Thought Experiment: Games and addiction.

I couldn't think of anything else.

Watching the presentation about how playing WoW for sixteen hours a day, every day, is fine, presumably at DenialFest. Enormously annoying. Yes, games – as a new media – are attacked simply because they’re new media, the same as all new media throughout all history. Yes, the Daily Mail profits off their constant scare-mongering, and pretty much the whole media follow it. Yes, parents can be shits who lack responsibility for rearing their own kids. Yes, MMOs are primarily social environments and the relationships forged within are as valid as any other (bar the usual horror stories). Yes, that games offering achievable goals is one of their primary attractions. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But how on earth does that have anything to do with a sizeable number of people deciding to retreat from their normal lives and choosing to pretty much solely to exist in a fantasy world being something someone might be right to be concerned about? It actually doesn’t matter whether games are actually addictive or not – utilitarianism demands us look at its actual effects (“Utilitarianism” – man, I better get some gags into this post quick).

That said, it did remind me of an old thought experiment I ran, which I thought I’d share.

If, by choosing certain mechanics, a developer could make games bona-fide chemically and/or psychologically addictive… would they do it?

Worth noting that it’s not as far-fetched as it may initially seem. While Derren Brown’s amazing acts of mind-control are almost certainly primarily cleverly rebranded illusions, there’s still some odd quirks of the human mind stimulus can effect. From obvious stuff like how a yawn passes across the room to patterns of light inducing fits in the sensitive to sounds producing vomiting, to the more subtle. After all, art is all about presenting stimulus to humans and provoking a desired response. Art’s fasutian child, advertising, uses the tricks to induce people to buy their products. And those of you who’ll claim advertising doesn’t effect them at all out there – and I know you are – that distant noise you hear? That’s a multi-billion dollar industry chuckling at your naiveté.

So – if they could make a game actually addictive like Heroin, would they?

For a game with a monthly fee, of course they would. Or at least, some of them would, and they’ll be the rich and successful ones.

In fact, if they were a publicly owned company – or owned by one – they would be legally required to do so, to fulfil their requirement to maximise their shareholder’s revenues.

Of course, if it were actually directly equivalent to heroin, laws would be relatively swiftly passed prohibiting it in some way. But until then, yeah, the gaming world becomes the equivalent of that period in bristol when most houses had a third tap to pump in all the tasty skag.

That’s an extreme case though. What about if games were only slightly addictive. That, by applying certain techniques – say, having green and orange baddies at a certain ratio or playing a sound that goes bandy-bandy-bandy at a certain pitch – that you could seriously increase the length of time people play the game for. Say, it doesn’t effect 40% of the players at all, but for 59.999% of the players, it increases the amount of time they play from 2 hours a day for three months to four hours a day for six months. And, for the remaining 0.001%, they quit whatever jobs they’re doing and play it for sixteen hours a day.

Then it becomes less like dealing heroin, and more like sending a car out with a design flaw that they know, inevitably, will cause people to hurt themselves. Or, alternatively a landlord knowing that some of the people are going to end up alcoholic, and he’s going to profit off their descent.

The second case seems, to me, a closer analogy to the state of the MMO than addiction. It doesn’t matter if a MMO is bona fide addictive. Grinding techniques aren’t much fun… but they’re incredibly compulsive. Games based around this sort of small, achievable goals plug into a part of mind which likes that stuff, and give the dopamine kick. Compared to how difficult achievements are to get in the real world, the constant knowledge you’re getting closer to one of your desires is incredibly comforting. And that’s a primary difference between most MMO and the real world – the certainty of the reward.

For most people, there’s no problem with MMOs. Playing even for hours every night isn’t a problem in a world where no-one blinks at similar time is spent crashed in front of the TV by mainstream society. It’s fun, it’s social and great, for all the reasons described by our gentleman in the film above.

But people making a MMO on these techniques must know that some people are going to be screwed up by their game. And while I wouldn’t say it was their fault – everyone’s aware that people who fall into these traps have something else seriously wrong with their lives they’re trying to avoid – If I were them, I suspect I may feel slightly like an enabler. And I suspect I may not like that and not want that on my hands.

