WoW; it’s distracting! “Onlineaholics” get the help they need

Alcohol, drugs, gambling and food are the most commonly referred to addictions, but leave it to the technological generation to take the world of addictions to an entire new destination; the gaming world.

Gaming has come a long way from a little green frog crossing the street in “Frogger” and a yellow smiley face running from ghosts and eating up little dots in “Pacman”. Video games have left the arcades and invaded people’s homes through continual technological advancements of computers and gaming accessories. Now gamers don’t even have to leave their room to partake in this pastime, thus raising the amount of time spent playing video games immensely.

A study done by Michigan State University in 2004 showed that then college-age males played on average 16 hours of video games a week, and their high school counterparts 23 hours a week (these numbers outweigh females across all age ranges). This was three years ago. One can only imagine what those numbers are today.

Time spent playing video games has become so out of control for some people that Internet addiction clinics are popping up in hospitals and independent locations all over the map to help gamers kick their addiction to games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Everquest.”

These clinics, such as the ones at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill. and ReStart in Seattle, Wash., provide professional help to those diagnosed with “Internet addiction disorder,” or “onlineaholics.” The goal is to get gaming addicts outside doing normal daily activities and assimilate them back into the physical world.

When College of Dupage education major Christina Payne heard of such a place she was quick to respond in regards to her fiancée, who is currently overseas in the Marine Corps.

“The first time I went to visit him on base my flight home was delayed. I was excited to have extra time to spend with him and all he did was play ‘World of Warcraft’ while I slept. I almost broke up with him that day,” she added jokingly. She continued to explain that he sets aside three hours, four days a week to play “World of Warcraft” in which he often times forgets to call her and “pretty much ignores the outside world.”

Payne’s fiancée, Corporal Juan Garcia admits that playing World of Warcraft has affected his personal life in the past, adding that he has always been into gaming and “if it isn’t World of Warcraft in the future it will be another game.”

Though the problem for Payne and her fiancée is something they generally joke about, the concept of video games distracting people from the outside world is actually becoming quite a problem.

In an interview with the New York Times, Director of the Computer Addiction Study Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., Maressa Hecht Orzack, explained that the number of patients she sees with Internet addiction has increased from two patients a week to dozens, not including the calls she receives from patients seeking treatment since the center first opened.

The rising success of these facilities can seem a bit a shocking when considering the average cost of a long-term treatment is said to be around $14,000 and is not covered by insurance companies because Internet addiction is not yet recognized as an illness by medical professionals.

With the number of patients checking themselves in rising, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that change in the near future. Getting kids out from behind the computer screen back into a world with real social interaction sounds like a pretty good idea and professionals would be hard pressed to ignore it.

The Lewis Flyer

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