours a day. Extreme anxiety and lack of focus. He is slowly returning to normal. We did a number of things to help him through this and he has done a number of things for himself, but he's not out of the woods yet, one year later.

You will see it written frequently that gaming addiction is not a recognized psychiatric diagnosis. The only reason this is true is that the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Psychiatric Diagnosis was written based on research available through 1992. 1992. How many of you even had the internet in your homes in 1992? This will change in the next edition. I guarantee it.

Who is responsible for what happened to my son? Obviously he is partly responsible, but I gotta put partial blame on a company that markets a game that eventually requires 8-10 hour non-stop gaming sessions to continue to advance, a game that never ends (and never will for at least the next 12 years). Could I have prevented what happened? I am a concerned, involved parent. I had no idea that there were games that never end, that REQUIRE my son's presence online for hours at a time. I had no idea that he COULD get addicted to a game (he has been exposed to other addictive substances and NEVER got addicted). I was busy watching out for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes (and successfully too).

I raised a good boy, but when he went to college, I no longer had control over his gaming. He went away to college where they protected him from his evil parents. Professors practically gloated over the fact that they did not have to share any information about his academic prgress with us. No one was concerned that he wasn't eating, wasn't going to class, wasn't even leaving his room.

Yes, parents should limit their kids' computer access, but you must remember that there are people out there telling them that computer games will HELP their ADD, teach them better hand-eye coordination, and make them more social, and many parents are not aware of the dangers. Many parents DO try to limit access, but obsessive players will hack around passwords, play at night when parents are asleep, hack neighbors' wireless networks, play at friends' houses (should we keep the kid at home and NEVER let him leave the house?), pick locks designed to lock them out of the computer room, hack around parental controls, and most recently a lady told me her son (a minor) hacked her business account password and held her business accounts hostage to get his computer back after she locked it up. So please, don't tell the parents of an addicted gamer to "just say no".

Yes, kids with pre-existing mental health issues are probably more susceptible to gaming addiction, but my kid was ABSOLUTELY NORMAL before this happened. Saying that the addict must have some pre-existing issues just gives the parents of normal kids a false sense of security. It can happen to anyone. Gaming addiction can CAUSE mental illness. I've seen it happen. Liz is right when she says Everquest changed her son's personality. World of Warcraft changed my son's personality.

I am one of the medical professionals at OLGA-non that Liz referred to. My mission is to support other parents who are facing the same problems I did, and to educate parents, teachers, college and university staff members, and other medical providers about the existance of this problem. It is not rare. Whenever I speak of it in a small group of 2 or 3 people, at least one of them has a child or a niece or nephew that they've been concerned about.

Thank you again Rob.
May 16, 2007 6:47:14 AM

I thought the whole Idea from a games point of view is to be addictive, easy to pick up hard to master. As far as games that never end, there are plenty of those online and offline they are nothing new thats for sure. What is troubling is the shift of blame to the people providing a product that other people so clearly want. Do you blame the drug dealer or the people that keep him in business? Its hard to completly place blame on either, there is a deeper itch that most people are just to affraid to scratch.
May 16, 2007 10:54:32 AM

You know, there are a lot of angry mothers out there in today's B-S-filled society that normally only succeed in leaving me unimpressed with the human race, but not so with Mrs. Woolley. Despite her tragic loss her opinions read balanced, and more importantly, she comes across as someone who knows what they're talking about. A lesser person would've channeled their loss as a victimization to themselves and lashed out at the world irrationally. While her mental constitution has played a large role in being composed, I'd wager her experience in AA has done a greater part in providing her understanding.

Just recently, like last week, I've started to come to the terms with the fact that I have a problem with video games. Since our first NES system and even before, I've always felt a certain indescribable draw towards the Great Interactive Screen, if you will. My childhood was far from ideal; rife with divorce, abusive bipolar stepdad, alcoholism afflicted father, etc. For me, early on, video games were the only thing that offered an escape from that dreadful reality. My parents knew I played too much, and were oft to "ground me" or put "restrictions" if my grades were unsuitable--which they often were.

Later on I was diagnosed with ADD (although I have a feeling that it may have been falsely diagnosed--the psychiatrist had not known the kind of duress I was under in that dysfunctional household.) Since moving out and living on my own, I've been able to remember more and focus to at least a functional level. I'm still carried away by my imagination, though.
Does ADD correlate with a high probability to Game Addiction? I suppose someone should look into that. I'm of the opinion that ADD is a misunderstood form of someone with an activated Addiction/Novelty center, or a symptom of someone living in a dysfunctional home, but hey that's just me.

Realizing that I have a problem was just one tiny step. I tried looking for a Video Gamers Anonymous program or chapter. Not a single one. I did eventually come across OlgAnon, but strangely enough I didn't have a problem with MMO's. Yes, I've "done my time" in WoW, but eventually WoW's own customer service support (or lack thereof) angered me enough to quit. To boot, I wasn't "wowed," so to speak, with Blizzard's unimaginative, overly derivitive choice in the game design, but that's neither here nor there.

Even still, OlgAnon encouraged a twelve step program process. I called a local community center and came up with a cost estimate of starting my own VGA chapter (yes... VGA), but after doing some reading, and from a small amount of personal experience, I've decided that 12 step isn't for me. I'm just don't buy into all the heavy God stuff that 12 step is filled with. As an alternative, and against the grain of the socially-accepted AA template, I've decided to take the Rational Recovery route.

Who do I blame for my addiction? Do I blame myself/consumer? Video game developer/publishers? I think those two parties are only the concrete reasons behind game addiction, but they're not the causational reason behind game addiction. If I could place a blame, it would be my parents for raising me in a destructive environment that they themselves brought on, except that they themselves lived similarly dismal childhoods, and so only did the best that they could with their incomplete selves. It's not fair that I came to be this way, but life isn't fair.

