Nick Yee (The Daedalus Project) writes an 8-part post (this quote is from part 2) responding to media reports about “internet addiction.”
High school and college students on football teams regularly die during practice (1, 2, 3), but their deaths are dealt with by the media with a very holistic perspective. The media questions whether the coach set an unreasonably exhausting regimen. The media questions whether the parents saw warning signs. They ask whether the school reviewed the coach’s history thoroughly when the hiring was made. They wonder why the school mandates year-round practice that necessitates training in the hot summers. They ask whether the team physicians condoned the exhausting practices despite the individual’s particular health idiosyncrasies. And in no time during all this does anyone suggest that football is addictive and caused the deaths. This is because that statement would be naïve and simplistic.
When people die during or after playing an MMO however, it is typically “caused by an online gaming addiction”. The wikipedia entry on “game addiction” lists several of these “notable cases”. Even in cases where the person suffered from depression and other mood disorders, an “addiction” to the game itself is primarily blamed for the deaths. As another example, Kimberley Young’s discussion of Internet Addiction Disorder implies that marital affairs that occur online are primarily the fault of the Internet, rather than having to do with personal choices. Why is it that explanations are complicated and holistic when it comes to football, and so simplistic when we talk about online games? Part of the reason is that football is too mainstream and too low-tech to be a tool for the media to instill paranoia with. No one is afraid of a leather ball.