253: Physician, Gank Thyself

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Physician, Gank Thyself

You'd think that an addiction counselor would be the last person to get hooked on World of Warcraft, but that's exactly what happened to Mark Kline.

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That's.... terrifying.

That really is a very scary thought, especilly to me. I've always steered clear of MMORPGs because I know I have tendencies towards getting hooked, but the thought that WoW can get anyone addicted, imagining what it could do to someone prone to addiction is deeply disturbing.

I think I'll be steering clear of this one a little while yet.

I'd be interested to see someone actually tackling the fact that these games, to those 'addicted' by them are seen as -better- than reality, rather than skirting around this conclusion. Only by confronting that fact, rather than avoiding it, can we perhaps improve our real world so these games no longer have the hold they do, rather than simply going 'online bad, real world good'.

I'd be interested to see someone actually tackling the fact that these games, to those 'addicted' by them are seen as -better- than reality, rather than skirting around this conclusion. Only by confronting that fact, rather than avoiding it, can we perhaps improve our real world so these games no longer have the hold they do, rather than simply going 'online bad, real world good'.

They are not better, but they can feel like the same. But this might not be the most important part, the most important part is that it is so much easier to succeed in such a game than in real life.

Another thing that is extremely important, as the writer said, some stuff we cant really make better, in those cases WoW can provide a much needed solace. And I speak from first hand experience when I say THIS IS NOT A BAD THING.

My gf has Multiple Sclerosis. An untreatable disease which causes her and me a lot of emotional stress, and other stuff that is not nice. There is nothing I can do about her disease, and nothing she can do. While I played WoW (I stopped playing a year or so ago) I could forget about these troubles if only for a while, and succeed and feel good about something I was competent at.

The fact that this is possible is not a bad thing, and I for one am not one to tell people how to live. If someone wants to succeed in wow instead of getting a family/great career go for it. But they need to at least be able to support themselves. It is when they cant even do that they need help.

I find some solace in this article.

I have always avoided MMORPG's given my addictive tendencies, but also because I don't want to pay monthly for access to a game. Mostly though, it is just the knowledge of my own inability in the past to moderate my own consumption of games and gaming.

I think I am better now at managing these things, but I am not sure that I feel strong enough to try something like WoW.

I went through something quite similar to greg, in my first couple years in university, only I was playing an emulated Ultima Online server...

I'd be interested to see someone actually tackling the fact that these games, to those 'addicted' by them are seen as -better- than reality, rather than skirting around this conclusion. Only by confronting that fact, rather than avoiding it, can we perhaps improve our real world so these games no longer have the hold they do, rather than simply going 'online bad, real world good'.

I agree.

The fact that most non-gamers, when trying to help in cases of gaming addiction, react by opposing "online" and "real" worlds, actually forces "addicted" people to chose one side, instead of balancing both. Admitedly, it IS hard as hell to find the will not to let go of reality and embark on the virtual journey.
WoW and its siblings have a knack for making you feel good, making you crave for more and more...

Ah, MMORPG Addiction, something i will never understand. And i am a guy who spends most of his free time playing games and watching movies, often to drown thoughts about personal issues.

I guess there are two kinds of gamers: Those who like to play gameS, and eventually get bored by a game if they spend to much time with it, and those who like to play a game and are willing to dedicate endless amounts of time to master it.

I guess given all those addiction stories, i can count myself happy to be in the former group.

P.S.: I did try Guild Wars and Ragnarok Online back in the day, just so you know

I'm happy that Greg managed to quit wow. I also recently quit WoW after 3 years of playing it and now I'm starting to understand that life exists also out of WoW

I found this article very interesting. I don't play MMOs as a rule for one because I know that I'm the kinda person who gets addicted to things. I have low will power so I find it best just to avoid out right things that could be harmful in excess.

I'm happy that Greg managed to quit wow. I also recently quit WoW after 3 years of playing it and now I'm starting to understand that life exists also out of WoW

By your avatar I think you may have another bout with addiction in SC2.

I'm happy that someone in the psychological world understands just what causes the addiction in these games. Knowing that, it will be easier to treat those who suffer from it, as addiction to WoW, etc., is somewhat different than addiciton to, say, alcohol, at least in what it provides as solace.

I think that speaks volumes about what is possible to get addicted to, and its not the game itself that he was saying addicted the player but rather the feelings that the players experienced.

When i look at the games i play FPS and MMOG i can see how i feel when i play them. It is alluring to think about. what would your life really be like if you were your character?