Now, developers have pretty much fell into the world of these marathon-gamers. But I suspect they’re going to think about it more. And I suspect that sooner or later a developer is going to realise they want to do something to try and reduce the casualties while keeping the key compulsive nature of the genre.

Or, at least, I hope so.

46 Comments

  1. Robert Seddon says:

    This sounds as though it’s moving towards the doctrine of double effect, but it’ll be complicated by the question of player autonomy (already a difficult topic where addiction is concerned). Players are enabled to do various things they couldn’t before by the existence of the game, and arguably someone might rationally and knowingly choose limited compulsion as an acceptable cost of playing for whatever pleasures… so for a developer to regard itself as responsible for ‘reducing casualties’ might actually count as a different kind of assault on autonomy. Maybe you can’t win either way.

  2. Tim says:

    I’m a cynic. I believe the big game companies will purposefully push strategies to “addict” people, if they haven’t already.
    I have no faith in the benevolent developer, strategy isn’t up to them. Strategy is up to the cut throat business types that cunningly murdered their rivals behind the photocopier.

    I envisage a gaming industry that evolves like the film and music industries did. Eventually it will cares little for the value and meaning it provides its audience, instead aiming entirely at optimising the next fiscal quarter. I’m talking mainstream film and movies here. They had no qualms about promote short term high initial profit, trashy bands. Even if it left them with a useless long term back catalogue (relatively speaking) which they complain about as if it is due to a lack of musical talent.

    Many newer music artists are bypassing the major labels altogether, successfully. This trend has them worried. It was primarily possible because of technology, the internet makes it increasingly difficult for the labels to have a meaningful monopoly on publicity. Not to mention a new found affordability in regards to recording.

    This relates directly to gaming. It may be increasingly expensive to make games at the quality of a major game company, but as tech becomes increasingly advanced, tools become cheaper. I point to MetaPlace or things like it as the next big thing, at least in the casual space. Think nwn mods taken to the degree of an evolving game engine. The community shall overthrow their evil EA games overlords.

    Hmm, that went slightly off topic. My thought was basically that Megalithic companies tend towards evil.

  3. eoy says:

    I’ve actually come across a lot of people who say they used to be addicted to drugs or used to consume in their oppinion unhealthy amounts of alcohol before they started playing World of Warcraft, and now they don’t need the drugs anymore.

    I know this is sort of implicating that wow is a drug to substitute for worse drugs with perhaps more severe sideeffects. I think it’s more about that by taking control over you character and alter-ego, you’re slowly gaining control over your own life aswell. Clear goals and acomplishments can be really positively stimulating aswell.

  4. Kwan says:

    Wow, I’ve listened to TB’s rants on gaming addiction before, but never realised he gave a lecture about it. Thanks for the find!

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    Eoy: That’s what I was trying to say in a part towards the end – most MMOs give you control when you may not otherwise feel you have it, and is an avoidance mechanism in the same way that periods of excess drinking can be.

    KG

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    (Which isn’t to say they’re identical in terms of being bad for you. People getting into ludicrous fitness regimes or tidying the house for weeks on end are also avoidance mechanisms.)

    KG

  7. I_still_love_Okami says:

    megalithic companies tend toward profit. and one man’s profit is a thousand others’ misery.

    as game developers we try to create games that are as fun as possible (well, in theory. in truth we allways tend to fall in love with things like features, realism, complexity, HDR, bloom and a whole lot of other stuff that just isn’t fun but everybody expects you to have nowadays, so 14 year old posters on gaming sites don’t call you gay) and sell as much of them as possible. fun games are also addictive games, since fun is a feeling we like to experience as often as possible.

    on the other hand, we don’t want our games to be too addictive. we want you to buy the sequel, so we can continue our hedonistic livestyles of fast women, beautifull cars and lots of drugs and alcohol.

    so I guess it would be bad business to create a game that’s too addictive.

