Alvin Vicencio, wearing his pajamas, sits behind a computer in a dark room. He holds a cigarette in one hand and a mouse in the other, as he clicks feverishly in order to complete an objective in the popular video game “World of Warcraft.” He holds off bathroom breaks and ignores phone calls from his parents so he can focus intently on finishing a quest.
“World of Warcraft” has become an online existence for over eight million players. Many of whom would rather stay connected with other players and experience the adrenaline-producing action from behind their computers, than brave the real world.
Since “World of Warcraft” has moved into these people’s lives, other conventional activities have taken a backseat, including family life, friends, work and even school.
“I used to read more, play music and create music before ‘World of Warcraft’ entered my life,” said Ahmed Mitchel-el, a food runner for Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Pasadena. “I’m almost embarrassed to say, but ‘Warcraft’ has become my primary priority. I spend six days a week playing it and call my family twice a month.”
Playing “World of Warcraft” can also come in conflict with loved ones and daily responsibilities.
“My career comes first, then ‘World of Warcraft,’ and family last,” said Alvin Vicencio, a Micro Commercial Components sales coordinator in Los Angeles.
“I hold off (on) house chores and my boyfriend gets upset at me for avoiding them to play ‘Warcraft’ instead,” said Far Douangpraseuth, a Golden West Community College student who lives with her boyfriend.
Over-playing and avoiding responsibilities can be signs of computer addiction syndrome, according to Maressa Hecht Orzack, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who has treated addictive behaviors at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Computer addiction syndrome is common in individuals who are recovering alcoholics, procrastinators, depressed or lonely, Orzack.writes on her Web site. Orzack, who works at the Harvard Medical School, is the founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Service, a support group for computer addicts.
According to Orzack, unlike people who are addicted to gambling, individuals with a computer game addiction have no way to escape them since computers are at work, school and home.
Blizzard Entertainment, the software company that created “World of Warcraft” is hard at work developing new content for players to experience and thereby further their addiction to its virtual world. At this point in time, there is no limit to what players can do and experience as a group in the virtual world.
“As long as things keep going the way they are, I’ll continue to play for years,” said Mitchel-el.
“World of Warcraft” fills a void in many people’s social lives, especially if it is difficult for them to find other venues of entertainment.
“It allowed me to be social, to meet new people, and to do more than passively watch television all evening,” said Brian Hawkins, an interaction designer and developer in Evansville, Ind.
“I’m not a big fan of watching television and there aren’t a lot of other entertainment options in the area, so ‘World of Warcraft’ fills the entertainment hole for now,” said Hawkins.
Replacing TV as the most common after-work activity for couch potatoes, avid players instead prefer sitting in front of their computer for four or more hours at a time.
“I play ‘World of Warcraft’ seven days a week, four hours a day, usually after work,” said Vicencio.
At times, players can spend even more time than they had originally planned to.
“I log onto ‘Warcraft’ for approximately a seven-hour sitting, six days a week,” said Mitchel-el.
Playing “World of Warcraft” can conflict with work and school, since some events in the game occur during regular working or school hours. In those cases, avid players have to play at work or avoid work altogether.
“I’ve taken the day off from work when the expansion to ‘World of Warcraft’ was released,” said Vicencio.
“If I feel that class isn’t useful that day, taking notes on my laptop always (presents a) temptation to play some ‘Warcraft,'” said Kyle Kreiger, a junior at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. “I have slipped up on occasion.”