Online role-playing games facilitate communication with fellow players to encourage players to talk and establish social networks. The most popular online games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest impede group efforts such as guilds and group quests, so that players make several online friends and communicate for a significant part of the time, working together for team battle and competition purposes. Online computer game players that used to bring their friends to their rooms to be able to play together no longer have to do so.
All they have to do now is create an account in an online game and log in to talk to people who they are close to or people who they’ve never even seen before. The online communication factor is particularly attractive because online players already all share a common feeling: they all love online games very much. This shared feeling gives other players a sense of ease in their communication with other players because they share a common interest.
Since so many players can be found online at any given time, other players will not get lonely and can always socialize with other online players if they cannot find their usual acquaintances.
This ongoing socialization between other players is one aspect of the game that makes it so immersive for players. Players can ignore their real lives and concentrate on their online characters and his social relations instead of their own. This is one of the many reasons why online game players that build social networks inside the game would extend their subscriptions to the game and play longer.
Players that are part of guilds or other social gatherings play to be part of their group.
Since they do not want to fall behind in their status, they would be required to play for longer periods of time to advance in level and catch up to the other players in their group. Guild leaders, especially, would have a large amount of pressure to play because of their numerous responsibilities. One female player says, “I worry about my game life as much as I worry about my real life. If I am late getting on, I feel like people will be disappointed with me. As a guild leader, when conflicts arise people come to me to resolve them.
People look to you to have events, help them get things, quest, etc… I try to please everyone, but it is unrealistic to think you can be everywhere for everyone, keeping them all happy. It gets to be a heavy burden to bear, and sometimes I end up in tears out of frustration. I am an addict. Will I quit? No. Why? Because I love it. “4 Females, especially, have been found to be interested in a game mostly because of the social interactions between players. 5 Males, on the other hand, mostly seemed to be interested in popular MMORPGs because of the attraction of a status of high power.
The leveling of their players to become more powerful drove males to play for longer periods of time. Extensive online gaming is only recently being seen as a serious issue. Because of some extreme cases involved in players who play extensively, China has implemented control regulations of the time that players can remain online in their games. 7 Chinese players can now remain online for three hours before their in-game benefits will be cut down. In terms of the games, this would mean reducing the value of equipment found within the game, or lowering the power of the player’s character.
After five hours, players will be warned that their in-game benefits will be cut down to zero and their avatar’s health will be damaged if they continue to remain online. The most popular online games agreed to the playing curbs; although they did not have much choice as they need the government’s support to offer online games. However, many critics and moderate online players feel that the system is not enough. This is because of the significant loopholes in the regulations. Players can just play until their time is up and then switch characters to another profile.
This is feasible for the large number of addicted Chinese players. Control of online video game addiction is essential for many caught up in the games. Many extreme cases of violence have occurred because the players were addicted to the games. For example, one child whose gameplay was interrupted by his little brother proceeded to kill his younger sibling with a hammer because he had interrupted his game play. 9 One man, Shawn Woolley, shot himself to death after a tragic loss occurred in his game. 10 These are not isolated cases. Reports of video game violence are frequent and are far from over.
There are many reasons why players may resort to such extremes. Online games, perhaps, in their violent gameplay, may confuse players about the consequences of killing and death. Since addicted players tend to spend so much time away from reality and their friends and family, they may begin to forget about how important these people are to them, and when they become isolated from their games they lose sight of what to do and how to respond to others. One psychologist from Stockton became so wrapped up in the game in trying to study it, that he frequently entered all-night sessions with the game before forcing himself to quit.
11 He says, “Here I was in a good position to understand the problem… and yet I really did have to struggle to beat this thing… I can imagine that somebody with less knowledge of these kinds of issues would really have a hard time understanding what was happening to them”. Many players would become confused at the priority shift brought into by the games, and some react by ignoring their real lives and instead focus solely on the game. Many online video game players find themselves unable to lead the rest of their lives, even if they have made the changes necessary to rid themselves of the game.
This is because of many reasons. Players who have become immersed in the games find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they are away from their games. Also, players have poor health and little to no social skills. It becomes very hard for gamers to lead social lives and develop platonic and romantic relationships outside of their online games. Players who have a history of extensive gaming find it hard to react to what others say to them and usually have little confidence. Most are unable or unwilling to develop romantic relationships because of commitment issues or a poor sense of self-worth.
These gamers find it difficult to confront people face-to-face because they have not done so for such a long time. Gamers find it hard to attract others of the opposite sex because they do not feel confident talking to others if they are not on their computers. Some may even lose the ability to speak practically, because they have become so accustomed to speaking in terms of the game and with other online gamers who speak in the same style. Additionally, players in high school may lose the rest of their lives because their extensive gaming has ruined their chances to enter university or college.
Some players lose the drive to do well academically and essentially squander their future by playing video games. One adult player explains the trouble that his addiction to the game has cause for his profession and life, “I am addicted to EQ and I hate it and myself for it. When I play I sit down and play for a minimum of 12 hours at a time, and I inevitably feel guilty about it, thinking there a large number of things I should be doing instead, like reading or furthering my education or pursuing my career. But I can’t seem to help myself; it draws me in every time.