    MMOs are another issue entirely. If your audience is paying you cash every month to continue their mindless compulsive obsession with your fancily dressed spreadsheet application (MMOs are nothing but multi user excell sheets with a fancy front end and a screwed up interface) it is in your best interest to keep them addicted.

    I guess most MMO developers would use the described mystery techniques, even if it would mean that 10% of their audience drops out of school/out of their jobs because of your game. I guess thinking about the women and the cars and the drugs helps to surpress any feelings of guilt they may have.

    I know that it would work for me…

  8. Thiefsie says:

    That’s interesting, I hadn’t noticed that grinding in MMO’s etc is a quite tangible and obvious (foreseeable) reward for your time, which of course may equate to being a more desireable addiction, than chemical.

    Same comment on developers could be said of many mass market products though, such as cars (causing crashes), spirits fuelling alcoholics, etc etc etc… Little effort is taken by those developers to offset the mainstream gains of selling such products with the minor quibbles of ppl dying in crashes or abusing their kids while drunk, although perhaps car manufacturers do ever strive for a safer car, as opposed to a less alcoholic beer, so maybe that isn’t the best comparison.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Theifsie: Car safety is a concern of manufacturers – and genuine car failure problems can cause lawsuits*. Pubs spend time trying to encourage sensible play. Off the top of my head, only GW has a “You’ve been playing for X hours – take a break, dudes!” message.

    KG

    *I’m thinking Fight Club.

  10. parm says:

    Tim – I can’t help think you’re crediting most developers/publishers with far too much, well, /anything/ there. My brief experience as a games developer suggested that there was so much time spent on just trying to get things done and out the door that the idea of actually voluntarily spending any time or money on something that didn’t produce another tangible 0.1% of gameplay by the end of a given day wasn’t even considered.

    There are obviously exceptions to this – Valve, Bungie, Blizzard, the bigger fish who have the luxury/time/money/resources available to them to actually do research into player experience might be able to do something like this, but your average developer is way too busy firefighting and thinking about when he can next go home before 10pm that such Machiavellian notions don’t even enter his mind.

  11. parm says:

    Oh, forgot: Kieron, World of Warcraft does have a “Remember to go outside and see your real friends” message that pops up on loading screens every now and again, but not with the regularity or frequency of Guild Wars. Some Nintendo games do, too, but obviously we’re talking about PC games here so they Don’t Count :)

  12. Lorc says:

    It’s worth noting that these kinds of technique are already implemented in most MMOs. The easy analogy is gambling, since the grind is effectively a slot machine; push a button, watch the blinky lights and if you’re lucky then something shiny comes out. If it doesn’t, just try again!

    While a literal slot machine is a direct money-sink, MMOs with subscription fees are time sinks to much the same effect. The same design techniques of balancing reward with time/money invested, and the degree of payoff for the possibility of disappointment or boredom are implemented pretty much 1:1.

    Strip away all the colour and niceties and it’s all about how long you can string someone along for without them giving up out of frustration – tell me that that doesn’t sound like the more painful loot/rep/level/item grinds (that you did nevertheless) in your favourite MMO.

    I believe that this is what Jonathan Blow meant when he referred to the classic MMO progression model as exploiting the player.

    Which is not to say that mmo developers are immoral bastards – but their fundamental game model encourages this kind of design and, for better or worse, it works.

  13. I_still_love_Okami says:

    Guild Wars doesn’t charge monthly fees, so they aren’t depending on people to “get addicted” to their products. Come to think of it: Hasn’t WoW some system in place that rewards you for taking breaks? Like there’s some kind of experience multiplyer that goes up the longer you don’t play the game?

    But I guess the reward can’t be that huge, otherwise more WoW players would spend time away from their game.

  14. Tim says:

    Actually I was more thinking the guys in charge of the developers, in a chicken shed like atmosphere. Imagining a game industry of the future.

  15. Lu-Tze says:

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    I recall some other scaremongering/advertising about this game and how it was supposed to cause the user to release endorphins. If it did half of what it seemed it was trying to do, then you’d have your actually physically addictive game right there.

