253: Physician, Gank Thyself

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Ah totally reminds me of the first couple months I played WoW...

I refer to those days as the "dark days" as I'd usually lock myself in my room and play for eight hours straight every night. That didn't last long though, my mom pointed out I had a problem and limited my internet use, which while I was very, very angry at the time, I really appreciate it now.

Huh, strangely enough WoW has never gotten me after 3 years of playing. When a new game is realised I'm ready to leave WoW for the time I need to clear the game with no problem, and I even get tired of WoW from time to time and take a break for some time.

I have known for a very long time that I use WoW as an escape from the ills of my life. I picked up WoW as a Freshmen in High School, at that time my sister was causing outright turmoil in the house on an almost daily basis. There was constant shouting and slamming of doors between her and my mother. It was a very embarrassing thing when I would have a friend over to have to shut my door simply to muffle the sounds of fighting; even then when the yelling would begin there would be a very awkward silence between my friend and I.

This had been going on much longer than then, my sister had been out of control since my 7th grade year of middle school, and even to this day it still feels like that storm of chaos continues to rage (albeit much quieter than it used to). From drugs, to running away, to stripping, to prostitution, to attempted suicide; that girl has kept my mother and I on edge for more than 7 years. The stress of it all was driving me to the breaking point of emotional sanity, then like a miracle I was introduced to WoW. I had been told many times before by teachers I would confide my trouble in at school that the best thing I could do was remove myself from the situation. Being still far to young to simply move out there wasn't much I could do. When WoW came along I found that ability to remove myself from the chaos. No matter how much the fighting would rage outside my bedroom door all I had to do was keep on questing.

I've no doubt in my mind that WoW was what has kept me sane. I have found over the years that as my emotional stress increases my time logged in game also increases, and when the stress lifts I cut back. Now in my third year of college I am transferring to a university 3 & 1/2 hours away, finally moving out of the home haunted by an overbearing sense of tension, the tension that any moment some aspect of my sister's life will come barreling through the front door; shouting, screaming, and cursing at whatever stands in her way. As the day when I move out draws ever closer I find myself needing WoW less and less. No longer do I need it's support to be emotionally stable.

As a child I needed WoW to act as my defending shield against emotional trauma I had no idea how to handle. Now I can put it aside with a sense of closure and move on to bigger and better things.

Good grief I need to find a shrink

Wow...I have 2 people in my family who are crazy for WoW so I really see what this article means. Oddly enough out of the three types of people who play wow, my relatives are both option three (meaning that their schedules fit their insane amount of play time). I was even planning to join them when the new expansion comes out(If you must know,yes,it's because I like werewolves). But I think I've gained some new perspective from this and now I'll think a little harder about getting involved with something this deep.

I have been a casual WoW player for around 2-3 years now. In the beginning it was a bit of a blur; one moment I was meeting friends and being helped through Deadmines; the next I was level 66 and in Outland, wondering where the hell those years had gone.

As the game gets more complex you seem to be expected to put around 6 hours every night of commitment into the game; even I-who like and still play the game-is put off by that.

I used to be a very competitive, hardcore raider, but after my fourth year in High school came along I never had the time-in between studying and other things- to raid anymore, and I became really angry and resentful.

Nowadays I'm a lot more balanced with my WoW; I don't have much of a social life (Since I'm a technokid who has all his social life online) but I still feel happier than I used to, now that I play it for fun and not for a life-avoiding fantasy.

Despite my own former semi-addiction, I feel that gamers must have restraint forced on them by parents; my ma turns off the Internet every night at about 9:30, and before that I was offline at 8:30. I hated her for it for a while, before I realised my toon wouldn't dissolve into a mush of pixels. And I am grateful for it, because-whilst I'm still a hardcore gamer-I can easily stop and read a book or write a short story. I also find it a bit unfair that games are treated with general paranoia that it destroys peoples identity; in all those cases I find that generally the parents either relent and give the kids their bottle, or never taught them restraint at all. My ma stuck to her guns, and I can't thank her enough for it.

Don't blame the games or the kids; the parents are often the ones to look at.

As someone that has felt WoW addiction also am glad that there is someone that doesn't brush the idea of WoW addiction to the side just because its a game or find no real reason people would be addicted to the game. This was a great article hope to see more :)

I played WoW ever second I could in my senior year of high school, but I still pulled honours. Unfortunately, university is not the same easy street as high school so after a rocky first year I am working on balancing gaming and studying :P


Others will speak on this thread, surely, about how much is too much. I want to be one who says those speaking out about "too much" may be as much the exception as the rule, though. WoW in particular gets a helluva lot of bad press for being "addictive" (a term I find offensive, equating it with the physical addictions of drugs and alcohol, with physical withdrawal and physiological health impact). Gaming and virtual worlds in general are engaging, immersive, and carry people away the same way good books and movies do -- all entertainment media do this. (Ask a teen girl about Twilight!) The difference is that virtual worlds are persistent, always available, always fresh and new. They also provide more substantive benefits than a movie or TV. (I still love my books!)

