‘Gaming Addiction’ has been raised a few times recently in some Second Life discussions I’ve participated in. When he visited the Teen Grid, James Paul Gee was asked about gaming addiction, and primarily focussed on the potential benefits of gaming in his answer. Then there was a question on the SLED mailing list asking whether getting students to work in Second Life was putting them at risk. This last raised some debate about gaming addiction, my contribution was this (some editing):
I haven’t seen addiction to Second Life as a problem with my own small number of students. owever, I have known of cases where students developed problems because of the mount of hours spent playing MMO games. I’ve also chatted to people who claim to spend around 12 hours a day in Second Life (and not for real-life work either).
In respect of MMOs, I’ve had at least one student who failed his course and lost contact with all his real-life friends through an inability to self-regulate the hours spent in Eve Online. He neither came to classes nor socialised with any of his friends or room-mates. Instead he spent all day, every day, playing Eve Online.
At the same time, Eve is an incredible social space… there is no doubt he was engaged with other people and socialising. You might even be able to argue that he was learning stuff too – although clearly not what he had enrolled in university to learn. However he was also isolating himself in the real world and putting his future well-being and health at risk. Am I wrong to think that he had a problem gaming habit?
Do people think that similar problems are not possible with SL? Re the phone analogy (someone had posted a question on whether we would consider someone to be addicted to the phone if they spent a long time using it). If someone spent so long on the phone that they were unable to hold a job or maintain a significant in-person relationship then I would think they have a problem.
June 2007 PC Gamer (UK edition, Issue 175) has an extended feature on problem gaming, well worth a read. Given that one of the leading games magazines can conclude that “Denying the existence of, or ignoring the consequences of gaming addiction can only harm those who suffer”, I don’t think we should deny the possibility of similar problems with SL. It doesn’t mean that problems are common, likely or typical… but for some they do exist.