UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters) – Computer game fanatics should not be labeled addicts, although many players say they are hooked on a hobby that is affecting their social lives, scientists said Tuesday.
Some evidence exists that games stimulate the same areas in the brain as alcohol and other drugs, psychologists, sociologists and others were told at the world’s first interdisciplinary games conference here.
But unlike the addictive substances, there is no medicine to deal with compulsive gaming behavior, they heard.
“Is (the popular online game) Everquest addictive? Well, it’s no more addictive than school or work. The time invested in those also make them addictive,” said Florence Chee, a research student at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
Scientific interest in the multibillion dollar computer games industry has mushroomed in recent years, after teenagers in several countries killed themselves and others after playing violent games. Various governments have put pressure on the industry to add a health warning to games packages.
But many players actually described themselves as addicts, said Stephen Kline, a social psychology professor and media analyst at Simon Fraser University.
“Fifteen percent of Everquest players say: ‘I’m addicted’. Thirty percent can be categorized as addicts,” he said.
Although he used the word “addiction” in the classic Greek sense of “devotion,” his survey of hundreds of heavy online games players showed half of them reported family conflict and romantic failure as a result of their hobby.
VIOLENCE SPILLS OVER
Heavy games players can play an average 17 to 26 hours a week. The online games, in which players battle with opponents online, are considered the most gripping and time-consuming.
Children from the age of 10 are now starting to play online games, he said, and families should know it is radically different from comics.
“Game entertainment is not a classic media experience. It has a potency that offers a new psychological experience,” Kline said, adding he could imagine violent experiences in games to spill over in real life.
Other scientists, who like Chee have carried out scientific surveys, said heavy games players were in fact sociable and not the pathological loners they are often made out to be.
Sociology Professor Holin Lin at National Taiwan University discovered many players were members of an online ‘clan’ to try to become more successful against opponents in the game. She also found many had relationships with clan members in real life.