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Apr 19, 2008



I would have liked to hear more about the mentioned game elements Blizzard was considering dangerous for some players and what small changes they made to possibly diminish those issues..

I found the article more poetry and little new substance. (Nick Yee's stuff really tries to dive in deeper in a social science sort of approach)

What I'd really like to see is a Neurobiolgical study of which areas of the brain fire up while playing and what those brain areas are associated with. Do mmorgs fire additional levels of brain responses than reading a novel, watching different types of TV shows, or playing a first person shooter? (I imagine those three would stimulate on different levels and mmorg play might at times get all of those and more at different points of play)

It would also interesting if they discovered correlations between unusual brain response of some individuals to game/play, and things like, ADD, Bipolar Disorder, Family history of Alcoholism, etc..

While Im asking for pie in the sky cutting edge neuroscience, I'd also like to understand if there are lasting changes in brain reward stimulus created by continued game playing. (do the brains of people who've played a thousand hours of games light up differently than non game players in other tasks like folding laundry or alphabetizing a stack of books)

Of course scientists are just getting around to looking at brain wave patterns for non-game activities so it might take science a while to get around to the questions I'm curious about.


I've seen many people who think it's a good thing when gaming expands and non-gamers are drawn to games by something like the Wi. I don't think it's going to be a good thing if someone like my father or John McCain become hooked on games. The real hope for a shift in how society views games lies not in older generations coming to understand gameplay, but in younger generations who already understand games growing older. Just as with other technologies, the older generations are more likely to remain alienated and even grow more detached and alienated as the technology grows and developes faster than they can learn and keep up with changes. How many people who don't understand how to program their own VCR (quite an old technology) do you expect to ever embrace more recent technologies like mobile text messaging or video gaming. Do you really think that someone like my father, whos only exposure to online gaming is what he sees on TV news will ever subscribe to an MMO? While my father may have no problem watching 6 hours of TV a night and even more on weekends, he'll always feel that an equal amount of game play time is an evil. He will c ontinue to turn on the TV the minute he walks in the front door after work and even have a TV in every room of the house (living room, bedroom, kitchen), but will tell me I have a problem when I log in to my MMO right after work to read in-game mail from my online friends. I say the gaming industry should continue to grow and expand its core audience until the numbers of young adults who play and understand gaming overwhelms the aging baby boomer population who will never be a part of or even want to be a part of that generation. If you think that "generating a meaningfull context" or "having frank and open discussions with compelling research statistics" is ever going to make the average baby boomer change his mind then you are dreaming and wasting your time. It's like thinking that you can write a great book about why pop music is just as good as classic rock and roll and expect a 65 year old Elvis fan from Arkansas to run out and buy the latest Leona Lewis single and like it. Good heavens, there are still people who are afraid that microwave ovens may cause health risks.

By doing more research and talking about the potential for gaming to harm people, you are just opening the door for people to argue with you. When a political candidate has some accusation of wrong-doing, it doesn't matter if it's true or not. It doesn't matter if they are later proven to be innocent of the charge. The mere discussion of possible harm did its damage already, and people will remember the shocking headline, not the intelligent discussion later.


SVgr, I was just about to point to your comment as one that particularly struck me-- it's fascinating that somehow society at large is generally all right with hours and hours of TV viewing per day, but a few hours a night of MMOs is viewed as dangerous. That makes me wonder, as shander does above, how exactly each activity affects the brain-- in all honesty, I feel like less of a slug when I've been playing World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online for an hour or two than when I've been watching random crap on TV for an hour or two . . . gaming, it seems to me, takes more interaction and engagement than does television.

On a historical note, I wonder-- has anyone thought to research reactions to the advent of other media in order to put gaming and "internet addiction" into a historical context? When the "dangerous" label comes up, one of my first mental jumps is to the excoriation of the literary genre of romance that has been going on at least since the medieval period-- it's been derided as frivolous, distracting, dangerous, mentally degrading, etc. in almost every century since the 1100s. Clark mentions Plato's distrust of writing, for an example in the classical period, and I would also bet that it's possible to find similar reactions to film, radio, and television. Perhaps if we could contextualize this distrustful reaction to a new medium with similar reactions to media that are now familiar, we might have a better idea of how to handle the criticism and to separate out which problems can be attributed to game design, and which are problems with the gamer him/herself.


