What Is The Truth About Gaming Addiction?

By John Walker on November 12th, 2007 at 12:04 pm.

[This piece originally appeared in PC Gamer six months ago. It's the result of about four months of investigation into the connections between PC gaming and addiction. I interviewed some of those leading the field in treatment for what they believe to be gaming addiction (including Keith Bakker, head of the Smith And Jones Center in Holland, famous for being the first to offer treatment for gaming addicts), and those arguing that there is no such thing, as well as speaking to people who have suffered as a result of gaming, and those looking to offer simply research (including the team behind Project Massive). The aim was to write a non-sensational piece that approached the subject objectively, without an agenda to prove things one way or the other. A big credit and huge thanks must go to PC Gamer's deputy editor, Tim Edwards, and editor, Ross Atherton, both of whom provided huge amounts of help, support and direction for compiling this enormous lump of work into something readable.]

What is the truth about gaming addiction?

“Ready for this?” he asks, his voice speeding up. “I believe gaming is currently the greatest threat to our society.”

Keith Bakker is the man behind the Smith & Jones Centre for addiction, the clinic at the centre of the current controversy over gaming addiction. It all began in July last year when the centre caught the attention of the world’s press, opening the first dedicated gaming addiction clinic, both as an out-patient programme, and then later, a residential treatment programme. Having noticed that an increasing number of their chemically addicted clients seemed to be compulsively playing games, the staff began to recognise many of the traits that indicate addiction: an inability to regulate how much time was spent playing them, continuing to play despite the negative effects on their lives, and a progressive worsening of their relationship with games.

They believed it was something very serious, and soon the clinic was taking in clients purely for their gaming habit. “A typical client would be in his late teens, he’s probably from a broken home,” says Bakker. “He doesn’t socialise, and he’s probably stopped going to school. He plays games for around 15 hours a day, and cannot regulate himself.”

So why does Britain’s industry representative, ELSPA, say there’s no such thing as gaming addiction? And why does Dr Richard Wood of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University describe it as a “myth”? Is gaming an innocent pastime, or about to bring down civilisation as we know it? What are the responsibilities for the gaming industry? How is gaming affecting us? What is the truth about gaming addiction?

smith & jones wild horses center

The Argument For

There are tragic stories out there. 21 year old Shawn Woolley killed himself in 2002 after prolonged stints playing EverQuest for 12 hours a day. In 2004, Zhang Xiaoyi threw himself out of a 24th floor window after 36 hours playing World of Warcraft. And the Daily Mail exploded last year with the tales of Leo Barbero, a 17 year old whose muscles had atrophied after spending 18 hours a day, once more, with WoW. These are horrific tales, inextricably linked with playing games, but are they caused by games? Were these people addicted in such a way that their fates were sealed? In other words, could we be in trouble?

“There’s a lot of press that would love for me to become the anti-gaming guy,” explains Keith Bakker, director of the Dutch Smith & Jones clinic. “But I’m not going to do that. As crazy as it sounds, I’m not even against drugs. I mean, if you can take drugs safely, go ahead. What I am against is addiction.”

A former addict himself, Bakker was working in the music industry when he faced his own alcoholism and heroin addiction. Based in the Netherlands, he could find no abstinence-based (Twelve Step) centres in the country, and sought treatment in the UK. Determined to prevent others from having to do the same, he established the Smith & Jones Centre in Holland to offer the services he had required. He is in no doubt that gaming is addictive.

It’s about an inability to self-regulate, he claims. “I’m an alcoholic, you might not be,” says Bakker. “We could agree to go to a bar for a couple of drinks until 9pm. Come 9pm, you’d go home. I’d go to Mexico.” It’s this lack of self-control that he says first shows problem behaviours in the gamer. “A gaming addict may sit down to play for an hour, but they won’t be able to stop. They’ll play for sixteen hours, and miss school or work. But then the next time they believe they’ll be able to control themselves, and they repeat it again.” He adds Einstein’s words, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Bakker is of the school of addictionologists who believe that twenty percent of people are born with a genetic predisposition to addiction. The US National Institute of Heath backs this up, their paper, “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior – The Science of Addiction,” stating,

“genetic factors account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction, including the effects of environment on gene expression and function.”

But it shouldn’t be forgotten that trauma can lead to addiction as well, points out games researcher, and self-diagnosed gaming addict, Neils Clark. “We can develop an addiction through a severe enough disturbance in our everyday lives,” he goes on. “If we play in a healthy manner, and experience something along those lines, it can cause us to let our gaming fall out of balance.” It’s striking to talk to Clark. As someone who cannot regulate himself when gaming, and someone who struggles as a consequence of this, it brings the subject home. People seem to be suffering.

“In high school I went to this group therapy,” says Neils. “My sister had gone to rehab for heavy drug use, so I went into the therapy in order to see what she was dealing with. A lot of the people there were 50, alcoholics, meth users, previously convicts, you know. When it came time I talk about my problems, I said, ‘Gee, I don’t know, I think I just play games too much.’ They laughed, naturally.” Now he is off games, having managed to successfully play sensibly for a couple of months, until a recent collapse with a nineteen hour Civilisation binge. Clark wants people to pin down an understanding of gaming addiction. “We do need some baseline, so that we can start to help people who are flipping BMWs and jumping from buildings. We need that right now.”

In his essay, Are Games Addictive: The State of Science, Clark explains, “A normal personality usually has a number of activities that they regularly use to feel excited, relaxed, or what have you. Yet people are drawn to some things over others. A huge gambling win is more attractive than cleaning a toilet. For most people. When the soon-to-be addict finds that special activity, they can have [an] ‘aha’ moment… At its most extreme, such a behavioural addiction dominates a person’s life. They need the activity, and they’ll sacrifice nearly anything – long term plans, the company of people, even work in order to have it.”

The argument goes: someone who continues to play games despite these negative consequences directly affecting their life and relationships, is showing signs of addiction. Bakker, perhaps unsurprisingly, takes it one stage further. He says the addiction is a chemical one.

This is thanks to dopamine, the naturally occurring neurohormone released in the brain, used to fire up the pleasure and reward areas. Gaming, as anyone who has hunched over their keyboard, breath held, heart racing, will know, is stimulating. This gets our glands churning out dopamine, our neurons get wired, and we feel that rush of reward and pleasure. The argument made by both Bakker and Clark is that repeating this process enough causes our brain to become accustomed to it, which means we need to work harder to get the same level of stimulation. This, it is claimed, gives us the progressive behaviour needed for addiction. And Clark’s essay observes, “When the dopamine producing behaviour is finally stopped, the brain isn’t used to the lowered dopamine levels. At this point, craving and addiction enter the picture.”

dopamine

The Argument Against

“There is no such clinical criteria as ‘video game addiction’,” states Dr Richard Wood. His forthcoming paper, The Myth of Video Game “Addiction” argues, “It has not been acknowledged by any reputable organisation responsible for defining disorders of the mind or body (e.g., The American Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organisation etc.).” (It should be noted that the APA are currently investigating the topic to consider whether they will recognise it).

His analysis of the cases of claimed gaming addiction have lead him to conclude four main considerations necessary for the debate:

1. That some people are being mislabeled “addicts” by concerned parents, partners or others, when they have no problems with their game playing behaviour.
2. That some people who have other underlying problems may choose to play games to avoid dealing with those problems.
3. That some people who are concerned about their own behaviour because of either 1 or 2 above end up labeling themselves as video game “addicts.”
4. That some people are not very good at managing how much time they spend playing video games.