While Big Tobbacco knows and has admitted that their products cause cancer, developers/publishers still have plenty of plausible deniability on video games being harmful to people with addiction problems, and they still will until society keeps getting smoke-screen by the red herring "violence-in-games" issue. To be honest, they probably don't think they're doing anybody wrong at all, and why should they? Nobody is willing to investigate this problem at all.

I'm done. I wish I could wait around for Crysis to come out, and Metal Gear Solid 4, but I can't. We're in a golden age of games right now. There will ALWAYS be a great quality title around the corner for me. Likely, until it's too late for me to change my life around. Until I can fully and completely control my problem, then I can't let myself play.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.
May 16, 2007 11:15:37 AM

Just wanted to throw in my two cents of experience on the subject.

EvE Online was my first mmorpg, and I beleive I was addicted back in those days. The concept of game addiction wasnt "invented" then but I felt something was wrong. This was when the game was brand new. I skipped many classes at the university so I could stay at home gaming(after all I was paying for the game, wanted the most out of it, and all I needed to do in school was to complete the exams!). Yeah, good thinking! :-/

The funny thing was I had that feeling all the time: I am here too much, this aint right and normal. I was probably online about 12-16h a day, and skipping classes was not a problem for me.

"Thankfully", I eventually got bored of EvE and at the same time I couldn't imagine playing any other game. I think that was my break, or I would have gone further downhill. I got out of the game but didn't resume any other game. I went back to school to complete my studies, but was recruited by a company I later started to work for.

So came WoW, and being a warcraft fan since the first titles I jumped on the beta train, and have played ever since. Yes, I still play A LOT, but thanks to the "close-to-breakdown" issue I had with EvE I have got the insight needed to be able to separate Real Life (TM) from the online world. I still have my job since 4 years back and doing good at it, have friends and family that doesnt think less of me(atleast I hope ;-). However, I still manage to squeeze in about 20h of online time per week!

What is my current problem? Im losing sleep ofcourse... :wink:
May 16, 2007 12:03:14 PM

Thank you for the good Interview Liz and Rob. I too belong to the OLGA staff.

I have no medical education (yet :wink: ) , but I too have experienced as well as observed gaming addiction, causing symptoms of mental illnesses in otherwise perfectly normal people.

I belong to the rare class of people who can get addicted to any game (and only game ... I don´t care about drugs/alcohol ect.) - in fact I have never even played an MMORPG, played Infantry Online and Silencer for a while a long time ago on Sony Station though ... and lot´s of Action Quake 2 :D  (good times!)

I am an economist with a good amount of insight into psychology.

The fact of MMO revenue systems being partially responsible for them being addictive has been already covered in the interview, so I will only say that anyone who denies it has no real understanding of economic market forces at work.

Also, I concede that my vulnerability to addiction has certainly to do with my upbringing and family history:

There is a very good paper on addiction by Bruce Alexander, a psychology professor.

(found http://policyalternatives.ca/index.cfm?act=news&call=22...)

It argues that people who by whatever ways or for what ever reasons become dislocated from their spiritual or emotional support system, be it a family, a culture, a country, a circle of friends, become vulnerable to addiction.

In German, the word for addiction is "Sucht" from the root "suchen" = to look for something

This "something" is the lost link to your emotional and spiritual support.

Now, if we look at the way our society is going: we have ultra fast and conventient communication, yet often associated with a loss of depth and closeness. You can´t hug someone by ICQ, you can´t kiss someone by email and even video telephony is but a faded replica of a real meeting up for tea.

The reason 12 step groups work, is exactly because they reinstall a support group of real people for the addict, who have the same values and share many of the same traits.

From personal experience I can say there is a lot of truth to it:

I was born in the soviet union. My father originally was a sea faring engeneer and my mum a geo-chemist and I had a very sheltered childhood with expeditions, intellectual upbringing etc. In 1986 we moved to East-Germany due to an administrative job my father took there.

BANG, no more relatives who took care of me all day, off to kindergarten, as now both parents worked and no grandparents were in sight.

Then German Unification came and suddenly I was the "russian pig" at school for a few years, not really being able to identify with the german culture, yet due to living on an island with little to no other russians, no russian culture either.

Dad successfully started his own company and apart from helping him out at the office from time to time I didn´t see him much. Mum went into depression for a few years.

At school, I had friends and was quite popular, just when looking back I never was 100% fitting in anywhere. People even called me "bunter hund" - "coloured dog", everyone knew me and people either liked me or didn´t not much middle ground. Either way, I didn´t care, I had a close group of friends and a great girlfriend and anyone who didn´t like me could stuff it :)  ... was doing martial arts and weight lifting.

We were playing lot´s of computer games as well as pen and paper RPGs back in those days, but never to the detriment of other activities. Noone would have considered anyone of us addicted.

I graduated from school and went to a posh private college. Showily drove around in BMW limousines and a Z3 and was playing lot´s of computer games, yet not excessively so. Was planning to graduate as soon as possible and become a country hopping, millionaire jet-set yuppi. :lol: 

Then in 2001 I went to Mexico, fell in love, had a few tragic events, found yoga and somehow had a 100% change of goals in life. Came back and wanted to abort economics and start psychology, not being able to identify with the established way of doing business to the detriment of society with greed being the only motivation anymore.

Was no allowed to do so by the parents, broke up with girlfriend (came together again, later she left be because of gaming addiction...), felt like an alien at the college and slowly withdrew into gaming.

I never did any drugs, never was drunk, never even took a whiff of a cigarette or joint... nothing.

Yet my beloved games, that up to that time had been an innocent past time got me, and they got me hard.