"Clark mentions Plato's distrust of writing,"

Er, Socrates, that should be, in Plato's Phaedrus.


There's no need to look at history to find people evangelizing the evils of television; It's going on right now. If you really want a great example of people having a knee-jerk reaction to something they don't understand, then go talk to a genetics researcher. The bottom line is that it's actually healthy for a society to have group-fear whenever something new turns up. When people fear and/or fail to understand something, you don't show them scarry graphs and medical experiments. You show them a pretty girl with a nice smile on television talking about it. I know that's simplistic, but Okham's razor is sometimes a good tool.

Isn't it ironic that television is probably the best way to get that message out to the baby boomers? The most obvious detriments of video games are the very same things I could point to as the obvious detriments of watching too much television. (bad for your eyes, sedintary, exposure to sex and violence, children most vulnerable, etc)


I don't know why someone would camp out in front of a television for 8 hours a day or more. I don't know why someone would watch so much television that it costs them their job. But I haven't heard too many stories of TV addiction.

On the other hand, a friend of mine was sacked because he was playing so much EQ that he was constantly late to work. I have heard one screaming argument between a guy and his spouse over voice chat over the issue of the amount of time he was spending in WoW. I have cringed internally when I heard guild mates casually mention neglecting the kids in order to keep playing: "I'm sure he'll stop crying eventually".

Addiction is a real issue. If you can't accept that then you're being willfully blind.


P.S. Please ignore my horrible writing, I'm not an English prof. hehe. Thanks for the nod BTW.


Lewy, there are countless examples of people staying up so late watching television that they are late for work. There are many parents who will sit glued to the television while the baby cries in the next room. There are many examples of people who prefer to stay shut in their home watching daytime television in stead of going to look for work, or in stead of going to bed with a spouse. The only difference is that television shows have made it "okay" or "funny" when someone ignores thier partner while watching television. There's a neat bit of circular reasoning, huh? Television telling you that television is okay... Hmmm, could there be some relationship between television telling you that video games are bad and the fact that video games compete for the same audience as television?



I don't think anyone's denying that addiction is a real issue. The point is that it's likely not the game that's the main problem-- it's instead something in the person's psychological or physiological makeup that makes him/her prone to addictive behavior. There are plenty of gamers who play MMOs in a mentally and physically healthy way, not neglecting their children, alienating their spouses, or losing their jobs. Assuming that obviously games need to be regulated in order to curb these few addictive personalities is short-sighted and ultimately useless, as those who are prone to addiction will probably become addicted to something else that isn't so stringently regulated. That's why Clark's point that "too many have taken the approach of blaming someone -- rather than trying to understand why some players can't control themselves" is so important to hammer home. If a good study can figure out what about these gamers causes them to engage so intensively in the games, researchers might be able not only to work on designing games that are less likely to hook addictive personalities, but also figure out ways to help people with addictive personalities cope with and work around whatever is at the root of their addiction disorder.

@ SVgr:

I know that there are contemporary examples of the anti-media reactions, I just think that having the historical context set out might help researchers get the whole thing past the "witch hunt" phase, and into the "doing something useful" phase. This won't necessarily help immediately with public fear-mongering against a medium, but it might be a start.


Addendum to my last bit @ SVgr:

I've caught bits about the whole genetic thing from time to time-- last it came up to my attention, I think, was in a story on why you have to offer babies new foods at least nine times before they'll eat it! (And sorry if my last post's second paragraph came off as slightly grumpy-- I realized after posting that it sounded a little defensive.)


Nah, not grumpy or defensive, just pointed and correct. You are absolutely correct. However I would point the research toward obsessive rather than addictive behavior. I should be more clear when I say that the research isn't needed. I only mean that in the context of gaming companies "clearing the air" as the OP and the article referenced were discussing. From the point of view of the gaming industry, I think hard science is not the "answer". They would be better served by trying to distance themselves from studies about obsessive behavior. As the Clark essay suggests, the game industry needs to stop saying "this game is addictive" when they print reviews on the front of the box. A subtle shift towards phrases like "highly replayable" or "intensely riveting" would be a lot more PR friendly.


