Online game addiction becoming serious problem in Japan

Online game addiction becoming serious problem in Japan

TOKYO —

People — especially the young — becoming focused on game-playing to the point of obsession is nothing new, but online game addiction appears to be an increasingly serious problem here in Japan.

While cases as extreme as the boy in China addicted to online games who attempted suicide to escape a correctional facility are fortunately (and hopefully) far and few between, a recent article on Yomiuri Online described the dire situation that some online game addicts in Japan find themselves in.

According to the article, the Absentee Students Support Center based in Nagoya reports having received 327 requests for help concerning online game addiction from January to July this year. The National Web Counseling Association also has reportedly received nearly 150 similar requests in the past three years. A hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture famous for its alcoholism treatment program even set up an outpatient program dedicated to Internet addiction in July this year, and since then they have received 85 patients, over 70% of which were junior high or high school students, most of them boys. So, what’s happening to all of these troubled game addicts?

The history of one 19-year old male student residing in Tokyo is recounted in the article. The young man started playing games on his cell phone when he was in junior high school, but what started as an activity to simply pass the time while commuting to school started to gradually change and then eventually control his life.

Even though the games themselves can be played for free, the game service providers make sure that there are ways for players to spend money – several hundred yen for an item here, a thousand yen for a “special power” there. By the time the young man was in high school, he was spending about 80,000 yen a month on online games from his allowance and money earned from part-time jobs. Even when he received the considerable sum of 100,000 yen as “otoshidama,” the New Year’s good luck money customarily given to children on New Year’s Day by family and relatives, the money would be gone within 10 days. Still, being complimented or admired by other players he met online felt so good that he couldn’t stop “investing” in his game.

By the time his parents found out about his excessive gaming, a demand notice for non-payment of 50,000 yen had been sent to his home, and he had spent well over one million yen on online games. He was also chronically late to school from lack of sleep and had lost a noticeable amount of weight as well.

But his story doesn’t end there. After receiving counseling as a high school junior, he did manage to stay away from games for a while, but earlier this year, after he entered a technical college, he found himself addicted once again to a different online game. Now, he has gone back to spending most of his time gaming on his phone and ends up barely getting any sleep some days The sad part is, he himself is acutely aware of the trouble he is in but still can’t stop playing, saying that the future doesn’t hold any hope for him in the real world, while in the virtual world of games, he is able to grow and make steady progress, which allows him to feel a sense of achievement he can’t experience in reality. It’s obvious that people like him need help and support.

Excessive game-playing and related on-line spending has been a topic of concern in Japan for some time now, with cases of young children running huge online bills on their parents’ cell phone accounts being reported in the news from time to time. So much so that the Japanese government, through its Consumer Affairs Agency, has been discussing steps to restrict, if not ban, certain practices common in Japanese online games that allow players to buy a chance to win important items (note: not the actual items but a “chance” to win them), which some people feel is an irresponsible and unethical way to encourage players to keep spending money in hopes of obtaining that coveted item. As one executive of the Agency commented, it probably doesn’t help that “the increasing availability of smartphones is making it easier for everyone to stay online anytime, everywhere”.

In response to public opinion, some of the major social game operators in Japan have implemented measures to restrict on-line spending by players aged 15 or younger to under 5,000 yen per month, but as yet, there are no restrictions on the amount of time a player is allowed to spend on-line.

While social games can be great fun, these stories do serve as a warning that too much fun can have disastrous consequences if it leads to addictive behavior that can’t be stopped — a fate I’m sure we all want to avoid. So, how much time do you spend online?

Source: Yomiuri Online

RocketNews24

  • 3

    southsakai

    Lol I was at Mc's the other day. 2 guys and 1 gal walked in, ordered hamburgers and the 3 sat down at the table across me. Not a single word was uttered. These 3 had 1 handheld each and were stuck to those devices like super glue. Not a single word uttered and I was there like 30 minutes or something. WOW!

  • 0

    Onniyama

    southsakai. know what you mean. I have seen couples out on a date doing the very same. They sit there across from each other looking at their devices and never talking.

  • 0

    AKBfan

    The history of the male student looks like a made up story with all the cliches in it. The timeline and amounts just don't ring true.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    The number of gamer's that are actually hardcore addicts seems to be minimal and the games themselves are most likely not the cause of addiction according to some conclusion reached by researchers. I remember watching a documentary film in the past concerning this escalating problem of the video game craze that was happening in South Korea and how many young people who were less socially skilled, less confident, and lonely were becoming hooked to the computer games. No wonder they have special schools with rehabilitation programs in South Korea to help the game addicts. Hence the underlying and the first step in the program was teaching the addict how to socialize and interact with other people in the same age bracket and especially with their peer group. Therefore there is no doubt in my mind that game addiction is highly due to underlying psycho-social problem in a group who play computer games.

