Online Gaming Addiction – Myth or Reality? - Who is Susceptible?
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Reports from South Korea are that counseling sessions for game addiction quadrupled last year over the year before. In 2003, there were 2,243 sessions, as compared to 8,978 in 2004. This year is well on track to beat even those numbers; in the first seven months of 2005, there were 7,649 sessions. “Such an addiction upsets the foundation of your life,” comments Kim Kyung-bin, a Seoul psychiatrist who helps gaming addicts as part of his practice.
So what kind of person becomes addicted to online games? Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington, has observed a pattern. Those who are most susceptible to becoming addicted to online games tend to be isolated, lonely, prone to boredom or have little interest in sex. Other important factors include low self-esteem and a poor body image.
In other words, these people tend to be socially isolated and unsure of themselves when interacting with others. Online gaming gives them a chance to reinvent themselves into the kind of person they wish they could be in real life. According to one EverQuest player, “It’s almost like a drug. If you are not happy with your real life, you can always go in…someone who lacks social skills, they could find it much easier just to play the game instead of going out to a bar.”
Neither online games nor bars are bad, in and of themselves. And suing gaming companies, or insisting that their products carry warning labels as some lawyers would like to do, raises potentially disturbing First Amendment issues. Fortunately, treatment for online gaming addiction is – slowly but surely – becoming more common as more stories are reported in the press. This may provide at least some comfort to those of us who have watched our loved ones disappear into a world of fantasy.
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