253: Physician, Gank Thyself

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I wonder if anything like this will happen to me once Guild Wars 2 is out.

Actually probably not, i always lone wolved MMOs anyway.

Like some of these other guys have said, it's nice to see some firsthand experience (and, dare I say, empathy) from a mental health professional. Too often these 'experts' form opinions based on conjecture and hearsay and mass media misinterpretation, which is usually more insulting than helpful to players.

Which is why I shan't comment further on MMOs, since I don't play them. But I hear they are the devil!

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...

Totally agree with both these posts.

Although I did like how the article didn't fall into the typical "these games are made to be addictive and they have no redeeming qualities" position that you see with these stories. WoW can be addicting, but it doesn't have to be. The people that become addicted to WoW aren't innocent victims that were corrupted by a horrible game. They made a choice to participate in the game rather than real life, and more often than not it's because they could get something from the game that they were lacking in real life (socialization, a sense of achievement, etc). Rather than damning the game I think it's much more valuable to help these individuals work out their real life problems so they no longer feel the *need* to play for anything other than simple recreation.

Great article,just need a few more like you to write the paper on "The truth of gaming".

Great article. Thanks. I've never played an MMO and never plan to, but the time I've lost playing other games and just surfing the internet (confession: I'm at work right now) have been substantial and impacted what I should probably be using that time for instead. I've played games like Medieval 2: Total War where the "one more turn" or "one more city" or "I'll just cue up my unit production for next turn" mentality has made me go in nearly an hour or two after I usually leave for work. (Grad student. I don't really have a set schedule and it's not a very good thing for me. I go in later than I should and come home late to try and compensate.) Now I should get back to work... Simulations won't run themselves.

Very interesting article - I myself suffered from WoW addiction for about 2 years. (been a year and a bit free now)

Originally, I was playing with my brother, but after he left it sort of petered out for me. Then meeting a few guys in my college who played I was rejuvinated when we made new characters in a levelling trio - warrior(me), priest, mage. Let me just emphasise this - tanking huge bosses when your mates have got your back is such a great feeling.

Then we started to fall out of it; exams and other commitments were chipping away, and so we all decided to quit. But one of the guys, he kept playing. Last I heard, he was doing badly in class and still raved about it. Shame.

Great Article.

I was once like Greg. I stayed up till all hours of the night leveling my hunter (which I still have). Once I hit the level cap I was like ok, now the fun starts right? ...NOPE! By the time I hit the level cap all of my friends who I started playing with and who got me into the game were long gone, so I was by myself in a virtual world with no one to do anything with or help me out. This was after Burning Crusade came out. So I did the sensible thing and quit. Then Wrath of the Lich King came out and all my friends were playing again so I got the level cap again but this time I was the only one who got to the cap until months later because they all quit again. After they all leveled up and started raiding with me, my grades were horrible, I went from a 3.7 GPA to a 2.1 and I was staying up until 2 or 3 A.M. on a regular basis. After one of my mates' computer died all of them quit playing but I couldn't stop until my account time ran out and I had to physically give my credit card to my mom and I told her to hide it from me and I uninstalled it. I have been WoW free since December but with the end of school I do not know if I can keep myself away from it because I keep getting urges to play again.

Super Jamz:
I wonder if anything like this will happen to me once Guild Wars 2 is out.

Actually probably not, i always lone wolved MMOs anyway.

The most insightful comment yet.

People don't generally get "addicted" to the MMO itself - MMOs are banal, repetitive beasts that simply get tiring after a short period of time. Meat-grinding Guilds(/gangs/clans/kinships/etc) are what drag people into the game and hold them there.

If you take a deep look at most of the guilds, especially the more 'prestigious' ones, which exist in modern MMOs, what you see is people getting home from the 9-5 grind at work only to pick up the 6-3 grind at WoW. Guilds are like second jobs - they frequently expect members to give notice for extended absences from the game, they expect members to appear at certain times on certain days, and members are punished or rewarded based on their level of "commitment" to the guild.

This leads to a feeling that you HAVE to spend enormous amounts of time in the game - if you don't, you're "letting down the guild." I believe that's where the majority of these "addictions" stem from, since there are usually at least a few guild members one knows outside the game. I've overheard many a conversation that began with "What's wrong, why haven't you been on <Game X>?", followed by a weak attempt to explain how the game isn't fun anymore, followed by a demand that the player return to help with whatever raid/etc. the others are having trouble on.

