194: The Escapist On: Gaming Addiction

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The Escapist On: Gaming Addiction

The staff of The Escapist discusses their own experiences with gaming addiction.


Bah, addicted and happy! But really, only people with addictive personalities get addicted to things. Some people just really like these games, and having others say they are addicted to it like a drug or gambling only makes life harder for those people who enjoy the game but aren't addicted. There was a post on this site a few days ago saying that some politicians in Germany where trying to label WoW as 'adult only' for it's addictive properties. Is that what it may come to, regulating video games like we would booze or cigarettes? Like I said maybe some people really do get addicted to games, but in my opinion most people take this too far. First:)

There have been games over time that have really grabbed me and pulled me in. They would become my whole life. Not that I'd stop going to work/school, but while I was there all i'd think about is playing this game. The kind of games that you could play for 12 hours and not get bored. So yes, at times with certian games I have been addicted.

For me it seems as though games where you can really build up all your stuff are the ones that draw me in. I remember losing many hours of sleep over games like Civ 2 or MOO. Always gotta do one more turn, make this building, move these troops. It gives a sence of achivement when you look and see what you've done.

Though this isin't limited to stratagy games, any game that you build up somthing over time, like RPG for example(levels and equipment), give me a sence of satisfation. I was addicted to Diablo 2 for some time for this reason. Always had to push to the next level, get the next peice of loot.

I build up empires in games, so all my effort is encapsulated within my datas. If a data gets erased, I feel a crushing sence of loss, like I was building a house and it collapsed, so I have to start over.

I guess I can thank god that I hate playing games with people i've never met online or I would no doubt be addicted to WoW as well.

Dark Times. :(

Good listen. I share the skinny guy's viewpoint on 'achievements' (xbl/psn), i.e.: YAWN/FART. I think you must be either very young or very underachieved in real life to care much about them. well... or addicted to them i guess :)

Still, I'm a dying breed, I play all games for the singleplayer part and don't waste time with multiplayer. The social aspect of gaming is lost on me. Gaming has always been an 'escape' from reality to me. I can't achieve that if I have to have asshats from RL in there :)

While game addiction is a serious problem for some and deserves to be discussed, I can't say this video was much more than a few people sharing their experience. I don't feel like it added anything really, still I prefer it a hundred times to some bloke who has never played a game in his life talking about it on the news.

Interesting. This is definitely why I don't do online games unless it's split-screen or something. It just does not ever end.

I think this was good overall, but misses out a key type of addiction - basically, if in real life you don't have a girlfriend, don't have a lot of good friends, and don't really have a hobby, gaming becomes the only alternative. Which only makes things worse as you don't make any more friends, or girlfriends, or what-not.

I wrote a post on another thread (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.101950) which is relevant here, so I'm just going to post it here. It's somewhat of an outline of the symptoms you all described in your video.

My "Top 5" signs of gaming addiction:

1. The person stops caring about the real world around them, and chooses to live vicariously through a virtual one. (The next 4 fall into this general category, but I think this sums up the beginning of the addiction)
2. The game(s) take precedence over the person's real needs, such as eating, exercising and general hygiene. This is why South Park depicts a fat, unkempt loser eating cheetos.
3. The game(s) become more important than the person's job, family and friends.
4. The person develops reasons or excuses as to why he/she can spend so much time playing the game(s). They say "Oh I just gotta finish this one level" or "I just gotta get this achievement", and the task takes them hours, if not days to complete.
5. When the person becomes immersed in the game(s) while not playing it.

These might sound like a drug addicts habits, but that's because addictions always trend toward the same ends. These are very real issues, one's I've had to deal with personally to some extent, and with others around me. Regardless of the circumstances the point remains the same, when you become enveloped in a specific substance/world/state of mind, it will become all that matters.

they have a point. at times in my life i have spent massive amounts of time on games, mostly after i just left school or college because i didnt have many friends and those that i did have were all working or lived quite far away.

gaming is fine if you have somthing to counter balance it. if you dont have anything but gaming though, you have a bit of a problem

I think it's important to realize context for games. I guess when I look at a game, I think...Play is an elementary method of learning genetically programmed into us all. And I think our love of games comes from that, innate curiosity. And a kind of subconscious desire to be better equipped to deal with things. When I play a game, I think "What, if anything, am I learning?". I think keeping gaming in context matters a lot. If you look at games, many of them are much more "repetitio est mater studiorum" (repetition is the mother of learning) than large concepts being communicated. Which I almost think of as a problem, that games don't really pursue this side of gaming. But in order to become versatile with a "concept" you have learned, you have to rehearse.