I was playing non stop for weeks at times, with metal window stills shut, telephone disconnected, college neglected. Academically I got by only because I have good genes and some good upbringing, so I could prepare for some exams right before they took place. Still, my streight A´s went to B´s and stayed there ... would have become even worse, but I did not write any exam that I was not sure to get an A or B, so I accumulated lot´s of dog-tails (how do you call them in english?)

I participated in an NLP education back then, so I had regular psychological help, I also have a good friend - Dr. of Psychology who monitored me once or twice a year, and damn good friends who stuck with me, even if I broke up contact with them for weeks and months. Don´t know what could have become otherwise. Suicide was a definite option.

I could not go out, could not look people streight into the eyes, had sleeping disorders, tremors, severe depression etc.

After about 2 critical years the addiction started to lessen and my life started to brighten up. I was still periodically binging on games, but not 24/7 365 days a year.

Today, I have graduated and will finally start my psych studies in autumn, I am teaching yoga and studying naturopathic medicine. My life is almost back in order and I have not lost any friends through it, though I hurt my former girlfriend so much (psychologically, never physically) during my times of addiction that she still won´t talk to me.

Thing is, I can´t play games. It all goes downhill if I do. I can´t even read much about games, even though I love to. I love the art, I love good gameplay, I love the imagination and the immersion.

But if I immerse myself in a game, I am lost to real life. And I know several such people.

Gaming addiction is real, and it does not even have to do only with MMOs ... it has to do with a "virtual life" being more enticing than your real life at that very moment in time.

Matrix Style

Now look at the way society is going. Virtual worlds are becoming ever more accessible and real, the real world is not becoming any more exiting:

Modern city lifestyle with millions of strangers living next door to each other, not even knowing their neighbours ( certainly don´t know mine here in my Berlin flat, different in my flat on the island )

"Globaliation" with the ruinous competition for the lowest social and environmental standards to promote "competitive investment environments"...

Addiction to games is going to become a BIG topic in the next decades ... and it´s not about the gamer, it´s not about the game, it´s not about the developers or the publishers, or even the society.

It´s not a chain of links, where you can find the "rusty link" and exchange it. It´s a complex phenomenon where everyone and everything is partially "at fault".
May 16, 2007 12:19:38 PM

Quote:
Until I see a 14yr old kid selling his body on a streetcorner to pay his monthly MMO fee, it isn't an addiction.


I sold my body for sex to pay for my MMO addiction.

Seriously. Dead serious no joke. Literally let someone have their way with me for my MMO addiction, and it was neither fun nor pretty.

This is a serious problem and needs to be addressed, but I don't think that anyone is at fault but the people who addict themselves to it.
May 16, 2007 2:21:39 PM

I think it is absolutly absurd to believe a person can become addicted to a game as a result of any actions taken by the game manufacturers. To accept this you have to believe gamblers are addicted because of the casinos, Alcholics addictions are the fault of liquor manufacturers etc. I don't leave out Smoking in this statement either. There is no denying all these things are addictive, anything enjoyable can be addictive. Games are meant to be enjoyable, if game manufacturers try to make games less addictive, they will have to make them less enjoyable. Any person with any form of addiction has a weakness they need to overcome.

Addiction assistance groups are fantastic and I am greatful they exist. but at the same time the person addicted is the only one who can assume any of the blame for their addiction. If a person were to be addicted to Sun tanning would we blame the sun, or if thery were addicted to gardening would be blame nature. No, if a person is addicted to anything it is their fault and exclusivly their fault.

This comes all the way back to what I see as an overwhelming trend in the US society. So many people are certain, they have been wronged and that it is someone else's fault. Hats off to Mrs. Woolley and her efforts, I am saddend for her loss but what happened to her son is not the Game writers fault, its not the computer manufacturers fault, its not The girl her son may have been interested in's fault. It was her sons weakness that left him unable to break his self destructive behavior. I Hope Mrs. Woolley is successfull in saving others from the same fate. I would also hope as a good will gesture Game manufacturers would make a donation to her cause. But the truth is we all want to do things we enjoy and the more we can do them the better but it is our own responsibility to quit before we lose ourselves to it.

Dale, Software Engineer, social drinker, non smoker, pasty white, occasional game player and no green thumbs.
May 16, 2007 2:29:35 PM

Good article. Rarely do I reply to forum articles, but I feel pretty strongly about this topic. I think that today's society is becoming very weak because everyone is trying to place blame on others for their actions. If a person isn't placing the blame, someone who loves them is placing the blame. People need to stand up and take responsibility for their actions. Everything has a disorder now. Parents need to realize that their kids are the product of their upbringing. There are exceptions, but by and large this will be the case. Gaming addiction certainly may be a problem, but it is the people playing it who have the problem. Those who write games are just putting out a good product. What about the COUNTLESS others playing the same game who lead normal lives? Woolley says she struggled with alcohol. Does anyone think this had some type of affect on her son? I have never heard anything about the father either? Did he pass on, divorce, etc.? In the face of what happened, she seems to be a very reasonable woman who loved her son very much. I think she is doing good things, helping people is NEVER a bad thing, no matter what it is for.

Sadly, sometimes bad things happen that can't be explained. Woolley will never trully know why her son did what he did, but none the less, he CHOSE to end his life. Though it is tragic, and I'm sorry for her loss, for him I have no pity. I'm sorry. No parent wants to admit that their child was at fault when something terrible happens, but guess what, a conscience decision was made by that person. Suicide is a very personal thing. It is only THAT person making the decision. My best friend shot himself in my house when we were growing up. I hate him for that. I don't care how depressed he was. He made the decision to end his own life, and I hate him for it. Suicide is never the answer, no matter how horrible life is, life is better than death. It takes a stonger person to live through tough times, and they'd be better for it. Weak willed people choose to end it.

