Addiction therapists signing up to World of Warcraft

Medical staff are creating their own ‘avatars’ in online fantasy games such as World of Warcraft in the hope of treating youngsters addicted to virtual worlds.

A recent report by Sweden’s Youth Care Foundation described World of Warcraft as “more addictive than crack cocaine”. The game, which attracts almost 12 million players every month, is set in a fantasy environment, with users taking on the characters of dwarves, elves and wizards, interacting with other players throughout the virtual world.

Dr Graham said that some players were so addicted to these massively multiplayer online games that they played them for up to 16 hours a day, leading them to neglect their social lives and education.

He has called on Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft, to waive or discount the costs associated with joining the game so that therapists can more easily communicate with at-risk players in their preferred environment.

“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,” said Dr Graham.