Online video games are one of the biggest growth areas in interactive entertainment. Role playing game World of Warcraft sold almost 400,000 copies in two days when it went on sale in Europe last week.
Some gamers admit to playing for up to 20 hours in one stretch - so are these game bad for you or are they just harmless diversions from reality?
Gaming counsellor Liz Woolley and gamer Lynn Hall give their verdicts.
LIZ WOOLLEY - ONLINE GAMERS ANONYMOUS
Are online games pure escapism......
Games, video, computer, online games, PlayStations, etc can be used as entertainment and stress relief by many.
For shut-ins, it is a great tool that can offer hours of enjoyment, and interaction with the outside world.
For some, the enjoyment turns to suffering when they become "addicted" to the games.
They no longer have the "choice" to play, but are driven to play.
They leave their real lives and join others in a fantasy land, and they can't leave. They no longer bathe, clean house, interact with family and friends, or go outside.
They stop eating properly and do not get enough sleep. They barely leave this new fantasy life, to do anything else. I do not believe all online games are inherently bad or evil.
But I do know, however, that some of the game manufacturers do require their game developers to have degrees in psychology to make them even more addictive.
If you find yourself in this position, there is hope for you.
I set up Online Gamers Anonymous as a self-help 12-step programme for gamers and their families, sharing their experiences, strengths and hopes to help each other recover and heal from problems caused by excessive and compulsive game playing.
My son, Shawn, committed suicide as a direct result of being addicted to the EverQuest game.
Our presence is limited to the internet and on our message board gamers and their family come to read stories others have shared about their compulsion with gaming and how they have chosen to come back to their "real" lives.
It gives gamers hope that they can do this and helps them realize they aren't alone in their struggle.
LYNN HALL - ONLINE GAMER
.... or an escape from reality?
As the song says: "You're my favourite waste of time."
Online gaming is an all-consuming passion that niggles at you during working hours, haunts your dreams and takes away all your spare time, if you let it.
It is a wonderfully thought out world where you can immerse yourself in different characters and learn new skills and abilities.
It's a chance to explore other areas of your psyche as you can play male characters or female characters regardless of your sex.
My husband and I have been online RPG gaming for at least three years when we discovered Diablo and Diablo 2.
We have two computers so we can team up as a party to tackle higher-level quests and go where the wild things are.
You can tell jokes, flirt and laugh at others as well as insult people and pick fights. Is World of Warcraft harmless fun? I am of two opinions.
It can rob you of your spare time - not so bad - but it can also rob you of time you should be spending with friends and family.
I know that any computer game can become addictive.
It all boils down to whether you have enough willpower to tear yourself away from whatever is keeping you amused.