All fine and good, except what are you learning and what are you really rehearsing? If you were playing Left 4 Dead (I use that because I've been playing that a lot lately), you could argue that you're learning teamwork, and how to implement that while under pressure. And I think that's true...up to a point. Assessing the actual value extracted from the game and keeping it in the larger context of real life is important. The tactics and posture adopted for the actual dealing-with of a zombie horde aren't actually important for real world issues, or at least the possibility is minimal that you will get a lot from it. There is a kind of tipping point, after which you're not really getting much out of it anymore. Where you've rehearsed it to such a point, that you're turning it into art. How valuable, really is getting through left dead on expert without using a medpack? The medpacks are there for a reason, irl, if you were faced with a zombie apocalypse, and things were vaguely reminiscent of what was going on in left 4 dead, it would serve some value, but get this...there isn't going to be a zombie apocalypse. Not to mention, rehearsing on the computer, is going to leave a huge gap between what happened in the real world, and what happened on your computer screen.

You're asking, what does this have to do with gaming addiction? I'm getting there...:P

Gaming, and computers, serve a function in real life, they keep us in contact with one another now a days, they offer us an outlet when we're alone and have nothing more pressing to do (In the case of gaming). They offer us tools for dealing with things.

I think that some subconscious part of us thinks we're getting tools to deal with things out of it. It most definitely can be social, another good thing it can provide. But an honest assessment is important, looking at what it really yields us is crucial.

My family has a history of alcoholism and drug abuse, on both sides. When you get down to it, we are a family of addicts. Numerous problems have arisen in people's lives because of this (unsurprisingly). I was a pretty serious drug user in undergraduate college, I managed to deal with that, and have some perspective on addiction that I think is useful.

One of the big things about addiction, in fact, the main reason for it being described as a disorder, is that it impairs your ability to function in the real world. You spend to much time with it, in the case of gaming hygiene and diet may suffer. There is also an issue of what kinds of social interaction you're getting. These things don't seem too important compared with the ability to claim being 1337, (a social status in today's world that is "great", a really useful tool is to be at the top of your field, whether it's physics or football or even gaming) the rudimentary tactics you are learning, the rudimentary ability to mod you've acquired...But you're wrong. hygiene is important to your health, so too is diet (For some younger people reading this post, it may take a while for this to hit home).

Those things seem simplistic, but really When work is suffering, you're friends are getting neglected whatever it is, you're impairing you're ability to deal with things.

I think the most useful thing I ever learned about addiction, was that keeping things in context is important. Our beings want real world value out of what we invest our time in, and keeping things in context, really looking closely and examining what purpose they serve can help prevent addiction, and extract you from an addicted state (It did for me).

There is much more I could have added, and some parts of this are not fully explained, but I don't want to write an article on this, I really just want to comment, and I could go on for a long time. The crucial part of what I wanted to say is in the first couple and last couple paragraphs.

I've had three, three-month bouts of WoW where there were times I sat motionless for so long my ass-crack bled, my eyes dried out from strain, and all manner of smells emanated from various regions of my body.

Thankfully, whatever neurons were once responsible for enjoyment gained by grinding wilderness creatures are now pretty much fried and--except for missing fantasy-themed pvp battlegrounds--the repetitiveness of any MMO I find gets very old, very fast now.

Damn I miss those days. Computer games have never been the same.

Please don't mumble so much, makes it hard to understand what's being said.

dream Morrowind, yea been there done that. still wake up in middle of night sometimes thinking about it.

the video was rather good, nothing truly extraordinary but good.

I remember in high school (thank god this was during the summer vacation) starting to play Red Alert 2 around Noon, and at some point, I would feel hunger, look at the clock and think
"It's already 8pm???" but my more recent gaming hasn't taken me down that road again (even so, I stop playing during the semester, because it was pulling my grades down)

Dunno, I have dreams about all kinds of things I did recently so when I dream about a game I played it's pretty much normal, just like anything else I did.