And the cycle continues.

A number of years back, I decided that I no longer wanted to be involved with any of the guilds - I was tired of coming home from all the politics, backstabbing, and general nonsense of work just to sit down and log in to all the politics, backstabbing, and general nonsense of my games. I broke my Guild Embargo once, and discovered, to no great surprise, that nothing had changed. In the intervening period, free of all the nonsense of playing being some sort of "requirement," I've discovered that I don't have any "need" to log in, but I *want* to log in every now and then.

When I do, I don't find work - there aren't mobs to grind, 6-hour raids to finish. There aren't any demands on my time - I don't HAVE to go help someone with a quest. I just have fun.

I know this feeling of addiction to WoW. I admit to becoming addicted to the game for awhile. I was just begining to raid doing daily quests constantly, slowly spending less and less time with my family and friends. Two things can be attributed to my not crossing that final threshold and stepping back to the casual fun and then simply stopping.
First my son was born and while at first I'd try to play while he was sleeping. This just didn't work. I still kept the bad hours to slip in the WoW habit. I'd still deny any addiction to the game.
The second thing and the one that set me back from that threshold of addiction was a simple, yet profound, thought. "I have to keep working to achieve (insert whatever here)." Work. World of Warcraft had become a kind of job. I realized I was working. Not playing. It was fun, but I was working a job.
After that I have been able to enjoy WoW and MMOs in nice tasty morsels that don't rule my life.

A very interesting and insightful piece, and I see it has got a lot of responce from MMO addicts on here. I don't play MMOs but I can definitely see why some people may have a problem. I think I'm coming down with internet addiction as a way to escape the stress of finals. Obviously id doesn't help.

I'm glad to see some first hand research.

Eric the Orange:
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.

Damn Blizzard xD

A few thoughts on this article:

first off, kudos for writing on such an interesting topic.

"They were shocked when he became violent, which led them to call the police, which led to a brief psychiatric hospitalization. In order to be discharged from the hospital, Greg promised to keep away from the game, but it wasn't long after his return home that he was playing again."

" I knew of players who were in the midst of painful relationship setbacks and even divorce, while others were simply stuck, frustrated, and lonely. "

"After one protracted evening of play, I was not awarded a piece of gear that I thought I deserved. I felt totally enraged at what seemed a terrible injustice. Suddenly, it hit me that these strong feelings were about an imaginary piece of equipment in a virtual world. I started to feel ashamed of myself for my total immersion and loss of perspective."

Two things on these quotes.

(1) This reminds me of my Diablo II addiction. The thing is, it hits you totally unexpected, like a tiger waiting for the kill. Before you know it, you're sucked in, and can't stop. Months go by. I had a similar realization that I was 'wasting time' on 'digital items', and pulled myself out. After going cold turkey for maybe a week, I was fine.

(2) The way you described Greg et al. sounds very similar to something that you probably noticed too since you're a Psy D.; this sounds like DRUG ADDICTION. It sounds rather convincing, that it might be very similar on the biochemical level. Basically, this is a -very scary- thought. What if WOW was were like drugs in almost every single way? And for that matter, Diablo II back in the day.

I could make references to narcotic abuses/alcoholics. It's pretty much the same. They are trying to escape from the pain/ennui of their everyday lives. And once you start, it's pretty much too late. Greg's violence after being forced to stop made it sound compulsory.

As an addiciton counselor myself I must say that thsi was a well written piece but teh level of surprise this doctor

What begins addciiton is a magical unknown combination of biological attributues and the right reinforcer. It could be WOW, alcohol,

An insightful and well-articulated piece.

This makes me think of the Skinner box:



And you would be right. Addiction is a combination of positive reinforcement and other psychological/bioloicial factors. The two must "click" in a perfect storm for addcition to set in. Thats why some who try drugs and WOW dont become addicted, even if their experience was positive.

The fact that the author was so surpised about video game addction scares me. As an addiction counselor I know that anything, and I mean anything, can become the source of adddiction.