It’s by these same criteria that ELSPA, the industry representative for British gaming, deny the existence of gaming addiction. Their website, Ask About Games, was set up to answer key questions for a non-gaming audience, and at the top of its FAQ appears, “Is it possible for my child to become addicted to games?” Their answer in full:

“People play games because they enjoy them; and some people enjoy them more than others. A casual book reader will read books as part of their daily activities, and may well exercise or socialise. A person who absolutely loves books may be blinkered to everything else that goes on around them (the same goes for people who watch too many movies, or too much TV). Games playing is simply another daily activity that gives people pleasure. If they don’t enjoy the games, they won’t play them. If they do, they may play them occasionally, or as much as possible. Playing computer and video games is not a physical addiction.”

But how does ELSPA respond to the rapidly increasing belief in gaming addiction? While no one at ELSPA was available for an interview, director general, Paul Jackson, sent us this quote:

“The primary enjoyment of computer and video games is entertainment and engagement. As with any enjoyable pastime there is an argument that you can over indulge, perhaps play too much. However, again with any enjoyable pastime, it goes without saying that those who play computer and video games – and parents who supervise their children’s play – need to draw the line between healthy enjoyment and playing too much. Put simply, it is important to play for a sensible amount of time. Games as a part of a healthy lifestyle, if you like.”

Once again, it comes down to self control – the very behaviour that those advocating addiction claim to be impossible for the addict. Dr Wood points out a distinction. “A young child may find it hard not to suck their thumb, many people find it difficult not to eat snacks between meals, limit the amount of coffee that they drink or the salt they put on meals.” The confusion between simple negative behaviour, and that of an addict, blurs the issue claims Wood. “Some people do not want to limit or stop playing video games, even though friends or relatives are expressing concerns. Some people may also feel personally neglected as a result of a loved one’s game playing. Media hype about video game ‘addiction’ may lead some concerned relatives to define perfectly ‘normal’ behaviour as problematic.”

So what is “perfectly normal behaviour”? Is excessive play simply a result of irresponsibility, or poor time management. Or can it be put down to a more serious factor? While acknowledging that people may turn to excessive play as a means to deal with their problems, Wood believes that this simply a symptom of their problems, and not the cause.

“Of course some people play video games excessively,” Clark explains, “but defining the point at which the behaviour becomes problematic is far from clear. If people cannot deal with their problems, and choose instead to immerse themselves in a game, then surely their gaming behaviour is actually a symptom and not the cause of their problem?”

The argument is certainly not that games are bad, from either side. Keith Bakker is quick to stress the positive sides of gaming. He explains that as a part of his programme, clients are taken paintballing. “These gamers just destroy them. We have the kids that are chemically dependent, and we have the gamers, and we put them in two teams. And at the end of the game, the chemically dependent kids – they end up looking like Rembrandt. There’s so much to be said about how these kids think, so if you can take that stuff and turn it in a positive direction, you’ve got incredible young people. It’s great fun to see these kids when they get it, when they say, ‘OK, the game is killing me. And I’m not going to do it any more.’ And all of a sudden they blossom, and that’s fun.”

Bakker’s position is not entirely helped by his lapsing into the hyperbolic. Statements like his claim of gaming’s danger to our society don’t do anything to get those who disagree with him to listen, or take him seriously. But he’s passionately convinced that gaming addiction is only treatable through complete abstinence, via a twelve-step programme; and in amongst his tendency to opt for media hype, he does have a serious point that he believes isn’t being heard.

“Gamers have a unique problem. With substance addicts, they tend to develop their addiction in their late teens or early twenties. They have developed socially beforehand. With gamers, their addiction can develop as young as ten or twelve years old, meaning they never develop socially in the real world. When they are freed from their addiction, they’re still not ready to reintegrate with society. When we treat them, we need a programme where we teach them new real-world ways to socialise.” In other words, they aren’t able to develop this self-regulation that Wood, ELSPA and others state we require.

Is this the extreme of the “geek” label? Are we, in fact, quickly dismissing those with a problem, laughingly calling them a name and leaving them to it? Or indeed laughingly calling ourselves a name, and ignoring our own situation?

Project Massive

New Findings

Surveys and papers are appearing increasingly rapidly, attempting to identify common factors among those who excessively game. Part of this is driven by our love of finding something to worry about, and since there’s been no indication that games can give us cancer, addiction might be the next best stick to hit them with. Part of it is the fear that we might be damaging ourselves unwittingly. But despite the field being extremely new, at last some research is appearing that takes a balanced and reasoned perspective. If we’re to understand where we stand with games, and whether we need to be protecting ourselves, this seems the ideal approach.

Project Massive is one of the biggest studies into online gaming and its social effects to have been carried out. The work of Ph.D. researchers A Fleming Seay and Robert E Kraut, it has followed nearly five thousand gamers over a five years, exploring their play patterns, commitment to their guilds, and changes in their personality traits such as sociability, extraversion and depression. Their [recently] published paper collating the results, Project Massive: Self-Regulation and the Problematic Use of Online Gaming, presents conclusions that, if anything, find the common ground between the opposing sides of the addiction debate.

Choosing to avoid the word “addiction” in order to escape semantic frustrations, the project uses the term “problematic use” to define a player’s negative relationship with gaming, and the consequences it may have on their lives. (It is continuing despite these negative consequences that many identify as addiction). The phrase means, “the state of powerlessness a person experiences when, despite attempts to stop or reduce their usage, they are unable to walk away from a game (or substance, or behaviour) even in the face of persistent and deleterious effects on their life.” The paper starts off stating their position on online gaming.

“One reason for the popularity of online games is that they meld the fun and challenge of video games with the social rewards of an online community. Participation in online communities allows us to stay in touch with old friends, meet new people, learn, and share information. It also enables self-exploration and discovery as users extend and idealize their existing personalities or try out new ways of relating to one another that can positively affect real life relationships.” [Project Massive: Self-Regulation and the Problematic Use of Online Gaming page 1]

These are recognisable reasons why the MMO has become so very popular. The social side is often ignored when counting the numbers of hours people spend within a game. However, this is something else in which Bakker recognises problems. He goes so far as to compare the guilds of MMOs with cults, arguing that they share a number of similar behaviour patterns. Promotion based on increased devotion, and peer pressure to keep playing, and moreso against leaving, ensnare people, argues the maverick. (“Don’t drink the Azerothian Koolaid,” grins Neils Clark). Seay and Kraut, staying far more moderate than Bakker, note (from the same paper),

“Some fear that virtual communities detract from social activity and involvement in the real world, replacing real social relationships with less robust online substitutes and causing users to turn away from more traditional media.”

The team were looking to see what caused problematic use, and who was most prone to struggle with it, believing that an inability to self-regulate would be the most likely indicator of those who would develop further problems. And this proved to be very much the case. People who found that they were bad at controlling the amount they played, or the appropriateness of when they played, showed, “significantly higher levels of future problematic use.” From this it was concluded that,

“Clearly, the self-regulatory processes are essential in allowing online gaming to remain a benign and enjoyable pass-time rather than an obstructive pre-occupation. Active self-regulation appears to be a player’s best defense.”

