This drug rehab site lists 24 signs of drug addiction. Frighteningly, many of these are applicable to MMO Addiction.
- "Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain."
Addicted gamers will play for hours, only eating when they have to, not at regular times. This could mean eating at noon or four in the morning, as regular eating patterns are out the door. When the gamer finally decides that it is time to eat, the quickest, easiest food is generally first choice. Nothing should cut into gaming time; it might be needed to craft something.
- "Change in overall attitude / personality with no other identifiable cause."
- "Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness."
- "Unexplained silliness or giddiness."
- "Change in personal grooming habits."
Living in a virtual world can really change a person. They become obsessed with the world in which they are engrossing themselves, to the point to which it dominates many aspects of the person's real life. If you ever see someone displaying these signs, it might be due to late-night MMO gaming.
- "Changes in friends: new hang-outs, avoidance of old crowd, new friends are drug users."
- "Change in activities; loss of interest in things that were important before."
- "Changes in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities."
When applied to MMOs, this holds true. The addict's friends are in a virtual world now, so they will hang out with them there. Avoidance of old crowds would be the avoidance of real life friends. "Hey Jimmy, want to go to a movie?" "No thanks, I'm going on a raid tonight." If they had a social life before, it's gone now. Also, family events get dropped a lot easier. Social events all around are written off since the gamer will tend to sleep the day away after being up all night.
- "Drop in school or work performance; skips or is late to school or work."
Many gamers have wanted to skip out on school or work in favor of gaming, but for most it doesn't happen as often as with MMO addicts. The persistence of a virtual world that never sleeps adds a deeper level to gaming. The MMO takes first priority over everything else; school or work are just things that interrupt gaming time. Losing a job or failing out of school because of a game is just sad. I love gaming, but there is a line and that crosses it.
- "Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness."
- "Lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, discipline. Bored, 'I don't care' attitude."
This story hits these points home. The death of this couple's daughter is just one of the more tragic parallels to drug addiction that we have seen.
- "Defensiveness, temper tantrums, resentful behavior (everything's a hassle)."
- "Violent temper or bizarre behavior."
- "Unexplained moodiness, irritability, or nervousness."
When crossing the line from gaming into a virtual interactive world, things are blurrier than we would like to believe. People state, "It's just a game" with one breath and grow angry about another player's "spawn camping" with the next. The time invested into an MMO character goes deeper than hours pumped into a console game where you can save and pick up later, having missed nothing. Offenses are taken personally in MMOs because you are interacting with real people. When you die or lose money in an MMO, there is no reset button. It is much more difficult for someone involved that deeply in an MMO to separate the in-game angers from reality, therefore they can more easily overlap into everyday events. It is more of a stretch to draw direct parallel to drug addiction with these, but the signs are still the same.
Is MMO addiction a problem? The many parallels to drug addiction would seem to make you think so. At least MMOs don't have the mind altering danger that drugs do, making them safer to the other people in the MMO addict's life. Now, while I'm not trying to put MMO addiction and drug addiction on the same level, I do hope to open some eyes about MMO addiction. Why? Because I've been there. I saw some of these problems show up in my life when all I could think about was MMOs. Don't get sucked in too far. It's not a pretty thing. I recall wanting to rush home from work or school to see what I had missed or what was being planned that night. It's a fun distraction, but as with many things, some people don't know when to quit.