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Jun 27, 2007



Looking for quests in Storm Wind.
Hours fall like leaves in Fall.
3 AM, damned game!


Very nicely put Mia. I look forward to reading your peice about women gamers. Although not exclusively about women, my wife has authored a few peices that featured ladies and their surprising (to some) involvement in Virtual Worlds.



Mia wrote:

In an article I co-wrote about women gamers (appearing soon), we found that while gamers thought of games as highly social, non-gamers were the quickest to believe that gaming was an anti-social activity appropriate only for misfits who couldn't 'make it' in the real world.

Is it possible that the two groups have different views on socialization and that they're both right from their own point of view?




By your logic, anyone who thinks they are right, therefore is - including psychopaths. In Mia's statement there is one difference between the two points of view - those speaking from a point of experience (gamers) and those who aren't. Views formed out of ignorance are typically... well.. ignorant.


Nice article. In my day the devil was TV, which I sat in front of like a zombie. At least my kids are socializing, creating and interacting with other humans, albeit electronically (they do the same corporeally as well though). There is a definite convergence of socialization and gaming across all platforms (just look at the Wii), which is a healthy evolution in gaming IMHO.

Yes, my kids like games, but it just takes a bit of good parenting to get them doing other things. Framing it as an addiction is disingenuous.


The problem of game "addiction" does not come from average girls and boys who may use them for their social interactions but from "outliers" that are vulnerable to be addicted to games. Statistically, video games do not have "bad" effects on people, which does not mean that video games are not harmful to certain populations.

Do we have to care outliers? Yes, we do.


Hivemind -

Absolutely, good parenting stops gaming addiction. It also stops addiction to crack and heroin. The problem is that not every parent is a good one, and quite a few are bad.

In modern society, we've made it our business and the tenor of the way we do things to attempt to pull every person up to a societal norm. Absolutely, there are outliers, as Don said, who are below our societal norm and there are people who, I believe, are addicted to video gaming as part of that.

Now, I think the actual subset of people who are addicted to video gaming and that's the end of the story is very, very small - I think other mental illnesses such as bipolarity and depression are the root causes, unhealthy time spent playing video games is just a symptom.

At the same time, we're talking about a diagnosis code here, and all sorts of DX codes refer to symptoms rather than the root problem. I think the APA is going to look back on this when it reconvenes on the issue, as more and more media start to get play about the problem, and regret this decision.


It's entirely possible, but what seemed to come of that research (among other things) was that for those women who didn't play games, gaming was positioned as an anti-social activity, or something that people with few social skills did, or that resulted in people having few social skills. They appeared to position *themselves* as different, as social, as wanting to and being able to socialize. Other women, who played games, saw games as either a social enabler (playing party games with friends) or places to seek socialization (online games). It wasn't our central question going in (I'll link to the publication when it comes out in August) however, so this is definitely an area ripe for further investigation.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say the APA will regret this decision--to pass on ruling about game addiction, or taking up the question at all?




"Is it possible that the two groups have different views on socialization and that they're both right from their own point of view?"

IMHO, exactely that's the case. In many other aspects of online gaming and VWs , i believe a " common denominator " could be exactely that : one group thinks that a worthy , healthy socializing means the use of the full capacities of interractions and communications available to humans, as much as possible ; the other group thinks that a large part of humans doesn't actually needs/deserve but only simulacres . One part thinks that it's in the humankind's best interest to grow and to have full physically and mentally developed individuals , according to each one's potential and opportunities , while the other part consider that actually a human can safely replace/redouce it's natural abilities/capabilities .
This is happening only in online games / environments , and i'd like to point to at least one aspect : you cannot have socialization when the interactions are based on anonymity and lack of accountability/responsibility.

Hivemind, try think again Matt's post : " ....right from THEIR OWN point of view ".