"I felt totally enraged at what seemed a terrible injustice. Suddenly, it hit me that these strong feelings were about an imaginary piece of equipment in a virtual world. I started to feel ashamed of myself for my total immersion and loss of perspective."

What's the difference between an imaginary piece of equipment in a virtual world and a real piece of equipment?
Why feel ashamed?
Why is it a loss of perspective?

Good to hear the kid was able to break away from that. Pity though that it had to get that extreme as to go to a boarding school with no internet, sounds like he had it really bad.

Excellent article--even better discussion. I was curious to see how the denizens of a gaming culture website would react to it, especially given that the eventual resolution was to kick the habit. I was expecting flames, but what I read were opinions.

And that's just awesome.

Like many of the above contributors, MMOs are something I've deliberately avoided because of the worry of developing a situation just like Greg's: again. I spent a good two years of my life during high school playing a text-based RPG that was so absorbing and so fulfilling for me during the stress of my mother's second divorce and immediate and whirlwind third marriage that moved our family across the country to a strange place where I was no longer surrounded by peers that I had known since kindergarten. I had dreams of being a fiction novelist, and I felt that the role-playing and the unfolding plots, the challenge to stay true to personality and detail, was sharpening my writing talents. I won't say that the time is wasted--I made several good friends, many of whom I still speak with today. However, I wish that I had been aware of what it was doing to my grades, my perception, and my relationship with my mother. I wish I'd managed my time.

If such a thing occurred through simple text, imagine what it would have been like with the visual stimuli of current MMOs sprinkled on top.

My other experience with WoW is indirect, and gave me new perspective: my mother, of all people, when that whirlwind third marriage became an abrupt third divorce, with a newborn infant she was raising alone, at the age of forty-five, found solace in World of Warcraft. Her highly stressful life made spending time with friends and family exhausting and frustrating, but online she could control how much interaction she was obligated to have, and with whom, and to what degree. She made friends, quite a few of which were single mothers as well. I thought it was good for her!

But occasionally I noticed, when I visited her, that while she was on her laptop the baby was sitting lonely in front of the television, attempting to entertain herself...

What's most important to remember is that WoW, or games like it, isn't wicked. Hell, some people used to obsess [and waste money] over collecting stamps. How nuts is that? Moderation is the key: to everything. A little escapism never hurt anybody... But next time you reach for it, whatever it is, why not reevaluate the reasons why you do the things you do, and see if maybe something needs to become proactive before it can change?

My opinion, MMO RPGs are evil games that feed off people that allow themselves to be taken over, i find this thread to be very forgiving of WoW or any MMO RPG,

If you guys dont trust me go to the WoW forums and see the kind of people WoW brings in.

I despise the idea that online games are an "addiction" and therefore universally bad.

In MY opinion, everyone should be given the opportunity to exhibit personal responsibility.

If you know you are prone to play a game to the point that it becomes unhealthy, you should have the personal responsibility to limit your play time or stop playing altogether.

Too many people blame the GAME for their own lack of self control.

The point which the article dances around is people play online games because they are FUN, not because they possess some mystical power of mind control. WoW is only a skinner box if you have the mindset of a lab rat.

Those people who cannot control themselves will play until it ruins their lives. Then when they realize what they've done they BLAME THE GAME for THEIR actions. YOU stayed up all night, YOU spent the welfare checks on internet bills, and YOU ruined your life. The game didn't do that, YOU DID. Those people then go around telling other people that the game is evil and bad, and that nobody should play it ever.

The fact is there ARE responsible people in the world (such as myself) who CAN control their lives and play games they enjoy at the same time. Those people do not need to be chastised or regulated because some lab rat dropped out of college.

I played WoW for years. Before that I played many other MMOs including Ultima Online and EverQuest. I enjoy playing MMORPGs. I also have a wife, a job, and a degree. I have never let a game interfere with my responsibilities.

I stopped playing WoW, not because I was addicted and needed an intervention, but because I became bored with the game. Do heroine addicts get bored of shooting up? Do crackheads get bored of smoking crack? No.

The "game addiction" is a lie made up by people seeking to blame an outside influence for their own destructive behavior. If you screw up, admit it. Blame yourself for your own mistakes. Stop using the game as your scapegoat. Stop telling people how to manage their lives when you cannot manage your own. Stop stereotyping all MMO gamers as hopeless addicts who have no self control.

