Link between mental illness and online multi-player games

NEW research will investigate the link between mental illness and young men playing multiplayer online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, Everquest and Starcraft.

PhD social marketing researcher Rachel Sato believes these enormously absorbing and popular online games, which attract millions from across the world, can easily result in a dangerous addiction.

She said there were gamers who played 80 hours a week and mentioned a South Korean man who died of dehydration and exhaustion after playing for 50 hours straight.

The Queensland University of Technology researcher, who had her own brush with addiction at a young age, said young men were the most vulnerable to problematic online gaming.

"There is growing evidence that young men are more likely than young women to spend excessive amounts of time gaming which can have negative effects on their mental health," she said.

"This includes addiction and depression and can lead to difficulties with social relationships.

"I am calling for participants who are male, aged between 18 and 25, who have recognised they have a problem with controlling the amount of time they spend in online games, or who have overcome it.

Ms Sato's interest in the subject stems from her own online gaming addiction as a teen.

From age 14 to 16, she played MapleStory about four hours a day on school days and 10 hours a day at the weekends.

"My grades dropped dramatically and my mother took away my phone and privileges - it was a wake-up call," she said.

"The game I played had simple graphics but all the elements of World of Warcraft etc.

"It was addictive because it had lots of quests and rewards. You could win things in the game such as a special weapon or equipment.

"The game never ends and you feel excitement, sadness when you lose something and good when you conquer a quest with other people. It gives you sense of belonging as part of a group or 'guild'."

Ms Sato said her research was focussing on the triggers that caused problem gamers to realise they needed help and she also wanted to find out where they sought help to overcome their compulsion to play.

"Gamers have a problem when gaming becomes more important than education, socialising and work - behaviour that is like drug addiction but we don't know if problem gamers have an underlying addictive personality," she said.

"Other research suggests some life event such as a new baby, loss of family member can be the trigger for making them realise it had taken over their life."

To take part in the study email Ms Sato at r.sato@qut.edu.au


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