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British Psychiatrist to Provide Therapy While In-Game to Players of World of Warcraft

posted 02:37 AM EST, Thu July 30, 2009
British Psychiatrist to Provide Therapy While In-Game to Players of World of Warcraft © Photo Credit: Libraryman

Dr Richard Graham will lead a team of therapists deep into the mystical worlds of the online game, World of Warcraft, to reach socially isolated and addicted gamers.

In addition to the familiar cast of wizards and warlocks, World of Warcraft (WoW) players may run into some new faces by the end of the year, as a group of psychiatrists infiltrates the online world to deliver therapeutic services, in-game.

WoW is a massive multiplayer online game, the largest in the world, and many say it deserves it moniker warcrack due to the addictive nature of the game play.

Problem gamers may neglect real-world responsibilities, may lose track of time while playing and may feel anxious or upset when forced to abstain from play, all signs of addiction.

Dr. Richard Graham of the Tavistock Center in London, will lead a group of therapists in joining the game to administer therapeutic services, while in-character, inside the virtual world. The psychiatrists will have to choose from an existing list of characters, and gain some mastery of the game's skill sets, in order to have access to deep game players. One things is certain, says Graham, “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.”

Blizzard, the maker of the game, has yet to comment on the announcement or on Dr. Graham's request for free or reduced priced game play.

Dr. Graham explains that they need to enter into the virtual world to deliver services to problem gamers because these people are not often spotted in the real world, saying "Those effected don't exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenagers with anti-social behavior issues do because they're in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble.” 

Although this social isolation keeps teens under the radar of school officials or police, isolation in itself can be dangerous and psychologically harmful.

Graham concludes that since they can’t spot these at risk gamers in the outside world and they can’t very well “intrude” into bedrooms across the world, the only option left is to, “turn to the internet itself to tackle these problems.”

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