Just stop.

As a psychiatrist, I'm yet unsure if gaming addiction can be considered a disease per se, because there are still few elaborated sientific studies about it, with conflicting evidence - some point that other disorders, like depression, account for most cases.
But this article makes me consider it more like a disease, because the evolution is very similiar to drug addicts I treat.
Very good article.

Mad props to you, Doctor!
A minute portion of health care professionals truely care enough to try/ get involved in/ research/ experience issues for themselves.

The rest just read a dumbed down, short note on something -usually written by someone without any first hand experience- and then get illusions of knowing the matter intricately, and even better than the people suffering from said thing.

Wow. That was a very interesting read.

Props for the psychologist who actually tried to find out why people get addicted.

This is the reason why I don't want to play WoW. I've always been scared that I would get addicted to it. I'm sure the game is great an' all, but that's the problem. The human races pathological want to see improvement in a game of that scope would pretty much ruin my life. I get addicted to things far too easily anyway. Games, books, even stuff like anime.

I have however played an MMOG, and I remember playing a game called knight online. Now, I didn't have Internet access at the time, but then I went ahead and got addicted anyway. I ended up spending a lot of time at other peoples houses just so I could play that game, and I didn't realise till later on how sucked in I was. If that game had been any better, or just not full with turkish people, I'm pretty sure I would still be playing it today.

But why? Why does it suck us in that much, that's the thing I want to know. I remember reading a book a long time ago, and the protagonist improved again and again, and I can remember how awesome I thought that part of the book was. This happens in all sorts of mediums, and I've only just realised how this can be linked to gaming. The feeling you get when you're stronger than you've ever been before. There are limits in real life, but in a game? I don't know, maybe the feeling you got when you got a new piece of gear. Is that what drove you to your year long addiction? You probably know more about this than I do, you're the Psychologist. Hopefully I'll learn more about this and other things in the future though, I'm doing Psychology in college.

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.

This article reinforces my current perspective on the addictive element of MMO's; it has a lot to do with the social aspect of the games. Pretty much all the stories I've heard about people who have serious MMO addictions are in guilds and/or interact with other players frequently. I've never heard of anybody getting seriously addicted to MMOs who solos all the time.

From my personal experience, I've had a bit of a problem with game addiction myself. It was never bad enough to ruin my life in the manner described in this article, even when I tried MMOs. In MMOs, I found myself just as much of an outsider as I do in real life, and I never got involved with guilds or corporations and whatnot. Eventually, just like with any single-player game, I got bored of it and quit.

So basically joining an MMO is kind of like being in any other sort of club or secret society or whatnot; except that your combining that with the addictive qualities of video games. It's a powerful formula.

For your part, if you really do get addicted to stuff easily (like that Korean kid who died of exhaustion playing Starcraft or whatever) A: never play Lumines, and B: don't join guilds.

Very interesting article. I've recently started playing WoW, after years of avoiding it, and other games like it. I never really saw the appeal in it as a player of FPS games. I got onto it after my PS3 broke and had to be repaired, so I needed something to fill the 6+ hours of MW2 that I would usually play a night. What better to do this then to replace the grind-tastic leveling of COD's multiplayer with WoW.

Now to be honest, I probably played less WoW then I did MW2, but I could definitely see the addictive qualities of this epic new world. No longer was I limited to 10 or so small locales, of which I knew every corner to hide in, but know had miles of open land to explore at my own pace. With Modern Warfare once the fight was over, I'd put the controller down and go on with my day. With WoW I find myself thinking about the world and my character long after I've turned the PC off. What gear I need, best way to level, where to go next. The six hours of play are only a small part of the experience. In essence you are playing every waking hour of everyday, and in this lies the problem of addiction. It's like the game you can never turn off.

I'm lucky that I haven't fallen into the 16 hour a day cycle, but then I am just a level 35 Blood Elf Warlock, far from the hours of time-bending end game content. I guess we will see how that goes when I get there.

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.

Oh come on, I'm sick of people thinking WoW is basically Heroin because a few people can't handle themselves.

I have EXTREME ADD, I am the most impulsive person I know, and I have an addictive personality.

