Mar 24, 2009

Gamers battle depression

by Christopher Scott

 Recent studies found dragons to be linked to depression. Noshir Contractor, professor of behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, led a study-survey involving 7,000 “Everquest II” gamers. The survey set out to “analyze virtual worlds,” and “advance social, behavioral and computational science.” Among the many findings Contractor presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one finding stands out above the rest — an average of 21 percent of casual gamers and 30 percent of intense gamers suffered from depression.

“This could mean that highly active players get more depressed or that depressed people are more likely to be active role players,” Contractor said.

The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that 9.5 percent of Americans over the age of 18 face depressive disorders. That is a startling difference from the 21-30 percent of virtual online game players.

If you have never heard of games like “World of Warcraft” or “Everquest II,” consider yourself lucky. These massive multi-player online role-playing games (or MMORGs) are played by millions of people worldwide. World of Warcraft alone boasts 11.5 million active and paying gaming subscriptions, according to its official Web site. But it is not only money that MMORPGs demand. They demand time, intellect and apparently mental health, as well. The truth is that video games are not what they once were. The games that are leading the industry are a little more complicated than what our parents might think.
Advancing through levels in a 2-D horizontal screen scroll, like in the original Mario for Nintendo, has long been in the past. Mario conventionally ended with a face-off between the famed Italian plumber and his green turtle-lizard nemesis, known as Bowser. In the world of online gaming, it is impossible to actually finish the game.

“World of Warcraft is an online role-playing experience set in the award-winning Warcraft universe. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, and quest across a vast world,” states an introduction on the World of Warcraft official Web site.

“Whether adventuring together or fighting against each other in epic battles, players will form friendships, forge alliances and compete with enemies for power and glory.”

Players can literally simulate real life through online games such as World of Warcraft. They can talk, eat, fight and form relationships, cliques and little communities of their own. But at what cost?
Depression (if it truly is a major bi-product of online gaming) is a result of negligence. When people commit over 21 hours per week to online gaming, the average time per gamer according to the Daedalus online MMORPG research project, they neglect the more important things in life.

The great game known as “life” is played out in a fully three-dimensional physical (as opposed to virtual) world. Instead of viewing the environment through a computer screen, God gave us eyes which feature an unthinkable resolution and vivid color display. We can interact and make conversation with players (known as “people”) with a mouth, sustained with a vocal range capable of singing, screaming, laughing and much more. The beauty of this world is unparalleled by any game — trees, wilderness and sky were made for you to enjoy. All of this is free of charge, as opposed to World of Warcraft’s $14.99 monthly fee.

Consider it a form of madness to be stuck in a private reality which separates you from the one true reality.
Playing an MMORPG can feel like a part-time job, with no real benefits.

Individuals who experience an addiction to online gaming experience the anxiety and stress that it brings. They may not be able to ride flying dragons, cast powerful spells or join “guilds,” but real life can at least satisfy their basic psychological need for real human interaction.

“You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living until the escape becomes the habit,” former NFL coach Buddy Ryan was once quoted as saying.

Realizing this is the first step online game addicts need to take to absolve their problem. Any addictive habit should be taken seriously, no matter how lightly people take it.

Contact Christopher Scott at


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