Also, the mother who posted about her son going to college and getting addicted and coming home and having withdrawal symptoms? No matter what, I'm sure you don't have the whole story. Maybe I'm wrong, but 5-10 years from now, your son will finally spill the beans about what really happened at University and I'm sure that the game will not fill the whole story. I grew up in the Nintendo generation and am a HUGE fan of role playing games. I have spent many hours with Zelda, Baldur's Gate, Wizardry(played more hours on this series than any), and many others. I play RTS games and have played those games for 20 hours a day at times (weekends of course...) I am a software engineer who is married and has children. For obvious reasons I don't play games as much now, but I follow closely what is going on when I'm not playing. Despite all the gaming I was doing when I was younger, I lettered for 4 years in wrestling, 3 in football, was in the National Honors Society, got academic scholorships for college, graduated college, got married, and now have a good job, a house, and a beautiful wife and children. Oh, just think what I could have done if I didn't play so many games... I was a good athlete and was popular in school. I thought about suicide at points in my life. Not for long, but the thought was there. Everyone has. But you push on. People who walk into school with a gun or shoot themselves because someone worked them over in a VIDEO game, usually aren't the prom king or queen. They were usually already outcasts of some kind who just couldn't deal anymore. Whether it was ridicule from classmates, or just not being noticed! Kids are mean people, and some kids just never recover from what happens to them in high school.

Face it people are just different. They will react differently to different stimuli. Today, if a minority reacts negatively to something, it becomes evil. Those who develop these type of problems are prone to this type of behavior, and it would probably manifest itself in some way with or without these games anyway. This may be a problem, but put the blame where it belongs, on the people with the problem. The fist step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem. At an AA meeting the people who stand up don't say, "They just kept selling me the vodka, I REALLY wanted to stop, but I had money, and they SOLD it to me!" No, they don't say that, because it is not the liquor stores fault. It is not the game developer's fault either.

I could write much longer on this, but as I hate reading long posts and this is already longer than I like reading, so I'll cut myself short and hope I made some type of point. Good luck to those who struggle with everyday life, but things always get better. All people are much stronger than they give themselves credit for, they just need to realize that and improve their situation themselves. It's noone's responsibility for where you are in life but your own.
May 16, 2007 2:45:47 PM

Just want to throw in my 2 cents from a long time gamer's respective.

I started online gaming in the early 90s before there was even a term MMO(RPG). It was called MUD (Multi User Dungeon) back then. It was derived from dice and paper game call Dungeons & Dragons. The concept is the same as today's Everquest or World of Warcraft. It has no graphics, only text BUT it is equally addictive.

I remember times at school's computer labs, I would skip classes to play MUD. Some even go as far as staying up 24 hours. Before I knew it, my grades reflected my addiction, spiring down from As to Cs and Ds. I woke up and realized what it is doing to me and went cold turkey.

If one can be addicted to online gambling, online porn, chats...etc, why not games. I think the professionals dimiss it because the word "gaming" does not warrant the same attention as "gambling" or "alcohol" But I do think people are starting to take it seriously. You now hear news about people dying in internet cafes from playing games for days straight without rests.

I don't know too much about the help group discussed here nors its step programs to help addiction. However, I do think alot of it has to do with parenting when it comes to kids being addicted to games. Blaming the gaming industry will not solve any problem, it only removes the focus from parenting to industry regulation. It is the easy way out, for parents. For those who think that college kids are on their own and parents have no control..... I have this to say, parenting didn't start in college....

You want to know who your kids hang out with at night when they go out with friends. Why not when they are online? It is almost the same, if not worst.

Yes, I don't have any kids. But before you blast me with "you have no kids, you don't understand... " flames, let me say this... I was a kid once, we all were. Think of how your parents raised you.... You know better.

Today's MMO is not just a game, its a virtual world with real people behind the keyboard.

I am working now, pulling in decent salary. I still play games (World of Warcraft) today, its part of me that will probably never die. I have more control over my mind then when I was in college now (or so I hope) I still loose my sleeps sometimes.

So, for those who dismiss game addictions, there is no basis for your dismissals. Its like saying alcoholism doesn't exist because you don't drink. People need to wake up.
May 16, 2007 5:20:27 PM

I'm a recovering drug addict, avid gamer, a general addictive personality and I have ADD. This is my take on it.

Computer RPGs in genera
I think something is lost in the translation from paper (and having a GM) to computer. And more is lost going from single player (can focus on story – see bioware for good examples) to persistent world multiplayer. In most cases I think all online RPGs are just bad but something psychological draws us to them and keeps us playing – but I don't think they are fun. Let me list some of the psychological aspects I'm talking about: The human need to – interact with other, progress in something, obtain things, and explore.

What paper RPGs have that Compter RPGs don't have.
A paper RPG is an interactive story, where a player plays and gets into a role. All the stuff about levels and skills is just an aid to help the player get into the role; it adds some numbers to an otherwise creative process. It gives the left side of our brain something to do. But it's a very small part of what makes a paper RPG so much fun. When we move to MMOs the levels and skills are all you are left with. There really is no interactive story and the human interaction is very limited (compared to in person).

BioWare makes a single player RPG work by having a story we progress through. We can get into a role because we are given choices on how we interact with the story – choices that actually affect the story.

I think MMOs are so addictive, because people are drawn to then but don't really like them so the keep playing. If a game was really really fun a person would feel satisfied after a few hours and at the end of the session they would say, “that was great!” If it's not fun, but addictive you could play for 8 hours and still feel like there is more to do.

