The Grind: “Addiction”

The ever-expanding universe of online social gaming, especially the worlds of MMORPGs and MOBAs that are currently considered the most popular at the time of this article, have gotten an overwhelmingly bad rap recently for many different reasons. Rampant, out of control, foul communities, severe addiction, gender inequality, and other negative stereotypes are plaguing the reputation of these massively played online social games, and not without some sort of truthful foundation. However, should we readily accept all of the negative publicity that is floating around on the so-called “interwebs”? Or is there more to the story, more information than what has been conveniently placed upon the surface for the average angry Joe to read and thrive off of? I believe there is, and this article is going to outline the ups and downs, the truth and lies of the current perception of the world of online multiplayer games. In what will be a multiple-part series of mine, I will take a look at what causes these negative stereotypes, and how deeply can you should read into them. We will hopefully pinpoint what is grossly over exaggerated and what is right on track.  Because despite the overwhelming negativity towards the online gaming community, there remains a reason that the player bases for games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends increases annually, there is a reason that millions upon millions of players log into these games day after day, year after year. So let’s go exploring.

Wow Guild

Segment One: Addiction

While the word addiction is typically associated with negative things like alcohol or substance abuse, there are also many other types of addictions that aren’t shadowed in negativity. For example, when have you heard someone ever getting lectured for their exercise addiction? Or their literature addiction? What about someone’s addiction to shopping, or painting their nails, or watching movies, collecting items, singing etc. The truth is that, theoretically, anyone can get addicted to anything. However, some addictions are tinted in negativity, and some are seen as “less evil”. While it is true that many of the negatively shadowed addictions have actual negative consequences (like death with substance abuse, or bankruptcy in shopping addiction) the same came be said for almost every “addiction” out there.  Eating too much chocolate will cause to you to be fat, reading too many books might make you socially recluse, painting your nails too much might cause some sort of skin reaction, who knows. However, the global media (excluding places like South Korea) has seen fit to universally condemn the “gamer” and the “gaming addiction”, for reasons of self-promotion. As TotalBiscuit points out in his video “Addicted to Epixs” no one is ever taken to the hospital for their addiction to making friends, and you won’t find a True Life: I Have Too Many Friends on MTV anytime soon. There seems to be a simple formula for how the mass media came about condemning the gamer and promoting the negative idea of gaming “addiction”:

  • These people enjoy something different than me.
  • That thing doesn’t look appealing to me.
  • I’m not a part of that community.
  • I resent those people.
  • I condemn that thing.

While this is indeed a large generalization, for the basis of this article, it should be sufficient to prove my point. It’s natural for people to condemn things that they can’t relate to. Everyone can relate to enjoying a sweet treat, to getting immersed into a good book, etc. However, not everyone can relate to the people of Azeroth in the World of Warcraft, or the world of Runeterra in League of Legends. People who have never played these games cannot understand the euphoria of completing a quest, leveling up, or killing a raid boss in WoW. Those who have never played League of Legends cannot understand why millions of people gathered together in groups across the world to watch their favorite team battle for the title of World Champion. This is not simply, also, because they can’t relate, but because they don’t want to relate. It’s easy to pick fun at something, to put others down. Some people even get massive enjoyment out of it (i.e. see YouTube/Reddit/Twitch comments… but that’s a different article). Thankfully, as those of Generation Y are starting to come into their adulthood and start taking influencing positions in the job world, the negative stereotype is slowly dissipating.

Specifically, massively played online games get a worse rap than console or RPG games, due to the fact that these online games are virtually unending. With games like Pokémon, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, etc, these games have a beginning, middle, and end. You can technically “win” these games without huge investments of time, money, and effort. However, it’s impossible to really “win” World of Warcraft. And while it is definitely possible to win a game of League of Legends, the addition factor comes into play in the form of achieving another goal: climbing the ladder.

WoW Addict

Also, if we want to get slightly more technical, there is a little more we can say about the reason behind gaming addiction (and why online platforms are uniquely susceptible). Scientifically speaking, when you do something pleasurable, your body releases endorphins. This is known as a fixed ratio reward. You do something, you get a reward, and you feel good. These online games are made to specifically cater to this bodily phenomenon. These games reward you for completing tasks. For example, in WoW, completing a quest or killing a raid boss rewards you with a prize equal to your effort. In League of Legends, winning a game rewards you with points that you can use to buy exciting new characters and content, etc.

Games are fun. Playing with your friends is even more fun. Being rewarded for playing with your friends?

How do you beat that?

Next week we will be exploring the good and the bad aspects of online community forums; what has happened to get them in the state that they are, and what needs to be done to fix the problem. Tune in to see what I have to say on the subject, and please use the comments below to discuss how you feel on what I said in this article!

See you next time,

Cary Lambert