A new research study carried out at the University of Missouri points to some disturbing trends in video games regarding addiction that some of you may already be aware of with MMOs, RPGs and some social/casual games. While these studies are usually dismissed within the gaming community, some of the results were actually very intriguing.
The study covers the social engagement of video games and the effects of social interaction, escapism and rewards through the digital entertainment space, as well as what they deem as the “unhealthy” side effects that come along with some of these games and their communities.
Joe Hilgard, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science commented about the findings, saying...
“The biggest risk factor for pathological video game use seems to be playing games to escape from daily life,”... “Individuals who play games to get away from their lives or to pretend to be other people seem to be those most at-risk for becoming part of a vicious cycle. These gamers avoid their problems by playing games, which in turn interferes with their lives because they’re so busy playing games.”
Well, everyone has problems – engaging in a virtual world to escape sometimes unresolvable issues plaguing your every waking moment of real life doesn't seem to be that bad of a thing. I mean, what's the alternative? Paying someone not to give two rat pellets about you, but takes your money for every hour you sit there spewing out all the troubles of your daily life for them to ignore while they fondle through the pages of Esquire or Cosmo? That didn't seem to work out too well for Lindsay Lohan and she doesn't even play video games.
Anyway, the study does bring out some interesting side effects to behavior associated with video game addiction, with Hilgard noting that...
“People who play games to socialize with other players seem to have more problems as well,” ... “It could be that games are imposing a sort of social obligation on these individuals so that they have to set aside time to play with other players. For example, in games like World of Warcraft, most players join teams or guilds. If some teammates want to play for four hours on a Saturday night, the other players feel obligated to play or else they may be cut from the team. Those play obligations can mess with individuals’ real-life obligations.”
All right, I think that guild part and feeling obligated to play even when you don't want to is probably something a lot of MMO gamers deal with.
I remember one guild in one game who had some very strict rules to join, and one of the middle-tier guys wanted to visit his family for the weekend and he mentioned he wouldn't be able to run some raids with the guild, so the guild leader kicked him out because he felt he wasn't dedicated enough. Ouch. I remember having been told that story from a lower-ranking member of that guild who wanted to take the guy's spot and I sat there thinking to myself “Any time a guild becomes a job, it's time to quit.”