by Mike Masnick

Still Addicted To Calling Things Addictions

from the just-can't-stop dept

Every few months, it seems we see an article talking about the worries of some group of psychologists about how some technology is addictive. It's been going on for years. There have been claims about email addiction, web addiction, online porn addiction, video game addiction, internet addiction, and mobile phones or other gadget addictions. The latest is a bit more specific, talking about how people are addicted to online fantasy games like World of Warcraft. However, once again, they offer no proof, and other studies have found no physical dependency on video games. Part of the problem is that all of these stories seem to mix cause and effect. In almost every case of these "technology" addictions, the more you look at it, it sounds like the person had a more serious mental problem, such as depression or a real addiction, such as to drugs or alcohol -- and that played itself out by having them immerse themselves in the technology. In fact, the article starts out by pointing to one case where that's exactly what doctors said with someone who committed suicide while playing EverQuest (he was depressed) -- and then flip it to say that doctors today are taking the issue of fantasy game addictions more seriously, though they don't say why. What's changed to indicate that it really is these video games that are the problem, rather than depression or loneliness or some other issue that's leading people to seek comfort in these games? It's easy to just blame the game, but if it's not the real root of the problem, focusing in on that as the addiction is only going to lead to more trouble for the individuals later on when they seek some other solution to their real issues.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    dorpus, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 7:55pm

    Addiction to Ignorance

    It's funny to watch business school graduates claim authority on social problems, when they are the ones to create them in the first place. Does addiction to business dogma, armchair knowledge of social sciences lead to cocaine abuse, hypertension, and shortened life spans?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 8:22pm

    Re: Addiction to Ignorance


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 9:30pm

    One has to wonder if the writer of the article himself is an addict. As a recovering drug addict myself, from my experience, it's not the drug that's important - it's what it does to you that is. Whether your drug of choice was cocaine, heroine, sex, food, gambling or games: it's the obsession and compulsion to use in order to fix something inside of you that's wrong. Sure: the one drug is better at one thing than another, like coke might help you get over shyness better than shopping, but gaming will provide what your fear of intimacy needs.

    Methinks the original writer needs to better understand just what addiction is. There's more than just physical addiction - and that's the easy one to recover from!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:00pm


    Methinks you need to re-read the original writer's article. An addiction may be more than physical, but it DOES REQUIRE a physical addiction in order to be classified as such. PC Gamers don't start shaking and flipping out and such if they miss gaming for a day.

    It's not an addiction. It's a recreational activity. Sure, it might be abused and overdone in some cases, but the same can be said about any other recreational activity. When you watch the news on Television, how would you like it if someone said you were addicted to TV just because you like to watch the evening news every night after work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Daniel Bjorndahl, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:01pm

    RE: Anonymous Coward

    Well said!

    But methinks the point of this article is still made by pointing out the repetitive diction that has negative connotations (addiction, addiction, addiction...).

    Nevertheless, your comment deserves attention from the author as well as all readers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Daniel Bjorndahl, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:04pm

    RE RE: Anonymous

    Dear Anonymous,

    Perhaps what the anonymous coward meant to say was that addictions exist that are not directly related to the substance being abused (drugs, video games, google, etc.).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Brian, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:13pm

    As a person who used to play Warcraft for 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I can say there is certainly a dependance involved in the MMORPG universe. I agree that it is not a chemical dependance, but it is almost as powerful in the short run. I took the cold turkey method and cut off my playing one day when I realized I wasnt playing for myself anymore, I was playing for my guild. I think that is the big "addiction" for most gamers, the sense of teamwork and responsibility to those that you play with. When I first quit I felt bad about letting my fellow players down by not being there. But the next day, or even the next week I didn't experience any physical withdrawl symptoms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    benji, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:31pm

    WoW online addictions..

    just because i like being called:
    mimiru_16_mietsugi_XxTHE GREATxX
    at school and on online games..does not mean i have an addiction....

    i play mmorpgs...and i have to say...i absolutely love them..you can pretty much control every aspect of you life in them..its pretty much living anothers version of your life..."hint" Role-Playing-Game....but i cant say im addicted..sometimes i start playing and i cant stop...in some ways that may be an addiction..but eventually i do..maybe after 4 or 5..sometimes 6 hours....eh....but i think that what happens is that some users get confussed or dependent with a world that is completey up to them...they can build relationships with people they will never see or have more confidence in themselves...but in real life...completely opposite... affraid of the world and low self esteem....its more of a release i think...and some people just get "hooked" on being wanted in a game...rather than in real life..i dont call it an addiction i call it being wanted..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    benji, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:32pm


    i really dont call myself
    mimiru_16_mietsugi_XxTHE GREATxX
    just to let you guys know....hehe .... (@_@)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 10:55pm

    in a tongue-in-cheek manner , yes, video games are addicting. that's why i only get 3-4 hours of sleep on nights when i have morning classes. however, video games are not technically addictive. while in some people the definitive signs of addiction become present, as mike pointed out, these are usually special cases where there is already some kind of psychological problem present in the individual. there are a few requirements for something to be technically addictive. it needs to develop a behavior (i.e. use of object in question) that is uncontrollable and the use becomes detrimental to the individual. now, while the 3-4 hours of sleep i get rather sucks, i'm still able to ace my calc tests. also, i have no problem going a week without playing any games. therefore using myself as a basis we can conclude that mmorpgs are not addictive. if i did cocaine as often as i play these video games i'd have severe physical dependencies and permanent damage to my nose, if i wasn't dead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    dorpus, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 11:04pm