Mia, the PC games , the online games and even reading books are " highly social " ONLY AFTER the other forms of human interractions needs and capabilities are fulfilled , and ONLY when those activities are managed with a wise balance. I doubt the youngsters have that balance.


Thanks for the post, Mia. Two quick comments:

-APA may have backed away from classifying 'video game addiction' as a disorder, but it does recognize 'internet addiction' (also referred to as 'problematic internet use' and 'pathological internet use') as a disorder. ...implications for online video games, virtual worlds?

-Instead of asking whether video games are social/anti-social, etc., it may be more fruitful to ask (as folks have suggested): under which circumstances can which 'types' of video games be social/anti-social, etc.? Otherwise, putting all video games into one big pile makes sausage.



I used to play D&D/GURPS for 18 hours straight, a couple times a month. One of my co-workers thought that this made me whacko anti-social and a Satanist.

The 8-12 people I usually RPd with did not think of me as such. We thought of the folks down the street in the sports bar spending every weekend night watching games on the big screen TVs as anti-social block-heads.

I know people who run obsessively. If they can't run in the morning, they don't just pout... they become depressed. Addicted to jogging? I don't know.

All things but beauty in moderation. That's what I says.


I'm actually beginning to believe that online socialization offers distinct advantages in a couple of ways: the participant is able to select their social group and cultural expectations much more directly and personally (I'm not limited to the bar down the street, I get to come here... or in the virtual worlds that people who come here go to) and participants get a much more direct involvement in cultural production - I think this is always going on, but the culture of most online spaces can be much more directly, and much more freely, affected by the people involved... there's a sense in which participants are able to reclaim responsibility for the nature of their culture, which just ain't possible watching Star Trek (though perhaps it can be seen in the impulse to become a Klingon, for example).


In regard to the quote from the pediatrician and children's use of video games:

How many children play online games? How many are actually playing console games with no online connection whatsoever? Most of the major market MMOG's are aimed at adults, not children, and the social context often makes children less than welcome. This is where (not having read your forthcoming article) I suspect your argument is weaker.

Unless children are playing console games, for example, in a social environment, as with friends or family, then I would argue that the use could easily become isolating. Now I'm an avid gamer, both of online and single-player games, and I prefer it to more passive "activities" like watching TV. But in a basic sense the pediatrician has a good point: spending a lot of time playing video games will probably decrease time spent with friends and family as well as exercising.


@Stephanie: I forgot about internet addiction- yikes! Funny how we don't hear about that one so much anymore, now that we are honing in on the specifics (email addiction, browsing, etc). In regards to types of games being social/anti-social, I think we're opening another entire can of worms. I'd agree some games lend themselves to being more social (Habbo versus FFIX) but again, there's a continuum. And what I had originally found in my study wasn't related to causality (we didn't even try for that) so we don't know if people who consider games asocial won't go near them, or if many people start that way, play games, and then see how they can be social. Definitely a study worth doing!

@Rosemary: I don't have the specifics on numbers of children who play online versus offline games, but there are a number of VWs targeted directly to children, including Toontown Online, Habbo Hotel, and Whyville, and many kids also play the regular VWs such as WoW, FFXI, and City of Heroes. Another interesting question to consider is-- which 'friends' are we talking about? Are we privileging the kids who live nearby as friends over kids met in games or friends who don't live nearby anymore? I don't want to go down the path of the appropriateness and safety of kids making friends online, but there are many different kinds of friends and friendships that I think are sometimes ignored in blanket statements about "friends and family" which seem to be all about physical proximity. I do hear you on the exercise thing! And lastly, my own study looked entirely at adult women, not kids, so I can't say with any certainty kids' views on games being social or anti-social.


@Mia: Yes, I'm well aware of the MMOGs aimed specifically at children. I browsed the portal site for Habbo Hotel last week. Free to play, but with higher premium levels of membership and various microtransactions that I'm guessing are priced at allowance (or pester your parents) level costs. It looks like there are safeguards built in as well, but I don't know enough about them to comment.

