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New Study Probes Link Between Online Gaming With Mental Health

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A new study is set to investigate the link between online multiplayer role-playing games with mental illness in young men.

Games like World of Warcraft, Everquest and Starcraft are all the rage, but researcher Rachel Sato, who holds a PhD in Social Marketing, believes these popular and extremely absorbing online games are becoming a serious addiction.

Games like these attract millions of players worldwide. Engagement in the game is magnetic, with interactions that are sequenced in such a way as to lure players in deeper. Often the games are simple (and one wonders what purpose a site like Sudoku Online serves when the same games can be played perfectly fine on paper).

According to her past research, gamers have gone 80 hours a week playing, and one South Korean man has been noted to have died due to dehydration, playing 50 hours straight.

The researcher from the Queensland University of Technology says she has almost fallen prey to gaming herself, citing a love for gaming at a young age. She notes that young men are especially vulnerable to the addiction.

"There is growing evidence that young men are more likely than young women to spend excessive amounts of time gaming which can have negative effects on their mental health," she said.

"This includes addiction and depression and can lead to difficulties with social relationships.

"I am calling for participants who are male, aged between 18 and 25, who have recognized they have a problem with controlling the amount of time they spend in online games, or who have overcome it.

Her drive to research and understand the addiction stems from her teen obsession playing MapleStory for nearly four hours per day on school days, and topping 10 hours per day on weekends.

"My grades dropped dramatically and my mother took away my phone and privileges - it was a wake-up call," she said.

"The game I played had simple graphics but all the elements of World of Warcraft and similar multiplayer role-based games.

"The game never ends and you feel excitement, sadness when you lose something and good when you conquer a quest with other people. It gives you sense of belonging as part of a group or 'guild'."

Sato's research will focus on triggers that gamers recognize as signs they need help. She also seeks to learn more about how they get the help they need to overcome the addiction.

Khurram Aziz is a freelance writer and entrepreneur with over 10 years' experience in publishing. Please feel free to add him on Twitter @khurramaziz1981. Read more stories by Khurram Aziz.

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