Gaming and Addiction

‘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.

6 thoughts on “Gaming and Addiction

  1. Peter Bloomfield

    I agree with your assessment. Like many addictions, I think the sufferers are either loathe to admit to the problem, or simply unaware of it as such. Having used various multi-user online environments for a good 14 years or so, I’ve encountered many people for whom nearly nothing else exists, including SL. Sadly, most I’ve encountered seem to be teenagers or young adults, who, after finishing school/college, just never really ‘got round’ to employment.

  2. overklokan

    on one side we have corporations that exist because they were successful in creating addicts … on the other side we have those who think it’s necessary to argue about if those addictions exist or not … go straight to the point, man, don’t invent cure for disease but try to remove the source of it!

  3. Daniel Livingstone

    I think that responsible parenting and supervision are perhaps a better solution to game addiction in the young than developing a game to ‘un-addict’ them.
    And of course, neither I nor this blog are ‘anti-games’ – indeed as pointed out in many places in this blog, games do have great potential as learning tools. As well as great potential for wasting peoples’ time… a lot depends on the game, the context, and the individual.


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