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Research: MMO 'Addiction' Overstressed, Still 'Potentially Damaging'

A new report from the UK's University of Bolton examining the impact of video game addiction on players has found that while games such as MMOs may not be quite as addictive as previously believed, they can still be “potentially damaging for players' work
While it is hardly news that some find the nature of massively multiplayer online games to be addicting, a new report from the UK's University of Bolton has found that while such games may not be quite as addictive as previously believed, they can still be “potentially damaging for players' work, home and social life.” According to the study, Dr. John Charlton, Research Fellow in Psychology in the School of Health, Psychology and Sport, found that levels of video game addiction could be as much as 10 percent lower than earlier studies. Explaining this differential, Charlton's report found that many reports classify gamers as addicted by using symptoms that are also used in the diagnosis of gambling addiction, something that Charlton flagged as inappropriate. “This is my second research project in this field to confirm this outcome; that several symptoms researchers had thought were important in diagnosing computing-related addictions were actually only indicative of high, but non-addictive, involvement,” explained the university psychologist. “This means that taking them into account when conducting research gives an incorrect result - 10% higher than is correct.” However, all is not good news for players of online games, a market that according to recent Screen Digest research is expected to see 10 million MMOG user subscriptions and $1.5 billion by 2011. According to the results of an online survey by Charlton of more than 400 players of the now discontinued MMO Asheron's Call, some players commented that their time spent playing the online game “led to arguments at home and negatively affected their work and social life.” The survey also found that more than 40 percent of those questioned said that their social life was suffering from playing games, while 30 percent recognized gaming as a an obstacle to keeping up with their work. 40 percent also said that games were causing arguments at home. The survey further found that many of those players questioned, 50 percent, confessed that they were sleep deprived from playing games, while 35 percent said that they skipped eating food just to play more. On average the respondents revealed that they played the game for 18.5 hours a week, with one player in particular spending 100 hours a week online. Interestingly, the doctor and his partner Ian Danforth of the Department of Psychology at Whitman College commented that the research also backed up their theory that playing online games with “at least a moderately high violent content” is largely a male pastime, as 85 percent of the survey respondents were men. Finally, Charlton summarized the findings, commenting that “...while our research suggests online gaming may not be as addictive as research has previously suggested, gaming addiction is a real issue for some people who find gaming seriously affecting their lives.”

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