I haven't played WoW for three months, and it has never caused any of my commitments to not be met.

I have to say, this was a great article. It's a good way to look at how it's more the experience that's addictive than the game itself. I play wow, but I'm nowhere near playing six or more hours a day. I play anywhere from one to three hours a day, even on the weekend when I have more time to play. I'm still relatively new to the game, but I'm not there to escape my life. My reason for playing wow is because it's something my friends and I can all do together. I'm in a guild with them and my boyfriend. And before anyone says "why don't you go out on dates with him instead of playing a game?" I want you to know we can't. My boyfriend and I live in two completely different states, we can't go out to dinner or the movies like normal couples can. So for us, this game gives us a way to spend time "together" every night. Our friends in the guild are like that as well. One lives here with me, and the other is all the way across the country. And while we can text each other and call each other, WoW gives us the feeling that we are actually together when we see our characters running side by side. And while I suppose you could say that's a way to escape the distance between us, it's all we really have at the moment. And we never push the envelope either. It's a few hours every night before we go to bed, which is never later than 1 am, because we both are currently going to school. We even miss playing some nights when one of us has too much homework to do or just doesn't feel like playing that night. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that playing WoW is not some terrible thing that will attach you to your computer and slowly drain away your soul, the interaction can be a great experience if you budget how much you play.

What really defines an addiction is the Why and How.

Why are you playing? Is it for entertainment? is it what you do instead of television? is it to stay in touch with friends? or is it to escape from problems?

Second is "how" as in "how is it affecting your life?" If you're like me and you work a job with late/odd hours (10am-9pm today) and this is something you do to relax, fine. If it's keeping you up till 3am and you work at 8am, not fine.

Again, i work pretty crap hours and I don't *like* the bar scene, i see my friends on weekends and I hate most television. During the week i play WoW or another game for 2-3 hours a night instead of watching TV. I would define that as a fairly healthy relationship with gaming. I work with a guy who literally goes from work to WoW and plays for at least another 5-7 hours every night, crashes for 4 hours, then goes back to work. That is *not* a healthy gaming pattern.

Most people I know who have developed problems with WoW are the compulsive/obsessive personality types. They stick themselves into feedback loops where they have to grind to play and it becomes extremely important to them and is in the same spectrum of behavior as problem gambling or other activity addiction such as excercise addiction.

For the majority of people, WoW is not a problem, but there are cases in which it is.

And yes. I will admit to spending a saturday playing WoW instead of going out. I don't like bars though and many of my IRL friends do play too.

WoW was my first experience in MMO games, and I got quite addicted myself. Never reached cap with any of my characters but got quite adept at zipping new toons to mature levels (ones where guilds consider you eligible for recruitment) in record time. I spent quite a few nights without sleep, though at the time it helped that I had graveyard shifts and found it easy to sleep through the daylight morning hours even with the birds singing outside my window. Which left my afternoon and evening free for dungeon raiding and such.
After a couple times when I had to put my account to sleep due to budget cuts, it became easy to cut off my WoW after friends I had made through my early years had dropped off themselves. WoW for me was more the social aspect, exploring new parts of the world and experiences with friends online, and by the time I got back into it, it seemed a lot changed and the people I encountered just weren't all about the same things. I find that actually quite the relief, compared to the two stories shared in this article. I shudder at the lengths I might have gone to maintain my WoW experience.
Everything can have its benefits when taken in moderation, but can be quite damaging and even lethal, either physically or socially, when abused. This also includes MMO's.

WOW just WOW (no pun intended)

I can say that I have gotten into that addicted phase myself on a couple of MMOs but I have been able to quit quite easily when I needed to.

Great article,just need a few more like you to write the paper on "The truth of gaming".

Cracked, while extremely irreverent, has many insightful articles on that subject.

I had an experience similar to Greg's parents, only it was with a friend.

Two years ago I decided to try the World of Warcraft trial to see what the big deal with WoW was. Maybe it was because I hadn't gotten that into it, but I couldn't comprehend why people found this game in particular so addictive and fun. And I'm still thankful that I stopped there.

One day, during the 10 day trial run, I invited my friend over and showed him WoW. I thought having someone else to play with would make the game more interesting. He was instantly hooked. He came to my house every day during that 10 day period, and even past them when he decided to make his own account to aquire the 10 day trial and crry on playing.

