The Ever-Question on EverQuest


In early 1999, Sony Online Entertainment released the game “Everquest” for the PC. The game not only did incredibly well in sales, but has a huge subscriber base for its on-line game service that connects thousands of gamers together to play in a fantasy world full of monsters, demons, wizards, witches, and warriors with magic powers. The graphics are not very impressive, but the gameplay has been said to be so habit forming that many have dubbed it “EverCrack”.

Now in 2003 EverQuest is back and bigger on the PlayStation 2, a videogame system that sits in millions of households across the world. It was announced late February that SOE has expanded its network to accommodate the increasing demand for on-line play (at the cost of $9.99 per month). It appears now that the realm of EverQuest has hooked PS2 users as well.

With or Without You: A Never Ending Game

But what’s wrong with this game that never ends? Late last year CBS News did in depth reports on addiction and EverQuest, interviewing Liz Woolley, a mother who said that her son Shawn became so obsessed with the game that he committed suicide. The young man was found dead sitting in front of his computer with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His mother was emotional as she said that EverQuest was still running on the screen when she found him. “That damn game. He shot himself because of the game,” she told CBS. Ms. Woolley said that Shawn was having problems in the game and that another player he was interacting with hurt him: “And he was so upset. And then I was trying to talk him about it, and I said, ‘Well, Shawn, you know, those aren’t people. They’re not real people.’” However, she says, “He couldn’t stay off it. That’s how strong that game is. You can’t just get up and walk away.”

Actor, Writer, Comedian, and Presidential Speech Writer, Ben Stein has also been very vocal against the game, going on national television and doing interviews to talk about how EverQuest destroyed his son’s life and his son’s ability to function rationally in the real world. Not only had the game affected his son Tommy directly, but Ben was experiencing guilt and depression over the deterioration of his son’s character.

In the November-December 2001 edition of “The American Spectator“, Stein writes about how EverQuest has pushed school out of his son’s life and talks about how the game has taken up all of his son’s energies, motivations, and desires:

“…Tommy is in his room sitting at his fancy computer (but, as he tells me all the time, not fancy enough) playing his goddamned Everquest, the worst thing that ever happened to him, a literal curse, a drug that eats away at every drop of energy and initiative. It’s a sort of online ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ and he loves it beyond description. He can stay on forever. Plus, he can spend money on it like there is no tomorrow. He is simply a demon at it. And we are the demon facilitators because we are so happy he’s not using marijuana, we keep letting him play his evil Everquest.”

Calling it “D-Day”, Stein continues by recalling the trip he and his wife made with his son to the new boarding school the boy would attend. During the trip, Stein goes over in his mind the memories of the gentle child Tommy once was and talks about how he hopes that the disciplined environment of the new school may bring his son back to him. As father and son leave each other, Stein summarizes his feelings and rationalizes the action he has taken: “He did not turn to say good-bye to me as I told him I loved him. He may not know when the Civil War was, and he may not know when the Revolution was, but he sure knows how to hurt his father’s feelings.

“In the car on the way back home, I thought I would just fall into a deep pit of sorrow. Except for my parents’ deaths, I am not sure I have ever felt so bad.

“What would any of us do without work, which is truly the Lord’s blessing upon us. Life without work is desolation, self-loathing and death. By the way, this is why I want Tommy at a structured place. I can see that if he does no work, his self-esteem vanishes. Then he is suited to do even less work, and he just plays in his imaginary Everquest world, where he does have some self-esteem. Then the spiral goes down and down and he gets ever more self-loathing and angry at us out of his defensiveness.

“I pray his new school helps.”

A New Addiction

Though the issue of violence in videogames is being continually addressed by the electronic gaming industry, addiction beyond video poker machines is apparently new. Few organizations deal with video game or on-line addiction, even though some studies are quite alarming.

In an interview with the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" Jay Parker, a chemical dependency counselor and co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington, spoke about a 21-year-old college student he had treated who had become obsessed with EverQuest. During his senior year the young man became hooked on EverQuest and stopped going to classes. Eventually, the student had a psychotic break from reality brought on by sleep deprivation after playing the game for 36 hours straight.

"He thought the characters had come out of the game and were chasing him," Parker said. "He was running through his neighborhood having hallucinations. I can’t think of a drug he could have taken where he would have disintegrated in 15 weeks."

Parker also went on to speak of a new phenomenon of virtual transsexualism that he was witnessing with EverQuest. "People like to create new personas," Parker said. "You see a lot of gender-bending."

Addiction Prevention & Parental Involvement

Ben Stein shows us the importance of parents becoming more involved in their children’s lives so that they can identify problems before they escalate. Stein’s son eventually kicked his addiction after he came back from reform school and the old Tommy is back, but how many other parents are paying attention?

At last year’s annual video game industry convention, E3, IDSA President Doug Lowenstein raised an important point on the sale of violent video games and children that can relate to any issue where bad games can negatively affect kids. Mr. Lowenstein told an audience of reporters that studies have shown that the majority of violent games that children play are purchased by a parent of the child. Like films, video games have ratings (For Example “M” for Mature, which is the equivalent of the MPAA’s "R” rating), but unlike films, many parents do not take the step to find out what content is contained within a game. Though the several versions of EverQuest produced have achieved the milder “T” or Teen rating, their ESRB labels state they contain ‘Blood & Gore, Violence, and Suggestive Themes.’

Parents may not be able to stop games like EverQuest from being produced, but they can prevent such games from entering the home. And for adults hooked on EverQuest and other such games, help is out there just like there is help for every addiction out there. And once in recovery, one will find that there are tons of games out there that are a lot better (and cheaper in the long run) for you and your family. So try some sports next time around; you may find that you like hockey or baseball, even though you’ve always loved football.

Important Links:

Information on EverQuest Addiction:
Internet/Computer Addiction Services
16307 NE 83rd St, Suite 208
Redmond, WA 98052
[email protected]

CBS New’s Featured Reports:
Addicted: Suicide Over Everquest? (October 18, 2002)
Addicted: Everquest Overload? (October 17, 2002)
Everquest Or Evercrack? (August 6, 2002)

Ben Stein’s Interview with Entertainment Tonight on EverQuest:

Ben Stein’s Homepage:

Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA):

Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB):

Sony Online Entertainment:

All links provided are in no way affiliated with NYJTimes and are provided as a service to the public.