    Dwarf Fortress is my heroin. Thanks RPS for bringing it to my attention. I carry it around on a USB key now so wherever I am I can get my “hit”.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Parm: Forgot those. Thanks!

    KG

  17. Peter Clay says:

    “In fact, if they were a publicly owned company – or owned by one – they would be legally required to do so, to fulfil their requirement to maximise their shareholder’s revenues.”

    I keep hearing this on the Internet, and I don’t think it’s true, or not nearly as big a reason for anti-social behaviour as people make out. If your MD hears that copper mining now has a 50% profit margin, that doesn’t result in everyone being issued a pick and shipped off to Africa.

    Or, you could maximise revenue in the short term by simply selling off all your assets. Companies don’t do that either.

    I suspect it’s simply “you must have a good reason behind the things that you spend company time and money on”.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    Clay: It’s the influence of the film The Corporation, I suspect. No, they don’t always do it – but if their majority shareholders find out about a legal opportunity to make them money which they don’t pursue for a good reason, boards get sacked. Paranoia of boards for their job security means they have a tendency to acting in this way.

    KG

  19. I_still_love_Okami says:

    All this talk about shareholders, board members and profit maximizing makes me want to fire up Liberal Crime Squad right away…

  20. parm says:

    If you spend time away from WoW (assuming you leave your character in an inn or a city) you can build up a buffer of “restedness”, during which you get double XP for all your kills, up to a certain amount of XP. It’s purpose is more to allow infrequent players to catch up with the hardcore, rather than to encourage people to take breaks as it doesn’t accumulate quickly enough to make it worthwhile to deliberately take a break.

  21. twb says:

    Generally speaking, corporations do not have the duty to maximize short-term value for shareholders; corporate boards do have the duties of loyalty and care, but those do not necessarily outweigh other countervailing interests (such as those of communities, employees, creditors, and governments). (And boards generally don’t have day-today control over operations in any case.)

    Legally, this stuff usually comes into play during M&A and other major financial decisions. But that doesn’t obviate the key point: if EA, or SOE, or Happy Fun Indy GameCo could make Grand Theft Heroin, they would, because the profit potential would be huge, and we’re very good at justifying to ourselves what we want to go ahead and do anyway.

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    Okami: More LCS… INCOMING!

    KG

  23. Iain says:

    @Okami

    Guild Wars doesn’t charge monthly fees, so they aren’t depending on people to “get addicted” to their products.

    They don’t charge a monthly fee, instead they charge you £30 every 6 months for a new expansion pack. So in a way, you’re still periodically giving the developers a chunk of money – it’s just the content you get for it comes in a box rather than continuous updates.

    Guild Wars’s business model relies just as much on addiction as any other MMO – it’s just packaged differently.

  24. Monkfish says:

    So – if they could make a game actually addictive like Heroin, would they?

    They did. It’s called Peggle. ;)

  25. phuzz says:

    “that period in bristol when most houses had a third tap to pump in all the tasty skag”

    Blimey, must have missed that.
    On the other hand, the person I know who was closest to a full on WOW addiction found it didn’t disrupt his job at all, but then he was a drug dealer. (Instead of ringing, all you needed to do was message him in game).

  26. Nick says:

    I realised a few years ago that I most likely played several hours more gaming than I “should” and it was as an avoidance mechanism. It helped me deal with some fairly bad things, however and it is comforting to have a crutch that isn’t chemical based. I always ate though.

    These days I still play a lot, but I do plenty of other things too, I’m pretty happy with the balance despite it being weighted in gaming’s favour.

  27. I_still_love_Okami says:

    @Iain: I don’t know about the GW expansions beeing the same thing as a monthly subscription fee, just with a different package.

    Take me for example. Though my loathing of MMOs is well documented, I have a soft spot for Guild Wars. I’ll play it for some time, completing quests, picking up a bit of gear and generally trying to play it like a regular single player rpg.

    I’ll then proceed to play something else for some months until a new expansion comes out at which point I’ll play the new content until I get bored of it.

