Shawn Wooley liked to spend time in the world of Norrath.
Fighting fake adversaries on a glass screen and winning
artificial battles in a fantasy world, Shawn spent more time in the
world of Norrath than in his real life.
The progress Shawn made in the world of Norrath gave him an
opportunity to succeed, a chance to be a winner and, in time, an
addiction to the game EverQuest, developed by Sony.
EverQuest, which allows users to team up into groups and roam
the world of Norrath fighting adversaries, is a role-playing game
that submerges players into a never-ending scenario where the goal
is to build a character up to the highest level.
According to Shawn’s mother, when Norrath and the real world
collided for Shawn, he committed suicide by shooting himself as he
played EverQuest on his computer.
“Before he would play it and after he played it, I watched what
happened to him. He withdrew from us… and I was saying to myself,
‘my god, this kid is addicted to this game,’ and I couldn’t get him
off,” said Liz Wooley, Shawn’s mother.
Liz Wooley is the founder of On-line Gamers Anonymous, an
organization developed to help people like Shawn who are addicted
to video games. She believes the danger of video game addiction
begins with the programming of the games.
“The addictive qualities of the game come in that (the
programmers) make the game as close to real life as they can, and
they make it with no end,” Liz Wooley said.
The problem for Shawn, Liz Wooley said, is that he had a hard
time balancing the real world and the world of video games.
“It’s fantasyland compared to real life. Everybody has struggles
in real life, then you go and play the game and you have so much
success. The more time you spend playing the game the less time you
spend in real life,” she said. “The amount of time spent on the
game can become more than real life.”
Gary Sanchez, a junior business marketing major at CSU, played
EverQuest for a summer while he lived with his sister.
“There is no end to the game, no ultimate goal, that is why the
replay value of the game is so high. The game is fun, but I can see
how it could be addicting for some people,” Sanchez said.
EverQuest, or “Evercrack” as some players call it, is
group-oriented, which can make it hard to stop playing, Sanchez
“Once you get into a group, you don’t want to leave the group
because they won’t want to group up with you later on,” Sanchez
said. “The higher levels you get into the more important you are to
the group. If you leave the game, you can die, but so can the
entire group. It’s programmed to make you play for a couple of
Liz Wooley said On-line Gamers Anonymous, www.oganon.org, is
designed to help people who believe they are addicted to gaming.
One thing they encourage is for people to break their compact discs
(games) and send them to the organization.
Sony On-line Entertainment said over 430,000 people play
EverQuest worldwide and that most of them are not against the
“There is a small number of people who are against the game, but
they are very vocal,” said Sean Kauphman, public relations manager
of Sony On-line Entertainment.
Douglas Gentile, the director of research at the National
Institute of Media and Family and a psychology professor at Iowa
State University, said that although people shy away from the word
“addiction” when referring to gaming, signs that point to addiction
in other areas of life can be used to look at gaming addiction.
“There is a way to diagnose gambling addiction and if you apply
the same criteria to video games, 15 to 20 percent of adolescents
are addicted,” Gentile said. “The patterns that we found (in
research) were similar to that of other addictions.”
Just because someone enjoys doing something a lot or
participates in an activity every day does not mean that they are
addicted, Gentile said. For true addiction, there has to be two
different aspects fulfilled.
“To be addicted means more than you do something a lot,” he
said. “It has to affect your life in a negative way. If you give up
opportunities to be with real people to play video games, if you
lie or steal to play video games, if you use games as an escape or
they disrupt your normal social life, these are signs of
Sanchez said he plays video games at least two hours a day, but
that he does not let them interfere with the rest of his life.
“On average, I’d say that I play video games at least two hours
a day, sometimes more,” Sanchez said. “But other days, like if I
have a test, I won’t play at all.”