Ahh, that makes sense-- have the companies and developers themselves stop using the words that feed the negative reactions . . . unfortunately, gamers themselves probably won't, as there is a sort of cachet to being a "hardcore" gamer (something which often, to me at least, indicates a kind of obsessiveness about the game in question). I wonder if there's going to be any major shift in gaming culture now that demographics are shifting away from a dominance by the 18-25 set . . . there are a lot more 30+ gamers than there used to be.

Speaking of obsessive-- what is the qualitative difference between "obsessive" and "addictive"? Being a literature person, I tend to throw words like this around without really understanding the distinction. I know that people with what is popularly termed gambling addictions are also called "compulsive gamblers"-- are obsession and compulsion the same basic thing, and addiction something technically different?


There's already been a major shift in gamers' culture. Five years ago, most gamers thought it was outrageous to pay a subscription for a game you've already bought, but 10 million people think it's okay with WoW now.

To a layman like myself (without looking anything up in the dictionary or online), obsessive would be more voluntary and/or psychological with a softer connotation, addictive would be less voluntary and may include a chemical component, and compulsive would be where you can't make yourself stop, whether it's because of addiction, obsession, or a whim. (eg: compulsive retail purchase vs compulsive drinking)


I think the 'addiction' thing is real enough, or at least in the obsessive/compulsive-lite sense. But I get a feeling its not gaming per-se , but the exclusive lavish attention a computer gives its user.

I think of my cockateel parrot. He LOVES his mirror. And why wouldn't he. In it is another little guy with eyes only for him. He can prune himself, and do all sorts of things , and the little bird in the mirror watches on lovingly and aprovingly. Pure stimulus. (also, I call bullshit on birds not having empathy. what the hell is up with parrots and mirrors)

I've been an obsessive hacker since I was a ten year old and my VAX coder grandfather taught me algebra and basic programming. My first fiance left me , calling herself a "unix widow". This is pre the popular internet. I still spend inordinate amounts of time on the net, and I shouldn't , but honestly, I'm more hooked on wikipedia than my game.

I think its just stimulus.


"The difficulty of charged-up umbrella issues is that all sort of argument can become ensnared."

How do I ensnare something with a charged up umbrella?



Frankly I don't think I've ever heard of a neglect case tied to television addiction. On the other hand a Reno couple was just arrested last year for neglecting their kids while playing Dungeons and Dragons Online. Try googling "Michael and Iana Straw".

@N. M. Heckel:

I'm not denying that addiction doesn't universally affect all gamers. Plenty of people visit Vegas each year to gamble and don't lose the house. Plenty of people drink recreationally without becoming alcoholics. The point is that the gaming and alcohol industries don't deny that their product has something to do with the ones who do become addicted, and they at least pay lip service to programs designed to treat the problem.


Thanks for the link, Nate.

The comments heretofore have brought up a lot of key foundational issues in addiction, or "addiction" to games. In a lot of ways that's where we're at. There's been very little work examining what, if anything, creates in gaming an addiction that's unique. The research so far has suffered a fundamental divide between the humanities academics who understand gaming and the clinical researchers who specialize in many different types of addiction. I think that the solution starts with getting over one particular wedge.

What's been in recent history called "gaming addiction" kicked off in 1995 with Internet Addiction Disorder(IAD). What started with a [Hoax], was changed little when proposed as the serious disorder IAD, then only barely changed when copied from IAD to [Online Gaming Addiction]. Even the layman could get a chuckle from comparing these two. These days, IAD is so entrenched that under peer review, clinicians can actually be forced to re-word their own work as "Internet Addiction Disorder," when IAD provides a lot of different kinds of people with a lot of different kinds of snags. Given how simplistic IAD has been made, it's often forced on students looking to get into these issues in a more liberal-arts-centric setting. It makes the job of a "serious study" so easy, that there's really no reason to stop and query whether the composite actually measures the problems that exist.

Maybe progress will, as SVgr suggested, take a generation. I honestly hope not. If you picked up May's China issue of National Geographic and saw the "Internet Addict" being treated by the deep-dive helmet, it was probably a humorous surprise. But a lot of what's happening as a result of gaming and misoneic perceptions plain isn't funny. A good helping of the blame rests on IAD.

Up until now a lot of the effort has been in sealing up this debate. Popular clinicians say, "this is what the spoon looks like. Period." Liberal arts researchers say, "There is no spoon. Period." I really hope that both sides swivel in a new direction, re-examining their fundamental assumptions.

