warcraft as an addiction?

joi wrote about a girl in china who died while playing a days-long session of world of warcraft. i started to write a comment, and it just kept growing until i decided that it had become a post in itself. joi wrote:

With 4.5M users there are bound to be deaths in the World of Warcraft and gauging by the relationships I’m building with fellow gamers I can definitely see how an online funeral would be a very big deal. I often see players playing until they pass out, especially when they are questing in a group where their participation is required for the group to hold together as a team. (I’ve passed out a few times as well.) There is also a lot of pressure to catch up if you drop behind a group of friends in order to play your role in the quests.
However, I don’t see this as a reason to bash these games. Clearly the addictive nature of these games are a risk from a productivity and health perspective, but I think that the sense of responsibility and teamwork that is built by the games exceeds this cost.

i question whether it is the game itself that has an addictive nature. it certainly attracts players that have a bent towards obsessive and compulsive behaviors; clearly, someone who does anything to the point of dying or otherwise adversely affecting their health has a pathological condition that is not being managed effectively.

you could argue that games in general are addictive. when i was a kid, i ALWAYS wanted one more game (chess, cards, board games, video games), until finally the adults would send me off to bed. it isn’t the chess pieces or the rules that are addictive, it is the drive to play, to learn how other people think and compete, to engage people socially in different contexts, and of course to get the rush associated with winning. that drive is something that everyone has, to varying degrees.

physical chemical addictions are pretty straightforward. a person takes a substance habitually, and if they stop taking the substance they experience some sort of withdrawal or discomfort (for example, a hangover). psychological addictions, and obsessive compulsive behaviors in general, are a more complex situation, precisely because everyone has them to some degree. organizing other people into working teams, persistently hammering at something until you get it right, acquiring valuable assets and trading them in markets, delaying physical sustenance or sleep until a goal or objective can be accomplished; am i describing the behavior of a successful online gamer or a successful entreprenuer?

it’s a question of degree. there are plenty of examples of people who are obsessive about business, are extremely succcessful at it, to the sacrifice of everything else, i.e. health, family etc. and that’s the case with warcraft as well. they are both in pursuit of fictional, commonly agreed upon valuable items, whether it is warcraft gold or fiat currency (and there is a foreign exchange market between the two). the problem isn’t the business or the game but the psychological imbalance or disorder of the person who can see nothing other than a fixative goal.

i believe that warcraft can be a great educational game. making play out of skills, tasks, and intellectual frameworks that in real life are scary or forbidding to most people is what the best games are about. spending hours learning about marketplaces, competition, cooperation, negotiation, leadership, working within a team, etc. can only benefit society as a whole in my opinion. there are always going to be those who will overdo it, and those people are types who overdo most things they do. society encourages extreme behavior in many cases, especially when the behavior is associated with the pursuit of money. people have commented that for someone to die in pursuit of a goal in a game is incredibly tragic and pointless. to me it seems very closely tied to deaths from work-related stress, heart attacks, and suicide.

maybe warcraft and games like it will have the effect of mitigating some of these societal ills. if people are able to learn and practice new social and financial skills in a less pressured and threatening environment, and experience failures and setbacks without losing everything, they may be able to deal with real life situations with better perspective. of course, it’s always possible that someone will take away the message that they should hack someone apart with a sword and teabag the corpse. that’s the product of a diseased mind, and not the game.






8 responses to “warcraft as an addiction?”

  1. likey Avatar

    dude.. addicted to a video game? what a loser. what a geek.
    this peson is more pathetic than that ancient race of robust humanoids who live beneath the snow-capped mountains of Khaz Modan.

  2. Joi Ito Avatar

    Good post Eric. Totally agree.

  3. b Avatar

    I’ve only got one thing to say:


  4. citizen x Avatar
    citizen x

    the virtual society aspect of WoW is facinating
    but it seems to me
    that no NEW strategies or tactics are formulated
    in fact..the WORST of “real” society
    is directly reflected in the “economy” of WoW..
    complete with currency manipulation and
    monpoly of resources…
    in my unique opinion
    video games..virtual environments
    are great for things i CANT do in REAL LIFE
    like FLYING a spaceship
    hurling lightning at a foe (my WoW fave)
    or just ruthlessly KILLING strangers
    these things are either AMORAL or IMPRACTICAL
    to do in “reality”
    whereas if I AM going to trade in commodities
    I AM going to make REAL MONEY
    and i DONT mean selling WoW gold on eBay
    in closing
    a TOAST
    to the luckiest people the world has EVER known
    WE with the time and position to EVEN consider
    such subjects..
    not to mention.. the BROADBAND connexxions!!!

  5. John Avatar

    I know two people who are seriously addicted to this game. Their behaviour is horrible when they are not playing. Realm downtime is their biggest problem. I am concerned about where gaming is going and I am certain it is going to get a heck of a lot worse.

  6. Bruce Anderson Avatar

    A suggestion that would help in better describing WoW:

    “World of Warcraft is an online HELL set in the addictive-winning Warhell universe. Addicts assume the roles or Warhell junkies as they explore, adventure and quest for a bigger and better fix. World of Warhell is a “Massively Addictive Multiplayer Online Rave That Will Cause Your Loved Ones to Pull out Their Own Hair in Frustration” which will allow thousands of players to interactively become addicted within the same version of hell. Whether fighting together or against each other until their eyes are bloodshot and half blind, players will form gangs, forge support groups of addiction, and compete with enemies that are more batshit crazy from the game than they are all in the name of non-existant power and glory.”

  7. lena Avatar

    i totally agree… i hate this game for i was going to get engaged to someone that i love and dated for 5 years but ended in disaster coz he got addicted to this WOW crap! Families are getting destroyed because of this !! something must be done!

  8. becky Avatar

    My Son is addicted to Warcraft and Yes, this may end in his death. He plays nonstop and he is jeopordizing his life and health. Brandon is a heart transplant and is 19 years old> he doesn’t eat or take his medications when he is playing. he is consumed regardless of what I say or do. I have tried everything to see to it that he does not play. Duct taped his computor> taken the computor away> even kicked him out of the house. This am after kicking him out of the house yesterday, he tried to come over and I caught him trying to steal the computor! He just goes from house to house (friends) and plays until he over-extends his visits.Then goes to the next house. He just got done finishing school for Medical Assisant>did great! But he doesn’t look for work because he is too busy playing WOW all night and won’t get up in the morning and function…He is bound to get sick with rejection and at some point probably die due to this. Any ideas? I heard of a kids shelter for drug addicts etc..does this qualify?
    I am lost, angry, confused….He needs help and can’t help himself. I too, have been addicted before> recovering bulimic. It is very sad and I don’t want to lose him to WOW. Please help!

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