This is how I've always viewed it. It's not necessarily the video game itself that is addicting, but rather the escapism. Which of course can be found in any other entertainment medium, video games just do it the most effecitvely, and is you say can be persistent. Books for example, I remember one highschool summer discovering Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and going through all six books (at the time) in about 4 weeks. But unlike WoW eventually I get to the end, get a little depressed for a day or two because the rides over, then have no choice but to move on.

As for Mr. Kline's experience, I wonder if it isn't so much about personal maturity vs gaming maturity. I'm almost 20 years young than him, but those 20 years have been spent gaming. If I was 10 years younger I'm sure I'd be addicted to WoW now, but at some point in my early 20's I hit a saturation point with video games that while I still enjoy them there's a 'been there done that' attitude that when I gave the trial a try killed any appeal for it.

This is a great article. I find it comforting a psychological professional has serious experience with game addiction.

Great article, it always astounds me when I read these articles and read how someone can get so addicted to something I have never had problems with. Maybe its because I am pretty self-disciplined and never had addiction problems, but honestly I can't understand how a person can not recognize they are addicted to something, especially when they have gotten to the point of the kid in the article.

I can see how it can become addicting and I know first-hand why it's so appealing, but to have WoW take over your life like that, I just can't understand how these people can't see themselves fall so low.

is it bad that reading this almost made me wanna start up my sub to WoW again? :S

I think MMOs like WoW don't get enough credit for the amount of suicides they must prevent.
A good friend of mine recently killed himself, and I look at him, and the troubles he faced, and realised it could have very easily been me, if in my darkest hours I had not had another world to turn to.
I just wish he could have turned to one.


Oh come on, I'm sick of people thinking WoW is basically Heroin because a few people can't handle themselves.

I have EXTREME ADD, I am the most impulsive person I know, and I have an addictive personality.

I haven't played WoW for three months, and it has never caused any of my commitments to not be met.

As someone with a ridiculous level of impulsivity and fully fledged ADHD, here's what I think.
I think there should be a clearer definition of addiction.
I didn't want to quit an MMO because I didn't want to leave all my online friends behind, because returning to real life where I had no one was too much to bear.

Compare that with my smoking addiction, where when I felt like stopping, I just stopped.

They are not the same. If I was just someone who got addicted easily, I would not have been able to drop smoking after a year with literally no pull to return to it.

Though maybe I just wasn't playing MMOs that were good enough.

MMOs, especially WoW, can be so immersive, especially when things at home aren't their greatest. WoW helped me through some rough times (being a stay at home mom with two kids, and no money to go out and do things, it was my only adult social life for a long time).

The key is to be able to find balance. It's been hard, but I've weaned myself off when things get busy (now that I'm back in school, that's usually a good chunk of my time.)

I've been glad to see WoW become more casual friendly. Raiding no longer requires 20+ hours a week. (My own guild raids about 9 hours per week, with a relatively lax attendance policy.)

The biggest thing about raiding that people outside of Azeroth have difficulty understanding is that it's really a team sport. There have been plenty of times, particularly in the more "serious" guilds I belonged to where I logged on to raid desperately hoping I could sit out and go do something else. But, I hated the thought, especially when recruitment was slim and we had some attendance problems, that my not logging on could mean that 20+ other players wouldn't be able to raid. (Ok, I play a DPS, which is hardly crucial or hard to find, but still).

I think that is where the biggest challenge comes in. You don't want to let down your team. I've been frustrated on nights where a tank or healer didn't show and we had to call the raid. I made time to be there, I felt they should too (or at least give some kind of notice so the guild could alter the plan accordingly.)

I was addicted to City of Heroes (I guess). It was what I did in my free time, and I made life harder on myself by focusing on it. I was saved by a fairly mundane reason; my computer was old and I was taking 30 seconds longer than the rest of my group every time I entered a new area. I got tired of waiting on progress bars, so I didn't renew the subscription. The only aspect I miss is the other players; teaming up with Ascendant on Virtue is one of my favorite gaming experiences. The guy was hilarious. Seeing new pun-based characters every time I logged on was a major kick.

It's easy to get addicted to those big, open-world single player games though. (I played Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 to the detriment of my schedule, dropping 23+ hours in three days). But at least they end, and I could stop playing at any time and not necessarily miss an event.