I dont play WoW but alot of my friends do or have. Its never really been a problem for them probably because we all have several other hobbies and interests that we share. It is also generally understood in out group that RL activities come first most of the time. Thats not to say that people wont miss real life events for raids but usually if they are given enough notice to cancel the raid or the event is important enough then they will make the time.

I think having other hobbies is important to avoid being sucked in, especially hobbies that require social interaction. Every time I read of people succumbing to gaming addiction it seems to be their only real hobby, alot of people spend their relaxation time watching TV which requires no commitment, it is easy to replace that time with another past time. Sports are all well and good but they are very easy to give up expecially playing competatively as any break from playing can jepordise form resulting in you losing your place in a team.

Really people who plan on getting into MMOs should make sure they have some other hobby that they enjoy and requires them to socialise with friends. Having multiple hobbies helps divide your attention between them preventing one from taking too much control over your life. If your other hobby is a sport you need to make sure you have friends who will push you to continue with it.

Just my 2 cents.


I probably play WoW to an amount that people will see as unhealthy.

I work eight hours a day, come home, and usually log in to WoW and play, only interrupted by doing chores around the house (I wash my dishes, do my laundry, take care of my cat, deliver bills, bring in the mail, mow the yard, etcetera.), spending time with my family when they visit, or visiting my friends in town.

I probably play anywhere between six to eight hours a day.

My time, however, is not solely devoted to WoW. I check the Escapist, I browse news websites, I chat with friends on instant messengers, and occasionally I fire up other games. So, I guess I could say my time on WoW would vary even more, whereas my time on the computer does not. Is this just a plain computer or Internet addiction? Possibly, but I do my best to make sure it doesn't interrupt my work or family life.

If my parents ask me to come and talk or do something for them, I will type, "BRB for a bit." to whatever group I might be in at the time (this isn't necessary as I don't spend all my time running instances) and go help them out. Sometimes I might do this in a bit of a hurry because I don't want to incovenience the group, but I always make sure to help my parents.

Even recently I've been spending more time with my friends, and been offered to drop in unexpectedly more often, something I won't be passing up.

So, am I addicted? I personally don't think so, but I can easily see how other people can get so wrapped up in this (or a similar) game.

Great article. I love how the doctor put himself in the patient's position (more or less) and was able to come out with a new appreciation of what happened.

Really cool article. +10 internets to mister Kline!
Escape in to the bliss of MMO's is an awesome way to stay sane, although:

"Escape is an ever-present commodity, perhaps a bit too present..."

You just have to keep it at a stable level.

Omg finally someone who talks about WoW and makes some sense.

Mark J Kline:
I have a new understanding of what devoted players get out of it,

That right there, all I ask is that if people tell me I play too much WoW that they understand where I'm coming from. There's not much hope for me though as my WoW addiction can only be equaled by my addiction to regular video games. Personally though I would say once you hit the level cap the game gets a lot more manageable. You're either running heroics, which you can only do so many of a day, or you're doing raids which are preplanned for certain times. So it's not like you get a call from some shady guy saying " The banana has split", and you have only a few minutes to get on WoW for a raid. I've once even had my friends ask me to hang out and I said "no I'm raiding", and they're like "rawr you're addicted" so I told them to stfu cause I'd told them earlier that week I was raiding, with an unspoken but implied >.> "my guild mates would've remembered something I was excited about". Which brings me to another thing, some people say "you have friends outside of WoW"; well I have better friends in WoW. And just for the record I'm currently on a "console gaming" break from WoW.

WoW can be addictive, so can gambling, alcohol or extreme sports. as in the article, anything that fills a specific psychological need can do so.

Really, the greatest danger WoW has posed to my free time is the "one more" mindset. There *are* some interesting story lines within the game, usually as questlines, and it is easy to fall into the trap of 'just one more then i'll go do [insert activity here]'. Once you realize that and if you have good self control, it's fairly easy to avoid. It definitely helps to play with other mature people who have similar opinions.

It's good to see that some psychologists are recognizing video games, gambling and other compulsive behaviors as actual problems though

A well written article from somebody with credentials and first hand experience in this area. Thank you.

A really good article by a psychologist. Kudos to you Mr. Kline. I've never imagine that he would play WoW to see the effects.

I've played WoW for 4.5 years, raid endgame (we're on Blood Council and Dreamwalker), run a guild of friends IRL... and I also do academic research on the game.

