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I want a new drug

April 25, 2008

I’m a techy girl, so when I power up my computer first thing in the morning, I have multiple homepage tabs in my browser. One, naturally, is CourierPostOnline.com. Another tab has MSN.com, which I keep for mostly humorous reasons. It always tosses up a headline that makes me grimace. This week’s knee-slapper was:

What makes video games ‘addictive’?

Firstly, I like the illustration. It’s what we all think of when we think of a gamer. Pasty, unshaven, and male. The image in his glasses is actually the World of Warcraft box so it wouldn’t be what’s on his computer screen if he were actually playing the game. (And really…it’d be a reflection of the box – a mirror image. Silly graphic artist.) The Mountain Dew can at his side? Completely accurate. I’m on day 14 of being Dew-free and my gosh…it’s hard. But that’s another subject for another blog. Check out the caption: “What is it about some games that turns otherwise nice people into bleary-eyed zombies who forget to pay the gas bill?” I pay my bills, thank you very much. And mostly on time. And if they’re not on time, it’s not because of WoW, it’s because I’m an airhead.

Secondly…did you get the point that you’re supposed to be AFRAID of online games? That once you let Billy or Susie touch the box they’re going to fail out of school or quit their jobs? You didn’t? Let’s examine the evidence.

You have a therapist who specializes in computer addiction. She deftly paints an entire population as “bored and lonely.” From my years in online gaming – this is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the people I’ve come across have jobs, significant others, kids, families, and friends. They play for fun, not out of boredom.

You have the poor wife whose husband was “consumed” by WoW. (Mind you, she knew she was marrying a gamer to begin with.) So she started to play the game with him. Since she says that people in the game are “lot more genuine then [sic] they are in real life,” I’m not sure why they included her story. It must be because she admitted to playing for 15 hours straight. How is this different from that person you know who loves a TV show so much that they catch it in syndication nightly and once watched the entire run on DVD in only one weekend?

Finally, you have the guy who got hooked because – wait for it – you get better the more you play. (Is Mom excited when she solves the sudoku puzzles faster each day? Oh no! Take her to the shrink!) He eventually became “the No. 1 priest character on his server.” Fact about World of Warcraft players: they can be very braggy about their little collection of pixels. Hence, this blog. Anyway, he realized he was out of shape from playing so much. So he quit WoW and started going to the gym. I’m waiting for him to show up in a “What makes fitness addictive?” story. He even stated himself that he replaced one addiction with another.

And that brings up a valid point. What makes playing an online game – a game where you try to achieve goals, solve puzzles, and socialize – after work worse than sacking out in front of the TV after work? Where are the stories about the people who spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours flying model airplanes? Or the electric slot machine game that Gramma keeps in her purse? Or that whole scrapbooking craze?

Nothing. Nothing makes it worse. If you have an addictive personality, you’re going to become addicted to any hobby you’re interested in be it line dancing, “Lost”, or the quest for the perfect cupcake.

Typed too long. (twitch) Must go. Need my Wow fix…(twitch)…I’m coming, my sweet!

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