All over the world, at any given time, you can bet that someone, somewhere, is hacking their avowed enemies to pieces with a two handed axe. It’s not as horrific as this may sound however, as they are parked in front of a computer, and their enemies are imaginary.
In fact, more often than not, their enemies aren’t even human, they are NPC (non-player characters) designed with the sole purpose dying by your hand, and helping you gain levels as they do. This hacking of enemies to bits is often accompanied by atmospheric Celtic music, and continues over a myriad of landscapes, including villages, fortresses, and mountain ranges.
Fanatics typically play for six to eight hours at a time, sometimes almost every day, and often joke about wishing they could hook themselves up to an intravenous feed so they wouldn’t have to stop playing for the inconvenience of eating. It’s a scary thought to those that have never experienced an MMO ‘addiction’ – but to those of us that have – it’s heaven on earth.
These endless role playing fantasy worlds envelop players, drawing them in with a series of battles to be fought, and a plethora of treasures to be collected. The game’s compelling charms can often lead to the kind of obsession that causes problems in other areas of life, such as the college kids who cut class and forget to study.
Such compulsive, all-consuming game playing can lead to a lot of changes that aren’t positive. For example, they can lead to changes in sleep and wake cycles that can negatively affect concentration, memory and physical health. It can also lead to the neglect of meaningful personal relationships, as the gaming world becomes more satisfying than the real world.
Statistics from the American Psychiatric Association indicate that 90 percent of American children play video games. Of these, fifteen percent have an addiction. Out of adult players, 10 to 12 percent play more than 6 hours a day.
Video gaming isn’t technically an addiction. Online video games like Runes of Magic can be habit forming, however, and this can have an effect on the brain, gamers experience an adrenaline rush and a feeling of satisfaction from playing. The games basically press the buttons of our instinctual reward systems, and gamers repeat their actions in order to get those rewards. It’s similar to compulsive gambling – but not technically an addiction.
Although online gaming is thought of by most people as a social activity, many gamers naturally enjoy the social aspect that comes included in an MMO. Online games involve a real community of real people playing, and earning rewards and respect from other players is a big part of the fun. Games like Atlantica Online pay homage to this, with a large and robust community of welcoming members.
Sometimes college students become so obsessed with the games that their professors, upon seeing the condition they’re in when they show up for class, may think they are using drugs. Many professors believe that compulsive online gaming is one of the causes of kids failing in their subjects that seem to fly ‘under the radar.’
As with most things in life, gaming provides benefits when done in moderation. They are often difficult and require an intricate thought processes. But remember, there is a fine line between a hobby and an obsession. If gaming crosses the line into an obsession, then maybe it’s time to stop, even if it means getting help.