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  • Student Thesis: Addiction and MMORPGs

    [03.12.09]
    - Richard Tyrer
  • "Addiction and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs): An In-Depth Study of Key Aspects"

    By Richard J. J. Tyrer
    Submitted March 2008
    Negotiated Theory: Visual Culture, BSc Computer & Video Games, University of Salford

    Abstract and Introduction
    Addiction is widely associated with alcohol (Jellinek, 1960), and drug abuse (WHO, 2004), but in more recent times has started to include dependences not linked with substance abuse, such as gambling (Griffiths, 1995), internet use (Charlton, 2002; Young, 2002) and video-game addiction (Yee, 2006). The term video-game addiction encompasses all genres of games, but it is often associated with MMORPGs as several high profile deaths of MMORPG addicts have been heavily publicized. For example one such addict in South Korea fatally collapsed after playing an online game for 86 hours straight without eating or sleeping (Kim, 2002).

    Since then addiction of online games has been specifically highlighted, with the Thai government imposing a curfew on online games (CNETAsia, 2003), and Europe's first video-game addiction clinic opening in Amsterdam (Altizer, 2006). But what causes these addictive relationships to form in the first place?

    The conceptualization of addiction is still a debated subject within the scientific community; and within this thesis several models of addiction are examined as proposed by leading researchers in the field, including the disease model of addiction (Jellinek, 1960; Parr, 1959; WHO, 2004), the genetic model of addiction (Genetic Science Learning Centre, 2006; Nestler, 2000), the experiential model of addiction (Peele, 1975) and the bio-psychosocial component model of addiction (Griffiths, 2005). This will then give an insight into how addiction is formed, and allow further analysis of why people become addicted to certain behaviors.

    MMORPGs have evolved from a combination of computer role-playing games (CRPGs) and online text adventures i.e. MUDs (multi-user dungeons), into a multi-billion dollar industry, with World of Warcraft (WOW) alone generating $1 billion in annual revenue (Schiesel, 2006). Therefore an in-depth study into how the MMORPG genre has evolved throughout its history will be conducted, specializing in games that have been developed in western society (i.e. America and Europe). This study will also incorporate research pertaining to the motivational reasons for why people play MMORPGs, using several play style models put forward by industry researchers such as Richard Bartle, the creator of the first MUD.

    With the online community of players expected to rise to the 100 million mark by 2010 (Kelly, 2004), the addiction associated with MMORPGs is only going to rise. Thus this dissertation will look into the reasons addiction occurs and compare them to the reasons people play online games, with the goal of highlighting the key motivational factors linked to the formation of addictive behaviors.


    [Thesis available as PDF download (752Kb).]

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