If anything I'm addicted to information. It's a pretty good counter against gaming addictions though since games quickly run out of information to provide and it becomes undesirable to keep playing then. Sure, I react to the pavlovian part of an MMO like anybody else, hell I played Magic back in the day, it was a kick to open a pack and find a good card but to me it was also a kick just to find a card I hadn't seen before. The difference is that once I stop playing the game (I mean the session, not overall) I feel a resistance towards starting it again. When I stop a session of a game, no matter how addictive, I develop an automatic resistance towards continuing the game later. As a result very little of my time is actually spent gaming, most of it is spend idling in front of the PC, absorbing information from any source I can find on the internet.

For instant gratification I just make a mod. It's more of an archievement than winning in a game, you have to plan stuff out, implement it, etc. That's often a few days even for very simple things. However you get the gratification of actually getting the thing you were imagining (or at least something that shows you why the thing you were imagining can't exist) and when you give it to other people they might like you for it. Add to that that it's a creative work and something you could be remembered for even if you die... Well, I sometimes feel bad for wasting my free time when I could spend it working on something that might outlast me but then I remember that my primary life (school/uni/work) is probably more important and my free time doesn't matter much for that so even wasted time doesn't mean stagnation. Besides, didn't everybody who picked up a game and played for a while at some point think "hey, I'd like to make a game, it'd be about X"? That's what the user generated content games are trying to pander to but in practice I guess those who really have the ability to develop something already figured out a more regular way of getting their things done.

Besides, games these days hardly feel like an archievement when you win. It's hardly skill based anymore, just an inevitable trot towards the final cutscene and credits. The few that try to actually challenge the player always dial it up to insane levels where almost nobody can finish the game even with a lot of practice. And when the game is not easy enough yet add an RPG system so the player will always grow stronger even if his skill development stagnates, just grind enough and even you can beat the final boss. The only recent game where I felt any sense of accomplishment for winning was Onslaught, when I hear about players getting stuck on mission 5 or 8 on normal I can say to them "That's why you're still a kid!" because I beat the game on Normal, I beat it on Hard, I got my level 3 grenades and am currently procrastinating on going for the lv2 rocketlauncher before going on to expert difficulty. And I can barely get past the first level in Contra 4...

This is really good. Thanks to all of you interviewees for being so candid and sincere!

Good listen. I share the skinny guy's viewpoint on 'achievements' (xbl/psn), i.e.: YAWN/FART. I think you must be either very young or very underachieved in real life to care much about them. well... or addicted to them i guess :)

Still, I'm a dying breed, I play all games for the singleplayer part and don't waste time with multiplayer. The social aspect of gaming is lost on me. Gaming has always been an 'escape' from reality to me. I can't achieve that if I have to have asshats from RL in there :)

Dying breed? Well, then we die together then. We are on the same train here, with singleplayer mentality. I don't like multiplayer, especially online multiplayer, with all thos juvenile jerks running around cursing at me using every key on the keyboard except the ones with actual letters on them... it's just not my world.

BTW, the video was good, but you got to work on the audio part, it was horrible. Get a complimiter or something, and balance the volume, because sometimes it's inaudible, sometimes it's too loud. Good job on the rest :)

I had a roomie who was completely addicted to video games he would have the 360 going, ps3, and his pc all day. He lost girlfriends, friends etc cos he would not stop. Cant believe some people play 8 to 10 hours a day, get a job jesus! I find it so sad that this is the first generation of younger kids who prefer to stay indoors. God you couldnt pay me to stay in my house when i was younger.

i have been Addicted to games, but i enjoy Reading and roller blading and walking, now
i make sure i dont spend too much time doing games to a access, id like to say

You know you're addicted to video games when you look out your window and think, "Wow, I really dig those graphics!"

I think most people who actually watched this video are more addicted to the internet then video games.

You can earn a living playing poker, but you need good bankroll management, you need to keep a cool head, and you need to know when you are playing in a beatable game and when you need to go to a different game.
Professional poker is something which only works for a few people. You have to become a machine to do it. Perfect control of emotions is a must.