A boy can dream.


> How do I ensnare something with a charged up umbrella?

Would you believe ions?


Neils Clark said, 'Up until now a lot of the effort has been in sealing up this debate. Popular clinicians say, "this is what the spoon looks like. Period." Liberal arts researchers say, "There is no spoon. Period." '

I think something is a bit off there. It's one thing to say that spending relatively high amounts of hours per week playing computer games is addictive like nicotine is for some or alcohol is for others. That's a strong claim that needs scientific evidence to support a scientific claim. But that's different than saying that spending relatively high amounts of hours per week playing computer games causes some people problems with their (RL) human relationships, with their work or schoolwork and other things that they themselves count as problematic.

Maybe it's not an addiction in a strict DSM-IV medical/psychological sense, but there's a problem in some of these cases. Denying that some people are having serious negative impacts on their lives because of their inability to regulate their game playing is to deny facts.

But I'm not ready to blame the games, generally. I think they're a new phenomena that needs to be grappled with and understood, but my own sense is that people who have problems with excessive game playing would be having problems with something else if the games were gone. The games are stumbling blocks, but not root causes. That's my sense from my own experience and from watching others.


From a personal perspective - the biggest difference between watching TV and playing, say WoW is the perception of ability to multitask simultaneously. While I watch TV, I can play around with my kid, read a newspaper or cuddle my wife. When I play WoW, these things become immensely more difficult to do. This is especially the case with grouping/raiding. Even soloing, I can end up being dead and start all over again, because of a sneaky patrol or spawn, whilst I was making myself a sandwich in the kitchen. Even in town, game kicks me out after being afk for 20 minutes. The developers have done all they can to suck the gamer into THEIR world, at the same time making it difficult for the person to carry out RL activities. This is perfectly understandable from the design point of view, on the other it sure gives ammunition for those, who blast MMO-s as inherently addictive. Reminds me why casinos don't have clocks and curtains are always drawn.....

You can't compare TV and MMO in this context.


Off topic, but...

I'd love to see a Terranova post about the NASA MMO project and see what discussions would arise.




@ Mart Brauer:

I'm not sure if I would take things like a shortish (though to me, 20 minutes is a looong time to be gone if I'm playing) /afk kick or the possibility of being shredded while out of the room as evidence that the devs are trying to encourage addiction . . . it's not as though you can't log out-log in extremely easily with WoW, or as though you're penalized for logging off. In fact, I'd say that we're rewarded a bit for logging off by the implementation of rested XP-- the longer you're gone, the more double XP you get. I personally just try to schedule my play time around other things that need doing, rather than try to do things during my play time. The latter just doesn't work for me.

When you're playing, yes-- it's nearly impossible to engage meaningfully with anyone else; my husband has learned not to talk to me about anything important while I'm questing, and I've learned that I cannot game and pay attention to anything else simultaneously. This, to me, indicates that the potential addiction problems lie in game quests that actually take long periods of engaged time-- instances, raids, dungeons, large-scale PvP, etc., game elements where you actually can't choose to log off without completely screwing up your objectives or being forced to run an entire area again. I'd bet that in WoW, it's hardcore raiders who have the most addiction/compulsion problems, as that's the style of gameplay that consistently requires long stretches of undivided attention. Anyone know? It's this sort of thing, however, that needs to be figured out and dealt with.


What Mart Brauer and N M Heckel are talking about - I think that it's one of those areas where it's easy to confuse actual addiction with immersion and the texture of the experience. These are a couple of areas that I'm looking at right now, so vet them if you want.

I know that addiction is clinical, but the things that hold our attention don't necessarily have to be addiction. Look at what Malaby has been talking about - that the persistence and the stakes in MMO worlds make them into sort of a side-life. It's not just the people you know, the design, it's everything put together. You can't easily run out on your buddies - but nor is it easy to walk away after completing 2/3rds of an intense escort quest. That's not addiction, it's just having an experience in a world that most clinical researchers will never have the time nor inclination to understand.

But you've also got the immersion. On top of having a world that you care about, human physiology can give players an extra shove into game worlds. Our eyes are bad at separating real visual experience from gaming experience - and having all of these distractions on your monitor can make it a challenge to get distracted by reality. The other reality.

