Elves, trolls and deadly danger

Mental health experts now agree that online gaming addictions exist.

Doctors didn't believe Liz Woolley when she said her son was addicted to an internet game in which players take on the roles of elves, ogres and trolls.

Sure, her son, Shawn, 21, was depressed, they said, telling Woolley the 12-hour days of game-playing, the social isolation and the personality changes were a side effect rather than a cause of the American man's mental deterioration.

But today, five years after Shawn Woolley committed suicide at his keyboard, the medical profession is taking his mother's concerns more seriously.

Woolley's case was extreme but the psychiatric profession is increasingly dealing with people who blame online role-playing games for lost jobs, failing grades, health problems and even divorce, counsellors say.

Distressed family members blame fantasy games such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft, which differ from conventional video games because the player takes part in an ongoing drama with thousands of other players worldwide.

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