I did the same thing with Morrowind as Susan Arendt :) I really loved that game.

You know you're addicted to video games when you look out your window and think, "Wow, I really dig those graphics!"

I think most people who actually watched this video are more addicted to the internet then video games.

More like procrastination... from homework.

Look, there is no such thing as gaming addiction. There is addiction, and people who are afflicted with addictive personalities can get addicted to anything - including games. But 'gaming addiction' as a specific condition? No way.

Wow I can completely relate to this because I as well was too weak. Oddly enough this also happened to me at college and just like Funk I also fell under Academic Probation because I would spend my time playing World of Warcraft instead of studying. I also had to switch my major from Japanese to History but I really have to thank my friend Graham that set up my appointment and motivated me to meet a new graduate adviser and get my college education under control.

Here is my question to the Escapist Staff since I am apparently not so much different from you. What did you do to get to where you are now? I know Jordan did some internships, what were those internship? What kind of skills would you say you sold yourself to your internship or employer to get an interview?

I'm over video games from being my only activity but I'm not where you guys are now and I'd like to get there. If possible if you feel comfortable would you care to message me a bit more about what you did after you graduated or what kind of skills you say helped you become employed?

Loved the video and I will say I really didn't want to watch the video but I am glad I did.

Dark Times. :(

Hey within those Dark times can also come the best of times. I was lucky that my brother would work with the guild members and actually arrange physically meeting each other. For my horde guild in WoW we had over 20 people meet in Vegas and have fun together. Also at Santa Barbara I made good friends with another fellow WoW player and got to know him. I also met another friend who by coincidence lived in the Santa Barbara area and we arranged to meet each other and hang out and get to know each other and those were some good times.

So there is always light, even in the dark.


You know you're addicted to video games when you look out your window and think, "Wow, I really dig those graphics!"

I think most people who actually watched this video are more addicted to the internet then video games.

More like procrastination... from homework.

Score +1 for Atomic.

I used to be addicted to WoW. I played a lot, but balanced it out with frequent trips to the gym. Now my addiction to WoW has faded, but my addiction the gym is still going strong.

University is also a wicked way to curb an addiction to gaming. If it's something you WANT to be there doing, then it works out for your benefit. Alternatively just take engineering. If you're like me and you're determined to pass, no matter how much you hate it you'll just invest more time.

Well, I've been addicted to games before like with Mabinogi about 5 or 6 months ago. I used to play it nonstop and then I quit for a while. I still play now but maybe an hour or so every few days. I think what a lot of it is (or at least what it was for me)is that even though it is an addiction, after a while it will lose it's interest. Sometimes you lust need to get it out of your system but playing it too much makes it get old fast.

really amazing... this will make me check more in my gaming rituals... and how much money and time im spending on those :S

That was a good video, very enjoyable and insightful I guess. I still can't fathom how someone can play a game that much though. The longest period I can play for is four hours and only Cod4 and Gears of War (multiplayer) have been able to keep me playing for that long and that's usually because I play with friends and by the third hour I have to start doing something else, like listening to music or checking up on the Escapist or something similar. Games like TF2, which none of my friends play, keeps me entertained for two hours at the most before I have to do something else. I've never really gotten into MMOs though.

I think interaction with real people in online video games videogames is one of the things that can make it so addictive. I think that when you play a game with your friends you think of it more as socializing than gaming and doing things with your friends can actually stop you from realising that you're playing a game, "I'm not playing a game, I'm grinding boars with a couple of my friends". It's easy to chuck a lot of hours into a game when you have friends by your side the entire time. For me, gaming gets very boring very quickly if I don't have anyone to talk to or interact with. I suppose this is why games like Morrowind, Oblivion and Baldurs Gate (hell, any RPG) can be addictive, they are based on interaction. I think this might also be why a lot of people prefer Half-Life 2 over other FPS, through out Half-Life 2 you are interacting with Alyx, Barney etc (they are interacting with you I should say) while in Halo and Call of Duty you don't do much talking and not many people talk to you.

