Thursday, February 16, 2006
Video games and the Internet have been subject to suspicion since the computer became a household fixture. One complaint: People get sucked into spending enormous amounts of time on the computer, to the detriment of other parts of their life. But are they addicted?
The answer depends on what you mean by "addicted." Most experts say computers are not addictive in the same sense that drugs are, but they could be on the same level as gambling.
"When I started out particularly in Internet addiction back in 1995, I thought that this could potentially be a major problem," said professor Mark Griffiths, who studies behavioral addictions at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England. "In no way has the hype lived up to what has actually been found in research."
Donna Meyer doesn't think she's addicted, even if spends up to 12 hours a day in Second Life, a gamelike world on the Internet. The 49-year-old grandmother in New York shares a virtual home with a partner who lives in New Mexico.
"My daughter gets annoyed," Meyer said. "She's like, 'My God, Ma, you used to go out, now you're always on the computer."' Meyer is unapologetic: "I'm unemployed, don't really have the money to go out anymore, so I enjoy this," she said. "It's a way of still meeting people."
Griffiths believes there's a large difference between people who use the Internet excessively and those who have problems with it, and even those who have problems may not be addicted. To count as a real addiction in Griffiths' view, it has to be destructive, cause withdrawal symptoms and prompt ever greater use to maintain the kick.
"When you apply those criteria to something like Internet use or video game use, you find that yeah, lots of people display some of those components, but very few display all of them, and in that sense, to me, they are not classically addicted," Griffiths said.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
When World's Collide
For Edwards, a 36-year-old game designer in Harrogate, England, and his wife, Alayne Wartell, "Second Life" provided a forum where the two, then living across the Atlantic Ocean from each other, could discover a wide range of mutual interests.
They met in the game, Edwards said, because they owned adjacent land, and they began to trek to each other's properties to see what the other was working on.
One of the things Edwards built in his house, he explained, was a floating brain in a jar--along with tinted windows and a swimming pool that appeared in the floor. "Alayne just came over (sometimes) on the pretense of saying hello to my...brain in the jar," Edward said. "We always say we fell in love over my brains."
Soon, the couple began to court. They borrowed some friends' private resort -- a digital property in "Second Life" -- and spent a virtual romantic evening together. Romance amid the sunken galleons. "We took a date wandering around their lovely gardens and had nice walks through the wooded areas," he said. "There were sunken galleons, and they'd even set out virtual food for us: a candlelit dinner on the veranda."
Edwards visited Wartell at her home in Philadelphia, and before long, the two decided to marry. Wartell, now 41, agreed to move to England.