    It’s important to note that it’s not the MMO core mechanics of watching a bunch of numbers increase incrementally over time that keeps me playing GW over a long stretch of time and make me pay for it’s expansions, but the promise of new content and scripted missions.

    I’m not addicted to GW in any way (not more than I’m to any other game), I just like to experience the new content. It’s like I said: You create a fun game, that begins to loose it’s appeal after some time and then come back with the sequel to cash in once more.

    I’m not into GW for the grind and the levelling, I’m not addicted to powering up my avatar, I play it for it’s core gameplay of fast paced tactical rpg action coupled with solid in game story telling. If I’d be playing it like a typical MMO, I’d pay cash every month, to experience the same content over and over again.

  28. Nick says:

    GW is certainly quite unlike most MMORPGs, sadly they have ditched the campaign model and are working on GW2 which sounds like it is taking a slightly more mainstream MMO approach. Certainly getting rid of some of the better features (large number of henchmen/heroes, totally instanced so you can avoid immersion breaking idiots and camping and .. ugh).

  29. JP says:

    I’m very glad you wrote this Kieron, it’s an issue that needs a lot more visibility and serious discussion. When our industry goes into denial mode on something just because there’s a silly Jack Thompson figure making it a lot more candy-colored than it should be, it’s vital that someone peel back the extra layer.

    The reason developers don’t speak out more about this either way is that many of them are themselves addicts and/or working hard to produce and monetize the next big flavor of digital crack. The issue is made more murky by some our notions of craft and how we evaluate the success of what we do. Most good games are, to one extent or another, addictive. If something is compelling, you want to stay engaged with it. To some designers, giving players the opportunity and motive to disengage is a tacit admission of failure.

    This isn’t the only metric though. It comes down to a question of design values – how much you as a designer or as a player value extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards. Do you do the quest because you’ll be given the shiny sword with the larger number, or because it’s fun to run up into the hills and find the cave and co-ordinate with your pals to defeat the dragon? Obviously every game has some of both, and every player needs some mix of both.

    What I think we’ve seen in the past few years, since the smashing success of WoW, is a huge valuation of extrinsic over intrinsic. Blizzard, in doing the usual excellent job they do with their designs, tapped into what slot machines etc have been doing for years. Thus WoW is simultaneously one of the medium’s most significant achievements in the last decade and a huge open question on the importance of addiction mechanics for the future of the medium.

    Intrinsic rewards have always had the weaker case on paper, but my gut tells me there’s something vital to them and their complete devaluation will turn games into joyless Skinner boxes. We need to recapture the art of mechanics that are fun even in the complete absence of a reward, and educate players thereupon. A design where the core verbs are inherently satisfying is a design with real legs – that’s arguably why we’re still seeing so many FPS: moving through complex 3D spaces and shooting are pleasurable on a pretty basic level.

    I don’t think some of the posters are taking a very extreme view in assuming the worst of the corporations. They’re just giant amoral animals acting out the rules of the system in which they operate: maximize, optimize, exploit. It’s the people involved – developers, gamers and press – that are the real moral entities, and we decide whether this is where we want our art form to go.

  30. dhex says:

    this is an interesting question, mr. gillen.

    i don’t know if developers should really work around the more compulsive players, either to cater to their “addiction” or to lessen it potentially. i don’t know if you can predict these things, at least based on a lot of the anecdotal evidence i’ve read from folks who have watched people go down the MMO hole. (i don’t touch the stuff myself, har har)

    but seeing as how even heroin isn’t instantly addicting (in the sense we’re thinking of, i.e. compulsive behavior to the detriment of the rest of one’s life) for most of the people who try it, the better question is to ask what is missing from the lives of people that they would rather play warcraft for 80 hours a week than interact with previous social bonds. what do they find in this kind of simulation/buffered social space that they don’t already have in life?

    maybe answering that question would create the ultimate MMO.

    if you expose a million people to a game, and 5 or 10 thousand develop a serious problem, is it the game? is it these people? is it a combination of the two?

  31. eoy says:

    Am I completely wrong when I think I remember something being written somewhere about that in the Korean version of WoW, you get a penalty if you’ve been on for more than 3 hours, so that you gain less experience and gold? I’m pretty sure I read something of that kind.