I think that the social interaction or the illusion of interaction is what compels some people to keep on playing and is responsible for getting people addicted to games. Of course there are other factors to get addicted to such as the fat loots but a lot of those are connected to the social experience, like collecting good gear so you can raid with your guild.

Did anyone else find it strange that the music over the credits was oddly cheerful while the rest of the video had a rather depressing overtone. It just seemed out of place to have the interviewees joking about their addictions moments after they where telling us how bad it was.

I thought that Russ Pitts (or whoever was asking the questions) sounded a bit like Agent Smith from The Matrix.

"Humanity is a Virus"

"Ohhh that sounds like an interesting game, whats it on?"

...I think that some subconscious part of us thinks we're getting tools to deal with things out of it. It most definitely can be social, another good thing it can provide. But an honest assessment is important, looking at what it really yields us is crucial.

Sounds spot on.

With every major trend in entertainment that enters culture we find a sub group of overuse that gets proposed as being an "addiction". In the 50's it was rock and roll, in the 70's it was color television addiction.

We also spend less time and money on teaching younger generations about managing responsibility and the time they allocate to complete those responsabilities. There is a difference between overusing something and being addicted to it.

I have overused video games as people in the video. I don't think any of them or I have ever suffered an addiction from them.

I was an addicted smoker for 12 years and have been clean for 2. I know what addition feels like and withdrawl. When you terminate an addiction you feel miserable and almost would prefer death to continue existing without it. You also trick youself to going back and play tricks on your own mind to convince yourself that you need the substance.

When I quit smoking I walked 3 miles after screaming at a friend about dish soap.
When I took a break from games I cleaned my house, walked my dog more and smiled every day.

I think that throughout history, when a large group of people find something that is easy to overuse they start creating a false sense of addiction about it. Really it's just something that people like at the time and people enjoy it so much they may put off other tasks that seem more important or they just simply loose track of time because they are having so much joy.

It's important that we stipulate a difference between addiction and overuse.

All thing is moderation is the key in most every consumable circumstance.

As was explained to me by a psychologist, the key characteristic of addiction is a loss of control. It doesn't really matter the circumstances that lead to the addiction to determine whether there is an addiction, though dealing with those circumstances may help in the process to overcome and recover from the addiction. Using this key characteristic, one must then distinguish between enthusiasm and addiction. Even obsession is not necessarily addiction. It's only when control becomes an issue that there is a high likelihood of addiction.

One must also be careful to examine behavior because one can repeatedly fall into excessive gaming due to other subconscious motivations, not necessarily addiction. This is not to say that addiction to gaming does not occur, but that the diagnosis has to be made carefully.

Every gamer has become so engrossed in a video game that the real world took a back seat. However, when the game is finished, we typically allow ourselves to return to reality again until the next big thing comes along. It's the games that have no real conclusion that create the biggest problems because we continually strive to progress within the game; almost trying to achieve some sense of finality where there is none. Ambitious sandbox titles and multi-player online games create this kind of scenario. Trust me, video games are about as addictive as anything else that's enjoyable, but without a definite conclusion, they prolong the initial enjoyment to the point where it becomes habit.

L.B. Jeffries:
Interesting. This is definitely why I don't do online games unless it's split-screen or something. It just does not ever end.

Agreed, I class myself as sombody who has an addictive personality. I have had a dependence on drugs (not that I'm proud of it) as well as the usual coffee and smoking thing. I can see the arguement about MMORPG being classed as addictive, not in the physical sense but definatley psychologically. If somebody has a dreary existence but finds a new home in something like WOW or Second life there is a good chance over time and under the right circunstances that they will start to spend more time associating with that than the real world. I have seen it with friends that were borderline aggrophobic that have now become complete reclusives and are obsessed...or is that addicted? When you can't stimulate conversation without it being about a particular game then you need to get out more.

Personally I used to find it very hard to switch of from a game. When i was younger it was FFVII and then ElderScrolls Morrowind. But as I have grown older and matured I found that 4/5hr bursts are all I need to feed my desire as well as leading a healthy life. If you have a partner then it certainly helps, that and a close bunch of friends you can socialise with regulary. if you have that, then you can see games for what they really are games, and can treat them as such. I prefer to make my life revolve around life, and not a game.

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