It's 10 pm. Do you know where you and your loved ones are? Here is a collection of experiences from those who live / have lived with an obsessive MMOG gamer and from those who have lived the experience of obsessive MMOG gaming.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

This is a posting from a (verified) certified family therapist (CSW-R CSSW, LCSW) who has deliberately spent an excessive amount of time on Everquest to experience and understand the issues associated with the gameplay:

"I used to play EQ. I am also a family therapist. I will tell you a little bit about me and why I decided upon playing EQ. About 4 years ago, I had a few children coming into my office (I work extensively with children and their families) telling me of their fathers (one mother) playing an on-line game often. It did not phase me at first. However, as months went on - I found more and more children (as well as their families) affected by this "EverQuest" game. Soooo the experiment began....

After talking to my collegues and more importantly my wife, I decided to join this game. The ONLY ground rules that my wife and I set forth for "my gaming" is that I could NOT play while anyone was awake and that I could not -play more than 6 hours at any ONE time. I started out as a warrior - then I played a cleric. I TRULY could not figure out the addictive nature of the game. At first, it was slow and boring. However, as time went on, I found that I was making "cyber" friends. As time went on, I joined a mid-level guild. They were not "hardcore" and they NEVER required playing time. I still did not see the addictive nature of the game. I then decided to join an ELITE GUILD.... I then started to understand how one was able to "be sucked in to the addictive qualities of the game. Many nights were spent playing my character as well as "playing therapist" to MANY guildmates (as well as other EQ players). As a side note, I had a level 65 necro, 65 warrior and a SUPER ELITE cleric .... This cleric was one of the best equipped (at the time) clerics on the ENTIRE server and one of the top 150 in all of EQ - all on basically 6 hours a night.

Now to observations..... I observed MANY things that help me work with families with EQ addictions melded into their lifestyles. I found that I had "instant credibility" speaking to the parents (and MANY CHILDREN) who were addicted to the game. I also found out many strategies to help people get off of the game.

Let me tell you of the MORE successful strategies that I have encountered. First the caveat - although I am a licensed therapist - my license ONLY covers NY. Second, you ALWAYS should check with a therapist who knows your situation personally and therefore can offer you tailored advise. I am just offering things that have worked well for me IN MY PRACTICE!

Strategy #1 - The Journal
I found that when the spouse keeps a "secret journal" with facts/dates/times and HER (his) feelings of feeling alone and abandoned works well. The trick to this is to keep it without telling the significant other that it is being kept.

After 2 ish months of good journaling - I found that "leaving it": for the "addict" to read has a MAJOR impact on him/her. It is important NOT TO TELL HIM/HER of the journal. The addict almost ALWAYS reads it and truly will feel remorseful when it is read in private. PRIVATE is the KEY here - or else you will raise their defenses. After a couple days, ask him if he "saw" your journal and talk about it - DONT GET MAD - USUALLY he will want to get away more than you realize. I spent COUNTLESS hours with people in-game "telling" me this.

Make a plan to help get him off -

Strategy #2 - the therapist

MOST THERAPISTS HAVE NO CLUE!! They do not understand this nature of addiction. Many have NO concept that this is even possible to do off of a virtual world. I played it - I excelled in it - I know first-hand. It is important to DIRECT the therapist to this site and other on-line gamers anon. If your therapist does not understand/or cant - GO TO A DRUG ADDICTIONS COUNSELOR. I can NOT stress that enough - the right therapist will utilize the right tools. Most therapists are HORENDOUS at addictions - they will simply NOT understand this.

Strategy #3 - structure time

I found that during in-game, conversations occured where the addict was attempting to quit, they usually wished they could have a "calm and rationale dialogue" with their significant other. I often discovered that when someone was attempting to quit, they were too vulnerable to discuss this with their partner - sooooo they turned to their guildmates. THIS IS WHERE THE EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT becomes problematic. If an addict thinks that someone who plays understands/listens to him better than his real-life partner - he will stick to that - on-line conversations. Structure time where both of you can share passions and dreams WITHOUT personalizing it... Statements like YOU HAVE TO STOP PLAYING THAT GAME - does not work. NOR does "I will leave you if you dont stop!" All those types of conversations have a paradoxical effect on the addict - raises stress and they tend to USE EQ MORE! Use the "I" "we" statements. ex. "I feel sad that we dont talk anymore." "I wish that we could spend the type of time that we used to spend together." etc.

Well, there are many more "tricks" of the trade for working with EQ addicts and their respective families. I currently have a good size caseload with EQ - or other on-line gaming addicts who come to me for services.

I do wish you great luck - this is a serious problem and requires SERIOUS help from professionals who specialize in addictions - not the typical therapist!"

In in a subsequent note, answering questions:

"I will gladly answer your questions in the hope of helping others.

First of all, I played EQ for about three years. However, this time was "shared" with my two collegues (three of us joined this endeavor together). We were all curious and I knew that it was important to juggle all my responsibilities. My wife also helped out.

As far as being addicted to the game - I will say I was not. I did "understand the allure" to the game - you may equate it to - "I got a buzz - it felt good - but only did it once- versus doing it/needing it everyday." Maybe it was self-discipline - maybe it was going into it knowing that it was potentially addictive. I felt the "buzz" of EQ after I reached the highest levels of the game. I never needed it. In fact, there were many times I would not play for a week at a time - often a collegue would pick up the "slack." However, it was important for me to get my character to a high level - something I was not willing to do with any type of sacrifice.

You also asked if I viewed this as an experiment the entire time. The answer is two-fold. The gaming part of things NEVER really appealled to me - the "real human aspect" did. I DO ADMIT - I made some EQ friends - some I have emailed - ONE I had to "talk out of a suicide attempt." REAL LIFE - REAL PROBLEMS - just those "hiding" behind a pixel toon. The "draw" so to speak, is the similar to the Wizard of Oz - the man behind the curtain. It promises the you the world with something that the player has had all the time - just click the ruby shoes - or something like that. As I learned about many of the EQ players, I found out they were "regular" people with a serious MISUNDERSTOOD addiction. I felt sorry - but not responsible.

Also, I am not sure if I had mentioned this in earlier posts. I teach at a local college. During my "tenure" at EQ, I spoke of this often in my classical conditioning classes as modern day examples. Many of my students understood this concept when I "made it real" to them.

In conclusion, I hope this has shed some light on things. Oh yeah, I said that me and 2 collegues started this project. One of the guys dropped out stating "damn time sink!" That was a quote and he subsequently decided not to go on. It must be added that he was the only one who did not have his spouse's help and support doing this - he added that she did think he was nuts hacking on the computer."


Blogger Job said...

Wow what a great post. Thanks for posting this. I played a lot of EQ in the past and have now quit (but sometime wish I still played it). Also I'm a Psyc major and considering counseling, which of course this helps a lot.
Thanks for Posting,

Nov 2, 2004, 5:26:00 PM


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