There is also the huge fact that they have no end. Humans have a psychological need to complete things. Even paper RPGs (most of the time) have an end. When I log into BF 2124, a game session will end after .5 – 1 hour. Now I can have more sessions, but each one does have an end. And at the end of the day I can say I lost or I won. I had a good day, I had a bad day. When my average score per match is 50 but then I have that one game where I am kicking butt all over the place and I score 100, it's just a fantastic feeling.

If you are going to make a good MMO you have to know the difference between fun and "psychologically drawn to". I love paper RPGs and there have been some good single player CRPGs, but I have yet to see a good MMO. Popular and addictive – yes, but good – no. And I want to see a good one – I really really do.
May 16, 2007 5:25:14 PM

I would say that we definitely need some well designed statistical studies done to research prevalence, possible links to known psychological conditions, and specific games.

I have what I would consider an obsessive personality. I tend to focus deeply on whatever I am doing for a hobby. I have never once allowed this to interfere with my education or job and have done everything I can to keep my hobbies social with real life interaction.

I think something that has helped avoid a situation like this is that I have always had my gaming in a common area where friends can also join in in person. This keeps it an interactive social thing rather than encouraging reclusive behavior. This might be why in my experience, despite having a lot of gamers as friends, I have never seen this level of addiction.

Video games DO have a number of benefits, but I do wonder about the frequency of these problems. I honestly do feel for any parent that has gone through this with their child. Statistics would show us how big this problem really is and what level of response is warranted. It has been said though that statistics can say that only one out of a million have a problem, but it might as well be 100% when it happens to you.
May 16, 2007 5:29:22 PM

Like some others in this thread, I rearly get involved or reply in forums but maybe my voice will help convince someone that gaming addiction exists or give someone a good idea on how to get their loved ones on the "right track" then it is worth it

I've played computer games since I was 10 years old (im 25 now) and I spent a lot of time playing as a kid and teenager. Then I stopped playing for a couple of years until my brother introduced me to EverQuest in 2000. The experience was very new to me and felt very positive. After 5 months I had to move abroad and the gaming came to a natural halt, which was probably a good thing. Because even though I ejoyed the game, with my brother on the other end, I found out that 2 weeks of these 5 months corresponded to the total time I had spent online. After moving I did not have access to a computer for a long time and I forgot about EQ.

5 years later in 2005 I learned that there was a new EverQuest. Vivid memories of old EQ made me go and buy the game. I was completely hooked from the start. I told my self that I was a causual gamer and would not get as deep into it as last time.

But 3 hours per night turned into 6 hours per night. I started rejecting offers from friends to spend time togheter and instead I logged on and stayed there till I fell a sleep by the keyboard. On top of this I lost a lot of sleep and became uninterrested and unergetic at work.

I had a distance relation ship at the time with a girl I felt deeply connected to. She was not a gamer and she didnt know that I was one. In fact I kept my gaming habits a secret because I was afraid people would think of me as a neard. Anyhow, since I spent so much time online but pretended I didnt I looked like an uncreative, unimaginative, unsocial bore to her and one day she called me and told me it was over.

I though it was some kind of test but I quickly understood she was honest and that we had actually broken up. I also realized, or infact had been proven something that I had slowly come to realize but just waited for a confirmation of to go and do something about: I had become deeply addicted to my game and I had rejected my social life in favor of a very selfish and pointless circle of virtual self fullfilment

When I say selfish, I mean selfish as in: whatever I did when I played the game I could not share that experience with anyone else (since I choose to keep gaming a secret). If I had choosen another hobby like fotball I could at least have let people know I was active, doing something healthy, meeting people and make new connections with my hoby

Meeting people online just isnt the same as meeting people in the real world. Its increadlible the things people do to each other when they can be completely anonymous. If you disagree then ask your self, "if you'd end up in a car accident, would your online friends be there for you?"

The phone call came 10 months after I had started. EQ2 had become a natural and nessecary part of my life. Almost a quarter of my time at wake. From the day of the phone call I have never played EQ2 or any mmorpg again.@I never logged on again and I deleted my account within a few days later. I didn't feel any regret.

Sometimes I miss the game. I had a lot of fun, I built an extremely powerful character (one of the best questers on the server) - but when I think about what other things I could have used that time for it scares me how I wasted my spare time and chance to develope my private life.

With hindsight I am happy my girlfriend broke up with me. Because it took me out of the game, or rather, it gave me an excellent reason to get out of the game, which I somehow knew for a long time unconsiously, was what needed to happen sooner or later.

After I quit the game I had a hard time. Not because of the lack of game but because of the girl that left me and my loneliness wihtout her. I was lucky to have good friends who supported me and got me back on my feet.

I created a social life anew and eventually (5 months later) won her back! What had seemed impossible at first actually came true. But it was a hard lesson.

What I conclude from all this is:

1) Gaming is definately addictive to some people (don't ask me who, why or how many)
2) Quiting gaming improve my life (social real life quality)
3) A life changing event is a good opportunity to get out. If no life changing event is happening someone might have to create one for you to realize
4) There is nothing more valuable than real life friends where you have a face to face relationship. What they can do for you if you take care of them cannot be substituted by any online-"friends"
5) With support and hard effort you Can repair damaged done from spending to much time online
6) Quitting completely turned out to be a good solution for at least 1 person on this planet (me that is)

If I ever try online gaming again I need to know that the game has a final goal which is achieveable in a relatively short time frame. For me it was the seemingly endless progression that kept me hooked. This is very much the menas fir the online gaming industry to attract and keep customers. If you disagree then why are the games constructed the way they are with quick initial rewards but then in the end hours of tideous play for a stupid status item? In that sense the gaming industry is very well aware of the affect their product has and there by partially responsible for how people using the products are affected.

I don't blame the gaming companies from wanting to make money but for me online gaming is a negative influence and I would advise anyone against getting involved too deeply. I would also advise anyone who knows people deeply involved to help them come back to the real world.

