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Your experiences of Online Game "addiction".

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Chris Vallance | 19:20 UK time, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

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This just in....

A top Chinese legislator said .. about 10 per cent of Web users under the age of 18, or four million people, were addicted to the Internet, mainly to 'unhealthy' online games.

Ok that's over there isn't it? Couldn't happen here could it? Well a couple of our listeners have sent emails suggesting it could. FE teacher James Whitehead emailed us and said, "on average 3-4 - at least per year - students drop out of their studies due to compulsive game playing"

Mike Rochester wrote to us saying, "For 7 years I was Housemaster to 65 independent schoolboys aged 13+ to 17+ and grew concerned that several were drifting into underachievement through their obsession with computer games"

The idea that these games, particularly massively multiplayer online games, are addictive is controversial, but searching online plenty of people have had experiences where they found themselves spending far too much time playing these games.

Dr John Charlton a research fellow in psychology at the University of Bolton, found in a study of 430 players of one online multiplayer role playing game that between 10 - 15% were "addicted". He says more about that and the type of people likely to suffer addiction in the player below:

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We're hoping to do more about this on the programme and we'd like to hear from you. Do you or does someone you know have trouble with their "game life balance". Leave a comment or send us an email

UPDATE: Some really, really thoughtful, engaging and moving comments on this post. Your emails inspired a lot of coverage elsewhere. I'll post one comment just as a counter to some of the talk of addiction above, but there were comments of equal quality on both sides of the debate:

I play World of Warcraft. I'm a single mother, I work full time and I'd say I'm a fairly stable person. I am restricted in the evenings - I can't leave the house due to my child, but I find Warcraft gives me a whole new social world! I play with work colleages and friends, so rather than going to the pub or meet somewhere else, we do something together in game. Aside from the social aspect, I have found that youngsters that play often learn teamwork from guilds in online games, in the same way they learn that from sport. People shouldn't be so quick to dismiss online games as 'bad and addictive'. There are plenty of benefits too, as long as gaming is in moderation.

UPDATE: Dr Mike Reddy emails in to highlight this satire of the controversy on a Guardian blog,. Mike says the post "says it all"

However,This comment, from a gamer, broadly supports the idea that some players struggle to control the time they spend on the game:

The point is not just to acknowledge the problem, but to understand the severity and scale of it. I've been the worst you can be, being a 'hardcore' raider putting in consistent 16-18 hours days as an officer of my guild expected to organise a force of 40+ people and prepare reageants, pots etc. which act as resources for high end play. It severly affected my first year of University as a result. But we also must know that it is essentially down to the individual and it is a choice they've made just that some are seemingly unable to control it....But it is certainly good that the mainstream press is picking up on it as it will quite clearly become an increasing 'problem' in years to come

But this comment encourages a balanced approach, recognising the good and bad games can offer, and not "demonizing" gamers:

As our real-life communities shrink and we interact less and less with people even in our own streets, I believe that online worlds and social networks such as Facebook will become more important to us as social animals. Rather than throwing our hands in the air and crying that the sky is falling, we should embrace the potential that global communications can provide as well as facing up to the problems that can arise also.

Clearly it's a subject that's resonated with many of you, and we plan to return to it later in the year, so please do continue to add your thoughts.

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