    Is this something that you think should be implemented in USA / EU aswell? Limiting the choice of the players?

    (desperately trying to find that article)

  32. eoy says:

    Found something interesting, related to the subject above:
    link to wired.com

    comments?

  33. eoy says:

    Sorry for the spam but I found the actual article I was looking for: link to news.bbc.co.uk

    The new system will impose penalties on players who spend more than three hours playing a game by reducing the abilities of their characters.

    Gamers who spend more than five hours will have the abilities of their in-game character severely limited.

    Internet users in China (courtesy New Synergy Consulting)
    More than 20 million people play online games in China
    Players will be forced to take a five-hour break before they can return to a game.

    “The timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games,” said Xiaowei Kou, of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), the body which regulates online gaming.

  34. Iain says:

    @Okami

    If you hate MMOs, I see why you like Guild Wars. And that’s not a facetious comment.

    Guild Wars is interesting for an MMO in that you hit the level cap so quickly that the core of the game isn’t around grinding. For most people, it’s about the PvP – but unfortunately, I don’t give a flying chuff about organised PvP in an MMORPG – I’d rather play Team Fortress 2 for that kind of thing.

    I play an MMORPG to experience a game world, and this is where I find Guild Wars a bit lacking. Firstly, the instancing really makes the game world seem empty, because it completely removes the random element of bumping into friend or foe in the wilds. That may take out the griefing element, sure, but if the world is otherwise empty and lifeless, why should I care about it and want to spend time in it? It’s not like the quests are really anything other than you’d find in another RPG anyway. You say that you hand over your money for the scripted quests and extra content – which is fair enough – however, consider this:

    With Guild Wars the addition of new content is explicitly tied to the sale of expansion packs. To access the new content, you have to hand over your £30. With WoW, say you stop your subscription for a year. In that time, Blizzard will have added more quests and seasonal content, so if you pay for a one-off £9 one month sub to coincide with one of the seasonal festivals, you get all the extra content that has been added since you last played the game, and can absolutely hammer it for that month in pretty much the same time you could exhaust a Guild Wars expansion campaign.

    Which one is the better deal?

    Just to nail my colours to the mast here, I’ve been playing WoW for a couple of years now – not constantly, but I’ve seen pretty much all there is to see in Azeroth and Outland, barring perhaps the really high-level raid stuff (which I just don’t have time for), and I don’t play it for the grind. My level 70 doesn’t have a single Epic – I don’t care about the stats, I like being part of a world that feels vibrant, and playing with friends (and occasionally corpse camping level 35s in Stranglethorn Vale, I admit it). So I’m happy to pay the monthly fee, not because I’m addicted, but because I feel involved with the world and the fiction (and I wasn’t even a Warcraft fan before WoW came out) – Guild Wars just doesn’t do that for me, which is why I stopped playing it at Factions.

  35. Kim says:

    I haven’t worked on an MMO – so I haven’t had the experience specifically related to MMO development… however I’m pretty sure the goal to make a successful game is the same. You want people to buy your game and you want people to give a good review and want to keep playing, better yet – tell their friends how great it is and have more people buying and playing. Of course you do. I certainly do – with all the work I’m putting in for my job. I want to make a great game. I want people to think ‘Wow, this is awesome’. I want people to appreciate the hard work and the creative input I’ve put in and enjoy what I’ve helped produce.

    With MMO’s, I suspect the development stage is even more intense and unlike offline games, when the game hits the shelves it still remains in their hands. It doesn’t end there, they have to continue. Developers / webmasters / admins / etc / etc still have a job to do – the developers have to not only make great game play elements, but also a great place to socialize and you want people to come back, otherwise the world they created will be barren and pointlessly existing. They’ll lose out on the expenses on keeping their world running and without enough players; they’ll have to destroy their world.
    They have to keep making new content to keep players interested. So yes, to put it bluntly – they want to keep players ‘hooked’ so they can afford to keep the MMO running. This doesn’t make them inhuman; they want to keep their jobs. It makes them the bad guy because they don’t quit because of a small number of people that overdid it?

