Addiction Therapists to Intervene via Online Multiplayer Games

Addiction therapists plan to sign up for the popular multiplayer online game World of Warcraft in an attempt to help young people who are in danger of becoming addicted to such Internet activities. Experts have said that some of these types of games, in which players battle enemies for weapons and reward, can be as addictive as crack cocaine.

The Telegraph UK reports that Dr. Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London, plans to provide online therapy for young people who are spending so much time playing these games that they have lost touch with the real world.

World of Warcraft, which attracts almost 12 million players every month, is set in a fantasy environment, with players taking on the characters of elves, dwarves, and wizards, interacting with other players throughout the virtual world.

Dr. Graham said that some players are so addicted to these games that they will play them for up to 16 hours a day, leading them to neglect their education and social lives. He has called on Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft, to waive or discount the costs associated with joining the game so that therapists can more easily communicate with at-risk users in their preferred environment.

“We will be launching this project by the end of the year. I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players,” said Dr. Graham.

“Of course, one problem we’re going to have to overcome is that while a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they’re probably not going to be very good at playing World of Warcraft. We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end.”

One solution Dr. Graham proposed is recruiting existing players to act as “peer mentors” for other users of the game. He said that Internet addiction is very difficult to identify, as the isolation means sufferers are often out of sight and out of mind.

“Those affected don’t exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenage anti-social behavior issues do because they’re in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble. Because of this we can’t get through to them in the traditional educational environment or intrude on their actual bedrooms, we need to turn to the internet itself to tackle these problems.”