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Problem video game users are:

  • More likely to play certain online role-playing games
  • Find it easier to meet people on line
  • Have fewer friends in real life
  • Are more likely to report excess caffeine consumption

These are the results of a recent survey into video gamers' habits, completed by 1945 respondents, which revealed that eight per cent had a problem. The role-playing games are not identified, but anyone with half a brain knows we are talking about World of Warcraft, as exemplified by the unfortunate Erik Estavillo. Erik is not alone in his despair: the website WoW Detox contains more than 45,000 stories, confessionals and testimonials of people with a gaming addiction to World of Warcraft.

Video games fanatics are the latest frontier for mental health professionals, who have found themselves a new huge addiction to define, recognise and treat. [But not beat to death - that's reserved for internet addicts in China.] The jury is out at the American Medical Association as to whether this can be defined as a mental illness. But it is surely just a matter of time before video games addiction is awarded this accolade: too much money is at stake.

So when does heavy video game use become problem video game use? The latter is defined by the team of Australian psychology researchers (who devised the survey), as "excessive use... resulting in various negative psychosocial and/or physical consequences".

The researchers might do a public service if they made the questionnaire freely available online to allow for quick self-diagnosis. In the meantime their summary findings are here, and an AtomicPC interview with team leader Guy Porter, who tracks the effects of video games violence as well as video game addiction, is here.

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