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Reader Comments (16)

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 8:27AM (Unverified) said

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I think it's more than one factor, and some that are often over looked.

First, is the goal is to stop playing WoW, as in that picture, that's easy, just play Warhammer Online, it's a ton more fun.

But if we are talking about MMO's in general, often a bit of maturity is needed along with examination of your own life.

The times I have found myself become really addicted to an MMO are the times when my life isn't going that good. Bad relationship, miserable at work, whatever it might be, I found myself playing an MMO a lot to get away from those problems. It's a way to ignore real life.

When things are good, I find it easy to step away from the games and not play. Because there are other great things to do in life.

So I don't think it's an addiction at all, it's an escape from reality. People just need to either take a hard look at their lives and work on their problems, or they need to seek therapy, which is an admirable thing to do in times of trouble.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 8:27AM (Unverified) said

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I addiction to fighting addiction a problem?

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 9:18AM (Unverified) said

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I would be very interested to see Massively's stand on the addictive properties of television or Life cereal.

Okay, perhaps that's a smidge unfair. MMOs, being active rather than passive entertainment, are more involving than a bowl of cereal. Generally, though, that's one of their strengths. Does it make the games too fun for their own good? Well, too much of *anything* is a bad thing.

Putting a warning label of some sort on MMOs unfairly singles them out, stigmatises us as MMO gamers, and is a rank sop to the myriad of forces out there that are threatened by the rise of computers and gaming as an entertainment medium. This gentleman your site has devoted so much space to has already said here he's going to be on Dr. Phil.

What exactly do we expect this programme to tell us about the evils of MMO gaming? Picture it- stock footage of a level 2 Orc running around in WoW to the beat of ominous drums as the image fades into grisly black and white as a narrator intones an out of context statistic about how many babies have been eaten by feral gamers.

I exaggerate but you see where I'm going with this. He's being used and so is this website. In the name of "fairness" we're allowing ourselves to be denigrated and have labels foisted upon us that we shouldn't have to accept.

Why do we have to focus on this gentleman's concern for 'families being broken apart' when the norm as far as I've seen is: friendships being made and strengthened, couples playing together, and whole families playing together? How much time will Dr. Phil dwell on the positive sociological effects of gaming? 10 seconds? If we're fortunate.

I will not submit to having MMOs treated like packs of cigarettes. There is a legitimate case to be made for computer gaming and a robust defence to be had for our rights. By singling out MMOs for some sort of government sanctioned warning, we begin on the slippery slope of legal precedent. What other concessions will we make to those who are less than fond of gaming?

There is a point where these games take over, yes, and where life can be subsumed by an all-encompassing grind. A point where patch notes that advertise a nerf to your class stab you and you want to wring a dev. That's when you have a problem, when you've lost sight of reality and lost your grounding- that such trivial things make you so angry. But it is *not* addiction.

Using that word obscures the actual unique nature of over-involvement with MMOs. This isn't something a patch can fix, this isn't a physical issue. It's utterly and completely psychological. In order to fix the problem we have to call it by its name.

And it isn't "addiction."

My fellow gamers, let's show some pride.

Posted: Oct 15th 2008 10:11PM (Unverified) said

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@quinnae: i think you are making a false dichotomy between an "addiction" and a "psychological" "over-involvement". true it isn't a "physical" addiction like nicotine but a psychological addiction is still dangerous. but i do agree with your point that the genre is stigmatized. but not just by people who hate computer games. it's stigmatized by people who love them too. probably cuz we feel susceptible to becoming addicted. that's how i feel anyway.
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:02AM (Unverified) said

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The problem with psychological addiction is that it's a lot trickier to diagnose and quantify. As I said, there's no 'patch' for MMO addiction, no chemical substance we can use to wean ourselves off of the games.

Generally speaking, people who get "addicted" to MMOs are guilty primarily of taking them altogether too seriously. When you look at, say, the WoW forums and bear witness to the invective of the games most vituperative whiners, and how visibly angry certain changes make them... that's where the problem lies.

People will play these games long after they've stopped being fun for them, making them vulnerable to a spiral of bitterness. This is a serious problem, no doubt, as it bizarrely leads these individuals to invest ever more time in the game. No it's not healthy.

