Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Difference between Game Addiction and Enjoyment

The difference between enjoyment and addiction can be a very thin line which mostly consists of moderation. But the definition of moderation can be a very tricky subject. Massive Multiplayer Online games are a new form of media and people might not realize they need to moderate themselves. Plus with the over hyping of game addiction by several different groups some people might not believe it exists. It does exist but for most people its very easy to ask yourself a couple of questions and take steps to prevent any problems.

1) How much time to you play per week? The average American watches about 28 hours of television a week and this gives us a good idea of just how much time can be considered moderate. If you play more then most people watch television then you probably have a problem.

2) What was the last really fun thing you did in the game? If you are having trouble remembering when you last had fun then you have a problem. It doesn't necessarily mean your addicted but it does give you a sign that you've fallen into a bad habit. Doing something you don't really like in your free time isn't healthy. You need to quit that particular game.

3) Do you have friends who play? Not only are MMORPGs more fun if you have a large number of friends who play but there is also less chance of falling into addictive habits. Friends in game are usually the first ones to notice if you are playing too much or not really enjoying the game anymore. Note: There is a difference between friends and hardcore guild members. Do not sacrifice your health to meet someone else's need to advance in a game.

4) What do you smell? I'm serious. Go outside plug your nose for a couple minutes then walk back to your computer desk. Unplug your nose and take a deep whiff. If you're assaulted with the smell of old food and ignored housework then you could be addicted .... or just really gross. Either way establish some priorities on hygiene and cleanliness before playing. Also calling in sick from work or skipping class are signs of trouble.

There are plenty of clues which hint that you might be addicted to an MMO. I like to follow a simple rule of making sure I am still having fun with the game and not approaching the national television viewership average. I would also at this time like to point out a few points that I am tired of hearing people use to prove video game addiction.

You are Not Addicted If:

1) Non-gamers tell you that you are.
Significant others, parents, and even psychologists will often claim a person is addicted if they spend even as little as 1 hour a day playing a game. Most people who don't play video games get their information from sources that are filled with anti-game spin. Also remember that most psychologists are as much doctors as security guards are FBI agents. A few months ago one psychologist, in charge of an addiction clinic of course, pronounced that 40% of World of Warcraft players were addicted. Seems kind of high and with no research to back it up.

2) You quit the game and haven't played it for a couple of months.
I am tired of people not liking a game after they get bored with it and then claiming they used to be addicted. Just because you're now bored or were banned from a game does not mean you need to try to get other people not to play it. Chances are if you played a MMO for less then three months then quit you were never addicted. I can never understand how there are so many ex World of Warcraft players who were "addicted" but never or barely hit the last level.

3) If you want to complete a raid
The raid is one of the most time consuming features of MMORPGs but wanting to finish one doesn't mean your addicted. A lot of people don't realize that a raid is like a team sport involving a huge amount of players who all have to coordinate with one another. They only see you at the computer and think you are doing a solo activity. Thus many times a non-gamer family member will be hurt that you would rather spend time alone then with them. The best way to combat this is to introduce them to some of your raid friends. If your ventrilo is PG then let them listen to the planning and general camaraderie that occurs in such gatherings.

I've written more then I thought I was going to but I wanted to express my feelings on the truth behind game addiction. It does exist but its not as common as some groups would have us believe. In my lifetime I've only ever met one person who was addicted to a video game and he had both financial and health reasons which encouraged the habit. Unlike gambling MMORPGs don't steal away a person's wealth unless one pursues in a lot of real money transfers. Plus more modern games have cut back on having heavy time investments in their games which makes it easier to avoid addictive habits. Tomorrow I am going to write on why certain groups spin the topic of game addiction. If you want a sneak preview go on over and read some of the posts at http://www.gamepolitics.com


rosemary said...

Great post. The talk about addiction on both sides is often so emotional that it's nice to see a more balanced and realistic perspective.

Saylah said...

I agree Rosemary. People are just caught up in the hype. I don't think the % of players with an actual addiction is significant. I'm betting that many are like me. We've substituted MMOs for TV and Videos or do both simultaneously.

I'm sure there are some that have stretched their leisure time more to accommodate raiding/horde core grining, but we already know that raiders are a much smaller part of the game population - in North America at least.

I watch way less TV and books I might have read in the past are now on audio so I can listen and play. :-) The sky isn't falling, the chickens just like clucking.