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Video Games -- Are You Addicted?

Let's start with this premise: video game addiction is a controversial subject. No surprise there. And let's get this out the way: most people play video games and suffer no ill side effects (other than sore thumbs or a bruised ego). Video game addiction is also a debate that isn't going away any time soon. This weekend members of the American Medical Association are considering whether to take video game addiction more seriously, and potentially one day deem it an official medical diagnosis.

There are plenty of arguments to ponder like whether it's a mental disorder, which games trigger it and why, how is "addiction" defined versus "obsessed" or "avid," if/how does it affect the pleasure centers of the brain like other stimulus, who is most susceptible to it (if it exists), what can be done to curb or cure it, etc. You get the point. But it seems clear to me there are those out there -- even a small percentage -- who do need help.

We've done stories on this in the past, including as part of our "Caught in the Web" series when we interviewed Kay Johnson in Arkansas. She calls herself a "recovering addict" after losing her husband and much of her financial foothold while playing "Diablo 2" and "Final Fantasy XI." She says she must now keep an eye on her soon, too, as he goes away to college.

The American Medical Association lumps all forms of gaming together from computer to console to cell phone, but clearly the most serious examples of "addiction" are attached to online role-playing games like "World of Warcraft" (which I play, by the way, as a level 64 paladin) or "EverQuest," along with several others like them. Sites like GamerWidow or Online Gamers Anonymous are rife with tragic stories. But again, those tales do not represent a significant percentage of the millions of gamers who play.

So let's hear your thoughts -- video game addiction: fact or fantasy?