Have you ever missed work or any important appointments because you went out of the house too late due to too many hours playing MMORPGs? Do you often feel irritable when you are not in front of a screen playing your favorite MMORPG? Are your short tempered? Do you lose focus quickly? Are you often absent minded? If you exhibit two or more of the symptoms above, you might be addicted to massively multiplayer online role playing games. Addiction? It may seem funny or it may seem weird, but MMORPG addiction is growing quite rapidly.
A Spreading “Harmless” Threat?
As more and more people play MMORPGs like Star Wars: The Old Republic or World of Warcraft and many other similar games, addiction rates are going up. This type of addiction is not as widely reported as more “standard addictions” like alcoholism, tobacco addiction and obviously drug addiction. Regardless, the impact on its sufferers’ lives cannot be understated. Ranging from damage to relationships, damage to careers, damage to school work and a whole host of other problems, addiction to MMORPGs cannot be simply swept under the rug. It is not just a “phase.” It is not just a harmless addiction.
The Damage of MMORPG Addiction
Anything that takes you away from the full enjoyment of your life or divorces you from a healthy interaction with other people is a problem. It causes relationship issues. It causes financial issues. Also the feeling of a lack of control over your personal life is a serious matter that may need professional intervention later on. However, there are certain steps you can take before you seek professional help. Depending on your level of MMORPG addiction, you may be able to do some things on your own to help you get on the road to recovery. This is worth doing because to live a full meaningful and fulfilling life, you need to be in control. Addictions destroy your sense of control and make you a slave to something that you cannot control and become something that is bad for you. Addiction can take place regardless of the activity whether it is sex, video games, food, drink and even negative thinking. Anything that overrides your ability to stay in control to choose your thoughts, to choose your attitudes, to have a say in the outcomes of your life is, at the end of the analysis, a very negative thing. This is the reason why we have compiled this MMORPG addiction guide to help MMORPG fans step through the process of recognizing addiction, taking steps to deal with the addiction and monitoring their process.
1. Are You Addicted? Self-Assessment Quick Quiz
The number one way to determine if you are truly addicted to MMORPGs is to ask yourself honestly if you can walk away from the game easily. By walking away, we do not mean you take several hours to “save your game then you can stop.” We are talking about if the phone rings, if someone walks into the door or something happens, you can quickly get up from the computer and walk away. If you can honestly say yes, then chances are you probably do not have an addiction to MMORPGs because you have some semblance of control regarding the hours you put in playing this game. However, if in all honesty you have a tough time pulling away from the game, then you might be addicted to MMORPG.
To help jog you through the determination process of addiction, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do I continuously think about playing the game?
If I am not in front of the computer playing the game, am I thinking about the game? Am I thinking about problems that I encounter in the game? Am I thinking about when can I play again? Am I thinking about issues regarding the game? Am I thinking about situations that allow me to play the game again?
2. Do I like playing MMORPGs better than spending time with my loved ones?
Do I prefer MMORPGs than eating a meal? Do I miss work or school or other important activities because there is just not enough time in a day and I would prefer to invest that time playing MMORPGs? Do you spend more than five hours in a day playing your favorite MMORPG?
3. Do you spend cold hard cash buying in-game items or game enhancements?
While this is not in of itself a dispositive sign of addiction, it is a key indicator if taken with your other answers to this collection of questions. A related question is would you rather spend money on in-game items than, for example, food or personal necessities? If this is the case, then you might be addicted.
4. Do you feel irritable, short tempered or impatient if you are not playing the game?
Do little things set you off if you are not currently playing your favorite MMORPG?
5. Does the amount of sleep you get lower now because you have been playing the game?
6. Do you shower less or do your friends and family notice a change in your appearance or your other habits because of your game playing?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, then you might probably be addicted and you need to consider getting professional help or guidance with your situation.
2. Seeking Professional Help
Professional help does not necessarily mean seeing a psychiatrist or a psychologist or an addiction counselor. It can simply mean talking to your pastor, your priest, a school official or anybody with a counseling background or whose job description involves giving advice. If those answers are unsatisfactory, then you can go up higher in the chain and start seeking out addiction counselors and after that, psychological professionals. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed of seeking professional help because addictions are just like physical ailments. The same way you would not have any problems going to a doctor if you were involved in an accident and broke your bones, you should have less inhibition going to a psychological or a counseling professional when you have issues. If anything, psychological issues and addiction issues are more pressing because physical wounds heal with time. Psychological issues can only grow worse with time and they may have a larger impact on not only your life but the enjoyment of your life. They require more of your attention and should be higher on your agenda. You should worry less about the stigma and worry more about the impact on yourself and your family if you let your addiction continue.
3. Deciding To Quit
If you have determined through the process above that you are addicted to MMORPGs and you have decided that you want to quit playing these types of games, then you need to sit down and write down your thoughts on why you want to quit. This is not exactly a required step per se. However, it does help you organize your thoughts and emotions regarding your addiction. You can put two columns as why you want to quit and the benefits of quitting or you can just manually write down your thoughts in a “stream of consciousness” style. Regardless, you have to get all your thoughts, all your emotions, all the issues off your chest and on a piece of paper. The issue then becomes less of an emotional issue and more of an intellectual issue. Remember, for you to make the right decisions, you have to use the thinking part of your brain instead of the feeling part.