Seay says of the results, “It is clear from my perspective that online games are intrinsically no more ‘dangerous’ than any other recreational activity that may require a substantial commitment of resources (e.g. time, money, attention). It is always incumbent upon the individual to manage the resources they direct toward a given pursuit, and this is no more or less true of online gaming than it is of gardening or stamp collecting.” However, this doesn’t make problematic use go away, and it doesn’t remove responsibility from developers, she states.

“Absolutely not. No one is in a better position to help people with problematic usage issues than the developers. Successful self-regulation is based on monitoring one’s own behavior and comparing that behavior to internal and external standards. If, in addition to experience points and kill counts, games made a point of reporting usage information to the player in a lightweight, non-invasive, and value neutral way, the players who most need the help would be better able to manage their own behavior. Supplying an arcane and rarely used “/played” command is not enough.”

The study’s conclusion appears to indicate two things: Firstly, gaming itself is not a likely cause of addiction, but rather that those who are pre-disposed to addiction are far more likely to develop problems with gaming. Secondly, that we as gamers need to be a lot more self-aware than we perhaps currently are. But in the end, “It seems safe to say that the data provide no indication that online gaming is a broadly negative activity,” the paper reports. “On the contrary, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed indicate no elevation in loneliness, depression, or problematic use. This seems to indicate that, for most, online gaming is an adaptive and enjoyable, or at least benign, activity.”

Conclusion

Conclusion

Project Massive’s report finishes by identifying the importance of self-regulation. And it seems that this is the point that all come to from whichever side of the debate they may start.

Gaming, whether it’s biologically addictive, a severe catalyst for problematic behaviour, or a pastime capable of inspiring dangerous levels of irresponsibility, is still hurting people. By no means everyone – Bakker notes, “Yes, there are millions of people who could really be in deep shit with this. Most aren’t.” – but enough for us to start taking notice. Self-regulation – being in control of ourselves – is something that’s easy to ignore, and yet appears to be something with potentially serious consequences. It’s important to remember that being carried away by a game is not the same as being out of control – a game should have us lose track of time if it’s doing its job right. But when our lost time begins to hurt us, damage our lives, we owe it to ourselves to take that seriously.

Project Massive’s Seay believes that responsibility can lie with those around the compulsive gamer.

“I am often asked for advice by frustrated parents in regard to children who are ‘only interested in games’ and ‘spend hours playing like a zombie’. When asked what they should do I always give them the same answer, ‘Pick up the controller.’ When a parent plays video games with a child, three important things happen; the activity suddenly becomes a social one, the parent is able to model self-regulating behavior for the child, and finally, the parent is able to monitor the content of the game. All this for the low cost of spending some time with your kid doing something they are interested in.”

And the same goes for adults too.

“If more girlfriends and husbands would simply engage in the activity with their loved ones it could become a unifying forum for relational exchange rather than a divisive wedge between them. If you are interested enough in the person playing the game, it seems to me you can overcome your lack of interest in the game itself.”

These same ideas are echoed by ELSPA’s Paul Jackson. “Parents who supervise their children’s play must do so in a responsible way and act as a modifier, as they would in any other circumstance.”

When asked where he thinks responsibility lies within the gaming industry, Keith Bakker simply says, “What I appreciate is people looking at this and saying, what this can be is a problem, and if it is, you’d better get some help. But if it’s not, go ahead and enjoy your game recreationally. I believe there is a responsibility to call it what it is.” He is, in effect, asking the games industry to complete the first step of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step programme: admit that it has a problem. And the same responsibility falls to us as gamers. Do you?

Useful Resources

www.neilsclark.com

A self-diagnosed games addict himself, Clark researches gaming addiction, and writes a regularly updated blog with articles on gaming addiction written in an accessible way, even to non-gamers. He is currently writing a book on the subject, with interesting insights appearing on the site.

www.projectmassive.com

The home of the recently completed Ph.D. project following nearly 5000 gamers over five years, studying the effects online gaming has had on their lives.

www.olganonboard.org

On-line Gamers Anonymous is a twelve-step, self-help organisation, for gaming addicts. They offer support to people who believe they have a gaming addiction, or their families and friends.

www.netaddiction.com

Dr. Kimberly Young is the founder of the Centre for Net Addiction Recovery, and author of Caught In The Net. Her site contains information that some are using in the study of gaming addiction.

Ask About Games

ELSPA’s gaming guide for non-gamers, including concerned parents.

GamRes

Independent research and consultancy services to help understand gaming behaviour.

Smith & Jones Wild Horses Center

Keith Bakker’s clinic in Holland that was first to treat in-patients for what they believe to be chronic gaming addiction.

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150 Comments »

  1. Ben Abraham says:

    Haha, I haven’t even read this article yet, I just thought that it was really funny that the post BELOW this one (and hence previous) was titled “Fall of Society”… WTG RPS on predicting the future!

  2. Thelps says:

    This is an excellent and very objective (through plenty of subjectivity) article on gaming addiction. Easily the most even-handed treatment I’ve read on the matter so far. I’ll definitely be linking this to a number of people I know who just don’t ‘get’ my interest in games.

    Perhaps more interesting, this is a very good debate on the nature of addiction itself, and a tendency that our modern society has to label nearly every passionately practiced leisure activity as an addiction. That in itself adds even more scope to the value of the article.

    Thanks for compiling such a great set of opinions and information on a really controversial subject, John.

    • torchedEARTH says:

      There are a lot of things that can kill you if you do them for nineteen hours straight.

      People suffering from future shock tend to target games though.

  3. AbyssUK says:

    Gaming addiction is real, an addiction to WoW and games in general was a big part in me nearly screwing up my life (honest). After a massive slap to the face wake up call.. I’ve now learnt to control it.. as with everything in life its about balance and I got it very wrong and paid for it.. luckily for me though it all turned out nice in the end! but only after I realised I had a problem and did something about it!. If I’d crawled back into my escapismic (is that a word?) world of computer games I don’t know what I would have done.

    Gaming addiction is an issue, not as bad as this crazy ‘wild horses’ guy makes out but its there and should be recognised. It shouldn’t just be laughed off! I bet there are people reading this right now you think they might have it.

    My advice would be to stop kidding yourself and do something about it before you get really hurt.

  4. essell says:

    Good work, Mr. Walker!

  5. Thiefsie says:

    I’ve seen WOW suck up so many people that I stay well away from it and pretty much any other MMO or farming game (time based in any way – even extending to broadly cover RTS [as well as rpg] where you spend a lot of time waiting for things to build, currency to harvest etc). I spend a lot of time gaming and more time reading about gaming that it definitely does cause SOME detriment to certain things – most notably study… but now that is gone the pressures of everyday life and work are taking over. I’m lucky as I am probably old enough to realise this, but I fear for the younger types (say under 16?) that may not be mature enough or clear-headed enough to see beyond a great form of entertainment for being just that, and little more.

    I just play less and less games than I ever used to, which is both a little sad (there is A LOT I do want to play but don’t get the chance – perhaps adding to the excessive amount I actually read up on gaming in general media) and well perhaps a good thing. Unfortunately (or maybe not) I am the minority in my social group and looked down upon for my gaming habbits which keeps me from revelling deeper down the spiral.
    These days it just gets pushed into the background as far as priorities go… maybe one day I’ll have the right circumstances to go back and play through the huge backlog I want to tackle… retirement anyone??

  6. Kim says:

    I used to play Final Fantasy XI quite frequently in my early University days and I did (admittedly….) stay up all night once or twice. Passing my degree was MUCH more important to me however, so I willingly uninstalled the game from my PC.