Neither of those things are patently addiction - but they do make psychological and physical dependence, in the long term, possible. More importantly, I think, is educating clinicians and society that this isn't just some simple "8-question addiction." When games influence psychology, it's in a way that's as variable as the individual playing it.


Are you aware of the Byron Report that the UK Government Commissioned into Children and Video Games? It incudes entire sections on MMO-games and video game addiction in general.


Page 152 finding 6.50 for example:

A further issue here is that there is a cultural judgement about excessive behaviour. In the
context of video games, excess is looked upon as being a bad thing. In the context of, say
reading, it is conceived of as much more positive – the term ‘book-worm’ might be
muttered somewhat proudly.

…many of the stories told in video games are just as involving, emotional and
thought provoking as any film or book.

Makes for interesting reading

As well as pages 193 Section 8.9 & 8.10 regarding specifically MMO-excessive play.

Byron gives a very balanced view on MMO games as 8.12 (page 194) shows:

There is also excitement about the learning potential of these games and many responses
to my Call for Evidence referred to the experiences of running ‘guilds’ or ‘clans’ (teams of
characters within a game) as potentially reflecting managerial & social skills required in the
real world. In addition, one clear thing that came through was that online gaming is an
important part of the lives of many children and young people with specific accessibility
needs as they offer a platform where players enter into the arena on a level playing field.
For example, children with disabilities who might otherwise need supervision from a carer
in many other real world activities.

And I would recommend this published governmental research as useful reading to anyone examining the field of computer addiction and excessive usage.


I live in Columbus, OH, where the biggest sports thing we've got is the Ohio State Buckeye football team. I'm not a sports fan in general, but the home-team mania here seems even more... pronounced... than I experienced with Sox fans in Boston or Mets fans when living in NY. Some people here become, for lack of a better word, disturbed (and disturbing) when it comes to Buckeye football. They will spend the better part of a day in preparation for a live (or televised) event, and lots of time in between "living the Bucks."

It's all (well, mostly) fun. People like to do different things. I don't see the fun in sitting in traffic for 3 hours on a Saturday morning to get to park near the game, nor in endlessly analyzing related stats, events, etc. But I completely support folks' right to go and have a good time.

I know people who spend 20+ hours a week reading, above and beyond what's required for work/school. That's a pretty solitary, anti-social pastime that nobody will come out and suggest is "addictive."

I spend a minimal amount of time on cooking. I'm an anti-snob when it comes to food [English ancestry, I'm afraid ;-) ]. I have friends, though, that spend insane (to me) amounts of time on food buying, prep, cooking, settings, presentation, etc. Don't get me started on wine...

Can any of these things end up becoming harmfully invasive in a life? Sure. Are there aspects of sports fandom and food/cooking elitism that make them more habit forming than other pastimes? I imagine so.

I see this as a case of gaming being different, yes... but not (as I say) "differently different."


Someone above indicated that television is not viewed as an addictive activity and that people are not neglecting their children or losing spouses over TV viewing habbits. A quick google search on "television addiction" will disuade you of that view. Back when television was the "new technology" there were alarmist headlines gallore and misdirected studies aimed at promoting political or social agendas just like we see today with video games. Perhaps one good way to approach video game addiction is to start with studies done on television addiction. Here's a recent study: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a789374769

I agree with Andy, that video games are different but they are "not differently different". I think there's enough similarity between video games and television (or other activities) that serious researchers can use prior research done on those other activities as a starting point for video game addiction research. Cell phone addiction would be another activity which shares some factors with video game addiction.

Another benefit of relating video game addiction to something people already understand, such as television addiction, is that it gets people thinking in stead of emoting about the subject. It removes some of the fear factor by presenting video game addiction in a context that people with little or no exposure to video games are more likely to understand or relate to.


As colorful illustration that also seems to reinforce a number of points raised in the comments above, a quick Google of a range of "addicted to X" queries (where X are word/phrase choices inspired by above discussion) provides the varied results below.

To my glance it suggests a range of meanings of "addiction" - which in some cases is stigmatized and in many other cases it is not (if not pridefully used). For example, "addicted to buckeyes" to my casual view of the usage returned by Google seems mostly a point of pride where "addicted to drugs" is not.

