Researchers: Game Developers Need to Put Limits on MMORPG Players to Avoid ‘Pathological Addiction’

Researchers in the United Kingdom are warning MMO developers that they need to consider limiting the amount of time the average player spends per session to combat "pathological addiction," and avoid inevitable government intervention. Researchers at Cardiff, Derby and Nottingham Trent universities said some gamers play up to "90 hours a session,"  and that if game companies did not create in-game limits for players, governments might have no choice but to follow Asia's model for limiting play time.

The study, recently published in the Addiction Research and Theory journal, concludes that MMORPGs are an inexhaustible system of never-ending goals and success, unlike traditional role-playing games that have an "ending." Researchers found that 7 – 11 percent of gamers were considered "pathological" gamers, with some playing for 40, 60, or nearly 90 hours a week.

Dr. Shumaila Yousafzai from Cardiff Business School did acknowledge that the most popular online video games warn players not to play for too long and to take breaks.

"These warning messages also suggest that the online video game industry might know how high the percentage of over-users is, how much time gamers spend playing and what specific features make a particular game more engrossing and addictive than others," Yousafzai told the BBC. "While they do not directly admit this, by showing the warning messages, they do take some responsibility into their own hands."

Cyber psychologist Dr. Zaheer Hussain, from the University of Derby, said that warning messages by themselves are not enough.

"As a first step online game developers and publishers need to look into the structural features of the game design, for example the character development, rapid absorption rate, and multi-player features which could make them addictive and or problematic for some gamers. One idea could be to shorten long quests to minimize the time spent in the game obtaining a certain prized item."

"The proportion of gamers who develop problems and/or become addicts may stay roughly constant but as online games get better and better and increasing numbers of people discover them, the number of addicts is most probably going to rise," said Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit.

UKIE CEO Dr. Jo Twist said that video games are played "safely and sensibly" by millions of people worldwide and that that there is no official medical diagnosis for game addiction.

"There is no medical diagnosis of game addiction but like anything enjoyable in life, some people play games excessively. We actively promote safe and sensible game playing through our site and encourage all players to take regular breaks of at least five minutes every 45-60 minutes."

You can read the report here.

Source: BBC

"online keyboard," © 2013, mtkang, Shutterstock.

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  1. 0
    GrimCW says:

    And the other beyond obvious, common sense lost cases mentioned?

    That actually makes my point, McDonalds didn't add the "HOT CONTENTS" label because they wanted too out of guilt, they were forced too in order to prevent future legal actions.

    The case still stands, its a legal dodge to prevent future lawsuits over something the company doesn't even care about. They add content to keep people playing. One minor warning or timer OFFER does not guilt equate.

  2. 0
    Technogeek says:

    Except that that McDonalds had been called out by the health department for having it far too hot; that the lawsuit reached the level it did because they refused to pay the woman's medical expenses; and that the coffee caused fourth degree burns (which means that there was muscle or bone injury).

    So, you know, that's a great example except for everything about the case that exists in reality.

  3. 0
    GrimCW says:

    It can be taken that way in one regard, but you'd be lieing to yourself if you believed it.

    Its a legal thing to prevent the company from getting sued when someone loses their job, marriage, or even life over the ordeal. Because the individual is incapable of taking care of themselves.

    Much like the how McDonalds got sued over not have "HOT" on their coffees and lost. These days its just to prevent the frivolous lawsuits that the lawyers love to take on.

    Cigarettes raising the risk of cancer and having to stamp that on the side of the packs.

    The guy who shoved a drill up his nose to get an itch. Won the case because the company that made the drill didn't specifically state not to place the drill in bodily orifice… 

    So far in the past (notably mostly in and around China) people have had issues with staying in MMO's to long and suffering several different issues.  So obviously this is more of a way to ward off a hot coffee spilled in a morons lap and mysteriously burning them cause it never said it was hot, lawsuit. They'd instead just throw in a hardly there warning that you click away and never see again.

    Cause you know, ordering a HOT COFFEE and not expecting it to be hot is totally legit. Or in this case, Playing a game for excessive amounts of time and not expecting health, family, work, or school issues is completely unexpected.

  4. 0
    GrimCW says:

    "Dr. Shumaila Yousafzai from Cardiff Business School did acknowledge that the most popular online video games warn players not to play for too long and to take breaks.

    "These warning messages also suggest that the online video game industry might know how high the percentage of over-users is""

    No, what it suggests is that a few people in the past have had issues and the companies are covering their asses.

    way to over analyze it. The companies behind the MMO's are in it for cash, they WANT people to play longer. Hence the good ones continue to feed new content on a consistent basis to attract people back.

  5. 0
    MaskedPixelante says:

    Here and now, I am calling for the formation of a team of experts to determine what is appropriate for children, the Preferred Addiction Response and Entertainment Negation Team. With P.A.R.E.N.T., children will have a guiding force to determine what is appropriate MMO playtime.

  6. 0
    Samster says:

    The UK's in danger of becoming a real Big Brother nation with crap like this and other idiocy like the proposal to censor perfectly legal adult content unless you beg your ISP to let you see it.

    MMO developers certainly should be tackling the skinner-box grind design of MMOs, but they should be doing it by rewarding skill over time played and making other more ethical design decisions. When there isn't a compelling reason to spend 90 hours straight playing a game (and this is not seriously a ~normal~ MMO player's average session), people won't do it.

    Let's face it – it was profitable for MMOs to make themselves addictive in this way when people had to pay every month to play them. This is not the most common payment model anymore, and people with the most disposable income (aka adults with jobs who can't sit for 90 hours playing a game) are now the most profitable target audience for microtransaction models. The genre game design tenets should change to reflect that, and then this will be less of a problem.

    Saying that, there will always be people who cannot manage their own addictive personalities regardless. That's not the fault of the developers, and I don't see any laws against drinking for too many hours in one go, or smoking for too many hours in one go, or straight-up gambling for too many hours in a row.

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