World of Warcraft, commonly known as “WoW”, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). WoW is a fantasy themed role-playing game that requires hours upon hours of playing time to explore worlds, perform quests, interact with other players, and build your character. In-game rewards include money, reputation, and experience which lead to improved skill and power. Who wouldn’t want that?
According to Wikipedia, WoW is the currently the world’s largest MMORPG with around 10 million subscribers – 10 million! As you may have heard, WoW addiction is fairly prevalent. A quick Google search of “wow addiction” produces 960,000 results, including YouTube videos, self-helps sites, and CNN editorials on the topic.
Video game addiction has gotten the attention of some of the country’s leading psychologists, like Maressa Hecht Orzack, Ph.D. She was the founder and coordinator of Computer Addiction Services, at Harvard’s McLean Hospital. Orzack points out addiction symptoms can include both psychological and physical symptoms, like: dry eyes, carpal tunnel, migraines, and neglection of family and friends.
Both of my teenage sons, being fairly heavy Internet users and enjoying a good game as much as the next kid, have asked to subscribe to WoW a few times over the past couple of years – to no avail. I consider myself to be a fairly liberal parent when it comes to gaming, as I’ve been known to sit down and crank out a Halo 3 marathon now and then. I’ve allowed our kids to play games that are rated “M” (Mature) and other MMORPGs like Runescape, but when it comes to WoW, it’s different.
WoW, and games like it, are designed, yes, designed to slowly but steadily lure a player in. Players can “improve” their characters abilities and looks in ways that just aren’t possible in real life. Over time, the confidence that is built up by a virtual life starts to impinge upon real life. Don’t get me wrong here, I know video games are an escape from reality – I use them for this purpose too. But the hours upon hours needed to continually build up a virtual character in WoW can only suck precious time away from my already booked up teenage sons.
The addictive qualities of certain video games, especially World of Warcraft, can be scary, even for us Wired Parents. There are plenty of alternative online multiplayer games that are not as addicting as WoW – Runescape and almost any XBOX 360 game with XBOX Live start the list. Do your research (Google is your friend), pay attention to the news, browse through gaming websites, maybe even catch an episode of the Tyra Banks Show (she did an entire show on WoW addiction). Before long, you’ll get a good feel for where to draw the line with what multiplayer games you’ll allow your teens to get involved in, and which ones you won’t.