It's an addiction in a populist sense, but in a medical sense? That's very tricky to determine. The jury is still out in the field of psychology on whether or not gaming addiction is real or whether the things we *associate* with it are actually something else. Often the root causes of over-involvement have less to do with the properties of the game than particular unresolved psychological issues certain people may have. But this is all very complicated and thus not very good daytime television.

Which is exactly why we need to stop indulging the tabloid press' scare tactics and stand up with reason to say that it ain't all bad. Invariably, these sorts of campaigns focus on the negative, which will have negative consequences for us all.
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:24AM aboutblank77 said

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Bah, I wish I could get addicted to an mmo. At least, if it didn't always sound like addicts were having no fun at all. I know a guy who always complained when he played wow. He was always intending to quit and he always said it was a waste of time, but he played way more than I ever did, with four lvl 70s to my 1, and _I_ was enjoying myself.

When I stopped enjoying it, I stopped playing. I even stopped playing a couple times in the long road to getting my only character to 70, just because I was more interested in something else for awhile.

Sometimes I envy the addicted. They get things done, no foolin'. But then I'm not sure I really care to play a game I don't enjoy anyhow.

It's weird though because I'm pretty sure I have an addictive personality. I'm obsessive and I'm an escapist, naturally and by choice. I guess I'm just waiting for something worth being addicted to...

Until then I have a little trouble sympathizing with these stories.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:27AM aboutblank77 said

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Bah, I wish I could get addicted to an mmo. At least, if it didn't always sound like addicts were having no fun at all. I know a guy who always complained when he played wow. He was always intending to quit and he always said it was a waste of time, but he played way more than I ever did, with four lvl 70s to my 1, and _I_ was enjoying myself.

When I stopped enjoying it, I stopped playing. I even stopped playing a couple times in the long road to getting my only character to 70, just because I was more interested in something else for awhile.

Sometimes I envy the addicted. They get things done, no foolin'. But then I'm not sure I really care to play a game I don't enjoy anyhow.

It's weird though because I'm pretty sure I have an addictive personality. I'm obsessive and I'm an escapist, naturally and by choice. I guess I'm just waiting for something worth being addicted to...

Until then I have a little trouble sympathizing with these stories.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:29AM aboutblank77 said

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Ug. Can I delete one of these somehow?
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:33AM (Unverified) said

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I'm not sure if the wording would make a difference to any of you, but not long after writing the original post where I proposed that 'warning label,' I suggested something slightly more agreeable that doesn't require the word "addiction."

Excessive Game Play May Be Hazardous To Your Health

-Brad

http://www.exgamer.net

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 12:51PM Jeromai said

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Right.

The Coffee in This Cup May Be Hot and Scald You

Excessive Consumption of This Fast Food Product May Make You Fat

If You Drink Excessive Amounts of Alcohol, You Could Die

Just how stupid did we want to get with warning labels?
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 1:00PM (Unverified) said

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Photosensitive seizure warning. Done

ESRB content advisory. Done

The gaming industry has already acknowledged much of the risk associated with their product. This just finishes the job.
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 6:07PM (Unverified) said

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The rest of you can call me a heretic, but I see Exgamer's point here. People with addiction-tending personalities can become as easily addicted to an MMO as they can to say gambling.

If you find yourself saying "Just one more boss", or "Just one more quest", or just a little more anything, there may just be a problem. To recognize that tendency in oneself, and pull away from it, is the sign of a strong person.
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Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 11:58AM (Unverified) said

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I believe Quinnae makes several good points. In the end I'm not sure that your argument hasn't made several points IN FAVOR of labeling said behavior "addiction". I don't posess the knowledge or schooling to make that determination, but I would like to share a couple of points which have been made in some valid "addiction" studies in the past concerning MMOs.
1st, one of the things that leads players to spend such long hours playing MMOs is the absence of a final goal. You can't "win" an MMO. You will never reach a point where you beat that final boss and, following a dramatic and cinematic cutscene, have credits roll and "finished" with the game. It continues on, and on, and on, and there is nearly always "something else" you can go do. Many of the more "productive" players will set goals for themselves in-game (i.e. getting exalted reputation with some faction), but these are always temporary and obtainable with time. Following these goals, they find another goal... and another... and another.
It has long been my suspicion that the developers of the most successful MMOs are constantly coming up with new ways to KEEP YOU PLAYING THE GAME, and for obvious reasons. Long grinds, absurdly difficult boss encounters, penalties for death, long travel times, etc. etc. etc.