I agree that online environments can be positive social environments, though the basic anonymity and distance built into the interface will for me always be somewhat of a barrier. I've made friends and been in fantastic guilds in my time online, but it's my real life friends I really value playing with. The MMO environment also makes it far easier to communicate with friends in distant places, a real advantage. So you make a good point in virtual environments enabling connections.

As for children playing WoW and other MMOGs, see the recent article and comments at http://www.wowinsider.com/2007/06/25/officers-quarters-wont-someone-think-of-the-children/. Not a fully accepted presence, and if I had children, I'd certainly monitor any time they spent on a game like that very closely. It's way too easy to act without consequences in that environment.

But I suspect that what the pediatrician had in mind were console and portable single or limited multiplayer games. Online connections for those are quite recent, and I really don't know how widespread they are. Judging from what friends' kids like, and from the amount of floorspace alloted to single player console games at places like Best Buy, I'd assume that that's what more children are doing.

So to clarify what I mean about social (sorry about that not being clear): I was really thinking about kids and their family and/or local friends hanging out and playing Guitar Hero/DDR whatever. Back in the day my friends and I would do this with Super Mario or Pitfall. So in this case it's more a matter of proximity than the activity itself that is shared.


Just to throw some numbers out -

As referenced in this article http://kotaku.com/gaming/list-it/top-10-mmos-269160.php

"Kids" games are quite popular indeed. Habbo has 7.5 million active users, making it the number two mmorpg behind WoW. Club Penguin boasts 4 million active users. Webkinz 3.8 million. Whyville another 1.7 million. And there are many more of them out there or in development. I would venture to guess this trend will only continue to explode as major houses start to get more and more involved in developing the games aimed at children.



I agree we care about the "outliers" (as you put it). Therefore it is all the more important to identify the problem correctly. Some people are prone to addiction. Normally it is something they enjoy very much. As I suggested, singling out games as THE problem is disingenuous.


I'm confused about your conclusion (as Mia was). I think the APA have made the right decision. Psychological addiction is a common human condition, and for some it is uncontrollable. By identifying the problem as specifically associated with games is a dangerous (and potentially damaging) assertion and should be scientifically confirmed and ratified before it is aligned with physical addictions such as heroin and crack. It is all too easy to blame the symptom and not the cause.


Surely, as always, is the real question, why are children chosing to reject the real world?


@Grendel: Would you consider the reading of fiction to be "rejecting the real world?"

If so, I'm afraid my BA in literature is somewhat, er... fantastic.


Mia: "non-gamers were the quickest to believe that gaming was an anti-social activity appropriate only for misfits who couldn't 'make it' in the real world."

Has anyone ever considered, or is there any research out there considering that there might be positive effects of online social games for the “misfits” that are getting picked on or beat up on the playground? I know that school bullying is not a new phenomenon, and this has been a cause for concern for many considering the issue has been on the news (at least in my local area), so I wonder why so many people seem ready to write off the shy kid as a misfit and leave it at that. If a kid, or anyone else for that matter, cannot find engaging social interaction in their immediate area, but can find such meaningful relationships via the Internet or online games does that immediately mean that there is something necessarily wrong with them?

Amarilla: "and i'd like to point to at least one aspect : you cannot have socialization when the interactions are based on anonymity and lack of accountability/responsibility."

This is simply not true across the range of online games. Anyone actively involved with a long standing community, such as a guild in an MMORPG is not anonymous and does have at least some level of accountability and responsibility to that community. In fact, in my own experiences I have found that anonymity is expressly not accepted in some guilds. At a larger server level, someone labeled as a ninjalooter for example, is going to find their actions have consequences when they have trouble finding anyone willing to group with them.

Hivemind: "By identifying the problem as specifically associated with games is a dangerous (and potentially damaging) assertion and should be scientifically confirmed and ratified before it is aligned with physical addictions such as heroin and crack. It is all too easy to blame the symptom and not the cause."