"addicted to drugs" 395k
"addicted to alcohol" 252k
"addicted to sex" 140k
"addicted to smoking" 102k
"addicted to work" 101k
"addicted to email" 78k
"addicted to TV" 54k
"addicted to rock" 53k
"addicted to internet" 52k
"addicted to facebook" 50k
"addicted to books" 48k
"addicted to video games" 48k
"addicted to cars" 47k
"addicted to chocolate" 43k
"addicted to games" 42k
"addicted to wow" 35k
"addicted to buckeyes" 29k
"addicted to running" 28k
"addicted to gossip" 21k
"addicted to television" 20k
"addicted to football" 12k
"addicted to driving" 12k
"addicted to eating" 12k
"addicted to politics" 10k
"addicted to wikipedia" 10k
"addicted to computers" 10k
"addicted to candy" 10k
"addicted to blogs" 9k
"addicted to texting" 8k
"addicted to baseball" 7k
"addicted to cell phones" 4k
"addicted to wrestling" 3k
"addicted to cooking" 3k
"addicted to the radio" 3k
"addicted to cake" 2k
"addicted to archery" 2k
"addicted to chinese food" 1k


"addicted to Terra Nova" 0
"addicted to TerraNova" 2



"Television addiction", "reading addiction", "cooking addiction"--these are not the models that MMOG addiction should be compared to. To my mind the most accurate comparison would be the self-destructive behavior some individuals engage in with gambling and games of chance. Losing control (and the house/car) at the craps table is to my mind pretty similar to losing control, gaming all night and getting fired from your job for being chronically late to work. It's all about the negative impact the addictive activity has on an individual's life.


lewy: There has been research into the physiological aspects of psychological addiction, yes. The mind is part of the body, and our brains spurt out all kinds of nifty chemicals when we're happy (or sad, angry, horny, whatever) that can produce physical effects and produce/strengthen the hold of a psychological compulsion or addiction. Gambling is one of the areas where some of the best/most work has been done on this.

On the other hand, exercise also produces psychopharmacological chemicals far in excess of activities like gambling. Being "addicted" to running is probably a much more physical state than being addicted to gambling.

Something having a negative vs. positive impact isn't necessarily a definition of addiction that's helpful. By some definitions, any "addiction" is inherently negative, because you are relying on something in excess to its benefit and at odds with compelling reasons to stop.

Someone might only have one drink in his/her entire life, but do something while drunk that's very harmful. That's not an issue of addiction, but of the effects of the activity in question.

The possible (probable, actually) negative effects of gambling are much higher (stakes pun anyone?) than those for gaming. Yes, you can lose your job if you game too much. Or jog too much. But your Guild Master isn't going to repo your car...


Exactly Andy. The difference between a drinking problem and alcohol addiction is distinct. The two sets are not 100% inclusive, since someone can be a functional alcoholic or conversely could be a once a year drinker with a serious drinking problem.

When people like Lew start talking about the problems caused by gaming, we start to enter some very gray areas. As with gambling, MMOG's have positive sides as well as negative. To be a great poker player you have to be a lot more than just lucky, and most gamblers aren't problem gamblers. MMOG's also have positive characteristics. When a young person is playing a computer game, they aren't out on the street getting in trouble, but they also aren't out getting exercise. There are social and mental benefits that come from MMOG play, such as budgeting skills, typing skills, vocal communication skills on voice chat, rapid decision making, group leadership/organization, meeting players from other cultural backgrounds, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, when you look at the cost per hour of entertainment, it's really hard to come up with a more affordable hobby than video games(you can't say that about gambling or drinking). That low barrier of entry and low maintenance cost may be part of the reason so many young people are attracted to gaming. In Eve, it's even 'legal' according to the TOS for players to purchase their monthly subscription with in-game money through the official secure purchase interface. So essentially once you establish an account and get started, you can play for free forever. On the other hand, video games tend to have elements of violence, anti-social behavior like fighting and stealing (both encouraged in Eve), and sometimes sex. Those positive and negative elements are really the things we need to work toward quantifying. If there's no way to emperically compare the benefit of keeping kids in the house vs getting them out of the house then who is to say which is better? I'm nearly 38 years old, so my childhood was filled with long days swimming, biking, running, etc. My brother is 10 years younger, so his childhood was filled with long days of Zelda, Mario, and Ultima. I'm a healthy, athletic person with average academic success who got into more than my fair share of trouble as a teen. My brother is an overweight home body with a Masters in Aerospace Engineering and he never got into any trouble like I did. Which was better? I did all the "good" things that kids are supposed to do, like playing outside and joining organized sports. I had part time jobs and learned good work ethics. I would probably have also become an Aerospace Engineer had I stayed inside more, but I dropped out after my third year. In fact, my brother is currently having trouble with his job and his spouse, but it's because of his overzealous interrest in exotic fish breeding. Go figure.