I have been out of work now for over a month and now find myself in a stressful, depressed state that is only quelled when I am playing EQ, because it’s easy to forget about real world troubles and problems, but the problem is when you get back to the real world, problems and troubles have become bigger, and it’s a bad, bad cycle. “12 This is another significant reason why so many players feel that their online games have ruined their lives. Some players may not get the chance to redo their years of high school and end up with a mediocre job.
Others may not even attain to that level. Because so many players are able to immerse themselves in their games without other distractions, they tend to forget about the importance of their real lives. Players tend to neglect their friends and family, just so they can play their games for a few more hours. It is undeniable that online games have ruined millions of peoples’ lives and something must be done about it. However, the attitudes and behavior of the player prior to introduction to the game must also be analyzed.
Players that suffer from ADHD and other psychological disorders may tend to become more involved in these kinds of games because it allows them to escape from their real lives. Players with poor self-image and low self esteem also react the same way. For some of the addicted players, the game may not be entirely at fault. This is the main reason why so many psychologists and addiction experts refuse to classify online video game addiction as the real thing. Many still believe it to be a joke that only happens in extreme cases. For now at least, they may be right.
However, it is also important to consider the gaming culture of many countries. South Korea and China are two of the most heavily gaming countries in the world. China alone had a video gaming revenue of $633 million in 2005. 13 For many technology-oriented countries such as China and South Korea, gaming is a way of life. Thus, it seems obvious that most of the severe cases of online video game addiction would occur in these countries. In China, for example, skipping school to go to Internet Cafes is a regular habit for thousands of high-schoolers.
14 This kind of behavior starts social trends that escalate into bad habits for other students. It is not uncommon for adults to go to Internet Cafes after work to play online games. It may be even more unacceptable for adults and especially parents to be gaming online excessively. Parents may introduce their children or spouse to the game, creating a family-friendly environment for the child and spouse to play online together. This is especially dangerous for the child because then the child feels safe playing online, and feels that it is the right thing to do.
Children at a young age can become easily addicted to online games because it is new and exciting to them. Children of a young age fantasize about being in charge, and having superhuman powers. Therefore, when the child gets both from a video game, the child generally becomes enthralled and wants to continually play the game instead of focusing on their life. This leads to bad habits later in life. If the child gets used to gaming on a regular basis, he will usually want to continue to do so later in life as his priorities change and his responsibilities increase.
Given the issues at hand as a cause of extensive video game play, possible solutions should be considered as well. In the case of the Chinese effort to decrease addiction in online game players, a good effort was made. However, other countries have not fared so well in their attempts, if any, at facing this problem. One possible solution could be to change the dynamics of the online games slightly, so that the player finds it less rewarding or engaging. One way to follow through with this idea would be to decrease the value or number of rewards given to players, similar to the efforts made in China.
According to an extensive study conducted by Nicholas Yee in 2001, the second most popular reason why Ever Quest (an extremely popular MMORPG) appealed to the player was because they were able to achieve goals. 15 Perhaps the game could alter their time structure such that players are not required to spend as much time to achieve goals or to gain items. This solution would be very effective, providing the player with the same rewarding experience within a shorter period of play, however, the player may simply choose to play even longer because they find it so rewarding.
Therefore, an effective solution must include a way to restrain the time a player spends online. A more direct way of dealing with the threat of game addiction would be to involve parents or close family that could be educated about the game and how they can prevent the consequences of spending too much time online. This solution would coerce the player to spend more time in social interactions outside of the game. According to Nicholas Yee’s The Norrathian Scrolls: A Study of EverQuest, the third most satisfying experience for players of EverQuest was to establish a friendship with other online players.
16 A significant reason why players choose to play their game for so long is because they are lonely and want to make friends but do not have the self-confidence or social skills from real life so they would do so online, where it is much easier. Social interactions with family members and friends would improve their social skills and boost their self-esteem, giving them the chance to participate in activities with friends in real life. A solution that could be implemented through online gaming companies would be the monitoring of the activity of a computer, identified through its Internet Protocol address.
In this way, the online gaming activity of each computer could be tracked by gaming companies, and used to limit the time to which players can stay online. This idea would not work for all players, because some may have more than one computer, or may change computers after their time is up for one computer. However, this would likely work for the majority of players, as the chance that a single person would own more than one computer is relatively small.
This solution could help the Chinese government in lowering the online play time because addicted players in China would just log off their character and sign on through another account. One addicted Chinese player said, “I have mixed feelings about the curbs. They might help me find different ways of passing the time. But you can get around the rules. When my time is up playing as one character, I can just continue playing as another character. So these rules won’t affect the addicts.
“17 Since this method involves tracking a computer’s IP sentence, it does not matter how many characters the player has, because the tracking of the IP address will identify the computer instead of the player’s current profile. After extensive research and analysis of the roles, attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of teenage online video gamers, a conclusion has been reached. The main social and ethical issues with respect to online computer gaming and teenagers are the players’ mental and physical health, reduced mental and physical stimulation due to addiction, financial insecurity and lack of social interaction.
However, on reaching this conclusion, many unresolved questions have arose throughout the research. It is still unknown, for example, whether online gaming can be classified as a clinical addiction. Also, the debate of whether or not online gaming can be directly attributed to the game was not resolved. This is because it is undecided whether the player or the game itself has the larger role in the addiction.