Write It Down: Visualizing and Externalizing Internal Emotional Turmoil
This exercise takes something that is in the emotional realm, impulses and things you can control, and puts it within the orbit the thinking realm. Therefore, you can have some sort of rational control over these issues. Write it out and when reading it, look for themes. Always consistently ask why. Why am I feeling this way? Why do I care if I begin to look bad because of MMORPG addiction? Why do I care if I lose my job? Why do I care if I get kicked out of school? Why do I care if I can no longer control how I spend my time? Get to the root and put pride aside and put what others would say aside. Focus on what is real. It can be very embarrassing. It can be very humiliating even. Regardless, you have to attain some sort of emotional clarity. You have to empty yourself out on to this piece of paper. The next step is to read everything including all the whys and all the explanations. Clarify everything and distill what you wrote into maybe 10 reasons why you need to quit. Do not give yourself excuses, do not debate with yourself, and just 10 honest reasons why you need to quit and why your life is going to improve because you quit. Repeat this to yourself several times: Why your life will improve, how your life will improve by quitting your video game addiction.
4. Announce Your Decision to the World
It is one thing to have a personal decision where you in private say to yourself, “Yes, I am going to do something.” The problem with this situation is there is no accountability. Nobody knows that you are going through certain issues that you have decided to take control over those issues. If it is a personal private thing, you can be going through a personal hell and nobody knows and nobody can help.
Get the help of your Friends and Family by Announcing your Decision To Quit
By publicly announcing your decision to your friends, family and others who care about you, you are in effect recruiting them in your recovery process because if somebody cares about you and they heard what you are going through–your personal challenges and your resolve to address those challenges–they can led you moral support. They can invest in your project by emotionally supporting you, morally supporting you and giving you advice. Most importantly, however, the biggest help they can give you is by holding you accountable. Nothing can keep you on the wagon more than when you feel that other people are counting on you. If people have an expectation of you to perform or behave at a certain level, this builds a mechanism within you that pushes you to achieve that level of behavior. This works with peer pressure. This works with parental expectations. This works with your boss’s expectations. Regardless, external factors help fuel internal change. Announce your decision to the world. Make the world a partner in your personal efforts to change.
Manage the Risks Associated with Public Pronouncements
Public announcements come, of course, with certain risks. If you fail, you risk the chance of being embarrassed in front of your friends. Be completely honest. Tell them, “I am addicted to games and I need your help in terms of moral support as I to through these difficult days.” By positioning your addiction in very human terms, you make your friends more understanding if you stumble and fall occasionally. If you, however, declare that I am going to beat this and out of pride say, “You know, I don’t really have a problem. I will beat this, this is easy,” then you are really undermining the ability of your friends and relatives to support you and keep you accountable. The focus would be on just watching you fail or looking for weaknesses. That is not the road you want to take. You have to be humble. You have to have an open heart when talking to your friends and family regarding this issue. Thus, they become more nurturing. They are sources of support instead of judgment. By going to them in a humble manner, you basically are letting them know that you are going through a tough process, that this is a tough project for you and they should expect that you should stumble and fall. That is the time that they should give you a double helping of their support and encouragement. Declaring to the world and getting support from your friends and family is a key step in the battle against MMORPG addiction. Do it the right way. Do not do it out of pride. Do not do it in a heavy handed way. You are addicted and you must handle this issue in a very humble, down to earth way. You need as much help as you can and you will get more help if you approach people in a humble down to earth manner than if you come on strong and pretend that you can easily lick this problem.
The Hidden Power of Addiction
Addiction is like an iceberg. The stuff that you see is probably only 10% of the immense power the addiction has. Remember, addictions only occur because there are other underlying psychological issues. There are other unmet psychological needs that hold up the addiction. Oftentimes, knocking out the addiction means knocking out these other psychological needs. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you if you get addicted. What is fundamentally wrong is if you go in denial, if you pretend nothing is wrong or if you lie. That is fundamentally wrong. It is not fundamentally and morally wrong to get sick. Addiction is a sickness. It is wrong to cover up because you are afraid of the stigma, you are afraid of the shame and embarrassment, so you lie to people and you poison your social relationships, or worse you lie to yourself. That is what is wrong. However, admitting to the world that you are sick, that there is something wrong and you need help and support is a healthy way to deal with a problem. See the difference?
Journey to MMORPG Addiction Recovery
Getting rid of addictions, whether smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, gossiping about other people, extreme jealousy, addiction to negative thinking and “hating” other people, they all operate within the same nexus of unmet psychological needs and psychological disruptions and stresses. Unwinding them, diminishing their power all involve the same basic steps. We are going to apply these basic steps to MMORPG addiction recovery.
