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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 9:28 pm 
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www.guardian.co.uk wrote:
At war with World of Warcraft: an addict tells his story
Former video game addict Ryan van Cleave almost lost everything as his life became consumed by online gaming

Tamara Lush, Associated Press, in Sarasota, Florida
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 August 2011 17.05 BST

World of Warcraft consumed 60 hours a week of Ryan van Cleave's life at the height of his addiction. Photograph: Chris O'Meara/AP

At the height of his addiction Ryan van Cleave had little time for his real life. World of Warcraft, a video game, had crowded out everything: his wife and children, his job as a university English professor.

Before classes, or late at night while his family slept, he would squeeze in time at the computer. He would often eat meals at the computer – microwave burritos, energy drinks, foods that required only one hand, leaving the other free to work the keyboard and mouse.

Living inside World of Warcraft (WoW) seemed preferable to the drudgery of everyday life. Especially when that life involved fighting with his wife about how much time he spent on the computer.

"Playing WoW makes me feel godlike," Van Cleave wrote. "I have ultimate control and can do what I want with few real repercussions. The real world makes me feel impotent … a computer malfunction, a sobbing child, a suddenly dead cellphone battery – the littlest hitch in daily living feels profoundly disempowering."

Despite thoughts like this and even the dissociative episodes in supermarkets, he did not think he had a problem IRL – gamer-speak for in real life. But he did, and the reckoning was coming.

WoW entered Van Cleave's life seven years ago. He had landed his dream job, a contract position at Clemson University in South Carolina. His wife, Victoria, was pregnant. But already online gaming was taking its toll: he and his wife were late for her first ultrasound scan because Van Cleave was playing Madden Football, a sports game.

Van Cleave ended up playing WoW for an entire weekend, stealing away to the computer while his family were sleeping or while his parents, who were visiting, played with his baby daughter. Victoria used one word to describe her feelings: "disgusted". She felt abandoned. "I couldn't believe that someone could choose a virtual family over a real one," she said.

One reason Van Cleave was so captivated was that it offered different perspectives. Previously most of the games he played were seen from a bird's eye view, looking down at the action. In WoW a player can zoom, pan and look at a scene in the same way someone does in real life.

Three years into his job, Van Cleave's life began to fall apart. His wife was pregnant again. Then he began to feel that others in the faculty disliked him and wanted him gone. But he did not try to repair the rifts, instead channelling his anxieties into WoW, a virtual world he could control. "All that tethered me to anything meaningful during this time was WoW, which I clung to for dear life," he wrote.

For millions who play, the lure of games like WoW is hard to resist. Players create an "avatar," or online character, who operates within a startlingly detailed storyline and graphic world. Playing makes the gamer feel like the star of a sci-fi movie. Characters form teams and go on quests to find items, conquer lands or achieve new levels.

"People play those games often in a desire to meet their social needs," said Hilarie Cash, a Washington state therapist who runs a six-bed inpatient programme for internet and video game addicts. "There's a sense of friendship and self-esteem you develop with your team-mates, you can compete and be co-operative. It really feels as though it meets your social needs."

Unlike other games, WoW doesn't end. It goes on and on, with characters roaming through different realms and meeting new people along the way. When Van Cleave reached the apex of one world, there were always other characters to create and more loot to amass. Meanwhile, the game's makers offered expansions every year, which meant new worlds to explore, new levels to achieve.

"There was always something better and cooler," he said. "You can never have enough in-game money, enough armour, enough support. You've got to keep up with the virtual Joneses."

Over the past five years, stories in the media have described people suffering exhaustion after playing a game for 50 hours straight, teens killing their parents after having games taken away and parents neglecting infants while mesmerised by the online world.

Yet not everyone agrees that the games are addictive.

"I do not believe that the concept of addiction is useful," said Jackson Toby, emeritus professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "It only describes strong temptations; it does not explain strong temptations. What makes the temptation so strong? The memory of past pleasant experiences with the behaviour that we are talking about, in this case video games." He added: "I don't believe that someone can be addicted to video games."

