I've been having a lot of stress lately, all sorts of RL problems to sort out. The thing that's keeping me sane at the moment is my hour of Gears of War 1and late night real ale. It's funny, but I think there are two kinds of escapism available in games, or two types of flow if you like the term. Twitch and story I guess I could call them. Gears isn't actually an amazing game - it was good for the time, and very high quality but not actually amazingly innovative. The story is interesting and the environments are enjoyable to explore, but it's getting absorbed in the game that is enjoyable.
I get a different kind of 'flow experience' when playing something like Guitar Hero, trying to play a difficult song on Expert - requires such concentration, there is no space left for the troubles of real life.
In some respects this desire to forget about real life for a bit, is something akin to drugs. I think gaming is potentially quite addictive, not chemically - but psychologically, like exercise. I find it hard to go a day without playing something, as I find it hard to go a day without a pint of beer. I know some people who have quit their jobs to play World of Warcraft 100% of the time.
Ultimately the problem is this, if you are a games developer you want to make a game which is good - which is better than other people's games. The measure of how good is how much people want to play it. Then sure if the desire is higher they will spend more hours playing it? And sacrifice other activities to play. As games get better and better - this is potentially a social problem that will affect a lot of people. Particularly those people with a personality that makes them susceptible to sacrificing too much to play games, the same sort of people who can't qut smoking and drinking probably.
I suppose too much of a good thing is bad for you - more or less whatever it is. Even exercise - running, do it too much and you wear your knees out...
I'll still be playing when I'm old and grey, my thumbs will be worn out - but I hope it never gets to the stage where I'm so desperate to play, I leave my wife and qut my job for it.