1. Try to quit cold turkey if you can
Studies show that nicotine addicts have a higher chance of success if they quit cold turkey. This means just quitting abruptly. One day you are smoking, the next day you are no long smoking. Quitting cold turkey, according to these studies, result in more people staying off tobacco products over the long haul than people who attempt to quit gradually. The problem with trying to quit an addiction gradually is that you are still addicted at some level and that they are still a reminder of what you are addicted to. Bear in mind that the psychological basis for addiction is still there. What you are just trying to do is minimize the trigger. The problem is if the basis still has something to draw off of. This is like a car engine that still has a fuel tank with gas in it and while you are reducing the amount of gasoline, it is still going. Many people can handle the cold turkey approach. If it does not work for you, then you can try the alternative of gradual cessation. Gradual cessation is simply just slowly but surely reducing the amount of time you take playing MMORPGs. If you are unable to control yourself, as we mentioned earlier gradual cessation may not work for you. If you look at games as either you are playing or you are not playing, then cold turkey is probably your only option.
2. Uninstall the game
This is a key psychological signal to your self that you are serious. If you do not uninstall the game, you may be put in a situation where your impulses kick in and you just click on the icon and you start playing. Just the same way an alcoholic or a cigarette addict needs to get rid of ash trays, bottles, anything that reminds them of their addiction, you need to do the same thing. You need to get rid of the quick launch icon on your computer that has the logo of the MMORPG. You need to put away or give away the game box, anything that would remind you about the game and of course, this all is rooted in you uninstalling the game.
3. Create barriers to restarting your habit
Thankfully, big MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, if you uninstall them then you need to repatch them and download all sorts of additional software to make sure that the game is upgraded. The harder it is to install the game again or to go back to playing the game, the better. Give yourself as many hurdles that you have to go through to play the game again. This forms additional layers of protection against your addictions flaring up again. For example, if you have a copy of the game, give it to a friend who is very feisty or in your face. If you give the game to a friend that is very aggressive, then you would probably think twice before trying to get the game back from that person because you are giving yourself reasons not to play the game. Do not give it to, for example, your wife or girlfriend, who loves you and would give you back the game immediately unless they are clued in to your addiction and they would out of love deny you. The bottom line is do not keep the game installed. Do not keep paraphernalia around and destroy as much as you can all things that remind you of the game.
4. Replace the Old Addiction with New Positive Habits
If you were addicted to MMORPGs, replace it with something healthier or something that would help you in other aspects of your life. For example, if you were addicted to video games, replace it with reading books. Do not read books that are trashy or stuff that does not actually add much to your life, but read self-help books, spiritual books, The Bible, philosophy books or anything that you would feel pushes your life forward. Another great habit to replace your old habit with is running or exercising. Trying to exercise more than 15 minutes a day actually extends your life chances and your longevity and increases your immunity against health risks like cancer and diabetes. Another great replacement activity for playing video games, which is a selfish activity, is a selfless activity. Spend more time with your loved ones, talk to them, find out what is important in their lives, reach out and give advice, and help in any way you can. Live for others other than yourself.
Becoming an Others-centered person
One of the psychological bases of video game addiction is issues regarding the self and self gratification. You short circuit this by placing your happiness outside of yourself. If you see your happiness in the eyes of your child which you just fed or you helped, or your wife or girlfriend which you just complemented or helped with her work or help with an issue that she is facing. The satisfaction comes from somebody else, making somebody else happy and it is not an extractive type of fulfillment. Extractive type of fulfillment is when you shop for something, when you buy something, when you play a video game, when you drink something, when you smoke something and or when you snort something. It is an object outside coming in. Again, this is self-gratification.
No moral blame if you can’t become others-focused immediately
Helping others when you are giving of yourself, sacrificing, denying yourself for the benefit of others goes the other way and it disrupts the outside coming in process with an inside coming out process. This is a key and powerful deterrent and solution to addiction, but not everybody can do it and if you cannot do it, that is fine. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing morally wrong with you. People are just configured differently, but you should try to at least gradually work on a model of being outward focused instead of inward focused because if your happiness is determined by how much you give, how much you live for others, then external stressors like public approval, pressures at work or pressures from family expectations or other types of external stressors will not bother you because you are living for your values which is outward bound.
Defeating Addiction Triggers
If you have made it this far, congratulations! There is one final step. Addictions are like mythical hydras. Oftentimes once you cut off one head of the hydra and you rest, eventually not just one head will pop out from the old severed head, but several. The problem is if the psychological and emotional bases and the personal foundation that gave rise to the addiction in the first place are still present. These have to be addressed and you can address these by avoiding triggers and replacing these triggers. Do not trigger it by playing the MMORPG again. Do not trigger it by going to MMORPG forums or discussion or chat rooms. Do not trigger it by discussing it with your friends. Avoid the triggers, but work on the foundations of your addiction. The best way is to be an outward-directed person rather than an inward-directed person. If you cannot do that, try to avoid triggers and work slowly towards some kind of outward and selfless direction. We wish you the best in your recovery and remember that victory over addiction, whether in the form of gossip, self-pity, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, etc. is only won one day at a time. Claim your daily victory and start today. You owe it to yourself.