What an awesome article! Thank you for sharing this, it's a great insight to mmo players and how it does become an addiction.

Really cool read!


Used to play the game a lot and for a long while actually, but eventually senior year started and I had to pick between WoW and studies, that's when I dropped the game for good and never intend to go back.

This has to be one of my favorite articles ever on the website, even though this article only touches the surface of this issue, this is exactly how most mmos operate.

Most games are guilty of forms of escapism it's where the witty name of this website comes from. What makes MMOs so much more testing of your self control is that they can take it to whole new levels of depth, enticing you with what can almost be described as alternative worlds rather then just games, but also the time sucking elements that come with that such as grinding.

It's because of that this genre of games rarely has a true ending for each title, except the one you decide for yourself when you quit, it's just some continuous moving goal posts as if it's some worthwhile real life pursuit of some end goal like a qualification, learning a new skill or even comparable to an unpaid job. The only really attractive side of this is exactly what the publishers use as the selling point, your ambitions in this 'world' and avatar appearance can be nearly anything (and I do mean anything) you want if you find the right MMO, compared to the real world where your options are far more limited, it's a great way to experience things from another point of view and a wonderful feeling for the insecure in real life.

When you weigh up everything however it's then you realise the bad outweighs the good if you want to experience an mmo fully, because just like a real life pursuit you have to make sacrifices much like the ones Mark mentioned here in order to get really good at one. I'm not fully over gaming addictions myself partly because of personal problems and the rest being because it's a sometimes amazing entertainment medium, but I'm glad at least I can consider myself not so desperate that I use the alternative worlds of MMOS as escapism any more. The only things I consider more self destructive then carefree mmo addiction are drink and drugs, because as human beings once it reaches addiction level we do all 3 for the same reasons.

I used to play WoW quite a bit, but I never could play at night. This meant that I couldn't do any raiding or anything.

By the time I had a free night schedule, I didn't actually want to play the game anymore. I guess I inadvertently saved myself from a dangerous addiction. Go figure.

a very interesting read!

As a 4th year Psych student and a long time gamer there are some home truths in here. Thank you for speaking so candidly about your experiences.
Proof that not all gamers are pimply faced teenagers who live in their parents basements, not that there is anything wrong with that!

This article was an interesting read, but so were all the story from (ex) WoW-players. Thanks for all the stories, people.

Personally I've played WoW for 2,5 years, but I managed to find a great balance between WoW and real life, so for me it was all good fun. That doesn't mean that all these experiences from other players don't sound familiar, though. WoW is different from addictions like alcohol and drugs, since it is not just a way to escape real life: when managed properly, it can also just be a hell lot of fun. It's a real shame that not everyone can keep that balance.

This is one of the best articles i've read on the Escapist. Although i don't play MMO's it was interesting to read how someone who clearly knew the dangers of such a game went in with a hope of understanding what it was all about and by the sounds of it, came out a better person. Good job

I'm really tired of reading about people becoming addicted to that game. It's always the same thing.

Kid does well in school
Kid gets WoW
Kid fails at school
Parents blame game
News article stating yet again how WoW takes one's life away.

The fact of the matter is, World of Warcraft is a fine game that can be played when kept in moderation. When I did play the game, I did not spend more than 2 hours a night playing it. I had better things to do than stay there for longer than that.

Naturally, I stopped playing due to lack of income. I made many friends and even got my cousin to play with me.

It just irks me how people are so quick to call this game "a soul sucking monster that steals lives."

No, it is not. It is called "self control" people.

I use it. It works.

An insightful and well written article, thank you Mr Kline.

A point I related to personally was the use of games to fill times of inactivity. Due to a series of unfortunate events last year I found myself being unemployed because of my company going into administration. Quickly realising that my previous social spending would not be sustainable with my meagre savings whilst searching for new jobs I looked for other alternatives to occupy myself, enter the WoW free 10 day trial (an evil, evil ploy.)

The first month (I did subscribe in the end) was perhaps the most enjoyable and as the article shows the most addictive. I met friends in the starting areas, took great delight in killing the local wildlife of Azeroth. Joined a friendly guild that was supportive which helped me and my fellow starters get more out of the game. The promise of exploration and discovery was truly involving, with something new over the next set of mountains. The accidental spotting of one guild's 'No Pants run' across the badlands (and following invite) is one particular example of how MMORPGs social based play shapes our experiences of the game.

It is also the one aspect which lead to my eventual cancelling of my account. The server started to have a sudden intake of rather unpleasant people. Whether it was butchering the English language i.e, '1 golds plz' or a list of capitalised anagrams 'ROFLEUFHEBEL!' or just being dicks. My friends I made earlier quit and after 1 month of decreasing play time I did too.

