Swedish Youth Group Says WOW is Like Cocaine

In what is sure to cause great debate (and probably a healthy stream of jokes and parodies as well), the founder of a Swedish youth organization is singling out World of Warcraft as a very addictive game. How addictive? He has labeled World of Warcraft as "the cocaine of the computer games world."

This claim comes from Sven Rollenhagen, founder of the non-profit youth group, Stiftelsen Ungdomsvård (The Youth Care Foundation), located south of Stockholm, Sweden. Rollenhagen founded the group in 1991, and it provides support for youths living at home, from sources such as social workers, psychologists, physical training, teachers, and doctors, as well as offering opportunities such as outdoor adventuring, internships, and mentoring. The organization's target group is adolescents and young adults who are at risk from substance abuse, criminal activity, computer game addiction, relationship issues, family problems, school difficulties, depression, burnout, or neuropsychiatric diagnoses. After perusing the organization's site using Google Translate (which is how much of the information in this paragraph was gleaned), we discovered that the group "also works with adult computer game addiction and its relatives."

The organization is accusing World of Warcraft as being so addictive, "based on the experiences of gamers and their parents who have been in contact with the group." Rollenhagen told the Swedish newspaper, Metro: "There is not a single case of game addiction that we have worked with in which World of Warcraft has not played a part." These findings are being rolled up into a report that the organization plans on publishing. It is unknown at this time, how much of these findings are based on scientific study or on anecdotal observations. It is also unknown at this point if Rollenhagen's comments are a true indication of how much the report specifically skewers World of Warcraft, or if his comments were meant to be more attention getting, while the report actually focuses more on general games addiction, without necessarily singling out any one game title.

The group's Website offers the following signs of games addiction--not necessarily specific to World of Warcraft (the below text is via Google Translate):

1. tolerance increase ie the player plays more and "cooler" game more often
2. abstinence: the player becomes restless, irritable, depressed, etc. when the game "absence"
3. negative consequences for the school, internships / jobs: truancy, missed tests, lower grades, dismissal from jobs ...
4. serious conflicts with family and friends: a fight about noon time, other responsibilities, etc.
5. focus and the admission unit on computer games, even during non-playing time reading, talking and thinking player in the game
6. the player lying about game times and other games around to calm environment
7. disturbed daily rhythm, evident in the night, sleeping on days
8. lack of interest in old hobbies and friends
9. deterioration of health and fitness due to sedentary indoor

There has been no official statement issued yet from Blizzard Entertainment, publisher of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft, to address this issue--nor is it know if there will even be one. However, with over 11.5 million gamers playing World of Warcraft, there is a large-enough pool statistically for at least some players to also be true game addicts. In the United States, computer game addiction is not currently recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) or American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a formal diagnosis--although the APA did consider adding "video game addiction" into the next edition (to be published in 2012) of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM); but the recommendation to add it was ultimately rejected, citing that more research was still needed. English-language, Swedish news site, The Local reports that "according to the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsoinstitutet), the problem with computer game addiction is large in Sweden although there is currently no medical diagnosis of the condition."

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There have been sporadic new stories of people who either died or harmed themselves while playing World of Warcraft. Also, back in 2005, a story of an infant who died while her parents were at an Internet Café for several hours playing World of Warcraft was making the rounds on the Internet. Poking fun at World of Warcraft, South Park devoted an entire episode ("Make Love, Not Warcraft") in 2007 to spoofing players' propensity to become truly obsessed with the game. The behavior of a number of the South Park characters in that episode exhibited more than a few of the symptoms from the The Youth Care Foundation's list of signs of games addiction.