We need to stop dancing around this. Seriously.
In the news recently was the story of an Ohio teen who had to be hospitalized after collapsing "multiple times" during a four-day Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 marathon. Dehydration was apparently the surface culprit, but the clear underlying culprit seems clear: Addiction.
It's a nasty word and one I hate to use in association with video games, because ever since the 80s, we gamers had to suffer the constant ignorant accusations from clueless parents and members of the mainstream. The #1 most annoying belief was that video games were essentially crack and anyone who played them was instantly addicted. Having a psychology degree and knowing a little something about the term, I know "addiction" is a very strong and serious word and it almost never applies to someone who likes to play video games.
But there is a caveat. Whenever I get on my soapbox and try to explain to the out-of-touch majority that gaming is really no different than movies or any other form of entertainment, and is no more addictive than those other mediums, I have to step back and make an admission. And it's this- Online multiplayer gaming has proven to be very addictive. The only true forms of addiction I've ever heard of have involved games with names like Everquest and in general, I am firmly convinced that MMOs are far more addictive than any other type of video game.
And now Call of Duty is the most popular name in the industry today and literally millions of hours are lost to it worldwide. Of course, 99.9% of those hours (if not more) focus on the online multiplayer portion. I have never seen regular ol' casual or single-player-oriented gamers lose a fraction as much time to those who focus on MMOs or online multiplayer in general. I mean, it's not even close. If you ever find an actual case of video game addiction, I will bet every penny I own that the source of the addiction will involve multiplayer in some capacity.
You may start seeing this evidence in future studies as well. The most hardcore gamers out there won't be found collapsed somewhere because they just kept playing Final Fantasy VII over and over. Perhaps it's just as simple as that: Online multiplayer never ends. And because it never ends, people don't stop. Could it really be that simple? Perhaps it is. But I do know this- If you find someone who loves to play games, and they basically only do single-player, the chances of that person being truly addicted to the hobby are slim to none. If, on the other hand, that person spends all his time playing online, regardless of the game… Sadly, I'd say the chances have risen steeply.
That kid's mother took away his Xbox 360, by the way. She didn't need to do that. Just kill the Internet connection and I guarantee that'll cure him.