    I do miss the game – it’s a very strange ‘home-sick’ type of feeling that I find to be rather silly at times
    I didn’t play to level grind, or farm though – probably why I have good memories from that game :P

    I find myself wanting to play again, but I know I don’t have time. Other hobbies, work, boyfriend etc etc :P But I can see why it’s easy to slip into bad self-regulation and it’s an issue that should be taken seriously.

    Great artical!

  7. Grill says:

    Interesting and well-researched piece John; it’s still very open because the two sides seem like they could agree on what addiction is (measurable by dopamine levels) but the side that claim there is addiction need to back their claims up with actual studies of dopamine in the brains of putative addicts when exposed and withdrawn from the stimulus compared to those who don’t have addictive patterns. Meanwhile, the other side (ELSPA, etc) just seem to be saying that it doesn’t exist or avoiding the question, which is not exactly helpful and is reminiscent of the smoking industry’s behaviour in the 1950s onwards.

    Whatever the situation, there are unhealthy patterns of computer use (I’m not saying game use, because I don’t think it’s solely linked to that) and there are people who need coping strategies. I’ve said many times I’m a computer addict and have often adopted extreme strategies to stop myself using it (for my university finals I gave way my power cables so I couldn’t be tempted.) I personally believe it is an addiction; I do feel anxious and depressed when away from computers, and in the past have taken weirdly extreme steps to get online again.

    • Josh W says:

      An alternative perspective:
      I used to think I was addicted to computers/the internet as well, but I personally found that it was not actually true: I went on a random residential course where I had no computer access, but had a nice fulfilling time solving problems and meeting intelligent people. Didn’t feel a need to go on the computer once.

      Only a few weeks before I’d had two days without internet access and was climbing up the walls.

      The difference was that the computer was providing something that I also could get through other means, but didn’t realise I needed. I identified the needs with the standard means I had for providing for them, and so I would occasionally cut out computers from my life, only to find myself extremely bored by the alternatives I could think of.

      The trick seems to be to try different things. Sounds obvious, but finding new things that were rewarding allowed me to swap from one thing to another. Learning about what I needed for happy psychological functioning in a deeper way, and also having options that could fit around other boring stuff I needed to do.

      Edit – And also, how old is this thread? Did I just get here following spam bots? Weird.

  8. Ian Dorsch says:

    Very nice work here, John. This is by far the best treatment of the issue I’ve seen

  9. Thelps says:

    To clarify my original post, I definitely agree and believe computer and game addiction exists (I believe nearly everything that gives pleasure in this world is addictive, directly related to the fact that dopamine itself is addictive!). I also believe that the nature of games, specifically, makes them arguably designed with an element of addictiveness factored in . In the vast majority of cases this is in the most benign, well-meaning way possible: addictive, moreish game = fun, entertaining, engaging game (Although I take exception to some MMOs, which really do seem to be shamelessly attempting to lengthen subscriptions by dangling the metaphorical carrot just a BIT more than is strictly healthy…).

    However, ultimately, I believe that addiction, in the absence of a physical dependence, is the result of some lack or dissatisfaction with life (in many cases, a hugely trivial dissatisfaction, like the game being more fun than going to school) and that, for the majority of people, it’s a simple matter of keeping your priorities in perspective. On a personal level, repeating the mantra that real life is REAL, games are not.

    That’s my basic issue with the whole media emphasis on games as addictions (along with so many other things in life: fatty food, television, sex, etc.). We’re socially becoming addictophobes (I coin terms too!), constantly frightened of the habit forming potential of things, without thought to how to integrate such things into a healthy life.

  10. ran93r says:

    A few years back I would think nothing of dumping 16 hours a day into WoW, if I had the free time I could easily slip back into that (lets ignore the fact that I’m a lot wiser about the repetitive nature of the game now). I went from raider to casual and all it took was a cunning sperm finding his way to an egg of choice. I still play WoW with the other half from time to time but I don’t regret the hours spent so far and would even talk anyone out of labelling me an addict. I played that much because I had the time between freelance work and more importantly, could get away with it. I’m a socially responsible adult, honest!
    Great read though.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    For me, there’s always a difference between *addiction* and *abuse*. Frankly, abuse is natural. I abuse alcohol regularly, as is only natural.

    But that’s a different debate to this one. Great article, obv.

    KG

  12. wiper says:

    Interesting article, and one which makes clear the semantic issue which drives the argument – what exactly addiction is.

    Personally, I believe that you can describe gaming as addictive /if/ you’re also willing to define television, books, sports – any form of entertainment – as being addictive. All can potentially lead to excess at the cost of other activities, and we have words for the people who obsess over them – couch potatoes, bookworms, fanatics (or sportsmen/women, though they’re liable to have been plain fans at some point). It’s just that games (and, thinking about it, music) don’t really have a phrase to call their own, beyond perhaps ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’, a phrase which could be equally applied to unusual depths of knowledge in any non-sporting activity.

    I think that a distinction is made because gaming is perceived as less-healthy than sports obsession, less worthy than book-obsession and, well, simply less accepted than TV obsession (also it’s slightly more proactive than the latter two, which to some actually makes it worse than simply choosing to veg-out over a soap opera).

    But that’s just my two cents, and is pretty much covered already in the article.

  13. Pete says:

    “2. That some people who have other underlying problems may choose to play games to avoid dealing with those problems.”

    I know a therapist who thinks all addiction, even to drugs and alcohol, is a result of this factor and I tend to agree. Every person I’ve met who is addicted to fantasy sports, gambling, smoking, drugs, eating disorders, etc. has also had other traumas in their life that have affected them greatly. I don’t see why this wouldn’t apply to video games as well.

  14. Nick says:

    My father used to complain about the amount of time I spent playing games. He spent just as much time sitting on his arse watching the golf channel and eating crisps, though.

  15. John Walker says:

    Pete, your position could answer the question about whether games are addictive or not too. If people are predisposed to addiction, either genetically (50% of children born to alcoholics go on to to be alcoholics, although you could argue that this is a result of the trauma of being raised by alcoholics) or through prior trauma, then do games latch into that slot?

    Of course, the reason this is so controversial is because it’s being suggested to everyone who says they’ve been addicted of having experienced trauma. And that doesn’t win you any friends. The response could be that people are far more likely to simply exhibit some manner of compulsive behaviour than have a specific addiction.

  16. Piratepete says:

    My wife and I both played Wow together for 2.5 years, becoming raid leaders and respected members of a raiding guild, unfortunately our home life dwindled to nothing as the amount of time we played rose to 40 hours a week each. I was breaking the speeding limit regularly to get home for raid time, and our office became our dining room as we ate in front of the PC’s to be their for the raid. This doesn’t sound excessive to your average teen but with us both having full time jobs our relationship collapsed to the point where we where Wow was in the way of us talking about ‘issues’. Several months of counselling, the cancelling of 2 subs, and a lot of hard work we overcame this.

    Personally I still can’t believe that we were that bad and I believe that Blizzard must take some responsibility for their use of the pavlovian response when designing Wow, the addiction was our responsibility but they created the tools of our addiction.

    What really worries me, as a poster above mentioned, is that those without the tools, maturity, stable home life, or will to recognise the addiction will not be willing to break free of it to the detriment of their own well being.

    We have a single friend who still plays and, although he has had breaks, he still plays compusively, and I believe to the wider detriment of his relationships (wow talk is very boring when you don’t play).

