Everquest is just one of the many MMORPGs, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games,out there on the net. Others include World of Warcraft, EVE Online and Final Fantasy XI, and they are rapidly gaining in popularity amongst teens. They differ from other on-line games in that these ones have multiple users, the game’s world is always available, and events occureven when users are offline.

Online gaming addiction has similarities with substance addition (for more information what causes drug addiction, see the article "Addiction..."), though most researchers see it as an impulse-control disorder, similar to problematic gambling.

Did You Know?
Dopamine is a chemical that is found in our brain’s “reward centre” and is associated with controlling pleasure and cravings. But not everyone who plays online games gets addicted. So why is it that some people get addicted and not others? And exactly what is it about these games that make them addicting?

On-line Social Networking

Research has shown that online game addiction is associated with introversion, low empathy, low self-esteem, depression, and social isolation. Withsuch behavioural traits, researchers suspect that online game addicts use the internet as a way of escaping reality. It allows them to findfriendship, become someone who they are not, and achieve power and recognition.

Just like MySpace or Facebook, it’s easy to make friends in MMORPGs. Gamers typically join teams and work together to succeed in the game. Teamwork allows for the formation of friendships and personal connections. People learn each other’s names, share interests and miss each other when they leave the online world. Infact, in some MMORPGs, players can even marry their characters!

The internet is also a place where people can fulfill their wishes to be who they are not. For example, in the world of MMORPGs, a shy personcan be a loud-mouthed dwarf warrior, a timid person can be the fearless sharpshooter of an elite counter-terrorist group, or an unpopular person can be an admired holy priestess.

Did You Know?
Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. MMORPGscan also appeal to users by allowing gamers to obtain recognition and power. Those who play longer are rewarded with greater wealth, status,and more exciting content. Stronger players may gain distinctions in battles, gain notoriety, and become the leaders of a faction or group.

Although playing MMORPGs can be a good way to relieve stress or have some fun, troubles arise when they are played to escape from reality. Ignoring problems and running away is not the solution, and in all likelihood will make problems worse.

If you feel someone you know might be addicted to online gaming, be understanding and realize that there may be an underlying problem such as depression or low self-esteem.

Did You Know?
Addiction can be influenced by genetics, medical conditions and environmental factors. You might want to try inviting the gaming addict to fun real world activities to encourage more positive real world interactions. Promote the idea that it is ok to play online games so long as they do not interfere with one’s life. If this does not work, you may want to consider seeking professional help.

Online Gaming Addiction Checklist:

You may be addicted to the online games if you answer yes to 5 or more of the questions below:

1. Do you often think about past or future online activity?

2. Do you need longer amounts of time online are required to achieve satisfaction?

3. Have you repeatedly made attempts to reduce online gaming without success?

4. Do you experience irritability, moodiness, or depression when offline?

5. Do you stay online longer than you intend to?

6. Has online gaming threatened a significant relationship, job, or educational opportunity?

7. Do you lie to friends or family members about the amount of time you spend online?

8.Do you use online games to escape from problems or to find relief froman unhappy mood (helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Learn More!

Internet Addiction Test. Click here.

Potential explanations for pathological internet use. Click here.

Lost in an online fantasy world. Click here.

When escape seems just a mouse-click away. Click Here

What is the best way to quit gaming addiction?

Tony Lim received his BSc in Pharmacology from the University ofBritish Columbia (Vancouver, BC) and is now pursuing an MSc at McGillUniversity (Montreal, QC), also in the field of Pharmacology. He lovesscience and is very passionate about it – he chose to studypharmacology because he hopes that one day he can create drugs thatimprove the lives of the ill and save lives. When he’s not busy atresearch, he’s often found playing badminton, volleyball or readingmanga.

Tony Lim

I am a graduate student pursuing a PhD in the neuroscience program at McGill University. In addition to neuroscience, my scientific interest and background lies in the field of pharmacology. When not at the lab, I enjoy playing volleyball, badminton, snowboarding and playing electric guitar with the band in my spare time.


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