“There is no formal diagnosis of video game addiction in current medical or psychological literature. Inclusion of it as a psychological disorder has been proposed and rejected for the next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).”
I have seen several lengthy discussions about SW:TOR, parental controls, gaming addiction, and what responsibility, if any, BioWare has to protect us from ourselves. I would like to take this opportunity to present my opinion:
There is a difference between addiction and obsession. Addiction is when you have to do something due to a physical or mental craving and suffer from withdrawal symptoms when you are deprived of the subject of your addiction. Obsession, on the other hand, is a persistent, disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation. And while you may have obsessive thoughts about the subject of your obsession for a long time, there are no actual withdrawal symptoms present – as there are with addiction.
It is my belief that far too many people attribute addiction to Computer Gaming, when in actuality the person is simply suffering from an obsession. Look at people that watch sports – there are some of them that never miss a game, may skip sex in favor of watching a game, go to games in all kinds of weather, go great distances to get there, paint themselves in their team colors, etc.. Are they sports addicts? Or are they simply obsessed with sports?
A person who collects everything Star Wars…are they addicted? Or obsessed? What if they work three jobs and spend every penny they earn (beyond basic necessities) on those items? Was Edison addicted, or obsessed with the light bulb? Many obsessions are accepted by current society simply because they are seen as “normal” – like sports or religion. Or because they are hidden and not discussed, like pornography and sex. And then there are others that society is not yet comfortable with because they are unfamiliar or are too new, like the internet, video games, role-playing games and anime.
Granted, both addiction and obsession can create problems in a person’s life, but one implies no control over the actions of the person, and the other implies just an unwillingness to take control by the person for some compelling reason (such as…it’s fun! Or…it relieves stress. Or…the person has an underlying mental illness – like depression – and this distracts them from it and makes them feel good). When one area of a person’s life becomes unfulfilling or a source of anxiety, fear, or other negative emotions, the person may seek to compensate by finding fulfillment and/or escape in some other area.
Obsessions serve as a great mask and coping mechanism for a variety of mental illnesses – and video games have even shown to help treat a variety of mental and physical disorders. There is a video game called Focus Pocus by NeuroCog Solutions that is being used to treat ADHD in children. Video games are being used to supplement physical therapy for ICU patients. And finally, video games are also being used to treat PTSD.
Given that I do not believe that video games are addictive, I do not see any reason for BioWare, or any MMO developer, to do anything to impose any limits on an adult’s MMO playing. As an adult, I am responsible for myself and for my own health and safety. Warnings, reminders to get up and stretch once in a while – as long as those reminders are not intrusive, are fine. But anything which artificially limits me is not. This is not the same as rewarding those who have been away by giving them “Rest XP”. That is not a penalty for playing, but a benefit for those that cannot play as frequently as others. That is something that I find acceptable.
Now, I do not want anyone to think that I am not in favor of parental controls. I am in favor of sensible parental controls that assist parents in controlling the content that their children can play, the times that they have access to that content and the amount of time that the child may play that content in one gaming session. The type of content should be restricted by the ESRB or PEGI rating on the game. According to the “2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” 91% of the time, parents are present at the time games are rented are purchased, so parents should be very aware of just what the game ratings are of the games that the kids are purchasing – at least…those parents that are likely to use parental controls. Thus, while there should be a rating lock, parental controls should focus more on when a game can be played, and for how long. And for an MMO, that’s a fairly simple thing to have, I would think.
If you feel that you may be unable to exercise proper self-control, or find that you cannot, I recommend that you take advantage of any parental controls that may come with SW:TOR – having someone you trust, or a computer program, set the password so that you do not have access to those controls. Or, that you have a trusted family member create your Account Password and log you in each time you wish to play. Or…that you simply do not purchase or play SW:TOR.
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