    Don’t mistake this with me agreeing what can result when someone takes online gaming too far. Because I don’t. I have friends who have messed up their Uni degrees because of WoW. And that pisses me off, it reallllly does. It’s a pointless waste. (Although honestly, every conversation turning into a WoW conversation also pissed me off – but I won’t go into that :P)

    However, It’s easy to use the Game Company that made it or the Publisher as a scape goat though. Just like when games / Films / Music are used as reasons why a kid shoots up their classmates. I personally think the player has to have some sort of blame, or has a problem they don’t seem to realise which results in them playing too much. They should take responsibility — if they can. If not, then their online and offline friends should try and intervine?

    I totally agree that Games Developers should have things in place to make sure the players knows to not play too much – take extra measures to ensure the player doesn’t overdo it and these should be thought about and implemented into the games design.
    I know a number have warning messages while the game loads up – but I reckon reminder messages at certain intervals couldn’t hurt. Every couple of hours. If a player has been logged on for a stupid amount of time, admin gamemasters should pull the plug on the player and disallow access for a decent amount of time.
    Bans for abusing the time they have to play. Be a little stricter and harsher.

    I’d imagin it’s a lot to regulate while you are trying to keep a world running and ‘alive’ however. So they’d probably have to employ more people to regulate player’s activity.

    @eoy:
    Penalties like that would be great and I hope they do…

    And after reading that article you posted. Hmm, because the issue of online gaming addicting and the amount of time a player can be on their and the digital-possessions and currency they acquire; I wouldn’t be surprised if virtual world laws became just as important and serious as real-world laws and the government would probably jump on it.
    Maybe the government will order games companies that are running the MMO’s will hire ‘social workers’ especially for hooked players? Maybe your 2+ bunny slippers will be taxed when you buy them from GooPok the Troll?

  36. I_still_love_Okami says:

    @Ian: You have a point there. Of course I could argue, that ArenaNet have released free expansions, but that would be stretching things a bit, since they only released one free expansion that I’m aware of and that’s Sorrow’s Furnace.

    I guess for me the GW model just works better than the usual MMO model, since I don’t have to keep paying until the new content arrives.

    You can play GW to grind and if you’re really commited to getting the rarest armor and colors for all you chars GW can be just as much of a time sink and take over your life like any other MMO.

    But I guess they’re less dependent on people getting addicted to their game than other MMOs are. Actually since they stop earning money once you’ve paid for the game, but still have the same running costs every other MMO developer has it’s better for them not to have a lot of people playing the game all of the time.

  37. Iain says:

    Actually since they stop earning money once you’ve paid for the game, but still have the same running costs every other MMO developer has it’s better for them not to have a lot of people playing the game all of the time.

    That’s why I said 6-monthly expansion packs are a repackaging of the monthly fee – because they have a large user base, they HAVE to put out expansions every six months – otherwise they can’t afford to keep the servers running.

    Imagine what would happen if people stopped buying the expansion packs, but kept playing the game. The company would just haemorrhage money until they had to kill the game. So they’re just as reliant on making the game addictive as other MMOs, if not more so – because they don’t have the guaranteed income of a monthly fee – they have to make the game addictive enough to appeal to the user base so that they can keep selling expansion packs to them.

    The “MMORPG with no monthly fee” stuff is simply window dressing – albeit very clever window dressing.

  38. Iain says:

    @Kim

    Maybe your 2+ bunny slippers will be taxed when you buy them from GooPok the Troll?

    The law is actually rather murky in this area – and I read a while back that the Treasury is looking into whether transactions for virtual items should be taxed – on the basic principle that virtual money in a game has a real world value. and that in-game sales – such as in an auction house – constitute eCommerce. (And also on the general principle that governments are money-grabbing bastards – but that’s not exactly surprising)

    Personally, I hope the government leave this can of worms well alone – I don’t want to be paying the taxman VAT whenever I buy one of my alts some new armour in the Ironforge auction house…

  39. Anthony Damiani says:

    This isn’t a problem with gaming, it’s a problem with society. As virtual worlds become increasingly compelling, it’s natural and appropriately utilitarian that more and morlee people will be immersed in living their virtual lives in preference to their “real” ones. The thing that shocks is how very low the threshold is– how little our society manages to engage these people that even the feeble half-life of WoW could feel more rewarding!