I find it interesting that the writer got drawn into playing 5-6 hours/night which is more than research generally finds to be true for the "average" WoW player. Granted, the bell curve is relatively flat -- some people play a few hours a week, some play (like Greg) all day every day. But most relatively committed players play 20-25 hours a week, according to a number of academic studies. (Productivity software on my computer tells me I log around 20hr/wk.) Compare that to the Neilsen studies of television watching -- 35.5 hrs/wk in 4Q 2009 -- and it seems evident to me that more people handle their time management of WoW in a healthy manner than do not.

Personally, the time I play WoW is the time I used to watch TV, which I no longer do. I don't even own a TV.

Does that mean everyone handles their hobby well? Clearly not; Greg is exemplary of someone allowing the game to negatively impact his life. The writer felt his playtime got out of control -- 35-40hr/wk sounds like a lot to me, too.

Others will speak on this thread, surely, about how much is too much. I want to be one who says those speaking out about "too much" may be as much the exception as the rule, though. WoW in particular gets a helluva lot of bad press for being "addictive" (a term I find offensive, equating it with the physical addictions of drugs and alcohol, with physical withdrawal and physiological health impact). Gaming and virtual worlds in general are engaging, immersive, and carry people away the same way good books and movies do -- all entertainment media do this. (Ask a teen girl about Twilight!) The difference is that virtual worlds are persistent, always available, always fresh and new. They also provide more substantive benefits than a movie or TV. (I still love my books!)

I'm deeply glad to see an addiction counselor making the effort to get the whole picture, coming to understand the benefits of such gaming from the inside. Arguably, it's also good that he slid downhill to understand the potential problems from the inside as well, and can take that more-nuanced understanding to his clients -- and to the readers of Escapist.

Seriously, this is why I haven't played WoW. I'm pretty addicted to MW2 and like to think of myself as important in the clan I'm in.
I waste enough hours in mw2 and know that if I was to start on WoW I would probably never stop.
It may be silly to compare mw2 to WoW but that's the closest thing I have and I am really scared to play it.

I've been there. Done that. Got the hell out.

It was worst for me during the MC/BWL days of WoW Classic. 40 man raids, going for all hours of the night. Almost destroyed my marriage.

I love the collaberative experience that is raiding. I love getting a group of friends together to tackle a problem that one of us couldn't solve on our own. I love having my role and performing it to the best of my ability and taking down the bosses together. I love being depended on.

But when it took time away from my family and my home life...it had to end, and I'm not sorry I left when I did.

thats a pretty amazing story and i have no doubt its true i know people like that :/

An insightful and well-articulated piece.

This makes me think of the Skinner box:



Really great article!

I quit WoW about 13 or 14 months ago. I had been playing since release which accounts for - what, 5 years? I don't even know. In that time I had only taken maybe 3 breaks for a couple months before a new patch or expansion sucked me back in. I wasn't completely unreasonable in it but I certainly spent far too much time in WoW. Still, I wasn't quite failing university... but my grades weren't good, either.

Now that I've quit, I feel like I have a much more interesting life. I have a great gf and I see friends more and just generally get out more. I still game quite a bit - I even just bought a brand new PC and I have a PS3 - but the great thing about non mmo, non competitive games is you don't feel like you're missing out on something if you quit. Your "friends" won't be getting some uber leet gear and leaving you in the dust (and in envy). I have become mildly addicted to MW2 and BC2 multiplayer for short periods - a few weeks each. Similar reasons to an mmo, that is, you level up and get better gear for more pwnage. But you don't make friends so it's still a fairly personal experience and also you don't miss out if you don't play for a few days.

When I played WoW, in the entire 5 (or so) years, I never joined a raiding guild because I didn't want to have that amount of commitment and dedication, requiring a raid schedule. Even so, I did a boat load of instances and heroics and pvp, and finally in the BC expansion tried a little raiding in Kara and once I did Gruuls. Come WotLK and raiding was very accessible, so I was spending my weekends PuGing 10 and 25 man raids. Got pretty pimped out on 2 characters. Luckily tho, I got a bit bored at the lack of progression available to me and quit. Decided not to go back and quite happy about that, although I still, to this day, occasionally think how fun it could be to reactivate my account and drive my mechano hog around one more time =/

Thank you Escapist for publishing this article. I suffer from WoW addiction and this article really shows why.

My tale. Bit long so spoilered.

MMO addiction fill 2 needs for people. The first, like all addictions, is that it provides a way to escape from your life and forget about your problems. The second is unique to MMOs and that is it fills the need people have to be with others. Humans are by nature social animals and so for people like myself who have difficulty being with people in real life, it fills an instinctual need. This is them compounded by the fact that its easy to kid yourself into believing it isn't a problem because you end up believing the interaction you have is a good enough substitute to being in the same room as other people.