Everyone has a choise and a free will. You cannot forbid them from playing, but perhaps you can make them realize the negative consequences of their behaviour and perhaps give them a link to this forum and the preceeding article.

It just might do a difference
May 16, 2007 5:32:19 PM

As far as the ADD goes, it's very frustrating living your life not being able to focus on many things for a long period of time. Now here comes a thing you can zone out to for 8 – 12 hours at a time. This is absolute nirvana to someone who typically can’t focus on things for more than 5 minutes at a time. And I speak from person experience.
May 16, 2007 5:51:16 PM

Quote:
Who is responsible for what happened to my son? Obviously he is partly responsible, but I gotta put partial blame on a company that markets a game that eventually requires 8-10 hour non-stop gaming sessions to continue to advance, a game that never ends (and never will for at least the next 12 years). Could I have prevented what happened? I am a concerned, involved parent. I had no idea that there were games that never end, that REQUIRE my son's presence online for hours at a time. I had no idea that he COULD get addicted to a game (he has been exposed to other addictive substances and NEVER got addicted). I was busy watching out for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes (and successfully too).

I raised a good boy, but when he went to college, I no longer had control over his gaming. He went away to college where they protected him from his evil parents. Professors practically gloated over the fact that they did not have to share any information about his academic prgress with us. No one was concerned that he wasn't eating, wasn't going to class, wasn't even leaving his room.


Given the fact he was in college, I'm going to assume he was around 18. At that point, why is it necessary for people to continuously watch over him, and say "You should go to class now", "Stop playing games and do homework"? If he can't do this at 18, there is something terribly wrong, aside from the games.

I don't see how you can blame the game company.. there are many people who play the game, and live a normal life at the same time. Obviously, your son could not handle that. I also highly doubt it was just the games that did it.. I watched a few people fail out of my school this year.. the leading cause: alcohol. Given that I go to a technical school, if these MMO's were such a problem, I think I would have seen people fail out because of them.
May 16, 2007 5:55:13 PM

Quote:
I think it is absolutly absurd to believe a person can become addicted to a game as a result of any actions taken by the game manufacturers. To accept this you have to believe gamblers are addicted because of the casinos, Alcholics addictions are the fault of liquor manufacturers etc. I don't leave out Smoking in this statement either. There is no denying all these things are addictive, anything enjoyable can be addictive. Games are meant to be enjoyable, if game manufacturers try to make games less addictive, they will have to make them less enjoyable. Any person with any form of addiction has a weakness they need to overcome.


Many people think the way you do, and you are all missing the point. FOR SOME PEOPLE SOME GAMES ARE MORE ADDICTIVE. In other words these games do have addictive qualities in the game put there by the manufacture that other games do not have that some people are more susceptible to.

But the point of bringing up the topic (for most people – not this woman) is to gain an understanding of the situation (to help the people addicted) and not blame games or the companies.

To make my point see how many websites are dedicated to everquest and WoW addiction. And how many testimonials posted by addicted people on there are on these sites. Now try to find that many for any other game? And you're saying the game has nothing to do with it?
May 16, 2007 6:00:36 PM

Quote:

Who is responsible for what happened to my son? Obviously he is partly responsible, but I gotta put partial blame on a company that markets a game that eventually requires 8-10 hour non-stop gaming sessions to continue to advance, a game that never ends (and never will for at least the next 12 years).


No. Your kid is responsible for not being able to choose between 'time to work' and 'time to play'.

The gaming company is not nor ever will be responsible for designing an immersive environment that you can 'choose' to be a part of as long as you wish. Not now, not tomorrow, not EVER.

I know it's unfortunate that your kid went through this, but he made his own choice to spend an entirely UNHEALTHY amount of time inside a computer game.
May 16, 2007 6:04:40 PM

Quote:
I have a 20-year-old son who became addicted to the World of Warcraft. He was a bright, social, witty young man with all A's and B's in high school, a bunch of hobbies, and a boatload of friends. He had NO prior mental health issues of any kind. No addictions, compulsions, obsessions, anxiety, depression, or psychosis. He comes from a loving 2-parent church-going family. He went to a university 2 hours from here and became addicted to the game to the point where he was not eating, not going to class, and cut off communication with us (turned off cellphone and unplugged room phone). He did not read his e-mail or his campus mail. He missed registration deadlines and finally flunked out. He came home an anxious, phobic shell with a vacant stare. He could not converse with another human being, could not even make eye contact. He could not put two words together on a piece of paper. It was the most frightening thing I have ever seen. I am a family physician and I would not have believed this if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. He went through actual withdrawal symptoms when he came home. Extreme hypersomnia--slept 20 hours a day. Extreme anxiety and lack of focus. He is slowly returning to normal. We did a number of things to help him through this and he has done a number of things for himself, but he's not out of the woods yet, one year later.


You said it yourself. Your son is at fault. He choose to play the game as he did. I know plenty of people, have plenty of friends, who play online games. Do we put off work or school? No. We play the game. We get off the game. We live our lives.

Game companies design these games to be massive, hence the name. They do not design them so that you will spend every waking hour of your life in them. They gain nothing from that. Whether you play 60 hours a week or 1, it makes no difference to them as long as you keep paying the monthly fee. They only design the game to be entertaining so that you will continue to play and not cancel your account.

I played WoW. There's nothing different about it than any other MMO. I played it for 3 months and then quit because it wasn't fun, the story was not engaging, and the player base was mostly young people who got their jollies killing much lower level players.

