Much of the discussion around video game addiction, or what we should call compulsion stems from a discussion of games like World of Warcraft (WoW). Almost every article I’ve read these past few weeks has used this game as part of their case. I know, as a gamer and a big fan of massively multilayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), these kinds of games are incredibly engaging. Media attention however suggest this game creates addicts and encourages addictive play. This is what i disagree with. I’ve played WoW as well as many similar online and offline games. One particularly good example is Never Winter Nights. Between the first one, its many expansions and the squeal I’ve spent hundreds of hours roaming through dungeons and castles in search of evil and the biggest sword to smite it with. In all the hours I never even delved into the player vs player (PVP) side of the games, it never interested me. Yet on more than one occasion I played into and even through the night, engaged with the story unfolding before me.
So if I can be just as engaged with the offline world as the online why does WoW gather so much negative attention.
Extremes. The media loves extremes, it loves to talk about the 24 hour stints that result in people passing out from exhaustion. This is hardly the norm, nor is it encouraged by game mechanics. So what brings it about?
The online gaming environment is ruthlessly competitive and requires dedication and thick skin to get anywhere. Games that thrive of PVP require and often generate extreme player behavior. To add to this, the older the game, the more extreme the upper sections of the PVP ladder will be. Want your clan to be the best at Call of Duty, its gonna take hours, months, maybe years. Want to rise to the top of PVP Warcraft….its gonna take years if not closer to a decade. WoW itself has been around since 2004 with the world and game mechanics its based off existing through the Warcraft franchise since 1994.
Its not the game the natively demands this kind of play. Sure there are some moments where it is impossible to leave an online game but they are never longer than a few hours. Games just wouldn’t work if they forced players to have extreme behavior, it simply wouldn’t be popular. However the competitive nature and sheer engagement that games like WoW offer is what drives people towards extreme behavior.
Is this ‘extreme’ behavior a bad thing? Well that’s up to you.
What do you think?