    You sound like an undergrad? Tell me how productive a physicist you will be, when you must become a research assistant. You won't be productive on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Your health will catch up to you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    ID, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 11:24pm


    i swear, i really really am! and i LOVE IT!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 11:31pm

    Re: Re:

    actually, i know plenty of older people (40s-50s) who only get 3-4 hours of sleep and are healthy. of course, that's aside the point. it all really depends on my body's physiology. as it stands, i'm completely functional after an hour or so and some coffee. also, scarily enough, i'm able to make computations in my head faster than anyone else in my calc class off of that amount of sleep (granted, that might be speaking more about the rest of the students). either way, were i a physicist i'd have better toys to play with than video games... overall, i'm not worried about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    The infamous Joe, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:34am

    No Comment

    I really don't have much comment on this subject-- I DO play WoW, but have never thought of it as an addiction. I just asssume that the people who play 10 hrs a day 6 days a week have nothing better to do-- or they'd be doing it. I have heard stories about WoW ruining lives -- http://soulkerfuffle.blogspot.com/2006/10/view-from-top.html -- but I tend to lean toward the fact that excessive WoW wasn't the problem, it was a symptom.

    My real question is why would Mike link to a article I had to register to read? That makes me sad-- I suppose that's why my utility belt contains www.10minutemail.com.

    *sigh* I hate registering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Rational Thought, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 9:23am

    Dependency or Escapism

    Sometimes our lives are so mundane that we look for an excape into an alternate reality. I believe we, men, are wired to thrive on adrenaline. Our ancestors way back had to hunt for food and fight for survival. Over the centuries our lives have become more placid and mundane. So now we invent and participate in real life activities that are brutal or extremely risky to activate the adrenaline in our system. Heck we still use words like "hunt", "kill", "target", "blood and guts" in business and sports on a daily basis. Playing online fantasy games is one of those activites that gives us the chance to do something dangerous or on the edge, albeit without the physical repercussions (strained thumbs dont count). While it does not involve physical activity, there is enough realism with the level of graphics today that if we shut out real life sensory input, our brain replaces those with what the games dish out. I have personally played Delta Force, Recon and other first person adventure games to a level that eight hours later I "wake up" and realize that I have not eaten or taken a break because the games required so much focus, attention and strategy. Was I addicted? I believe I was able to get so invoved because on that day, nothing else was "exciting" enough to make me want to do it instead of playing with my "unit." Those people who do this day in and day out have not, IMHO, connected with the real world to a level where their sensory needs are being fulfilled. The online world judges you based on your survival skills, not looks or personality...exactly how the world judged you back when man roamed the planet in animal skins with a crude wooden club.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 9:56am


    The thing I hate most about people calling any over-usage of something an addiction is that they always feel the need to append "oholic". Sexoholic, Internetoholic, I've even heard somebody say drugoholic.
    The reason for the first of those words, alcaholic, is because the thing people are addicted to is alcohol. Nobody is addicted to sexohol!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Celes, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 10:26am

    Re: *oholic

    Thank you, AC, for letting me know that I am not alone in my loathing of the -oholic suffix. The most prominent of these terms in today's media, I find, is "chocoholic". (Or maybe that's just because I'm female and pay attention to things like chocolate.)

    Of course, maybe that refers to someone who eats too many of those little chocolate bottles with real liquor inside? That'd kinda be "chocohol"... I guess...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    duh, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:13pm

    All stimulus is addictive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    True True, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 12:31pm


    The bodies receptors start to take the shape of the stimulus. It's just degrees of addiction after that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Stu, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:00pm

    Misuse of language prevents clear thinking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 4:59pm

    There is a differeence between tolerance and addiction, which some people would do well to remember. If people have notehing more interesting to do than game excessively, then they need to find something else to do. Speaking of missing meals, I sometimes heat breakfast at 7-8 than leave lunchuntil closer to 3 than 2, simply because what I am doing is more interesting, I cannot be bothered, or i just plain forgot. I know somone who once spent almost a whole school day playing SoF 2 because he forgot the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    HomerSimpson, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 9:58pm

    Re: *oholic

    I'm a rageaholic.... i'm addicted to rageahol

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 5th, 2006 @ 10:00pm

    Re: Stimulus

    that's a bummer... i guess we should shut ourselves off from all sensory perceptions then...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    ScytheNoire, Dec 6th, 2006 @ 7:39am

    i call bullshit on game addiction

    up until near the end of this summer, i could've been called an addict to World of Warcraft. i played six to eight hours a day, pretty much every day, and for over twelve hours a day on weekends. but i wasn't addicted to the game, but rather just depressed with my real life and was hiding from the real world in the game.

    i got on some medication, started doing stuff, started dating again, and now i'm loving life, without WoW. it's not an addiction, but rather, hiding from reality in the game. that was the problem. the game was a crutch for depression, and i think it works that way for a lot of people who play way too much. we as humans needs social contact, and when reality is too scary, we find it in virtual worlds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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