I find this article to be everything from heartwarming and informative, to sensationalist and silly.

It's heartwarming and informative because it speaks of why the phrase "It's just a game" is so utterly misguided and clueless. No it's not just a game, and it's not just a game. It's a team sport. It's a sense of achievemnt. It's mind-jogging. It's social networking. It's socializing. It's immersive and it's fun. So it's more than the game... and the game is not to be taken lightly.

Not understanding that is what I believe is the root cause of nine out of ten conflicts when it comes to gaming and using the computer. Relatives and parents do not understand this aspect. They think that the "game" can be halted at any time, without prior warning. That is about as silly as walking out to a football player in the middle of practice and say "We're leaving for gramps, now".

The article is good because it explains why this kind of behaviour by the non-gaming part is an even bigger source of conflict than the game itself. Planning ahead... like saying "Oi, dinner in 15 mins, allright?" instead of going with the disaster "It's dinner NOW! Let go or I'll friggin' cut the cable". The latter is doomed to fail.

The article sensationalist and silly because it speaks of "addiction" as it we were talking drugs or gamling addiction. Yes it is true that some people use games as escapism in an a manner that speaks of a problem. But seriously, how often is it the game's fault, and not just a symptom of problems that exist elsewhere in life? If someone sits on his/her room watchign TV 6 hours per day, do we speak of "TV-addiction", or do we start looking at why?

The silliness is that just because gaming can be associated with problems the game is assumed to the source of the problem, when it in most cases is a symptom of a problem.

/S - 36 years old - gamer since 1984 - parent of two kids - Rogue lvl 80 - married - spouse has Hunter lvl 80.

Fantastic artical, It's nice to see someone actually give it a try to see what the deal is about instead of just standing on the outside judging those that partake. It is very easy to get drawn into those type of games, the quick reward for effort that often doesn't exist in real life is a huge draw.

Personally I'm one of the people that went through a period of addiction to them with ultima online, then starwars galaxies. During college I would skip classes to play and avoid everyone in my life. It takes a strong mind to be able to balance out the game and real life, especially when real life isn't going so well.
Currently I feel that I have found a balance, I play LOTRO a few times a week for only an hour or two at a time and avoid raiding. I often go a week or two without playing at all. It has turned into a nice distraction instead of a need, much like any other game. It also helps that LOTRO has a lifetime account option, that way I don't feel that I need to play all the time to get a good value for the money I spent.

Fascinating read. We need someone like Kline to speak out when the next WOW ADDICTION ATE MY HAMSTER article goes the rounds.

interesting read. Scary at first,

Ive played WoW myself , I occaisonally log in to play a few hours. But Ive never been in a raiding party, and thats because Ive seen how my friends chooses to stay home friday/saturday night to raid.
And that creeps me out.
Im not trying to mock or patronize anyone that chooses a night of WoW over a night of drinking or chilling with your mates (though it may sound like it, if anyone takes offense I apoligize in advance)

But for me, my social life has always been extremely important, sure Ive been in very social guilds, Ive had a great time with people who'se avatars I dont even remember now. But reality will always be more awesome than Azeroth to me.


Nice to hear so many people quitting WoW and getting healthy. I mean, that's not to say that WoW is a disease in and of itself, just that its nice to see that so many people have the common sense to play in moderation or not at all.

I have to say, I've never experienced what Mr. Kline and Greg seem to have got out of WoW my brief 3 or 4 month exploration of Azeroth left me bored with solo play, frustrated by group play and weary of nearly every mechanic. I'm a lazy, lazy person, and every part of WoW felt like work to me. Getting addicted to work is not something I'm likely to do in the near future.

When you here stories like this one though, especially Greg's nervous breakdown, it makes me wonder what possible draw a game like this one could have? I mean, even if there was only a one in a million chance of that happening to you, would you really pay a month subscription fee to just "try" grinding mobs?

The average gamer might have to work out a priority-based life problem like this:
There's a 50% chance that if I get too hooked on "Game A" I'll stay up late and be tired during work tomorrow. There might also be a 25% chance I'll be so tired that I have to call in sick, causing me minor, but not insignificant, financial harm. Additionally, there's a 10% chance that even with all that extra play, I won't have finished the game and I'll have to do this tomorrow night. Is that worth getting the magic sword/ beautiful princess/ awesome headshot?

The average WoW gamer apparently has to do all of that PLUS:
There is a 5% chance I alienate every human being I know and ruin my marriage/family/friendships.
There is a .05 % chance that I go crazy and end up committed into a mental hospital.

best line from the article

Some life problems cannot be solved easily or at all - escaping them for a few hours may be the best we can do.