Games are not addicting in and of themselves. People make them addicting. If millions of people can play the game and get off without ruining their lives, then theres nothing wrong with the game. Kids change when they go to college. Obviously your son did. He choose to put a game before school, family, and friends. I'm sorry about what happened to him, but it is not Blizzard's fault. It's your sons. I hope he recovers and is able to make it in the world. Because in my mind, if you can get addicted to a video game, you're going to have problems in life distinguishing fact from reality.

While you don't appear to be, many people blame the video game companies saying its their fault and theirs alone. They take no responsibility themselves for their actions. And to me, that is the real problem. Any good game should be designed to be engaging. Does that make it addicting? No.
May 16, 2007 6:05:51 PM

As a former MUD and everquest player (sept 99 to jun 06), I have to somewhat agree with the lady interviewed. I see the reason her son died was because of the issues she talked about that he had. I found that what causes me issues when I play is raiding. I love it, I will stay up late to do it, I will skip things to do it. That is my issue and I know about it. My own mother has issues with it but they were the social aspect of the game. If you play these games, you need to learn what it is that will cause you trouble and avoid it. I still play MMORPG's but I don't raid anymore. In turn, I don't stay up to the wee hours of the morning playing.

People like to place the blame on others because it is easier than blaming yourself. I blame myself for being engrossed in games all those years.
May 16, 2007 6:13:31 PM

Game developers make the game to be addictive. This part probably still needs to be proven in court but that's the point. If the game is addictive the company is now responsible too offer tools to detour that addiction.

I think the point is to prove that the game developers have intentionally made the game to be addictive. I believe this can be proven in the court of law.

Now are the game developers going to act and do something or do they want congress to do something about it? That's where we stand. Addiction is real and you can't just ignore it and hope it goes away.

I don't think anyone with the right frame of mind is saying the game developers are responsible for what people do. They're saying the developers are intentionally making the game addictive.

That's the difference and needs to be understood.

Quote:

Who is responsible for what happened to my son? Obviously he is partly responsible, but I gotta put partial blame on a company that markets a game that eventually requires 8-10 hour non-stop gaming sessions to continue to advance, a game that never ends (and never will for at least the next 12 years).


No. Your kid is responsible for not being able to choose between 'time to work' and 'time to play'.

The gaming company is not nor ever will be responsible for designing an immersive environment that you can 'choose' to be a part of as long as you wish. Not now, not tomorrow, not EVER.

I know it's unfortunate that your kid went through this, but he made his own choice to spend an entirely UNHEALTHY amount of time inside a computer game.
May 16, 2007 6:25:08 PM

Quote:

...
Games are not addicting in and of themselves. People make them addicting.
...

The point some of us are trying to make is that some game are addictive to some people more so than other games, you are not one of those people it sounds like.

Quote:

...
If millions of people can play the game and get off without ruining their lives, then there's nothing wrong with the game.
...

How many are not getting off, and how many lives are getting ruined. Going to all the WoW addiction sites you will see thousands of posts from people saying they have a problem.

Quote:

...
Because in my mind, if you can get addicted to a video game, you're going to have problems in life distinguishing fact from reality.
..

No not really. I've been addicted to some games (and drugs) I don't have a problem distinguishing fact from reality.
May 16, 2007 6:28:57 PM

Game developers make the game to be addictive. This part probably still needs to be proven in court but that's the point. If the game is addictive the company is now responsible too offer tools to detour that addiction.

I think the point is to prove that the game developers have intentionally made the game to be addictive. I believe this can be proven in the court of law.

Now are the game developers going to act and do something or do they want congress to do something about it? That's where we stand. Addiction is real and you can't just ignore it and hope it goes away.

I don't think anyone with the right frame of mind is saying the game developers are responsible for what people do. They're saying the developers are intentionally making the game addictive.

That's the difference and needs to be understood.

Quote:

Who is responsible for what happened to my son? Obviously he is partly responsible, but I gotta put partial blame on a company that markets a game that eventually requires 8-10 hour non-stop gaming sessions to continue to advance, a game that never ends (and never will for at least the next 12 years).


No. Your kid is responsible for not being able to choose between 'time to work' and 'time to play'.

The gaming company is not nor ever will be responsible for designing an immersive environment that you can 'choose' to be a part of as long as you wish. Not now, not tomorrow, not EVER.

I know it's unfortunate that your kid went through this, but he made his own choice to spend an entirely UNHEALTHY amount of time inside a computer game.
May 16, 2007 7:19:53 PM

I just did some googling

The phrase is quotes is what I googled, the number on the right is the number of results.


"First person shooter addiction" 21
"RTS addiction" ---------------- 137
"FPS addiction" ---------------- 621
"counter strike addiction" ----- 770
"Halo addiction" --------------- 1,160
"everquest addiction" ---------- 7,030
"MMO addiction" ---------------- 15,300
"World of warcraft addiction" -- 35,200

"Zelda addiction" 390
May 16, 2007 7:34:00 PM

Game addiction is real... sounds like some people here are in denial OR are fearful that the government is going to swoop in and ban games (not going to happen - so chill).

Do game companies design the games to be "addicting?"

I don't buy it for a second. Unless someone can prove that Valve/Blizzard is hiring psychologists to develop games or are measuring the amount of endorphins released during gameplay... it's rubbish.

Instead, the programmers and writers are making games that are ENGROSSING and ENDURING. They know that certain players are going to be upset if you can finish a game in 10 hours.
May 16, 2007 7:39:09 PM

Here is my 2 cents on the subject.

I have played violent games and MMO's for years now. My whole argument about this is that its not the game developers but in fact its the "person" who plays the game. Yes, the game may have graphic subjects or sex but how is it any different then anything you watch on tv? The world has changed over time and back in the day you wouldn't see stuff like this but now you see it all over the place. People change when society changes so its not because of the developers, its the "people" who play and voice their opinions. The developer just listens to the voice of the "people" and creates a game that the "people" want. Those who blame the companies that make these games are complete idiots. They would rather put the blame on someone else then look at themselves and wonder if "they" did the right thing by letting their child play this game or watch this show. It all starts in the home and with the parents. If the person playing the game can’t figure out the difference between real life and fantasy then obviously they shouldn't be allowed to view such things.