So in conclusion, thank you WoW for showing the good and bad of social interaction but I figured out I can do that in the pub with the inclusion of more alcohol. And no Mr Dwarf I will not kill 12 panthers for you just on princple.

I never could become addicted to MMOs. For one, I have slooooow typing skills & save face simply by refusing to talk to other players at all. I'm not into raids or guilds, I fly solo & do what I want, when I want. Then after a week I get bored. Maybey I'll play another round next year.

Oh, but I remember when The Sims first came out. I wasn't doing homework, just playing Sims. I never skipped school for it though. Teenagers are simply made of psychotic.

I have friends that are addicted to WoW, but what about those of us who are just plain addicted to technology??
I spend 16 hours a day and sometimes more on my PC. I work in IT so i am on it constantly at work. I then go home and the first thing i do is turn on my PC. I play games both online and off, I facebook, do research, visit various gaming sites etc.
I avoid outings because i would rather be chatting to my friends online or experimenting with some application etc.
I think Technology is addictive and in one way or another we all have the habit...

You can get addicted to most things that give you a strong enough positive feeling. I think it would be best to admit that it IS possible to get addicted to games like WoW, while at the same time realizing that it's perfectly feasible to play them and not become addicted, the same way you're not an alcoholic for having a glass of wine five times in the space of a year.

I had a gaming problem for a while myself. I wouldn't say the addiction was this extreme, but it was still a serious issue. My "cure" came in the form of realizing I was wasting obscene amounts of time, realizing what I could have been doing in all those hours, and promptly cutting back heavily on my gaming.

This is why I never got into WoW, (aside from the gameplay not appealing to me at all) I knew I wouldn't be able to invest that much time in the game, and I would be pressured into investing time if I actually wanted to get into PvP decently.

Fascinating article. My mom plays WOW because she has Fibromyalgia and doesn't sleep well at nights, so it gives her something fun to do when she can't sleep. For a long time, she wanted to get me to play, which I refused for many reasons- I see what it does to people, why should I pay for something I can get for free via Guild Wars and Ragnarok Online Hero server, etc. I am now the "proud" owner of all three games so far, and have a subscription till October. Why? Because mom wanted a mount. A silly rocket mount. So I've been playing in order to justify my investment and I must confess that at times, I catch myself having fun. But more often than not, I get frustrated. I'm embarrassed because mom is better and more knowledgeable of the game than I am. I get frustrated at the glitchy graphics at times (i.e. getting caught on trees, etc). I get frustrated when I get lost and suddenly have too many quests in my quest log or too many things in my inventory. But there's a great feeling of satisfaction when you clear out that inventory space, or find where you're supposed to go, or discover a really pretty spot on the map.

I unfortunatly have expereienced the consesquences of playing WoW. Two years ago, I started playing. Since then I have played on and off, but recently, around february, I created a character, and hit the level cap. Since that time, my account has always had game-time. My waking hours, being anywhere between 8am and Midnight - 4am, where spent playing that game. I have only recently realised how much I have effected my life, both social, and family. I very rarely left the house, unless I needed to keep my tobacco resources topped up, or I felt like a drink, and I very nearly destroyed what little respect my family had for me. I became very violent, and agressive. Reading this article has made me realise the true risks of playing this game. And I hope I wil be able to cut down on the amount of time spent on that game.

I liked the article a lot; it gives a perspective from someone who understands both the psychology of addiction and the appeal of WoW.

It seems like any time the words "addiction" and "WoW" end up in the same sentence, you see people take a stand one way or the other. Either WoW is evil and everyone who plays it should quit immediately because sooner or later it will take over your life, or WoW is fine and it's just the screwed-up people with addictive personalities who play it who give it a bad rap. The truth is somewhere in between: WoW is designed to keep you playing, but it's a matter of your own self-control whether you let it take over your entire life or just become a (time-consuming) hobby.

Look, I've played WoW since a month after its release, when I was a sophomore in college. I've raided in all three expansion cycles (up to C'Thun in vanilla, killed Illidan in BC pre-nerf but only cleared Sunwell post-nerf, and with both 10 and 25 man Lich King kills in WotLK), I follow WoW news sites and forums, and I'm working on my 8th 80 (seriously). And in the meantime I graduated with honors from a well-regarded university, landed pretty much the best job out of school I could ask for, and actually get out of my apartment on the weekends. Could I have used my free time better? Probably, but there's no fun in min/maxing your life like that. If WoW destroys the life of everyone it comes across, then if my life hadn't been "destroyed" I'd be a multi-millionaire by now or something.

