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Uh-Oh: Science Says MMO and FPS Games Attract More Addictive Players

Uh-Oh: Science Says MMO and FPS Games Attract More Addictive Players

Do you like FPSs like Call of Duty or MMOs like World of Warcraft? If so, you’d better check yourself before you wreck yourself. It turns out that MMOs and FPSs “are more appealing to people who show signs of addiction,” says Dr. Jeroen Lemmens, Assistant Professor Entertainment Communication at the University of Amsterdam.

According to an abstract for Dr. Lemmens’ paper, “Addictive Online Games: Examining the Relationship Between Game Genres and Internet Gaming Disorder,” which was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, gamers who suffer from game addiction, a.k.a. internet gaming disorder, spend more time playing MMOs and FPSs than any other genre. In fact, they play MMOs four times more often than other games and online FPSs three times more often.

Strategy, puzzle, racing, and fighting gamers spent less time on their games of choice and were less likely to become “disordered” gamers.

(In case you were wondering, “internet gaming disorder” is the phrase used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, the psychologist’s field guide to the human condition. Even though the DSM hasn’t called it an “official” disorder, it’s one worthy of further study. However, Dr. Lemmens believes “online gaming disorder” would be a more accurate term.)

There are nine criteria involved in diagnosing internet gaming disorder, according to Psychology Today, and if you meet five or more of them in one year, you may want to consider disentangling yourself from your virtual world:

  1. Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.

  2. Withdrawal symptoms when not playing Internet games.

  3. A build-up of tolerance–more time needs to be spent playing the games.

  4. The person has tried to stop or curb playing Internet games, but has failed to do so.

  5. The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.

  6. A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.

  7. The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.

  8. The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.

  9. The person has lost or put at risk an opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.

Surprisingly, Facebook games such as Candy Crush Saga may not be as addictive as anecdote would have it. Although Candy Crush Saga was played widely by Dr. Lemmens’ sample of 2400 players, it was only very weakly related to addiction. He notes that people should not confuse popularity with addiction.

But there is strong link between gaming addiction and an online component. “We also found [gaming disorder] was related to offline play, but less so. Addiction… is much stronger [with] online games [with] offline games,” said Dr. Lemmens.

Lemmens and other researchers currently “don’t know which specific part of the online aspect leads addictive people to choose these games.” Perhaps because online games offer players a sense of community and cooperation or even competition. But they do know that gamers with addiction typically suffer low self-esteem, compounded by loneliness. Unfortunately, despite the opportunities for socializing in online gaming, reaching out to other players doesn’t seem to act as a cure for loneliness. That’s because addiction “is not easily solved,” said Dr. Lemmens.

Working the logic, you may want to draw the conclusion that if more addicted gamers play FPSs and MMOs it could mean that FPSs and MMOs are more addictive, but as of yet, we just don’t know. Dr. Lemmens interprets the data thusly: “It doesn’t mean they’re more addictive. It means they’re more appealing to people who show signs of addiction.” But he admits, “It could also mean they’re just more addictive, but we don’t know… This is something we’d like to study further.”

While video games can be used to help ease anxiety and depression, it’s important to remember that they should still be played in moderation. So if you’re concerned about gaming addiction, please unplug and find the life you want. If I meet you in Guild Wars 2, I want to know you’re playing for fun and not for need.

Featured Image Credit: Jalisco Campus Party

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