That's one definition for the term "culture shock".
Experts have said that some massively multiplayer online games, in which players battle enemies for weapons and rewards, are as addictive as crack cocaine.
Dr Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London, is so concerned that he plans to provide online therapy for youngsters who are spending so much time playing these games that they have lost touch with the real world.
In the real world, as opposed to the World of Warcraft, there are thousands of problems and maladies far more insidious and threatening than a 40 man dragon, where a good psychiatrist could volunteer his time. Something tells me that Dr. Richard Graham is fishing for a grant, or a television gig, or a slot on a parliamentary advisory board. Call me cynical.
But if he follows through Dr. Graham is about to get a lesson in culture shock. He might characterize World of Warcraft players (among whom I number, level 72 on a character created in April and progressing to 80 without playing a Death Knight, thank you very much) as victims who have been entrapped by an online Skinner Box, where virtual community prestige and the rewards of "leveling" and online property replace the pellet. He intends to enter the World of Warcraft, to save its addicted players from themselves.
World of Warcraft players on the other hand, who may suffer from the false consciousness of not wanting to be saved, might characterize Dr. Richard Graham as a clueless n00b who should be ganked as often as possible, or a sucker who could be scammed into buying this sweet Spectral Tiger Mount code I just happen to have. He'll probably play a Priest, with half his talents spread around the Holy tree, and the other half in Shadow. And he'll stand in the flames, if he ever gets that far.
I just long to meet Dr. Richard Graham, some late night, alone, at the Arathi Basin blacksmith node, so that he can educate my Felguard about the perils of addiction while I educate him about the perils of Shadow Bolt. Anyway:
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.
“Of course one problem we’re going to have to overcome is that while a psychiatrist may excel in what they do in the real world, they’re probably not going to be very good at playing World of Warcraft.
You don't say, Dr. Graham? While I think it unlikely that Blizzard is about to give Dr. Graham a free account, I do agree with him that most of his staff are going to be horrible at playing the game. They'll manage their talents unwisely. They'll stand in the flames. They'll spam Barrens chat asking about Mankrik's wife. That is, when they're not spamming Alliance /trade with messages like, "Addicted to World of Warcraft? Feeling there's a larger world out there you're missing? Talk to me. I'm a trained psychiatrist. I'm here to help."
The odds of that working out are roughly equivalent to those of Michelle Pfeiffer showing up at a downtrodden inner city high school, and succeeding in her goal of teaching gang members about Dylan Thomas.
Or worse, some small subset of Dr. Graham's staff might actually learn to play. They might become good at the game. They might, like an addict savoring his crack, come to enjoy it.
Who will save them?