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Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a very popular and enjoyable leisure activity, and there is a lack of international validated instruments to assess excessive gaming. With the growing number of gamers worldwide, adverse effects (isolation, hospitalizations, excessive use, etc.) are observed in a minority of gamers, which is a concern for society and for the scientific community. In the present study, we focused on screening gamers at potential risk of MMORPG addiction.
In this exploratory study, we focused on characteristics, online habits and problematic overuse in adult MMORPG gamers. In addition to socio-demographical data and gamer behavioral patterns, 3 different instruments for screening addiction were used in French MMORPG gamers recruited online over 10 consecutive months: the substance dependence criteria for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, fourth revised edition (DSM-IV-TR) that has been adapted for MMORPG (DAS), the qualitative Goldberg Internet Addiction Disorder scale (GIAD) and the quantitative Orman Internet Stress Scale (ISS). For all scales, a score above a specific threshold defined positivity.
The 448 participating adult gamers were mainly young adult university graduates living alone in urban areas. Participants showed high rates of both Internet addiction (44.2% for GIAD, 32.6% for ISS) and DAS positivity (27.5%). Compared to the DAS negative group, DAS positive gamers reported significantly higher rates of tolerance phenomenon (increased amount of time in online gaming to obtain the desired effect) and declared significantly more social, financial (OR: 4.85), marital (OR: 4.61), family (OR: 4.69) and/or professional difficulties (OR: 4.42) since they started online gaming. Furthermore, these gamers self-reported significantly higher rates (3 times more) of irritability, daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation due to play, low mood and emotional changes since online gaming onset.
The DAS appeared to be a good first-line instrument to screen MMORPG addiction in online gamers. This study found high MMORPG addiction rates, and self-reported adverse symptoms in important aspects of life, including mood and sleep. This confirms the need to set up relevant prevention programs against online game overuse.