Thoughts on “World of Warcraft” Addiction

Emails about World of Warcraft are by far the most common inquiries that I receive from readers. They come in two flavors:

  • Why don’t you write about WoW?
  • Why don’t you write about how crazy/pathetic/stupid WoW addicts are?

So, let’s address both of these questions once and for all.

Why don’t you write about WoW?

This one is pretty simple. I don’t play it.

I tried it for a few hours years ago, and I enjoyed the game. However, I didn’t have the time to play, and I didn’t really want to get hooked.

I don’t write about it because I am not qualified to do so.

Now let’s move onto the harder question…

Why don’t you write about how crazy/pathetic/stupid WoW addicts are?

Because I don’t believe they are crazy, pathetic, or stupid.

The physical world can be a cruel and difficult place. To succeed in the physical world you need luck, timing, money, skills, the ability to navigate politics, and physical beauty goes a long way. None of these things are distributed equally.

A Better Reality

Online games like WoW are meritocracies; each player gets what they earn. Everyone starts at level one. No one is born with more wealth, or opportunity than anyone else. To earn level 70, each player has to jump through the same hoops as everyone else. If you make it, it’s because you earned it. Physical world success is far more fickle.

In online games, your behaviors and personality are not evaluated by your appearance. Wonderful people who are ignored in the physical world can blossom when they are freed from the confines of their bodies. This is even more true for people with physical disabilities.

Players make friends, pass time, and accomplish tasks together. Yes those tasks are virtual, but I make website for a living… when I have a good day it’s usually because of a virtual accomplishment.

Excess

Some gamers take their addiction to excess.

Gaming to the detriment of health, family, work, school and personal relationships is probably a poor decision. But it’s each individuals decision to make, I’m not going to judge.

My Past Addiction

In my early teens I was deeply addicted to gaming. I played Baldur’s Gate, Diable II, Counter-Strike, and other PC games as often as I could. It adversely impacted my grades, I stopped talking to friends who weren’t gamers, and my parents were mad as hell.

My parents did everything they could think of to try and stop me, but I was always found a way to game.

Here’s the truth that I have never expressed to anyone. I was miserable, as so many teens are. Not with the gaming, with everything else. I was bored, and powerless. Gaming was my release. Many of my classmates turned to drugs, shoplifting, and other bad behavior. I chose to spend as little time in the real world as possible (and the games were less compelling then than they are now).

What got me to stop?

It wasn’t my parents punishments, teachers encouragements, nor a desire to do better in life.

I got a car. I got freedom.

And what did I do with that freedom? I hung-out with the people I was playing Diable II and Counter-Strike with.

Things got better when I got a car; they consistently improved from that point. I worked hard in college, and loved it. Then I got a jobs that I enjoy even more. Things have been good.

But make no mistake, if I stop enjoying the physical world, or end up losing my mobility, I will find an online world that I actually enjoy and make friends there.

Blaming Game Addiction

I always get angry when game addiction is blamed as the cause of suicide, divorce, and school violence because I am certain that the game addiction is a reaction to misery, not the cause. It is possible that the gaming addiction ultimately makes the problem worse, but it’s not the original cause.

Talk to gamers who have been through a divorce. If they are honest with you and themselves, they will reveal that the more miserable they became with their marriage, the more they gamed.

And people who choose to end their lives, or attack others are more likely deeply disturbed in many aspects of their lives. Gaming may be their last retreat.

More on World of Warcraft Addiction

If this topic interests you, I recommend the documentary, Second Skin. It is a very honest and balanced look at World of Warcraft and gaming addiction. It shows, the good, the bad, and the ugly in a candid manner.

Or for a less balanced, shorter, and more artistic look, you can view “Avatar Days,” embedded above (Thanks to Raj for sharing this video with me).

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on “World of Warcraft” Addiction

  1. Nice sensible response. Addiction to games is pretty stupid as a concept and as an “actuality”.
    Blaming that addiction for anti-social behaviour is just plain stupid.
    1.8 Billion people worldwide watch over 25 hours TV a week. By most definitions, they are all addicted.

    The under 18’s are vulnerable. But then they are vulnerable to so many things – drugs, alcohol, fast cars (and subsequent deaths in them – 800+ 17 and 18 years olds die every year in cars in the UK, mostly speeding – some drunk – many uninsured)

    Sensible discussions about game addiction is good. Making it the pariah of modern society is pretty daft.

    Great article. Thanks

    Steve C

  2. “Sensible discussions about game addiction is good. Making it the pariah of modern society is pretty daft.”

    I completely agree with you Steve. Gaming is here to stay, so we might as well keep the discourse and debate sensible.

  3. When you understand the brain sciences behind these games, your opinion will change. Scientists who have PHDs in behavioral and brain sciences have been performing experiments on humans and animals in order to find ways to get people to behave a certain way. In our case, MMOs that have monthly subscriptions is the target. Why? Because the subscribers need to keep playing, in order for the business to remain operational and profitable.

    If you’re interested in the science, read the following article.
    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3085/behavioral_game_design.php

  4. @youtha

    1. If you are posing an argument about cognitive science and academic literature, you are going to need more evidence than a Gamasutra article from 2001 that is devoid of sources. The literature on the subject is ever-growing, and ever changing.

    2. My argument isn’t academic, and even if I fully accept the assertion that MMOs feed a pathological pursuit of pleasure, it doesn’t change the simple fact that much of human behavior does. Addiction whether it’s eating, sex, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, reading, TV, pain, or video games is undesirable. However as I articulated in the actual post, addiction is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. If a human being wants to take refuge from personal pain in a video game world, I’m not going to judge them for it.

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