So in my mind, the question isn't whether gaming is addictive or not, but rather: Is it a)harmful b)beneficial c)zero sum? Is it the activity that's a,b or c, or is it only a,b or c to certain types of people? Are there ways to enhance b while minimizing a, or are certain people always going to self-destruct while others succeed?

When people like John McCain try to regulate the game industry, they could actually be doing a bad thing, if games are actually more good than harm. How can we make an intelligent decision if we aren't informed on all the relevant facts?


Andy Havens wrote:

I think the physical effects associated with having your knees broken by Guido and his cousin Vinnie after you default on your gambling debts probably outweighs anything that can happen as a result of game addiction. My point in bringing up gambling is that there is a precedent for psychological addictions which do not involve an external chemical element. Your brain does fine churning out addictive chemicals on its own. If we can recognize gambling as something which can be genuinely addictive then why not gaming?

As for losing your car, if you lose your job due to game addiction it's one short step from there to the car, the house, the dog...


Trip: "Maybe it's not an addiction in a strict DSM-IV medical/psychological sense, but there's a problem in some of these cases. Denying that some people are having serious negative impacts on their lives because of their inability to regulate their game playing is to deny facts."

I think the reality of this dependance issue is indisputable, however:

One thing that I wish people would become more knowledgeable about is the difference between "addiction" and "compulsion."

Addiction is physical and relates to the medical field. It involves a physical dependance and physical withdrawal symptoms.

Compulsion is an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act, aka only behavioral.

TV and Videogames, especially MMOs, do not form any biological dependances that result in physical withdrawal, unlike certain medications and narcotics, but they most certainly do form compulsive acts.

This is not to say that compulsion is not a very drastic problem, as I think most here would agree it certainly is a legitimate issue, but to label something as "addiction" when it is really "compulsion" is a complete misnomer.

As an aside, I actually plan on doing 2 years worth of undergraduate research on this very topic, seeking out how to implement game mechanics that are fun with out being compulsive forming.

My goal is to design a game in which a player can play 2 hours a night or less and still keep up with the majority of the population, rather than feel that they are making no progress or that they are extremely disadvantaged by having less time to devote to the game.

Ideally, these 2 hours a night would simply replace TV / hobby time, leaving more time for family interaction and other forms of primary / secondary social interaction.

If you guys have any suggestions, I would be more than welcome to hear you out, as my chair of sociology and my chair of psychology at my campus are still laying down the basic frame work of our research.

Anyone can contact my at [email protected] if you are interested in this topic and would like to assist.


Jon said: One thing that I wish people would become more knowledgeable about is the difference between "addiction" and "compulsion

That's exactly what I said farther up in the thread, but nobody seems to like worrying about that distinction. In a way, I agree that the nomenclature is a moot point because the mainstream press and public opinion will continue to call it "addiction" no matter what it realy is. However, as I stated above, I agree with you 100%.


There's a fine tradition of laymen ignoring or misusing scientific terminology. The physical definition of "heat" comes to mind. Maybe a more fair example would be the abuse applied to the term "quantum".


I think we spend far too much time trying to find blame or to deflect blame, comparing one spare time activity with another.

What I want to know is why spending 40+ hours on an MMOG is considered "normal" among MMOG peers and why it is so common for excessive MMOGers to be so accepting of (or in denial about?) the negative impact this uberfocusing has on their non-virtual life.


I agree jane, this is really a large reason of why im trying to limit the effects of game mechanics that support these large hr/week schedules.

I dont want 40 hours to be considered "normal," at most, I think 20 / weeks is stretching it.

2 hours per night, 5 on sat/sunday, is still a lot of time spent in a game.

As long as it is replacing TV / Hobby time, that is probably managable on most adult schedules.

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