We aren't living in puritanical bullshit world. We don't need to suffer in this life for the promise of joy in the next one. Not being able to handle both real life and WoW (or most other "addictions") is a time management problem. If your life sucks and WoW is the only thing keeping you from going on a shotgun rampage at the Kwik-E-Mart then by all means play as much as you want. South Park "Bloody Mary" episode had the best take on "addictions". If you spend your life avoiding the thing you are addicted to then it controls your life just as badly as when you were participating in the activity.

Raiding has gotten MUCH better since the days of BWL/MC. Fewer people needed, shorter raids/instances, more forgiving timers, etc etc etc. And that was just in BC, I heard that all the raids in Lich King were puggable much to the chagrin of the 'hardcore' no lifers.

Being the manager of your own life isn't fun. But it is occasionally somewhat satisfying. Problem is that most kids aren't taught how to manage their time, just run from one scheduled activity to another. And most adults either don't (want to) think about it or try to be part of a whole time management cult and burn out after a few weeks of writing org charts for themselves.

If WoW or other "harmful" activities are important to you then don't let anyone else say you can't take part in them. Your life is YOUR LIFE and anyone who thinks they have the right to judge you can go fuck themselves. But at the same time acknowledge that other things in your life are important as well and the key is balancing and timing everything that is important. Some day we will all die but until then we have a lot of time, it is pretty easy to get in everything if we lay out all the pieces and figure out how to fit them together.

I am glad the guy at least took the time to enter the WoW world to see why/how people become addicted. But it is all about priorities, I know that if I play games all the time and screw up school I will have to live with my parents forever *cue scary music* so I find balance with my three major hobbies (gaming/internet, books, and Warhammer) so that I can relax and have fun without completely removing myself from the real world.

Personally I can be a very social person, but I can also be very anti-social due to several factors, meds, mood, amount of shit I have to deal with, ect. These opposite approaches allow me to be a gamer and a live a real life without ever having to worry about becoming too addicted to a game.

I do wish though that learning worked like RPG's and that I could see my stats rise as I did things.


I've been playing WOW now for about half a year. Actually, checking my account, I see that it's been a little over four years. I disagree with people who say that WOW will consume your life and disconnect you from society. I play the game to escape the annoyances of everyday life such as the war in Iraq and the daily actions of President Bush. Also, I think it's healthy to be able to release your inner child. Michael Jackson is basically just a child at heart who is successfully living his dreams and still managing to raise a family. Lastly, I don't worry about the health risks of my gaming because many famous athletes like Tiger Woods are gamers, and he is a role-model for millions of kids around the world. In no way do I feel that my six months, I mean four years, playing WOW has disconnected me from society!

Very interesting Article...scary also, has made me think oddly enough about my wow habits...problem also is, it kinda hints its a good game too...scary

I can more than relate to a couple of the sentiments within this article, but also have a contrasting view.

My upbringing was less than favourable. For the first 14 years of my life, I feared my home and the events that had, could and would unfold within those four walls.

At ten years old I stood upon a bridge, ready to jump when my mother drove round the corner and caught me. For one day I was granted grace, and in that one day I discovered video games.

Video games slowly became my refuge, more so games of the RPG genre. The idea of the underdog rising up against his once mighty oppressors was delicious, and made real life events a lot more manageable.

Whenever I was subjected to the torment of reality I would think back to the endeavours of my avatars - of Link felling Ganon, of Ash capturing Mewtwo. They in turn, became my saviours and helped me survive what I otherwise wouldn't have.

At 14, I was able to "divorce" my mother and subsequently moved in with my father and was finally safe. My addiction to the game world didn't disapate however and through the years it became the staple of my "self-medication", a means to combat the mental damage that lingered despite the physical pain being all but gone.

At another of my lowest points, when depression seeped through even into my periods of escape, I discovered Final Fantasy XI.

This became my existence, I would awake at high noon and return to sleep close to 17 hours later. This persisted for a year - on the first day I met an American Mum of two and we immediately became friends. She was how a mum supposed to be, and in turn became part of my rise to the person I am today.

My faith in females was re-established, and I turn began to trust people again. Being part of a Linkshell was essentially being part of a family and the unity that spilled from it was devoured hungrily by myself. My class? Paladin - the cornerstone of a succesful party.

To cut this tale short, it is very easy to see games and more so online games as life destroyers. However in my case, I wouldn't be here today without them.

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