A Look Inside China's Game Addiction Treatment Centers

The Christian Science Monitor recently visited Beijing's internet addiction center to talk to the docs and addicts about the issue of, among other things, gaming addiction.

The center, which opened in 2004 at military base, has become the model for the nearly 300 similar centers that now dot China. The center treats the addiction with three months of military-style discipline, counseling, confidence building, sex education and for more than half of the cases, medication.

Most of the patients are 15 to 21 year old men hooked on multiplayer online games, most notably World of Warcraft and Counterstrike.

What makes this article stand out is it's talk with the founder of the center and one of the people leading the push to have internet addiction classified as its own disorder. There are also some fascinating talks with the folks afflicted with this addiction, like teenager Jia Chunyang who calls Counterstrike his "drug" of choice.

"My relations with friends weren't good; I only communicated with them online," says Jia. "I stole money from my family and skipped school. And the games also affected my personality. If I couldn't play for a while, I would feel upset."

He hit bottom in 2006, when he ran away from home and went on a 15-day Counterstrike bender in an Internet cafe. He took breaks for instant noodles and half-hour catnaps, but otherwise went on an uninterrupted shoot-'em-up spree, as his parents searched for him.

If internet addiction and, as an offshoot, gaming addiction ever does get it's own classification I can see it eventually leading to legal issues for developers like Blizzard. If gameplay is considered addictive and harmful, what sorts of moral obligations do developers have to not add extra hooks to their games?

Strange and interesting territory.

In an increasingly wired China, rehab for Internet addicts