I wholeheartedly agree with this and many of the other comments on the addiction question. I can just see it now…the APA counts game addiction as a problem unto itself, and 1-2 years later we see commercials on t.v. for the drug that will cure this addiction. Why raise your kids when you can medicate them?


@Krista-Lee: there are a number of activities that have shown benefits for people communicating in VWs. Do a search on "Second Life" + "aspergers."


As gamers, I think we've been trained to react strongly and defensively to anything we perceive to be an attack on our past-time, video game violence being the perennial favourite.

I am a life-long gamer, but I think that anyone here who really doesn't see a problem in video games, particularly MMOs, eating up very large amounts of time, are not really seeing things very clearly.

How many of us know someone who's failed a college class because of WoW? How many of us know someone who's clocked 50+ days playtime in an MMO? What about 100? I'd say a fair number. Does this sound like the actions that someone who has a proper perspective on things takes?

I don't think that video games do this themselves, and I think that other commenters who have suggested they are symptoms rather than a cause. But once you are on that treadmill, and once you feel indebted to other people in a VW, and once you start thinking that MMO raids feel more like a job than something pleasurable, that doesn't sound right. Perhaps the issue is simply being addicted to communication (like people who send 1000 text message a day) rather than games, but I think it's time that, as a community we take these concerns on board.

External parties are faced with knee-jerk "nuh-uh" reactions every time they being up an issue. Some of them are nonsense, of course, but some of them we ourselves have anecdotal evidence of. Why don't we face up to them and have a real conversation, rather than saying "it's no different to liking books a lot! It's no worse than an R-rated movie" ad nauseam.


Syntheticist: I think you make some great points here. I would not argue that there are situations where people have played games too much, and their lives have suffered for it. In FFXI, when I played regularly, at least two of my guildmates had some fairly serious family problems/repercussions because they played too much. I believe part of the problem is the nature of the labeling that's going on. Why are we labeling things "video game addiction" or "Internet addiction?" I think such activities can certainly be overdone, but I also think that such activities are very different from physical forms of addiction, like alcoholism or drug addiction. I hate even using the word "addiction" because of that.

I think *any* behavior can be overdone, and I think there are lots of reasons for that overuse. We (popular press/public) like easy labels and pat answers to multi-layered problems. I also believe that as you say, gamers have an almost knee jerk response to cries of negative effects upon playing games. Part of that is our own experience either contradicting that, or maybe being too close to the truth for comfort.

For game studies researchers, I also believe we are worried about the political uses to which our research can be put. Feminists have worried about this even longer-- how could they *ever* argue that men and women might be *naturally* suited for different *insert role/emotional response/etc here*? The political uses of that information will go beyond anything you ever dreaded. So of course gamers and game studies folks are wary of the addiction label.

But you're right-- we do know people who take it too far. But we also know people who take eating ice cream and food in general too far. Do we ban food? Regulate food? I would love to see a reasonable dialogue about problematic activities-- and not about the dangers of videogames, but about why some people are playing too much- what is it about their lives that is so troublesome or mundane or whatever that they are overindulging in a game, and not just for a brief period of time?


Aren't "behavioral addictions" already a DSM-IV classification? I don't have one handy so can't check. Certainly gambling addiction is in it, along with a severity scale and generic classification for the problem.

On another note: I'm not worried about a distinct classification of "internet addiction" or "computer game addiction" if indeed cases that warrant such classification exists. It's like a non-addict drinking a beer, which is fine and who might worry being labeled an alcoholic as a social stigma. And an alcoholic who is drinking a beer, who doesn't need social stigma either, but needs a clear diagnosis and help.

And yes of course there is the political, but to allow a label or to deny it, really both is political in a certain context as is how much is made of a label.


It should be clarified that this whole issue relates to the American Psychiatric Association, not the American Psychological Association.

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