    Hypocritical it may be but I personally would not let any child of mine play Wow specifically, I would also think twice about any MMO.

    Now I am back on the PC after a break of several months, but now tempered with the maturity and responsibility my 35 years should command with any ‘hobby’

    The best news is that my wife and I repaired the damage and after a sperm egg interaction not dissimilar to ran93rs above, I have a beautiful smiling daughter that I enjoy being addicted to :)

  17. Lu-Tze says:

    I’ve seen some unholy games “addiction” including a friend who, given a trial account to Star Wars Galaxies, proceeded to sleep for about 20 hours in the following week when he happened to be off work, playing it dawn til dusk and beyond every single day. He swore off MMOs since then, as they represented too much danger of him getting that engrossed again.

    We all have “One More Level” syndrome in our daily lives, the number of times i’ve been sitting watching a TV series on DVD and though “oh just one more episode…” before I go to bed.. or said “just one more” when munching on some food.. Games give you a very quick turnaround on your “treat” which varies each time and uses up no resources other than time. It becomes all too easy to offset the cost against the reward when it is presented in such small chunks.

  18. po says:

    Strange that co-morbid conditions that would likely lead to the addiction aren’t mentioned at all. The kind of people who get very into gaming quite often have disorders that affect the brains ability to regulate attention and reward response. Conditions like ADD/ADHD, OCD, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

    When you can’t fit in socially, can’t keep a job, and have an natural aptitude with computers, you’re more likely to play a lot of games. Your real life is so unrewarding you end up living the fantasy while your real life goes down the toilet.

    Getting people to quit gaming is only the start, the real work is giving them something to live for. In a lot of cases they got this way because there was no real acceptance of who they are and what their differences are, or help to let them fit into the social/employment world. Until there’s assistance and acceptance there’s always the risk they’ll find something to escape into.

  19. Filipe says:

    This article (and the Cannon Fodder one) is exactly why I read this site. Solid, serious insights into gaming and gaming culture. Thanks.

  20. Ace says:

    As someone who recently quit smoking after almost 15 years, I feel the need to draw a distinction between what I see as an addiction and an obsession. I don’t doubt a gaming obsession can have many of the traits of an addiction, and is definitely to be taken seriously, it’s just different. A physical addiction can be a nasty thing. I wasn’t really obsessed with smoking, it didn’t interfere with my life, it was just a habit, an addiction. Quitting was a serious white knuckle experience. My body chemistry changed, I gained weight, I stopped sleeping as well, my metabolism slowed down.
    I don’t mean at all to downgrade the struggle of those who had problems with gaming, but, maybe I’m being peevish here, but I guess I don’t want my own downgraded either. And I’d think withdrawal from harder drugs would be even less pleasant. (and I don’t really buy the dopamine addiction bit, then anything could be ‘addictive’.)

  21. Piratepete says:

    Sorry Po I have to disagree with you. From the work my wife does with kids who have ADHD and aspergers, very few if any, actually play a lot of computer games because they lack the attention span for the extended periods of gaming which would categorise an addiction. Indeed most they could manage was the odd ‘Popcap’ game.

    In addition, I would describe my wife and I as stable, able to fit in socially, have an apptitude with PC’s and have no other outstanding addictions well I smoke but thats it.

    However this is only our experience. Other points of view are available.

    Normally I am Adamantly pro gaming but given the light of experience (+3 to Philosophy), I have had to re-evaluate my opinion because of Wow, and unfortunately I keep coming back to the manufacturer as having some responsibility for the mechanics of the games they make. I also realise that I can’t single Wow out, yet can’t talk about other games as Wow is the only MMO I have played for any significant length of time.

    I just feel that anyone can be affected by gaming addiction and it is a little too convienient to blame those with emergent social ‘disorders’. It is more to do with your will (a factor that improves with age I hope), i think.

    and now I must go as Ickle Pirate has just been sick all over the wife *sigh* (Have kids, it’ll knock any time you can spend gaming on the head)

  22. Piratepete says:

    must remember…..

    Its a blog you can’t add punctuation after you’ve posted :)

    And Filipe I agree with you RPS is like a breath of fresh air :)

  23. Dan (WR) says:

    Excellent piece John.

    Shouldn’t there be an important distinction between multiplayer gaming and single-player gaming when we’re talking about addiction? ‘Gaming addiction’ implies that there’s something intrinsic to the nature of all videogames that encourages addiction, but when cases of addiction are cited they’re invariably multiplayer games.

    As games lovers I’m sure we’ve all experienced those compulsive times when we want to do nothing but play a game. But it’s usually a specific game rather than a string of games, and most of those games are finite. How often do people feel the compulsion to replay a game? Even with games designed for replaying such as Civilization, I don’t know how often those games are replayed again and again. I suppose there’s the championship/football manager series.

    If it’s MMOGs and competitive multiplayer games that are the addictive games, doesn’t that suggest that the key element is the social interaction? Of course, certain addictive game elements like mastering a skill, collecting shiny things and improving experience/statistical figures are large contributers, but I think it’s a means to establishing identity – whether that’s identity via competitive dominance or identity by making yourself unique or part of a community in a MMOG. I think it’s those elements that encourage addictiveness and I’d be inclined to see single-player ‘gaming addiction’ as almost a misnomer or something.

    Actually I’m not sure I see multiplayer gaming addiction as an ‘addiction’ anyway. I think it’s more symptomatic of a larger issue with how people relate to each other in an online age. I think non-gaming online interactions can be almost as addictive. How often do you refresh your favourite forums and messageboards? How much more often do you do it when you’re witing to see a reply to something you said?

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dan: I’ve heard some stories around Civilization and Championship manager. But, yeah, the big horror ones are MMOs.

    KG

  25. Pete says:

    John,

    What’s the difference between a compulsive behavior and an addiction? If you think about it, a drug addict is someone who compulsively exhibits the behavior of ingesting a substance. Whether you call it an addiction or a compulsion, it’s a behavior that can’t be stopped. So if someone wants to call WoW an addiction or a compulsive behavior then I say “potato-potahto”.

    I think that the definition of addiction is the crux of the disagreement between Keith Bakker and Dr. Richard Wood. Keith believes that the properties of a particular substance causes compulsion/addiction where Dr. Wood would say that compulsion/addiction is the result of other emotional factors.

    Anecdotally, every person I’ve known who plays video games, smokes, or drinks compulsively has been dealing with emotional issues. When life got better for them, the behavior decreased in frequency and severity. That’s obviously not scientific but it really explains a lot of things about destructive behaviors.

  26. Thiefsie says:

    I think non-gaming online interactions can be almost as addictive. How often do you refresh your favourite forums and messageboards? How much more often do you do it when you’re witing to see a reply to something you said?

    I 100% agree with that too, I used to spend hours on one or two message boards and then realised this is all pretty useless banter we are doing… funny but useless… and would be much more effective doing it in the flesh with people.

    Great article

  27. John Walker says:

    Dan: I included a grab of Civ in that last banner in the piece, as it’s notorious for stories we’d now more normally associate with MMOs. I interviewed Sid Meier once, and while chatting I asked him if he ever considers the numbers of manhours his games must have taken up. He replied by telling me that he frequently gets letters from people saying how Civ took over their lives. One guy wrote to say that his wife had left him because of it, and he was writing to thank him, because he much prefered Civ to his wife.

