Most gamers know how time-consuming a quality massively multiplayer online role-playing game can be. However, for some, playing an MMORPG can become a major habit that scuttles social relationships, wrecks workout schedules, and prevents one from leaving the house for on hours on end.
While the debate still rages in the West on whether or not habitual gamers are genuine addicts, China is moving ahead to address what it sees as a growing problem. According to the Associated Press, the Chinese government has opened the country's first clinic for "Internet addiction." Sporting two dozen nurses and doctors, the facility treats an undisclosed number of patients, mainly in their teens and early 20s.
"All the children here have left school because they are playing games or are in chat rooms every day," clinic director Dr. Tao Ran told the AP. "They are suffering from depression, nervousness, fear, an unwillingness to interact with others, panic, and agitation. They also have sleep disorders, the shakes, and numbness in their hands." Weight loss was another reported symptom.
The AP article quoted several gamers' recollections of their online habit. "In school I didn't pay attention when teachers were talking," said one 20-year-old ward. "All I could do was think about playing the next game. Playing made me happy. I forgot my problems."
The article only identified one addiction-prone game by name: Blizzard Entertainment's 1996 PC RPG Diablo. However, it did say teens were the ones who most often developed addiction-like habits while playing games. The article said older patients were more often overusing chat rooms to talk with "members of the opposite sex."
Dr. Tao told the paper that he estimates of China's 100-million-plus Internet users, 2.5 million are what he considers Internet addicts. His treatment regimen for patients at the facility includes therapy sessions, medication, acupuncture, athletic activities, and electrical shocks to pressure points, according to the AP.