Person plays the on-line game, “World of Warcraft”. Photo credit: Abraham Vu.

Video games have come a long way from the beloved ‘Pac-man’, to the glory days of the ‘Super Mario Brothers’ on the 8-bit Nintendo entertainment system. In today’s society, video games have penetrated our culture and have evolved into multi-layered forms of entertainment, even simulating real life through a virtual world. Video games are no longer simple linear games but have grown into multilayered stimuli with accomplishments and progression.

However, video games harbor a harmful side.

Countless studies have warned about the dangers of video games and the elongated effects on a player’s health. In an article by Ma. Regina M. Hechanova and Jennifer Czincz titled, “Internet Addiction In Asia: Reality or Myth?” video game addiction is very common and defined as, “an individual’s inability to control his/her use of the Internet, which eventually causes psychological, social, school, and/or work difficulties in a person’s life”.

Massive Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs, have grown into immense popularity in the last couple of years. World of Warcraft (WoW), a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), is viewed as the most popular and most addicting MMO of all time with 11.5 million monthly subscriptions in December 2008, according to the website: www.mmogchart.com. The Guinness World Records 2009, by Craig Glenday, records that World of Warcraft holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG. In Korea, there have been numerous accounts of players dying after an engrossingly long gaming session spanning over a period of 50 hours with no sleep, few breaks, and almost no food.

Starcraft, a science fiction real-time strategy (RTS) game, is almost revered as a national sport in Korea. Professional players are sponsored and matches are televised on national TV with excitement on par of that of popular sports. BBC News reports, “more than 15 million people, or 30 percent of the population, are registered for online gaming in South Korea. The country also hosts the annual World Cyber Games”.

In recent years, the Chinese video game scene has been under scrutiny for the banned practice of “gold farming”, predominately popular in MMORPGs. “Gold farming” is characterized as the act of collecting in-game currency, such as gold and valuable treasures, and selling it for real monetary funds. A New York Times article by David Barboza titled, “Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese,” mentions of full-time “gold farming” cyber cafes that have “well over 100,000 young people working in China as full-time gamers, toiling away in dark Internet cafes, abandoned warehouses, small offices and private homes.” Abusing the cheap labor of China, the social networks of gold farmers are that equivalent to drug dealers with gold farmers working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Cyber cafes are the new sweatshops.

The gaming scene in North America is a lot less severe but APIs still enjoy the allure of video games. Cyber cafes are very popular throughout southern California and mostly frequented by Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean youths.

The affinity that APIs share with video games is no secret. A plausible inference is that API’s introverted nature is the perfect match for a medium that mirrors reality without the pressures of the real world. The pressures of a strict upbringing can allow the individual to search out an expressive outlet, in these cases, video games.

In addition, the lack of communication and intimacy in a conservative Asian culture may leave many youths feeling more connected to virtual worlds, where they have more control and share a world with others. MMOs are filled with players that share the same experiences and enjoy the game for the same reasons.

Introverts have a tendency to gravitate towards individualistic activities and video games are the perfect example. Video games can be played alone or played with friends over the Internet. In today’s technological age, it is relatively easy to acquire a video game console and connect to the vast networks of gamers. Gamers can now take part in a community where players can make and interact with friends all without leaving the vicinity of their home.

The engagement level and progressive achievements is the biggest factor that draws a gamer in and makes video games highly addictive. MMOs allow players to create a virtual identity and fulfill a life that isn’t possible in real life. Players are also faced with accomplishments and challenges that celebrate instant gratification upon completion. A player can embark on a mission that will have them engaged for countless hours all for a satisfaction that is unmatched in reality.

With the raising popularity of video games, players and parents need to be more aware of the impeding dangers associated with addiction to gaming. Video games have been around for over a decade but the addiction to them is a new serious problem that needs to be acknowledged and examined.

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