    I suspect you will find this to be less cause than symptom of a general poverty of meaning in our collective lives.

  40. MindBrain says:

    The speaker kept talking about how there is no chemical dependency/interaction when it come to playing video games, yet it seems that it is highly probable that while playing video games in the brain there is an increase in the chemical dopamine. Whether it is completely true or somewhat inaccurate, it’s still probable there is some sort of brain/chemical interaction taking place, whether it be with the chemical dopamine or another.

  41. dhex says:

    isn’t it sort of, well, horrible that the expectations of personal sovereignty are so low that we expect now the makers of toys to protect everyone from the abuses of a very low percentage of players? it seems more depraved than those who actually do play to extreme levels.

    i mean, masturbating is addictive for some people, but we don’t put a cap limit on lubes. at least not yet…

    perhaps it is a symptom of the “age of the timmy” as i like to call it (“safety kids” is another u.s. term, dunno what the uk version would be since the the only slang i know is chavs = guidos) and we’re all going to get strapped into a high chair (with eight point safety harness) at some point for our own good because an even smaller percentage of jackanapes can’t actually manage their own lives in a way that will keep death – or more importantly, negative notice from the family/community aka someone with access to lawyers – at bay.

    i don’t play mmo’s and yet i’m offended on their behalf in some weird way, or maybe it’s just because this is the microcosmic version of what’s happening on the macro level. as above so below and all that rot.

  42. Anonymous says:

    “Chav” refers more generally to any member of the underclass. It’s more akin to the Austrailian ” dole bludger”.

  43. Jim Rossignol says:

    I would have said “Chav” more accurately referred to the ugly way in which the UK’s general population has attempted to interpret hip-hop derived fashions. They don’t have to be unemployed, just tasteless.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  44. dhex says:

    that’s the connection i made. (i.e. the whole hip hop thing, which may be revenge for hip hop stealing al pacino’s ganster-thief motif thing)

    i.e.
    http://www.njguido.com

    (sorry if you’ve never seen this before, it tends to stain the mind)

  45. Marc2543 says:

    Video games are an addiction like any other.

    I am of the firm belief that people suffering from this addiction should seriously consider uninstalling all games off their computer. Before you do so, log how many hours you play/week and take note of the following activities which you are more than likely neglecting:

    Think about it: we typically work anywhere from 8-12 hrs/day; where are you possibly going to find time to play games when there are essential things to be doing such as (1) eating properly (2)exercising enough (3) reading up on current events/paying bills/investing/watching the news/essential daily and/or weekly activities (4)socializing with family/friends.

    It’s time to put an end to video games in your life once and for all and start living your life again. Just because a dozen of your friends are playing games doesn’t mean it’s healthy, it simply isn’t.
    Do not treat this issue lightly, this is not a joke.

  46. BarkingDog says:

    bump for great justice- came up on the front page and thought I’d link to an actual psychological theory that explains why we gamble, and concurrently, why games like wow are so.. addictive.
    It’s called “Variable Ratio Reinforcement”, or something similar, and comes under operant conditioning.
    A psychologist called BF Skinner carried out an experiment a few decades ago in which rats were taught to press a button for food. One button press–>one item of food is called fixed ratio reinforcement, and once the food stopped coming, the rats stopped pressing. However, if the ratio was variable- ie the number of button presses required for one piece of food changed every time- then the rats would keep pressing long after the energy expended pressing the button exceeded any possible gain from the food. After food stopped coming, the behaviour would carry on for the longest time as well. Substitute rats for people, and “food” for “money” and there’s an explanation for gambling; substitute “pressing a button” for “killing a mob” and “food” for “imaginary shinies” and there’s why WoW is so very addictive. In brief.