Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Medicine Entertainment Games

The Real Story Behind Gaming Addiction 300

Gamespot is running a feature looking into the facts behind gaming addiction: what it is, whether it exists, and why the need still exists for objective research into the issue. Quoting: "[Richard M. Ryan, a psychologist and professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester in New York] thinks the lack of quality research into video game overuse will be rectified with time as games become more sophisticated in the ways they satisfy people's psychological needs. 'We have a lot of people, some in the media and some in the sciences, who are too ready to make very strong claims about video games, whether we are talking about aggression, addiction, or cultural estrangement, based on very little evidence. I think that is especially how the media often sells stories. Some commentators exaggerate risks, and on the other hand there are defenders of games who deny any and all problems and attack any perceived bad news. Games are relatively new in our culture, and such vacillation between hysteria and denial I suspect often greets any new phenomenon, from hip-hop to the Internet to video games. Both sides usually have some part of the truth, but it may be a while before at least we as scientists, much less as a society, have a coherent understanding.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Real Story Behind Gaming Addiction

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:13AM (#27595439)
    Neither do people playing videogames. Except for Korean people.
  • media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:14AM (#27595447)

    based on very little evidence. I think that is especially how the media often sells stories.

    Really ?? I can't believe my eyes. /sarcasm.

  • by Shrike82 ( 1471633 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:15AM (#27595451)
    In TFA it mentions examples that have (or probably have) been used in the past to demonise computer games - the Chinese kid who killed for game money and that special American family who's son murdered his parents for taking Halo 3 away from him. The article (thankfully) mentions the probable underlying mental illnesses that contribute to these sorts of crimes, whereas the Jack Thompsons of the world see games as the cause of crime, rather than as a changeable variable that could have been television, film, a newspaper, food, a car, a curfew, and so on.

    I'm extremely pleased to see increasing research in games and their effect on our minds. It would be naive to suggets that they don't have any affect on us at all, and I for one am interested in seeing some (hopefully) independent research with meaningful results.
  • Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:19AM (#27595465)
    People have played games for thousands of years. The only difference now is they've got more sophisticated. Even more recently, I remember people who were seriously addicted to RPGs in the 70's from Tunnels and Trolls through D&D to Traveller. People were muttering about video game addiction in the late 70's too and there's been a ton of research on it since then. I can't help but thnk this is just another case of someone really not being aware of the history of their pet subject.
  • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:35AM (#27595519)

    How common is sports addiction anyway? I've never heard of people staying up until 3am to kick a soccer ball around several times a week or pissing in a water bottle because they couldn't bear to be away from the tennis court for a couple of minutes. MMORPG addicts behaving like that are a dime a dozen; sports addicts, not so much.

  • by line-bundle ( 235965 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @06:51AM (#27595581) Homepage Journal

    I find it very curious how addiction studies focus mainly on male dominated activities. I am sure if females did it it would not be called an addiction.

    Shoe fetishism is rarely called an addiction but I have seen women who spend their whole selves looking for the ugliest shoes.

  • by biocute ( 936687 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:11AM (#27595635) Homepage

    people don't die from playing sports for 18 hours a day.

    Actually they can die from playing sports for 18 hours a day, but they won't because they will get tired before they can kill themselves.

    Like smoking, it's a slow death because it's so subtle and enjoyable. I don't think any smokers would enjoy living in a room full of smokes though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:28AM (#27595693)

    Don't you realise women are perfect

          Then tell me why they bleed every month...

  • How common is sports addiction anyway? I've never heard of people staying up until 3am to kick a soccer ball around several times a week or pissing in a water bottle because they couldn't bear to be away from the tennis court for a couple of minutes. MMORPG addicts behaving like that are a dime a dozen; sports addicts, not so much.

    According to your criteria, second-hand sports addiction is very common. Guys will stop in the middle of sex because their stupid hockey game is on, or they'll find an excuse to go find a TV on their WEDDING DAY because the soccer game is on. Preachers hide mini tvs in their pulpits so they can keep track of the football game while they're preaching. Is any of this any better?

