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MMO-holic: The Architecture of Addiciton

Editorial By Dan Fortier on January 15, 2007

MMOWTF: MMO-holic: The Architecture of Addiction

D Dan Fortier returns this week to talk about his take on the idea of MMO addiction.

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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I’d like to welcome you all back to my little corner of MMORPG.com for the first real column of the new year. As always, there is no shortage of MMO related news to throw into the grinder and this week’s topic should get the ball rolling nicely. Today, I decided to put my cross-hairs on one of the granddads of virtual plagues: MMO addiction. Is this a real addiction and who does it affect? Take a quick swig of some Pepto-Bismol and read on to find out!

There are plenty enough things in life to worry about killing you or ruining your life without inventing new problems. Even health nuts admit every breath you take brings a lung full of cancer causing material into your body and fun activities like skiing can be dangerous if you happen to be a former Mayor of Palm Springs or the Governator of California. All kinds of drugs, prescription and otherwise, can create more medical problems than they solve. As if all this isn’t bad enough, some people can find unhealthy fixation with the games that make us forget all the crap I just mentioned.

Some folks apparently have some problems letting go of the games they play because I’m hearing more and more about this so-called addiction to online games. You can take some stories right from the news about people leaving their infants to die or stabbing their friends over stolen virtual property, but it’s nothing new. There are still people who can regurgitate all those horror stories from the older days when Dungeons and Dragons players were considered lures for satanic cults and people were committing suicide over lost characters. What is the common element behind these stories? Without a doubt, the answer would have to be: mentally unbalanced people with addictive personalities. The kind of people that can turn any hobby into a dangerous obsession.

For the same reason violent people play violent games, listen to violent music, people prone to addiction are drawn like a moths to flame by games that are addictive by design. For years, criminals, sociopaths and people desperate for attention have been blaming the things which they enjoy for their own shortcomings and bad decisions. It’s much easier to blame the music or game that we use as a vehicle for our obsessions rather that look at the real causes behind the problem.

MMOs are designed from the ground up to eat your life. They are filled with blatant time-sinks that are made to hook you into playing till the next *DING*, the genre is a perfect self-activated wrecking ball for your mundane life. It’s no surprise that a majority of the people that play our type of game are the ones who desire a break from the nagging reality of everyday life. There is a reason that the first EQ was dubbed ‘Evercrack’ by longtime players and it wasn’t because the economy was screwy.

I have no doubt that are there are probably a decent amount of people who really do have a true psychological dependence on the fictional adventures they have in MMORPGs across the globe. Should the designers of these hamster wheels share some of the blame for this problem? You could rationalize that the old-carrot-on-a-stick routine used by MMO Devs is no better than the shady tricks used by cigarette companies and drug dealers. Unlike other pushers though, developers can’t be called on to the carpet since their product doesn’t actually cause a physical addiction. No matter how far gone someone is into Neverland, they don’t actually need to play their game. Like any medical condition though, the results can be serious and long lasting. If you ever find yourself lying on a cot yelling “ /chicken on you noob lol” while flapping your arms I’d say your beyond the help of modern medicine.

In the grander scheme of things though, it’s hard to really take this kind of thing seriously. What would some of the less fortunate people on the planet have to say about our epidemic of convenience? I’m sure that folks that have to live everyday with the threat of bombs and masked men with guns wouldn’t have much sympathy for the poor MMORPG addicts among us, but then again, I’m just guessing. Back off guys, this violin is expensive.

It’s a sad state of affairs that thousands of people who are victims of this particularly crippling vice still have to trudge though the workweek, burdened by this unquenchable desire to kill, loot and murder. We all might have to pay the price eventually since all those addicts have to work to pay their monthly subscriptions. Just remember, before you crawl back to your electronic fix, check and make sure your insurance covers game addiction therapy.

I guess this is enough offensive rhetoric for one week. Check back next Monday to see who else’s toes I can smash. For those of you who are as addicted to forums as I am, you can get your fix by telling me off. Pile on!

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