On the other hand, everyone knows That Guy who started playing [insert MMOG here], ended up dropping out of school, gaining 100 pounds, holing up in his parents' basement, and not seeing his friends for 2 years. Okay, so that particular story is a bit of an exaggeration in most cases, but there are certainly people who don't have any self-control. I see guild recruitment ads all the time making a big deal about how "hardcore" they are, that they raid 6 nights a week for 5 hours a night (never mind that the best guilds don't actually do this except maybe for short periods). This isn't healthy, and it's a big problem that no one gets that fact through to these aspiring guild leaders.

All of which tells us that saying "WoW is evil" or "WoW is never the problem" is shortsighted. There's very little research on how MMOG addiction, and video game addiction in particular, compares and contrasts with other kinds of addiction, and we need people to do it who aren't beholden to one extreme position or the other.

The funny thing about WoW is its very casual now. The only time it truly wasn't was back in classic when MC and other raids took a heck of a lot longer. The fact is, you can play 2 hours a day or less and be fine on gear and still be a "cool kid" on your server. And also most of the greatest guilds on servers only raid 1-3 times a week and depending on what server you're on you can manage the times easily by manipulating time zones.

I think people are forgetting about EQ(which was less mainstream by word of mouth) that was way more time consuming. Even when you hit the level cap you had AA's to grind out and those could go into the 1000's. Flagging for raids required hours just to even enter a place. One quest required me to wait for a spawn for 4 hours just so I wouldn't miss it because it despawned a few seconds afterward. There was also a quest where to get a key for a raid zone (vex thal) that you need 10 shards from mobs that spawn(had to kill ph's possibly for a few spawn cycles) Then kill a raid mob where only a few shades spawned after death for an item, and then you needed another shard from another raid boss. Then when you finally get into it it took 6-8 hours to raid the damn place.

People who get addicted to WoW, while I can understand it, I see no reason in them to get addicted. Its so casual that its just like playing CoD in that you can pick it up and quit whenever you like and still accomplish something. Compared to the old days, things have been dumbed down and people getting addicted is the fault of them treating it like an escape, their parents, or something psychological.


EDIT: I have 4 80's and I haven't played extensively in about a month because I get bored after about 30 minutes. Also I was one of those people in EQ That had a butt load of AA's and what not but I still had good grades. Clearly some people should not game because they can not handle possible repercussions... but I feel like thats to easy an excuse.

I read "never-ending nights" and I thought, that'd be a great name for a MMOG, then I remembered, well Neverwinter Nights already has the front and end.
Gaming history's missed moment of awesome much?

What a brilliant perspective! Truly a great advantage in being able to help others through these situations.

Very good article. Many thanks for writing it.

As a recovering addict of the WoWcrack, 15 days clean so far cold turkey after 5 years of playing,I can totaly agree here, WoW is immersive, it is addictive and it helps dull the monotony of the real world and unless you play it you have no idea just how much so that is. When I started I had been playing for about two weeks before my then girlfriend broke up with me, I was contemplating quitting thegame before she did, I had been waiting since I saw the sneak peak in a Warcraft 3 leaflet I got with the game, but the game it's self did'nt grab me then, but when she left me I escaped into WoW and got lost, I spent hours playing when I was'nt at work. I went from wanting to quit to requiring WoW to keep going as it was'nt the real world as I was in a bad place, all my friends were my ex's friends and they just shut me out.

After a dispute with my guild leader I was kicked from the guild, after 2/3 months without raiding I quickly saw just how dull the game was and after many failed attempts to join new guilds or raid groups just how elitest some of the people were. I was hitting walls with these people not letting me join in games with the 'big boys' and I felt like I was encountering the problems I used WoW to escape from, now I'm learning to play Dengeons & Dragons, Warhammer and catching up on alot of readind also alot of console game that I've bought and just never played since purchesing.

On the flip side I do miss alot of the friends I had on WoW I was really close to alot of them, I gave them my email adress and few I have on MSN already but they never come on as they're always playing WoW, I'm rather sad that now I'm not on WoW they don't seem to want to talk to me via email or MSN. Another problems I'm having is a sort of withdrawl syndrome, after playing other games and activities for two weeks I'm finding myself getting bored of them fast, wanting to go back onto WoW, not even to play, just to talk to people I know on there that I miss, but it's a costly IM service.

There should be a health warning with WoW or a higher age restriction, it is dangarous to those who have problems they need to escape from, but if you can kick it I suggest you do. Lifes mre fun than fake one, you just need to try hard at it.

If this is a true story, I applaud your courage sir. I don't know though. Blizzard is pretty stacked.

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