Online gaming addiction is not just about how long a person stay in front of the computer but it’s about how the screen time is affecting that person’s life.
According to an article When does online gaming become an addiction? “If your kid is not suffering educationally, and has got a wide network of friends, is doing his chores and engaging in physical education, then what they’re doing with their spare leisure time is not negatively impacting their life and cannot be called an addiction—even if the parent thinks it’s excessive “
Back in 2006, when I was running an internet café business, there were a lot of students who played for hours and hours every day. It is common to see them playing 3 to five hours a day usually after classes or during breaks.
But there was one particular online gamer who caught my attention. He goes to the café the moment it opens, eat a biscuit for lunch and then log out by mid-afternoon. He comes back early evening and leaves when the café closes at midnight. On weekends, he also plays overnight. This went on for an entire semester. As a result, he failed in all his subjects because he is skipped classes, lost his scholarship and became gaunt because he is not eating regularly. Turns out his allowance is spent mostly on gaming. His parents have to literally pull him out of his boardinghouse because he doesn’t want to go home to his hometown. That was online gaming addiction.
According to an article, The Reality of MMORPG Addiction, “MMORPGs changed the rules of gaming and created an atmosphere rife with addiction potential. People that are wallflowers and unable to cope socially in real life can create the perfect avatar to reflect who they wish they could be. Someone with low self-esteem, due to insecurities about their looks or weight, can become a muscular and attractive elf.”
MMORPGs are intensely immersive environments and there are cases that the gamers are just so involved with the game play that they don’t realize they are already addicted to it.
It happened to me.
I am an avid gamer myself, and at some point, my screen time playing MMORPG goes far beyond the average gamer. Since, I owned the internet café, I play for hours without having to worry about paying computer time.
When I was just starting, I spend around an hour or two every day familiarizing my avatar. And then as I progressed, I was spending more hours to level up, build skills and complete quests. Along the way, I met other avatars, become friends with them and joined teams to accomplish missions . On the side, I accumulated items and gears to make my avatar stronger. As my avatar was levelling up, there was a lot of things to do – learn new skills, upgrade gears, join a guild and participate in events. I was so immersed in the game that without realizing it, I was already playing 7 to 8 hours a day.
As my screen time increased, I began skipping real world activities. Even when I was not playing, my thoughts are still preoccupied with the game and then I was also spending money to buy in game items.
One day, I had a horrible realization, I’m addicted to online gaming.
So I decided to STOP. But it was easier said than done. It was so difficult to abandon an avatar I’ve invested so much time and money to build up not to mention the supportive community and in game “friends” that I have acquired.
So how did I overcome it?
1. Reduced my playing time gradually.
2. Left my guild, quit participating at events and gradually stopped communicating with my “friends” in game.
3. Disposed all my avatar’s gears and items. By doing this, it has considerably reduced its “power” and it’s no longer fun to play with.
4. Forced myself to stay away from the internet café and went out with my friends again.
It took me almost two months to completely detach myself from the game. Looking back, I realized that playing MMORPG is like living a parallel life online that is infinitely exciting compared to the real world and inherently addictive. Since then, I stayed away from it.
I am sharing my story because I want to support Globe Telecom’s #makeITsafePH cybersecurity and cyberwellness campaign to educate consumers about online threats and what they can do to avoid becoming a victim. The campaign also teaches the public proper online etiquette so that they would not become a source of such deplorable behavior.
What about you? Have you played MMORPG? Have you felt that at some point you are addicted to it? Please share your experience in the comment section below.