I myself have been playing MMO's and violent video games since high school and I admit that I may get addicted to a game but its not to the point where I cannot come to work or stay up late at night and play. I get addicted to the game because to me its fun and I enjoy it. Granted I would stay up all night during high school to play it but what kid doesn’t???? I would always say that if I wasn’t playing a game at home I could be out getting in trouble with drinking or drugs. It was my decision to play games. My parents let me watch all types of shows and I thank them for it because I was exposed to a lot of things that now I don't want my kids to see. This may sound harsh but I blame the baby boomers for the problems today. If you haven't noticed its always the baby boomers that file complaints/lawsuits about this or that. My theory is that because they didn't have this then then why should we be allowed. Some may get mad from this statement but if you really think about it and look at the subject thoroughly its always the baby boomers complaining.

If your child is so addicted to a game and you notice a behavior change or attitude change then why not step in and be the parent that you are suppose to be? If you seek professional help then why not take it a step further and remove the computer or video game console? Every parent/child is different yes but it comes to a point where you have to say enough is enough and do your parental duty and remove the object that is causing the problem. Maybe parents are to blame for children acting the way they are now. This whole subject opens up many avenues as to why things are the way they are but it all starts in the home. If the parent cannot do what they NEED to do because they fear the child will hate them or what not then that parent fails as a parent and needs to seek some parental help. I have a 4 year old daughter and I will shelter her from such things till she is old enough to see or hear about it but you also need to remember that if its not TV or video games its friends at school. Society has made it easy to get what you want at any age.

I feel sorry for those that have suffered through this issue and have lost family members but have you really done "EVERYTHING" you could have done to fix the problem? Do not blame the gaming companies for this because they make what the "people" want. The blame cannot be put on one person or one company, it stems from many and the first person(s) I blame are parents.
May 16, 2007 7:52:09 PM

For everyone trying to find a single culprit, blaming only one of these:

-the parents
-the person
-the game
-the manufacturer
-the society

is not going to work. There is not a single reason for game addiction. Those who try to argue that way are too stuck in aristotelian logic "either this or that" way of thinking.

Addiction does not have one single reason or culprit. It is a multilayered and complex human behaviour... finding a single culprit for the rise of addictions is like finding a single culprit for divorces ... it´s not going to happen.

As for MMOs being designed to be more addictive. It´s all about incentives. When you have a game that you sell in a box, with no monthly revenue, you make sure you make a good game, so that people know you make good games.

Then you go on and make expansions / sequels. That´s the way the industry has worked for decades.

Now with MMOs if you want to keep people paying you need to keep em playing. I am sure that the gaming companies would LOVE to figure out a way how to make everyone play less, and still get the same revenue.

After all generating new content costs money and the faster the player base goes through the content, the more has to be generated to keep them interested (and paying).

So what is that fine line between "interesting" and "addicting" ... maybe the same fine line between "coca cola" without the cocaine or coca cola with the cocaine, like it used to be made?

Or is it the difference between beer and wodka? Damn hard to be an alcoholic on beer only, though probably possible. Wodka makes it so much easier...

Or is it the difference between a joint from the 70ies and a joint of today, with the THC content upped by multiples (yes, I have a pretty good insight into drug stuff as I have researched addiction a LOT...)

One possible explaination is that MMOs appeal to a lot more basic needs that people have.

While normal games might apeal to people who might miss excitement / adventure / deep immersion / challenge in their day to day lifes, MMOs have for example a social component that is a strong drive to start and to keep playing.

And the need to belong is one of the strongest needs in human beings, after all we are all decendants of tribal ancestors. Problem is that the more time you spend with your "tribe" in the game, the less you spend with your "tribe" in real life ... so you feel belong less and less in real life and more and more like your guild is your family. People often say this and it´s so easy to understand from a psychological standpoint ...

I am sure there are more, I am just not an MMO specialist, having not really played any.
May 16, 2007 8:12:29 PM

I made the mistake of buying my kids a game console when they were very young. (OK I bought it for myself, but told them it was their x-mas present :p ) For 3 years we bought a new console every year. I was there to monitor their playing time and it wasn't that big a deal at the time. While my 2 girls never showed much interest in the consoles, my son (6 or 7 at the time) would play non-stop 24/7 if we let him.

Now I'm divorced and the kids live with their mother on the other side of the world. She works 2 full time jobs and isn't home much. My son (now 14) has his own computer (provided to him by me so that we can communicate often) has been addicted to CS for the past 2 years. He thought his world was ending when the head of his team decided to quit and stopped supporting the web site etc.. He wanted a new video card for Christmas this year, which I got him. To make matters worse, he got an Xbox for Christmas this year from his mother. After his first report card of this year, he was grounded from the computer and all games for a month.

Now if I could do it all over again, I would never have bought the game consoles. So sure, parents are to blame to some degree, although the bulk of these addicts seem to be young adults, and not have much parental input in their lives anymore.

I find it hard to blame game manufacturers as well, since I happen to like a good game. I now know that I can't play Civ IV unless I have an entire day to waste on it.

But my son doesn't have the benefit of my experience, will power, nor a parent around to monitor his game usage anymore. This is reality in most kids' lives anymore with divorces and both parents working full time.

So I wonder if the answer lies somewhere else. Rather than blame, I suspect the answer is more about understanding the issue and how to correct it. Hopefully these tragedys will provide the motivation for more research into the issue and a better understanding of warning signs and ultimately corrective action.
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