If Dr. Richard Graham has his way, massively popular online game World of Warcraft will soon get an unofficial new character class: the therapist.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the London psychiatrist is spearheading a movement that would let mental health workers join online game worlds as avatars in order to better treat players suffering from game addiction.
Dr. Graham believes the key is reaching at-risk players on their own turf.
"Those affected don't exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenage anti-social behaviour issues do because they're in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble," he told the Telegraph. "Because of this we can't get through to them in the traditional educational environment or intrude on their actual bedrooms -- we need to turn to the Internet itself to tackle these problems."
The issue of game addiction itself is still quite thorny. The American Medical Association still doesn't consider game addiction to be a legitimate disorder, while other reports -- including a Swedish study claiming that Warcraft is "more addictive than crack cocaine" -- say otherwise.
Graham hopes to launch the project "by the end of the year," and has called on Warcraft maker Blizzard to possibly give therapists free access to the game. He also notes that since most therapists probably aren't Warcraft experts, the project could potentially recruit gamers to act as "peer mentors" and help identify troubled players.