What We Know About Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games

Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2020 Mar/Apr;28(2):107-112. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000247.


The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines internet gaming disorder without differentiating games from their respective genres, such as first-person shooter versus real-time strategy versus online gaming. Our review of the literature on massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) suggests that MMORPGs are different from other games because they are the most addictive, and therefore deserve to be looked at separately. MMORPGs are internet platforms for online users to interact with each other in a virtual story line. The overview of the existing literature delineates the positive and negative aspects of MMORPGs and also the available evidence on neuroscientific and neuroanatomical correlates between internet gaming disorder and other addictions. Evidence shows that a player's characteristics and motivations can determine his or her risk of developing problematic play. Problematic MMORPG use may lead to mental disorders such as depression and addiction, and can negatively affect quality of life, and vice versa. Conversely, some players may benefit from being part of a social community and from using it as a learning platform or as a safe space to explore gender-identity issues. Brain circuitry and metabolism are changed through problematic MMORPG use, with the affected areas including the ventral striatum and left angular gyrus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Internet Addiction Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Internet Addiction Disorder / psychology*
  • Internet Addiction Disorder / therapy
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Quality of Life