Compulsively playing World of Warcraft may be a cause more shameful than an obsession with pornography, but it's a social problem rather than a psychological one, according to the founder and head of Europe's only centre for treating gaming-related problems.
Keith Bakker, talking to the BBC, said, "These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies... But the more we work with [them], the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers--this is a social problem."
The Smith & Jones centre in Amsterdam opened in 2006 and has been treating compulsive gamers ever since. The centre's Web site likens gaming addiction to gambling addiction, saying that "true compulsive gamers will never regain control of their behaviour" without treatment, and in some cases withdrawal from gaming triggers the same symptoms as drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Having now been treating people for more than two years, Bakker has come to the realisation that the problem has more to do with upbringing and environment. "Eighty percent of the young people we see have been bullied at school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by going back to good old-fashioned communication," he told the BBC.
"If I continue to call gaming an addiction, it takes away the element of choice these people have," he concluded. "It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people."