2nd, it is a theory that the biggest reason people who exhibit the most similar behavior to "addicted" (like the guy mentioned above, who continued playing the game even though it wasn't fun any longer) continue to do so because they feel they have an investment made in the game, and that, to give up now would make them feel like all those hundreds of hours spent playing will be wasted. I have experienced this myself in the past. "I can't quit now, look how powerful I've become. I have all of this achievment under my belt, I can't just let that go to waste. I should continue on until I find something worthwhile in the game again." So, this becomes a self perpetuating cycle of hours invested = incentive to continue playing.

These two factors, I believe, explain most of the "addictive behavior" seen in the most unhealthy of players. I am a longtime MMO player, and have enjoyed several online experiences, and made some good friends in the process. I have also been in ruts where I plainly and simply spent too much time online. It can become unhealthy behavior without even realizing it and I simply wanted to contribute some information to this discussion in the hopes that someone may gleen something from it.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 12:47PM Jeromai said

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"To deny the basic reality of the MMO addiction problem is ridiculous."

Rubbish. Please read up on drugs and smoking and alcohol addictions. These habits are addictive because you are imbibing chemicals that are addictive. The chemicals also damage your bodily organs in direct ways, liver, lungs, etc.

Despite this proven harm, only one is illegal, another has warning labels, and the last is a case where it is fairly socially acceptable in moderation, though some have serious problems with addiction to it.

Let's not get me started on the social acceptability of caffeine. It's addictive too, in the proper sense of the word.

How are these chemical dependencies similar to popularly-termed "addictions" like excessive amounts of television, shopping, MMOs, etc.?

The problem with these "addictions" is excessive behavior. The reasons why are usually escapism from other more pressing problems, and/or getting hooked to the little buzz from the endorphins released by one's brain for doing that activity, coupled with a lack of discipline and self-control or understanding of the word 'moderation.'

Now there are plenty of people who deceive themselves or rationalize away self-harmful behavior, and no amount of labeling: whether it's warning labels or creating names and symptoms to shift away blame, is going to change that.

I'm also sure there is a small subset of people whose brain chemistry is such that that endorphin pull is too much to be resisted consciously. It's not just an MMO thing. They're going to have tendencies to get addicted to anything that triggers the endorphin rush. They'll need chemical help then, for essentially an addiction to the endorphins in their brain. Not warning labels to things that trigger it.

I talk about addiction here because that's the pet buzzword being used. If we want to discuss the factors and design that encourage people to keep playing an MMO, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 3:01PM (Unverified) said

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Wow, two articles on this in as many days?

I left a comment on the other one, but to expand upon it: people who get addicted to video games have addictive personalities and will get addicted to something else until they deal with the root cause of the propensity.

It's not video games' faults, as there's no physical change being wrought to your body as in the demonstrative case of drugs. It's a psychological and habitual thing, and if it's not over video games it will be television or driving fast or eating cookies.

If we break things down like this we're failing to acknowledge personal responsibility and personal involvement and are instead actively saying "these things" are the reason for the addiction when they aren't.

So no, I wouldn't deny that people can get addicted to MMOGs any more than someone can get addicted to arguing online, but the root cause is not a chemical dependency and shouldn't be stigmatized any more than we'd go after people who play paintball or laser tag too much.

And though I have sympathies for people who couldn't draw the line and let things get destructive, they're in the minority and that should be highlighted in any mention of a "problem."

Posted: Oct 3rd 2008 3:48PM (Unverified) said

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I'm grateful to be having the debate on game addiction, and if my site can help someone continue to play but moderate their past time to avoid what I put my self and my family through, then it will all have been worth it.

Thanks to those - the vast majority over the past two days - who've visited ExGamer.net with an open mind and posted thoughtful comments on the packaging issue.

The warning label is an idea I've had to help parents make informed decisions on behalf of their kids. I may bring it to the attention of my local member of the provincial legislature here in Canada for his consideration.

However, adult gamers like me who have played excessively need to look deep into their lives and find the source of the unrest and spiritual poverty that caused the felt need to escape 80 hours per week in the first place.

In my case, it's a combination of factors: adult ADHD, bipolar mood disorder, career and educational setbacks and a complex history of unresolved personal grief and loss. But don't feel sorry for me. I've got plenty of support and good professional counselling.

Thanks for your input.

Brad

http://www.exgamer.net

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