    Pete: I think I used an unhelpful term when I said “compulsive behaviour”. That’s what I get for replying while trying to stop my 1 year old nephew from eating my knee.

    I’m not sure you’ve quite summed up Bakker and Wood’s positions there. I think Wood is stating that gaming, along with many other activities and pastimes, is not addictive at all, and those involved don’t exhibit the behaviours of addicts. Bakker is not claiming that trauma is not a cause of addictive responses.

    I think what Wood is saying, if heftily paraphrased (and I’ll try and get him to come into the discussion if possible), is that what we call addiction in relation to games, etc, is more accurately described as irrepsonsibility.

    I’ve tried not to form opinions either way, in the interests of learning as much as I can from all sides. But you know, I have opinions anyway. And I think that often people put down their own lack of responsibility as “addiction”, because it removes the onus of responsibility from them. I know I’ve played videogames long into hours where I should be working on ludicrous numbers of occasions, but it’s because I’m irresponsible. I’m lazy, and prefer having fun to say, sorting my taxes. I don’t think the word “addiction” becomes relevant until I, say, go to prison for not paying my taxes, and have someone sneak a DS in for me.

    I stress, I still do not know about gaming and addiction, and am certainly not claiming that the above is inevitably the case – not at all. In writing the article, I encountered people who exhibited all the denial and behaviour of addicts, and was very often moved with the sadness of how games had destroyed people’s lives. I heard extraordinary anecdotes of people ending up in hospital after physically destroying their bodies, which sure sounds like continuing in the face of negative consequences to me. I do suspect, and stress *suspect* rather than have evidence for, that those people could have as easily developed their addiction for alcohol, drugs, sex, etc, if it were not games. Rather than games causing their addiction.

  28. Neils Clark says:

    Nobody’s learned the end-all and the be-all to addiction – almost every hardcore researcher I’ve talked to makes a point of saying that we’ve got a long way to go. A lot of the official definitions are almost copied and pasted from decade-old criteria for gambling addiction, and there are a lot of problems to how we’re conducting the big, well-funded research right now.

    That’s why having balance in news articles, go John, is so critically important right now. I’ve talked to research teams, especially Singapore’s NTU/NUS group, who have got a grant worth many hundred thousands of Singapore dollars. I can’t say a lot about that, but generally I can say that people are looking at how this is kind of a new thing.

    Oh yeah, here comes a hefty TLDR. I hope you’re not all averse.

    Laziness and blaming are a hallmark to addiction – it’s called denial. Being extremely leet is quite a bit more attractive than massaging feet, or doing your taxes, or whatever, and getting lost in the realities that we can create in Civ 4, Oblivion, Warcraft, or what have you, whether or not there’s a social component, can give denial an extra push. “You don’t like writing a book on game addiction? There there, control the French Empire for a few thousand years.” All of the sudden three days have gone by, and you’re even further behind a deadline.

    Completely fictional account, of course.

    See, games take us into alternate worlds – and that’s really what separates them from other “addictions” (don’t get me started on nomenclature). They present you with an experience, and for a few reasons (in how the human body processes and attends to image, but also in the game’s ability to give everyone their own version of sheer awesome) those experiences can pull us away from the real world.

    JRR Tolkien called these the primary and secondary worlds. Even though he was talking about books, it remains my favorite illustration.

    These worlds immerse us, and enchant us, and if we don’t have the ability to regulate our lives, as Seay rightly points out, then we frankly don’t stand a chance.

    But addiction, real addiction, “the cat is dead” addiction comes by way of a process. It can be built from these ultra-cool structures in games, but those structures work with the individual characteristics in people. It’s not just the game, it’s not just the gamer, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

    And thusly I end my TLDR. That Civ streak put me behind, and I’ve got a deadline tonight. =P

    Thanks a lot for researching, writing, and reposting this magnificent article John, I look forward to any conversations that may herein begin.

  29. Dogun says:

    I think the most potent statement in this article was the comparison to reading books. The fact is, we arbitrarily stigmatize certain behaviors in society. Bookworms, geeks, and nerds used to have that stigma less than a generation ago. Kicking ass at Halo, having a level 75 paladin, and so forth are the newer forms of those. They aren’t useful from the life-skills perspective, per-se, but neither are baseball, tuning your hot-rod, or any other number of obsessions out there.

    Moreover, most of the time they’re social activities.

    People have been shirking off from their jobs, stress, responsibility, and their life since the beginning of the human race; reading books, working on cars, hiking, building models, chess, stamp collecting. In extreme forms, all of those would meet the same addictive criteria people lay out for gameplaying.

    I call BS on this fad of gaming addiction. It’s selectively stigmatizing a certain behavior without applying the same lens to the rest of our lives.

  30. eoy says:

    just thought I’d add that I’ve been playing wow 16hours a day for the last 2 years, so I’m probably what a lot of people would call an addict, even though I don’t see myself as one.

  31. Brog says:

    it takes some kind of madness to play a game for 16 hours a day for two years, especially one that isn’t great.
    call this madness “addiction” if you like, or don’t. it’s just a label, calling it does not change what the thing is.

  32. eoy says:

    Are you trying to imply that real life values would be any better than the virtual? What gives me more pleassure in the end should be what’s important, who has the right to tell me that the friendship I feel with players in the game is not worth as much as what can be obtained in real life? Isn’t the actual feeling what is important, not the means of obtaining it?

    And yes, the same thing applies to heroine users etc, they might live for that feeling, and there’s probably nothing in the world that can replace it, so why want to take it away from them? “It’s not real”. Does it have to be real?

    In the very end of this discussion we end up with existentialism; why do we live and what are we supposed to be doing with our lives? If you’d be presented with a machine that could fullfill all your dreams and desires, and you’d get the oppertunity to live in a perfect world with everything exactly how you want it, without knowing it’s a dream – would you enter that machine? My answer is yes (the matrix has me).

  33. Dr Richard Wood says:

    Some interesting comments and it’s great to see that this issue can be discussed in a balanced manner.

    Thought, I might clarify and expand my position which is not too different to what has already been stated by various people in several posts.

    Through my experience of studying addictions, I would say that all addiction is rooted in a need to escape from reality. In other words, some people will engage in certain rewarding behaviours as a means of coping with their existence. To some extent we all do this. For example, having a drink after a stressful day, eating chocolate when bored, buying oneself a treat when depressed. Whereas, most of us then get on with our normal lives, a minority of people will come to depend on that activity/substance to constantly regulate their moods. Some of these people will have biological/genetic issues that require them to seek more (usually) stimulation than others. Some people will be trying to cope with a trauma, and some are just trying to cope with everyday reality. From this perspective, any rewarding activity can become problematic. To say then that addiction resides in an activity or substance is rather nonsensical as people seek a variety of experiences to suit their own emotional needs. The use of activities or substances in this way might best be described as “abuse.”

    However, the fact remains that some activities and substances are more associated with problems than others, and these are the ones that are the most robust shifters of experience. Obviously, people have more problems with heroin than coffee, and more problems with gambling than scrabble. So even if addiction resides primarily in the individual, it is expressed through certain behaviours. From a prevention and treatment perspective, it is useful to recognise that some activities and substances can cause a lot of damage. Making the public aware of the issues and problems may be useful in limiting the impact of some people undertaking such behaviours.