My friend didn't have any internet connection at the time, so I started to think that the only reason he was so eager to come over was to play WoW. The last straw was when he called me at six in the morning, asking if he could come over. Something snapped, and I made it clear that if he ever did something like that again, I'd never invite him over again. Things calmed down a bit were and back to the routine I had adapted to.

Then his family finally bought a decent internet connection. In these two years I have not seen or spoken to my friend. His mother tells me that he's still into WoW, and just as addicted as he was.

As easy as it would be to blame WoW, I realized that it was my "friend" I should be angry at. Not only did he use me to play WoW when he couldn't, but when he finally could, he completely erased me from his life. Still, I can't help but dislike WoW.

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

Indeed it is.This isn't usually what I read but all I can say is thank you for taking your time and explaining it so detailed(or atleast in a way that even a 10 year old boy can understand it ).People should know what WoW is capable of.

I really appreciate the thoughtful commentary evident here from The Escapist community. Its clear that many of you have had experiences similar to those I discuss in the article and its so great that you would take the time to share them. As a professional, I've tried to chart a middle course between my colleagues who are convinced that "video game addiction" is a disease and the alcoholism of our times, and my WoW friends and clients, who for various reasons have found their gaming experiences to be meaningful and important, in addition to being a great deal of fun.

You don't have to meet too many Gregs to see that video gaming can be part of a very problematic cycle in some people's lives. Its so hard for parents and professionals to see intelligent and talented young people diminish their possibilities and in extreme cases, put their lives in jeopardy over a game. These extreme cases can call for extreme action--its hard to swallow, but it sometimes makes all the difference.

On the other hand, I've known many folks who find a way to enjoy this hobby without losing themselves in it. I've even known some whose video game play became the inspiration for careers in the gaming industry and other areas of the technology world. And I have also known some people for whom the escape of living in an alternate universe is the only reliable way to deal with physical or psychological pain that is unrelenting.

As gaming is a way people "relate," its not at all surprising to hear that some of you conduct your social lives and even close relationships through your game play. I think that is interesting and exciting and it isn't going away any time soon. Its a kind of social/entertainment revolution that we are only just beginning to understand. I don't think much good will come of professionals simply criticizing and discouraging it and I was grateful to have the opportunity to experience it during my WoW time.

I truly believe that we need to continue thinking and talking about our video gaming experiences. I know how seductive it can be to just play and not think about it--or to just think about the game and all its vicissitudes to the exclusion of just about anything else. When we reflect on what we are doing and why, it may become easier to manage and control our behavior. Or we just may be reassured that we've achieved the right balance.

I will eagerly read all comments about this article and I'm glad to dialogue with any of you personally at any point--best way to reach me is email: [email protected]

Thanks again for all your insightful thoughts and feedback!

Plenty of people here are using this article as a way to feel vindicated in their beliefs of the 'evils of WoW', and while in a way they are right, I am also correct in feeling vindicated of the benefits of WoW. It's an interesting and well-balanced article that can do that.
My first year of WoW was exactly as you described...every waking moment, noticed or not, was devoted to the game. It's like the ultimate form of collection, mixed with social interaction and pressure.
I quit for a few months, went back for a while, quit for a few months, went back...
Each time it was like the game was still just as enjoyable and fun, but less addicting and more of a casual thing. I really like where I am at in the game right now . . . I log in only once or twice a week to raid, hang out with friends, and then head back out, with no real desire to continue playing.
I feel sad and a little ashamed at how much of my life the game took for me to get to that point, but even now I feel like my current playing experience is worth the time and money. I love my guild, I enjoy the content, stories and masterful game design of Blizzard, and look forward to the next expansion. More than anything it's a social thing for me. I can't really quit, because I love the friends I've made too much. But I refuse to devote any more time than I have to.
In the end, I can't feel -too- bad about my time in the game...I met my current boyfriend in the Barrens (we're going on 3 years now), and through my love of games in general I'm finding a fun, productive career in sound design.

Anyway, enough rambling. Thanks for the great article. It was a fascinating read, and I feel confident knowing there are people like you out there, willing to help others from such a well-balanced point of view.

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!

I see what you did there.. I can help you >.>

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