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Tangled Cords - Gaming Addiction Gets in the Books

Tim Eisen Posted:
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Sometimes there are things we don’t want to write about, but we must and sometimes there are things we don't have to write about, but we need to. This is one of those times. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced "gaming disorder" as a new mental health condition. (Who’s on first?) We of the MMORPG tribe have long joked about Evercrack, Warcrack and the even newer Crocaine but what classifies our fanish love with toxic addiction? According to WHO (don’t you mean whom...wait...) three main factors.

One is when gaming consistently takes precedence over other activities. Another is continuing to game even as negative consequences result from a player’s volume of gaming. The last is when your gaming strains, stresses or even breaks your personal ties to other humans but you ignore those issues and game on. Most of you might be thinking there is another name for those three behaviors called “MMORPG Launch Day”. Now imagine it’s launch day all day every day forever! (Eternal bliss?)

Why does this matter? Because being classified by WHO (What and Where?) will open various treatments for this addiction. This is the internet, so everyone agreed; world peace broke out and we cured cancer while developing a meteor deflector, right? No. In typical human fashion an argument about the argument tore the interweb asunder while the earth shed another tear as it begged for a galactic threat to unify its dense inhabitants to save themselves from the inevitable. (Thanos?) 

Let’s apply the WHO (Why or When?) criteria to the human population as a whole. (By apply he means think about it for 15 seconds while you take a long pull from the beverage of your choosing.) As it turns out humans are addicted to everything because addiction isn’t a question, it’s a human condition. We carry it around like some dark passenger that pops up whenever we want another slice of pizza, another beer, one more quest...just one more then I’ll call mum back, she was doing well today after all, she can wait... (Whoa, that got dark.)

Loot boxes, cosmetics, collecting figures, solving crosswords, exercise, chocolate, fake tanning, sports, coffee, gossip, cell phones, social media, entertainment, buying stuff we don’t need, sex, food, caffeine where does it end? If it’s a thing a human can do, humans can overdo it to the point of addiction! Is the problem the pleasure or a piece of 250,000-year-old dopamine wired hardware short circuiting in a modern world where pleasure if just a swipe away.

Despite the obvious we continue to sink resources into the micro when we should first be looking at the macro. (Metagaming?) Stop viewing addiction as an external seduction that lured unadulterated humans down the dark path to addiction and realize, like Dorothy, we had it in us all along. (Obscure pop culture reference +5 XP) Slide that criteria lens over your black hole cam and what do you see? I see a species with a weakness for addiction but that doesn’t excuse it.

If you think I’m giving all addicts a genetically pre-programmed pass that is the last thing I’m doing. Understanding where something comes from doesn’t qualify it as an excuse. Who we were born does to define who we can become. Self-control is what really fuels the force. It’s the hardest easy thing you will ever do and even if you obtain it you will never retain it. Every day for the rest of your life you will have to battle your instincts and desires as you fight to maintain that control. Like Qui Gon after he said “Uh” it seems so obvious now. (He died so his son Obi Wan could live.) But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Predators will eat themselves into extinction. What they lack in control nature makes up for. What happens when she isn’t there to stop them? While we arrogantly think we conquered nature, at best we’ve been able to stave her off, but she never rests. All day, every day; she is forever jumping at the fence looking for weak spots to exploit. (Less obscure pop culture reference +8 XP.) Without her to be our self-control maybe we will obsess ourselves into extinction? Maybe that is her stealthy exploitation?

Let’s bring this back home for the finale. Can gaming be an addiction? We’ve seen gamers neglecting everything including themselves and, in rare cases, literally gaming to death! (Well, that beats how Tycho Brahe died.) That’s addiction but here is the heel turn. It’s their life. Who are we to say how they must spend it? One person’s misery is another person’s pleasure. If they aren’t hurting anyone else shouldn’t we respect their decisions? Those are difficult questions that I’m sure the internet is within inches of solving, right after that whole saving the species stuff I mentioned earlier. The entire net can’t save us but maybe our brain trust can? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Remember, there's no such thing as an addict with a problem.


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry