Missing classes to play online games

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Missing classes to play online games


Missing classes to play online games

Rachel Breitman

Columbia News Service

Feb. 22, 2006 04:31 PM

When Tom Andrys first entered Ohio Wesleyan University, he boasted a dual major in
psychology and neuroscience. Three years later, Andrys, 21, now hopes to complete an
associateaEU(tm)s degree from a community college in Iowa.

The change came as he found himself spending less and less time in class and more and more
hours online playing massive multi-user online role-playing games (MMORGs).

After dropping out of Ohio Wesleyan, he transferred to the Art Institute of California in San
Francisco as a game design major. But his compulsion to venture into the virtual world again
got in the way.

"I got hooked onto 'World of Warcraft' and steadily started dropping classes
and was eventually attendance dis-enrolled," Andrys wrote in an e-mail

He was drawn to "World of Warcraft," which allows players to create their own characters;
explore digital forests, deserts and mountains; and interact with other players on common

"I always liked imagining complex fantasy worlds to play in," Andrys wrote. "ItaEU(tm)s a very
structured and safe environment. If you put in enough time, youaEU(tm)re pretty much guaranteed to
succeed. In the game I had a mount and spiffy armor with a pocket full of gold. At school, I was
skipping classes and my grades were sliding, but in aEU~World of Warcraft,aEU(tm) I was leveling up at a
steady pace."

Like Andrys, many college students are enticed by the dynamic graphics and sense of
belonging offered by the gamesaEU(tm) online communities, but they also find that the more they play,
the harder it is to log off, and their classes and friendships pay the price.

Nick Yee, a Ph.D. candidate in communications at Stanford, has studied online games for six
years--surveying as many as 35,000 players. He said that about 50 percent of MMORG players
he questioned considered themselves to be addicted, with the highest range of problematic
usage in males between ages 18 to 22. He notes that some games encourage intensive
participation through a system of rewards and help players make friends through guilds and
teamwork-based quests.

This can be especially seductive to college students who feel overwhelmed by the schoolaEU(tm)s
academic and social environment.

Mark Mattein, 20, a history major at Columbia, spends 40 hours a week playing Empires," a game where create and manage their civilizations.

"Sometimes it is a college studentaEU(tm)s first time away from home," said Dr. Maressa Hecht
Orzack, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School who opened a
computer addiction clinic at BostonaEU(tm)s McLean Hospital. "He or she may have been very good in
high school, but all of a sudden it is harder to be successful."

Orzack has treated many teen and college-aged gaming addicts using cognitive and behavioral
therapies as well as meditation, relaxation, visualization and highly structured group therapy.
Online discussion groups like "World of Warcraft" Widows and "EverQuest" Widows provide a
space for people to share their fears about family members who are gaming addicts. Online
Gamers Anonymous also offers support for gamers and their relatives, advocating a cold
turkey approach that involves smashing the game CDs.

"My son was 19 when he started playing 'EverQuest,'" recalled Elizabeth Woolley, a computer
technician who founded Online Gamers Anonymous after her son Shawn committed suicide
while playing the 3D monster-slaying game in 2001. "He had played other computer games
growing up and had no problem with them. 'EverQuest' was the first of the new generation of
games. It is no match for a teenager."

Woolley hopes that colleges will open Online Gamers Anonymous chapters and provide
counseling for addicted students, but she fears that students and administrators often play
down the risks. "They say, aEU~It could be worse, they could be drinking or drugging.aEU(tm) But kids are
not talking to their families, not eating, not going outside. How much worse can it get?"
But many question whether gaming is an addiction at all, arguing that the games mask
depression or other mood disorders. Amy Bruckman, an associate professor at the College of
Computing at Georgia Tech, has studied multi-user online gaming since the early 1990s. She
finds fault with the addiction label.

"People need help getting balance in their lives, whether it means doing sports, playing the
guitar or eating junk food," Bruckman said. "I donaEU(tm)t think those are any different than playing
these games too much." She says it is a mistake for colleges to ban the games, as some
religious colleges like Bob Jones University have done.

"I think it is useful to find ways to encourage people not to completely eliminate them because
games are fun," Bruckman said. She also hopes that game designers create virtual quests that
may allow for shorter play time.

And despite the cost, some former gamers say they learned key job skills in the process.
Brennan Bailey described his collegiate flirtation with an early text-based role-playing game
that led him to leave the University of California at Riverside when his GPA dropped to 1.4.
"Once I played 56 hours in a single sitting, not counting catnaps," said Bailey, 33, who has
since quit playing complex online games for simpler versions he can enjoy in 20 minute stints.
"It was an escape, like a separate life, and it eclipsed my real life for a while."

Now he is a senior systems administrator, working for an Internet market research firm in San
Diego. Though he acknowledges that gaming once ruled his life, he also credits it with his
success in the workplace.

"It did have its upsides," Bailey said. "My typing skills are much higher, I know my way around
different operating systems and learned problem solving and coding skills. There is no doubt
that I wouldnaEU(tm)t be where I am without playing the games."

Liz Woolley

J. DOe
Last seen: 12 years 6 months ago
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Joined: 05/28/2007 - 5:23am
Re: Missing classes to play online games

Thank you, Liz, for posting that. I found it to not only be interesting and informative but also, IMHO, one of the most balanced articles regarding the pros and cons of video games that I have read.

- John O.

[em]Carpe Diem![/em] (Seize the Day!)

John of the Roses
John of the Roses's picture
Last seen: 8 years 2 weeks ago
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Re: Missing classes to play online games

I found the idea of starting chapters on college campuses very intriguing. This could be done with the implementation of specific literature and formats, geared towards the age groups specified.

"There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative." --W. Clement Stone

Last seen: 13 years 8 months ago
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Joined: 03/15/2003 - 2:12pm
Re: Missing classes to play online games

I have some technical/policy writing skills and would be pleased to work on an OLGAnon committee to draft literature for college chapters. Send me a PM if/when or to chat.

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Gamersmom's picture
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Joined: 07/15/2006 - 12:33am
Re: Missing classes to play online games

After my son flunked out of the U, I sent e-mails to several people in the administration describing what happened and suggesting that they may want to take a more pro-active approach to the problem, starting with educating the RA'a and housing staff about the symptoms to look for, perhaps posting notices on the bulletin boards that say "Excessive video gaming interfering with your success at this university? Call 1-800-***-****" They had a whole special program there for students who were failing or on probation with meetings to attend, etc. They could at least ASK those students if they were having a problem with games. I don't know if anything ever came of it, but if 5-10% of gamers get addicted, there are thousands of students on college campuses that need help.

"Small service is true service while it lasts.  Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one

The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,

Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun." -------William Wordsworth

Last seen: 15 years 3 months ago
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Joined: 02/02/2007 - 8:18am
Re: Missing classes to play online games

I bet anything that nothing came of it. Until someone files a lawsuit or threatens one in case of harm caused to others, sorry to say university adminstrations ae slow to act or do nothing. I have raised it at my school--nothing so far.

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