Addiction therapists sign up for WoW

There are reports that therapists are trying a new tactic to reach people that they think are "addicted" to online games like World of Warcraft - they're joining the game themselves.

Dr Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London, told the Telegraph: "We will be launching this project by the end of the year. I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players".

It's not terribly clear what they're planning to do in the game. Message people who they see regularly online? Graham acknowledges this, sort-of: "While a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they're probably not going to be very good at playing World of Warcraft. We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end".

One strategy he suggests is recruiting other players to keep an eye on those that they suspect of having a "problem". He said that it can be difficult to identify those with an issue, because to their parents they're out of trouble in their rooms.

Of course, research suggests that the best solution for parents worried about their kids' gaming habits isn't to check them in to the Priory - it's to pick up the controller and play with them. PhD researcher A Fleming Seay, behind Project Massive - a study into gaming addiction - said:

"When a parent plays video games with a child, three important things happen; the activity suddenly becomes a social one, the parent is able to model self-regulating behavior for the child, and finally, the parent is able to monitor the content of the game. All this for the low cost of spending some time with your kid doing something they are interested in".

Warcraft community blog WoW.com suggests, with regard to Graham's ambitions for entering Azeroth, that "maybe the guy just wants to play some WoW for free". A theory supported by the fact that he's approached the game's developers, Blizzard, about getting a cheap or free account supplied to psychiatrists.

Does gaming addiction exist? Is it a problem? Or is it just symptomatic of wider problems in a person's life? Share your thoughts in the comments.