Mind

Drugs for Starcraft Addiction

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticAug 13, 2010 2:05 AM

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Are you addicted to Starcraft? Do you want to get off Battle.net and on a psychoactive drug?

Well,South Korean psychiatrists Han et al report that Bupropion sustained release treatment decreases craving for video games and cue-induced brain activity in patients with Internet video game addiction.

They took 11 people with "Internet Game Addiction" - the game being Starcraft, this being South Korea - and gave them the drug bupropion (Wellbutrin), an antidepressant that's also used in drug addiction and smoking cessation. These guys (because, predictably, they were all guys) were seriously hooked, playing on average at least 4 hours per day.

Six were absent from school because of playing Internet video game in Internet cafes for more than 2 months. Two IAGs had been divorced because of excessive Internet use at night.

They helpfully summarize Starcraft for the layperson:

As a military leader for one of three species, players must gather resources for training and expanding their species’ forces. Utilizing various strategies and alliances with other species, players attempt to lead their own species to victory.

Which is all true, but it doesn't quite communicate the sheer obsessiveness that's require to win this game. As Penny Arcadesaid"it is OCD masquerading as recreation", and that's coming from someone who literally plays video games for a living.

Anyway, apparently the drug worked:

After 6 weeks of bupropion SR treatment in the IAG group, there were significant decreases in terms of craving for playing StarCraft (23.6%), total playing game time (35.4%), and Internet Addiction Scale scores (15.4%)

They also did some fMRI and found that the addict's brains responded more strongly to pictures of Zerglings than did control people, and that the drug reduced activity a bit. But there was no placebo group, so we have no idea whether this was the drug or not.

Sadly, the point is moot, because Starcraft II has just come out, and it's more addictive than ever. I'm off to try and optimize my Terran build order, and by God I will get those 10 marines out in the first 5 minutes if it takes me all night...

Han DH, Hwang JW, & Renshaw PF (2010). Bupropion sustained release treatment decreases craving for video games and cue-induced brain activity in patients with Internet video game addiction. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 18 (4), 297-304 PMID: 20695685

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