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) will not be listing video game addiction as a mental disorder in the 2012 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, the APA said there is a possibility a group of reward-seeking behavioural disorders including video game and internet addiction will be included in an appendix to "encourage further study".

The maker of WoW, Blizzard Entertainment, declined to comment.

Van Cleave and others insist video game addiction is similar to gambling addiction. By the time his second baby was born in 2007, Van Cleave was playing for 60 hours a week. A few months later, his employers did not renew his contract and said he would not achieve tenure. He was hired for a one-year fellowship at George Washington University, teaching one class, but that meant he had more time for gaming while the stress of finding a full-time job ratcheted up.

He spent money on gaming and bought two new computers so he could experience better graphics. In 2007, Van Cleave had three different WoW accounts, each at a cost of $14.95 (£9) a month. A secret PayPal account paid for two of them so his wife would not hound him about the cost. He spent $224 in real money to buy fake gold so he could get an "epic-level sword" and some "top-tier armour" for his avatar.

Changes in Van Cleave's personality began to appear. Among those who noticed was his best friend from high school, Rob Opitz, who lived in another state but played WoW with him.

"When things IRL would interrupt what was going on in the game he would get very loud very quickly about those things," Opitz said. "During that time it's kind of like everything was completely over the top.It wasn't that he was a little mad, he was in a full-blown rage." Van Cleave was about to hit bottom.

It was New Year's Eve 2007. He was halfway through his fellowship at George Washington University. Yet he was standing on the Arlington Memorial Bridge. He was thinking about jumping into the icy water.

He had been gaming for 18 hours straight and was not feeling well. He told his wife he was going to buy cough drops for his sore throat.

"My kids hate me. My wife is threatening (again) to leave me," Van Cleave would write in his book. "I haven't written anything in countless months. I have no prospects for the next academic year. And I am perpetually exhausted from skipping sleep so I can play more Warcraft."

That night marked the first time Van Cleave realised he had a problem. The self-examination pulled him back from the bridge railing. He went home and deleted the game from his computer. For the next week his stomach and head hurt and he was drenched in sweat – like an addict withdrawing from drugs.

Staying away from WoW was difficult, but he did not reinstall the game. And he started rebuilding – IRL. His wife said: "I didn't believe him. I had heard it all before and had no confidence that he would stop."

Van Cleave worked on his professional life. He freelanced, wrote poems and books for young adults. He wrote the tell-all about his addiction, Unplugged, published last year. He set his sights on a job, sending out 182 CVs.

In 2010, he was hired as an English professor at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. The game-free Van Cleave and his family bought a beige stucco home in a quiet suburb.

Ringling is one of the nation's top universities for video game designers. Van Cleave knows his students spend much of their lives online and he worries about them. "I don't think video games are evil," he said. "That's not what I'm saying at all. I think games are fine if they are part of a balanced life."



PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:52 am 
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An article written by someone who doesn't play mmo's to be read by people who hate mmo's so they can all be angry and satisfied at the justification of their anger?

The best part of the article is:
"I do not believe that the concept of addiction is useful," said Jackson Toby, emeritus professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "It only describes strong temptations; it does not explain strong temptations." There's always some drive behind an addiction, the drug isnt the problem as much as the feelings that the drug covers up.

Life is a balance, most people who are totally addicted to mmo's play to balance out the pain of their real life. Having kids is stressful, who is to say if this guy didnt play mmo's he wouldnt be an alcoholic, drug addict, or cheating on and divorcing his wife by now. They make it sound like everyones life is rewarding and fantastic and along comes this evil game which captures you and destroys your life, while truthfully alot of people have crappy lives long before they get into an mmo.

Life's for the living so live it or you're better off dead.\
PSN ID: Daymos256
Steam: Daymos256

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