    Given that some people will use substances or activities abusively, and that some of those substances ad activities are abused more than others, the question remains as to which ones should we be most concerned about? My suggestion for dealing with this is to look at two key features. First of all, to what extent is the behaviour, in this case gaming, a problem for large numbers of people? Considering that games such as WoW are played by roughly the equivalent of the population of Denmark, and very, very few of those players manifest a genuine problem, then games don’t score very highly here. Furthermore, some of those “problematic” players are incorrectly labelled by parents, partners etc. responding to the media hype of “gaming addiction.” The second point is what are the consequences of excessive play? For a few high profile cases these may be extreme. However, for most excessive play does not compare well to other “addictive” behaviours. Excessive players don’t usually run up massive debts to pay for their habit, they don’t usually break the law to feed the habit, and they don’t usually become very ill as a consequence of playing.

    To what extent should we be concerned then about excessive gaming? The problem here is that the media hype has latched onto a few high profile cases to create a moral panic. Technology and popular media are frequently a focus of such outrages, particularly if youth are involved at some level. It’s easy to blame the Internet, video nasties, Marilyn Manson, video games etc. for a variety of societal problems rather than deal with real underlying issues. Sure, some people play too much but this is their problem and not an inherent defect in the game. It does no harm to encourage healthy patterns of play, but when it becomes a panic about the activity itself at the expense of dealing with the personal issue then it is harmful to all involved.

    I hope that has made my position clearer, a lot of it does come down to definitions of addiction. It is common to refer to addiction in an everyday context without having a clinical rationale to back it up. There is no current definition of video game addiction, and recently the American Psychiatric Association voted to reject video game addiction from it’s latest classification of mental disorders due to a lack of evidence. Clinics treating “video game addiction” will no doubt make a lot of money and I’m sure will help some people with genuine underlying problems. What worries me is that the focus is put on the game itself causing lots of widespread panic, and this can have serious implications for perfectly “normal” players who happen to like playing more than the average person, but who are otherwise perfectly happy.

  34. John Walker says:

    eoy: You appear to present two opposing points. You begin by saying that videogames are not addictive, and then go on to say that it might be similar to heroin (and seemingly that there’s no problem with taking heroin so long as it makes you feel good).

    I have a couple of questions.

    Firstly, you are inevitably aware of the consequences of taking heroin. Heroin is the most addictive substance, creating a powerful and often lethal addiction from the first hit. Opium in all its forms, especially stronger painkillers, is powerfully addictive, and while one of the easiest drugs to detox from, by far the most difficult to stay off. It’s potentially deadly (through lifestyle more than its physical effects). I’d suggest that’s a reason why we might want to “take it away from” someone. If videogames were shown to be causing long and short-term negative effects on people, despite making them feel good, is there an argument for questioning people’s playing behaviour?

    Secondly, and this is a personal question which I will completely understand if you choose not to answer: Playing for 16 hours a day, for over two years, how do you afford to live? Assuming you need at least 6 hours of sleep a night, it means you can’t have time for a job. I’m interested to know how it all works.

  35. Thiefsie says:

    I too am curious at that lifestyle. I can’t imagine it being anything other than being supported by parents or gaming on the job?!?

    Also thanks too for your input Dr Wood, I think you are correct in wondering whether an addiction is noted from the negative effects of its ongoing use, or just an excess of doing it. Much like you said I would find it easy to believe that many gamers don’t partake in crime, lose out financially greatly or health wise etc as opposed to gambling, drugs and so on… which is the problematic association of gaming with addiction. It is not inherantly life damaging or destroying (at least to others?!?), and well yes if so few people really suffer a gaming addition, or total detrimental effects from it… then it will not be classed an illness as found by the ELSPA, etc. What is the big hoo-hah?

    Probably most likely sensationalism like you said pushed upon us (and the rather uninformed) by popular media, much like Doom being linked to Columbine and other killings.

    Is there truly a problem with gaming addiction? The counts of alleged murder or other serious infractions due to gaming could be counted on one hand, a far cry from gun crimes, heroine crimes etc…

    If it is in fact true that virtually the worst thing that gaming addiction majorately causes people is a bit of social deviancy, and maybe less time spent earning money or studying or something along those lines, then there is of course no great issue to begin with… (especially with it being legal) and hardly something worthy of large scale treatment or funding, beyond professional counselling. Any multitude of leisure activities is exactly the same.

    A little perspective like this goes go a long way to show that gaming is just a common scapegoat these days.

  36. eoy says:

    I admit using heroine as an example for my argument was a bad idea, mostly there to stir up strong emotions than to present my point. What I’m actually debating (or at least trying to) is the right for someone to decide over another persons values and priorities. I have myself never tried any drugs, not even a single cigarette but I can’t blame other people that do. The demand to get help or to be cured has to come from the person, not from the outside world.

    The natural response would probably be something in style of “but he doesn’t know what’s best for his own good”, but who are you to think you do?

    Reading what Brog wrote, I pretty much got the feeling of that he’s saying “you’re mad” “there’s something wrong with you” where there doesn’t neccesarily have to be. It also irritates me how people talk, as if spending 100% of your time awake in front of a computer is a sickness that can, and should be cured. It’s more of a lifestyle, really.

    And to your second question:
    Two monitors, doing freelance webdesign and graphic design on the right one while farming / chatting on ventrilo. I don’t need a lot of money to be able to keep up what I have, nor do I have any real interest in getting more money since I don’t believe hapiness can be obtained through possesion.

  37. Brog says:

    I was expecting you to go “heh, yeah.. it is a little crazy” rather than getting defensive. I wasn’t trying to tell you what you should do.
    Really, it is a bit nuts. 16 hours a day doesn’t seem to leave much time for maintaining your physical wellbeing, which is somewhat important for your future comfort. Probably you are not addicted – if you want to test this you can try quitting – but you are also not acting in a perfectly rational manner.
    I wouldn’t say that every thing I do is entirely sane either. Humans are not entirely rational creatures, and there is nothing wrong with this. I am not trying to get at you. I just think it is good to be honest about such things.

  38. Kieron Gillen says:

    Eoy: This line struck me as interesting: “I have any real interest in getting more money since I don’t believe hapiness can be obtained through possesion.”

    I mean, as a guy with no money, clearly I’ll agree. But your life of farming seems to argue that while life can’t be obtained through possessions, it may be gained by virtual possessions.

    Which is interesting.

    KG

  39. eoy says:

    Alright, glad we cleared that up.

    I’m very curious about your and especially John Walker’s oppinions and comments on the googlevideo I posted, it’s made by Totalbiscuit, a quite famous personality in wow because of his contributions to http://www.wcradio.com/.

  40. eoy says:

    Thx for the response John Walker, gona think through a bit before I respond to that one.

    Kieron Gillen:

    Sadly, if I want to keep playing at the level I am, I will require to spend at least 3 hours a day farming materials for potions etc that I will use in the evening’s raid. Else I don’t get invited, and will ultimately find myself looking for a new guild. I’d much prefer not having to go through all the repetive bshit farming and just focus on raiding, but buffing up is a huge advantage if you’re going for world first kills, and is something that sets the “hardcore” gamers appart from the rest. Thankfully Blizzard actually reduced the amount of consumables needed, and added a limit to how many buffs you can have on you at the same time, which greatly improved the game for me. It is sad that the progression often has to be determined around time spent (which at high level currently means 1 day is enough to bring down a new boss), and not actuall skill and communication.

    To conclude, I need to farm if I want to play, I need some in real life money if I want to pay for upkeep. Both are neccesary evils.

