Thoughts on Video Game Addiction

The other day, an article that talked about why someone quit World of Warcraft came across my RSS feed. As with just about anything interesting I read, I shared it on Twitter, which inevitably ends up on Facebook as well. Not too long after that, I got a comment from an old, good friend of mine:

Thanks for posting this. I am going to make my husband, a WoW fanatic, read it ASAP.

First things first, there's two things I want to touch on first: (1) Hopefully, she doesn't think I'm picking on her, (2) I really appreciate the feedback, because it tells me that people are paying attention to this stuff (and like it). So, if you are upset that I'm using your post, let me know and I'll change it.

Everything about the article is pretty much spot on and I agree with just about all of it, but as some of the comments suggest, I think the original author missed a big concept here. Maybe I'm a little biased here because I play a lot of video games -- to the extent that I keep in touch with some of my best friends by playing video game -- but, I see as much success in the author's story as there is failure.

Doctor Professor pointed out that his guild leader was faced a decision every day to either play World of Warcraft or to work toward becoming a paramedic. He even makes the statement that his guild leader runs "a substantial, successful guild." Now someone who has never played the game will not appreciate a statement like that, but if you apply this statement to the real world, the guild leader is running a medium sized company (probably 100+ players, or employees) and actively managing 25-40 of them roughly three to five nights a week somewhere between four and eight hours in those days. But back in the real world, she works part time at a local pizza joint. So she's failing at real life, but she's extremely successful in a virtual world.

Even though this does not (and probably should not) matter to the average person, take a second to consider that Jon Jacobs, better known as Neverdie, purchased a piece of online virtual property for $100,000 and recently sold it for $635,000. So this tells me that there is opportunity for people in a virtual world even if its frowned upon by normal society and to be brutally honest, success in today's world is not normal either.

Let's take a step back here, she's failing at real life, but she's extremely successful in a virtual world. The original author never gives us any information about her history before the game, but I'm going to guess that she never received recognition for any successes she had before playing World of Warcraft. She has proven that she's a successful leader in a virtual world, and I am willing to bet that at some point, she had shown that same success in real life and that she could succeed in real life if she was given that opportunity. Her problem now is that the game is preventing her from taking those skills that she learned or improved by playing into the real world.

Doctor Professor's success story is that he stopped playing WoW and started using that time to improve his health (something obviously more socially acceptable than playing video games). Commenters accused him of using extreme examples or that he's putting his more socially acceptable hobbies on a higher pedestal than video games.

But the big point here is that the article went into great lengths to explain how games like World of Warcraft and Farmville are extremely successful. These games successfully integrate your real life with a virtual life and they do a very good job at that. Why is it a failure when someone takes their real life skills to become successful in the game? Is it because they aren't making money? I'd say that in many people's eyes, the answer is yes.

The post ends with the following:

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: do you want to do something real or something fake? You can't do both at once. Every day you face this decision.

What do you want to do today?

But think about every real life thing that you've given up on. How do you feel about it? When you left your last job, did you feel like it was a waste of time? Did you feel like your college education was a waste of time? How about an old hobby of yours? Or what about this: How would you feel if you suddenly lost interest in your biggest hobby? I bet you'd have the same feeling that you wasted a bunch of time because its no longer interesting to you. That "something real" is only what is important to you today and that "something fake" is everything that isn't anymore. So I guess what I'm saying is be happy with what you do everyday because your future self will regret it anyways if you don't learn from those experiences.

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Corey Docken

Corey Docken

Corey is a designer and developer with over 10 years of experience building websites. He currently lives in southeastern Minnesota in a small town outside of Winona, MN.

Published on Monday, January 3rd, 2011 at 5:44 PM.
Last updated on Thursday, February 12th, 2015 at 5:44 PM.