  • 0

    Eduardo Gonzalez

    On my case, paving off a few kilometres per hour on Zandvoort on iRacing: not more than 2 1/2 hours. Dating sims such as LovePlus, on certain time points of the day. Social games like Car Town, daily, up until afternoon, especially when waiting for refuels. Nothing more than those.

    If anybody here works for the diet, let's restrict online gaming to those who have voting age and have a permit by their corresponding service providers. Anyone found in violation: 10-30 years in prison, lifetime imprisonment for repeat offenders

  • 0

    Eduardo Gonzalez

    And for that 19 year older in Tokyo chasing after Manaka, Nene, and Rinko, he won't escape my .38 Magnum Beretta

  • 1

    sakurala

    **The sad part is, he himself is acutely aware of the trouble he is in but still can’t stop playing, saying that the future doesn’t hold any hope for him in the real world, while in the virtual world of games, he is able to grow and make steady progress, which allows him to feel a sense of achievement he can’t experience in reality. **

    For a lot of younger people, it seems that most things in their lives have been easily and very quickly accessible to them. If they grew up with a computer, information, games and TV programs are always an easy click away; no need to wait for a designated time period on TV. I think this instant gratification is what leads to issues like the man in the above story. More people now seem to need instant gratification or rewards in order to get anything done and if they have to wait too long, they just don't think it is possible.

  • 0

    Aliasis

    I had a free day yesterday and meant to do something productive but ended up playing video games all day. lol ... bad place to admit that?

  • 1

    CrisGerSan

    I am the admin of an international association of game developers, workers in Virtual Reality of all kinds and professionals and students in related fields. It is well known in the industry that increasingly people are becoming addicted to MMOs and other online games. The games are designed to create that and the industry is creating more and more of them. Japan is not alone in this problem, what is unusual is that they are looking at it and thinking about help, in most other countries it is ignored and the industry itself is protected by the hyper liberal "freedom of Speech" advocacy that protects much that is detrimental in many forms of media, not just games. That story sounds very realistic to me, i have studied the patterns of addiction and authored a number of professional papers on aspects of both the cause and treatment of addiction and this is yet another example of people seeking happiness in ways that may in the end bring much unhappiness instead. We all need recreation and escape from the limits of reality, it is healthy and as necessary as dreaming..but there need to be balance. Sadly the industry itself is unlikely to regulate it self, the only warnings commonly found are for epilepsy from flashing scenes and or lights. It is highly unlikely that game producers will try to regulate or protect players from excessive play time when that is actually the goal of most marketing efforts.

    glad to see this topic covered here, very good indeed.

  • 0

    psychopathsareincontrol

    "...while in the virtual world of games, he is able to grow and make steady progress..."

    Believe me, these mobile/social games are not based on skill - that would diminish their market size thus reduce profit - they are designed to make sure everyone can play and enable them to spend money on drip fed rewards/bonuses.

    So if this alleged 19-year old male student residing in Tokyo isn't smart enough to realize that these games ALLOW you to make steady progress, then who else is to blame?

  • 0

    AKBfan

    Leave the kids alone.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    I play the odd online game, but only once in a while, and only for free. This isn't only an addiction here, though. With the advent of smartphones and online gaming via PCs this kind of thing is rampant world-wide, and I have at least one friend who ended up getting divorced because his wife found out about their debts when he had to sell their car (and then still owed more than $10,000 US on top of that -- FOR A FREE GAME!).

    It's sick that these money-grubbing games can exist at all, but where there's money to made like this you can bet it'll only spread and result in more pain and grief for those who cannot control themselves. Despite not paying any money for the games I was involved in (there are some apps I have that are paid, but require no more money after, and don't require you to buy 'enhancements' if you want them), and didn't spend HUGE amounts of time on them, I would give anything to have never played them and have that time back -- it's an utter waste. I know both kids and adults who will suddenly wake up during the night to see if their characters have been attacked, and in some cases I've heard of them getting upset when they HAVE been attacked, playing on, and then not getting the sleep they need for school or work. Email's bad enough -- these games cause stress and anger that should not exist.

    Japan already has Hikikomori... they don't need this.

  • 0

    edojin

    My best friend in high school became a rather rich man during his working days, but after he retired he began gambling online ... and ended up broke. He was so broke he had to take out a huge mortgage on his fabulous home to help repay the money lost in gambling. His lungs later gave out due to heavy smoking, and he died about two years ago. His widow had to sell the house to cover the mortgage that was being demanded by the banks.

    So ... my advice ... stay away from those online gambling sites. Somebody's getting rich ... and probably it isn't the person playing those games ...

  • -2

    Lowly

    "becoming" ?

  • 0

    Jack Stern

    I don't see anything about group war games where Skype is use to communicate to others in the group while fighting enemy soldiers and communication online with others all day and night without getting enough sleep and causing family problems. That should also be included in the article and with some discussion.

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