  41. Thiefsie says:

    So what brings you back to WoW that much? Just the combination of grinding for the nice payoff of raiding every night? Passing the time while you work? Do you get tired of it? Is the social side that great?

    The whole idea of grinding (time wasting) for me, in any game puts me off such a game, from RTS to MMO, enough that I don’t play them at all if I feel I have to work to hard for some reward that isn’t too great. I’m just curious what keeps bringing you back… and how you haven’t burnt out.

  42. eoy says:

    Well first of all, lets clear a few things out: I’m currently in the army (which is compulsory here in Finland) and haven’t raided for the last 4 months. When originaly replying to the thread, I replied as I would have 4 months ago. I still play every weekend that I get to be home, and I’m hoping the guild will let me back in when I’ve served my time for my country.

    I’ve played in many guilds, starting from a guild that raided 4 days a week ending with a guild raiding 5 hours a day every day of a week – to be the best in the world at the game in terms of raid-progression (and we’ve been and probably are among the top 3). I guess it’s natural for me to always try to improve, and competition has always played an important role for me, which led me to try to constantly trying to find something more demanding. If you want to be among the best at pve in WoW, you’re going to have to devote a lot of time into it. Why I decide to play wow is basicly because it demands at least 24 other likeminded players that need to communicate and work as an organization to work. It has a lot of similarities with a realworld company in it’s structure, planning and execution. It often feels like I’m working when I’m playing, because of the exessive workload and stress it actually not seldom generates, and the reward isn’t money but a feeling of accomplishment that doesn’t match anything else I’ve experienced. Managing to keep 25 people all over the world, from USA to EU to Arab Emirates, motivated to play 16hours a day together without conflicts is an amazing feat for me. I have to admit that I also raid for “e-fame” even though it’s not the most important aspect. Recordings of my guild and me playing have reached over a million downloads in total, and even though it’s quite hilarious and pathetic, it does give me this warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach.

    The social side is great aswell, you kind of get forced to talk and interact with a lot of people you wouldn’t normaly talk with, and often go through hardships and victories together, which creates strong bonds. I’ve been playing with a guy from Israel for 2 years in the same guilds, and it really does count for something.

  43. Thelps says:

    My personal standpoint on WoW was ‘amount invested = amount produced’. The more I worked for something, the more I grinded, the more hours of raid wipes we spent, the more frustration we endured all just contributed to the decibel level of our Ventrilo-based cheers when we FINALLY downed that boss. This, coupled with the really strong personalities that are forged through this constant need to cooperate and endure the harshness of WoW’s world made for a good 18 month’s worth of solid, golden memories. Those 18 months were the 18 months AFTER I hit 75 (supposedly the point where everyone else claims WoW just starts stringing you along with false promises and the occasional epix item to keep you coming back). My interest in WoW didn’t stem from getting items, as I regularly philosophized in guild-chat to my fellow members, epics and items were a means to allow me to raid harder content, to keep progressing and seeing new things, not the be-all and end-all of my raiding.

    For me, World of Warcraft was a profoundly social game, where I’d just log in outside raid hours purely to shoot the shit with my guildmates, run off to an alliance town and pick a fight, really just as a talking point or social lubricant, not out of any need to be more powerful or to make myself feel good through a false sense of superiority. I miss the game daily since I quit. Not the mechanics, or the graphics, or anything inherently to do with the game ITSELF, just the special social space of working with a team of people you know in and out, being that well-oiled machine, and having a common goal that unites you and gives you all a shared goal.

    People told me I was wasting my time playing WoW during my 18 months of ‘hardcore’ play, but they are, to me, 18 months of memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything and that I feel has enriched me as a person.

  44. Thiefsie says:

    sounds like a well oiled career or job etc could provide the exact same thing provided you could find and implement that said job into your daily life, which is of course seemingly inherantly more difficult than doing it in WoW (or at least more risky)

  45. John Walker says:

    eoy: regarding that Google video. I shall be very honest with you.

    I’ve watched the first half hour, and so far I’ve not seen anything of any intelligent worth. He appears to be rambling inanely, responding to the arguments he suggests with irrelevant answers, and appears to be defending the possbility of addiction by saying that he likes it, and that it’s social. Clearly the second half may offer up more insight, but I’m not impressed at all with the lecture.

  46. Thelps says:

    Thiefsie: My point, conveyed somewhat opaquely, it’s true, is in relation to the subject of the thread: addiction, its nature, and how that pertains to games. My attraction and interest in WoW had very little to do with the game that is World of Warcraft, but more to do with, what I consider to be, a very healthy reaction to a social environment where people cooperate towards a common goal. There is, in my eyes, nothing at all wrong, or sad, or backwards about playing a game for these reasons. I found it to be enriching, personally. The amount of time invested in the game is for the ends of a reward, satisfaction in your achievements. This, integrated into a healthy life, is perfectly fine, as I think we all agree.

    Slating WoW because it relies on fairly basic game mechanics and, by relation, slating WoW players, is doing a disservice to the social nature of MMOs as a whole, and WoW especially. Assuming that people play the game purely for the thrill of acquisition and posession is also a short-sighted viewpoint. I don’t doubt people DO play it for those reasons, and a lot of the 1-75 grind features that, but that, for me at least, was the more mechanical, boring part of the game. People made WoW for me, I would have quit months, maybe even a year earlier than I did if it wasn’t for the social atmosphere. To me, that’s the single most healthy reason I can see anyone playing any video game, and arguably single player games are lesser beasts in that respect (and I stress that one, sole, respect. Single player games are on the whole, entirely different beasts, again, as we all know).

    My point, in relation to the thread, is that the game that is WoW was eventually irrelevant and played no part in my interest in the game. Should I have become ‘addicted’ (which at no point I felt I was, stressing that my peak was 5 hours per day, 5 days a week, which was a short-lived peak at that) I would not have blamed WoW, but rather my inherent dependence on a virtual social environment, which would lead me to assess why I wasn’t getting this fulfillment from my real-life social environment. That would be an issue with me, myself, and the game would have nothing to do with it, being a symptom, not the cause.

  47. eoy says:

    why do people who name themselves experienced wow players not know that you level from 1-70, not 1-75? Surely you’d know if you ever reach lvl70 – which takes about 2 weeks of gameplay. (less if you put your mind to it).

  48. Thelps says:

    I dunno, stupid me for confusing WoW’s levels with FFXI’s I guess. If you don’t believe me, you can confirm my ex-WoW status by doing an armory search for ‘Thelps’ and checking my gear. I quit 3 months ago, so I don’t have any stuff from Zul’Aman and the last few BT bosses though.

    I assure you I am genuine though. Sorry for the typo. :)

  49. Thelps says:

    Aaaaaaaaand as I just found out myself, my character no longer shows up on the armory…

    All I can say is I was in the guild Four Kings, formerly known as Affliction, on the server Magtheridon. When I left we had just killed the Reliquary of Souls encounter (although I missed that first kill, but have done every preceding raid boss in the game). I have been playing the game since April 2005, and my character was a Warlock. Originally specced as SM/Ruin up until TBC when I went Fire-Destro until my gear allowed the switch to Shadow-Destro (taking advantage of the increased SB cast time that caused the spell to benefit more from my +dam gear than the shorter overall cast time of the Immolate – Incinerate x4 – Conflagrate cycle).

    Sorry for the very OT nature of this post all, I just wanna confirm that I’m not full of shit. :)

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