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 askaboutgames.com site and encourage all players to take regular breaks of at least five minutes every 45-60 minutes."
You can read the report here.