    But to call it addiction in today's legal and social climate is to help "enable" the people who do it, just as calling morbidly obese people addicted to food would. It's time we took a real look at addiction, and admitted that there is always a choice involved - even for those who claim they can't stop. You can be darned sure that if you held a gun to their head, and told them that you'll pull the trigger if they don't stop, they will, if they've just seen you blow away the person next to them for the same reason.

    To claim that there is no choice involved, ever, is to open up the door to pedophiles claiming they're "addicted" to having sex with 3-year-olds. Well, if they're "addicted", then they can't help themselves, and we have no right to punish them ... do you REALLY want to go there? Especially since there IS more evidence that pedophilia is an addiction than that gaming is... What about the person who shoplifts because they're "addicted" to bling? The person who defrauds millions because they're "addicted" to a certain social lifestyle and the endorphin high it gives them to lord it over eveyone? They don't need to be treated for addiction - they need to grow up.

    Treat a kid like an adult, and they'll usually behave like one. Treat an adult like a child, and they'll behave like a child.

    So, why are so many adults behaving childishly? Follow the endorphins. "It feels good" / gives an endorphin high - is NOT sufficient reason to lay a claim of addiction. The phony "disease" of kleptomania is just one example of how we make poor impulse control socially acceptable by mislabeling it. If you have poor impulse control and decide that you don't want to delay gratification, that's your choice. Live with the consequences. Drink yourself to death, eat yourself to death, game yourself to death, pile on credit card and mortgage debt to your financial ruin because you want it all, and you want it NOW - if you don't care, why should anyone else? But don't excuse it by saying you're addicted. After all, you LIKE it that way. Don't ask others to bail you out until you've learned the hard lessons, because only YOU can learn them, and that means YOU have to decide you're fed up with things as they are. Nobody else can make that choice for you, ever.

    Treat a kid like an adult, and they'll usually behave like one. Treat an adult like a child, and they'll behave like a child.

    Too many adults in this generation never really grew up. "Psychological addiction" is a joke. Label it what it really is - poor impulse control - by people who refuse to take responsibility for ruining their lives. THEN maybe we'll be in a better position to actually treat it, by confronting people with the fact that they need to learn to take control of their lives instead of playing the victim card all the time. Example: impulsive eaters are claiming discrimination because they're now being charged for the second seat. They should shut their mouths ... actually, they should have shut them 20 years ago, after that 5th piece of cake. Funny how we don't accept that with little children, but in adults, we slap the "psychological addiction" label on it, and poor impulse control is suddenly socially excusable. Fuck that - and

  • Re:Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:56AM (#27595813) Homepage

    The line between tactics and strategy is blurry. Chess primarily teaches you to play chess, it doesn't automatically make you better at long-term planning.

  • Re:Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:05AM (#27595857) Journal

    I think we need a little common sense. An obsession about anything is bad. If you spend hours and hours of your time _______ (gaming, watching TCM, taping music off the radio, drinking alcohol, polishing your car, playing cards, watching the stock market, ...) to the point where you end-up damaging your _____ (job, marriage, grades), then you have a problem.

    At one point or another I've been addicted to most of the stuff in my list. The item I was obsessed with was the symptom, not the problem. The problem was me and lack-of-self control. Everything should be done in moderation.

  • Re:media (Score:5, Insightful)

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently called the Internet a "cesspool" of false information. I think he was wrong. I think that the disinformation present on the internet is merely a reflection of the disinformation, poor reporting and outright lies which have become pervasive throughout the media industry.

    My firm belief is that in an organisation, industry or society, the rot starts and the top and works its way down. When it comes to information and sensationalism, the national newspapers are the ones to blame for allowing standards to slip as far as they have. In their effort to fish for eyeballs they can sell to advertisers, they have allowed stories to be come more emotional, sensationalist and exaggerated, all while allowing accuracy, fact checking and the honest truth to fall by the wayside.

    When it comes to video games or any other activity seen as "fringe", it's easy for newspapers to spin up a story demonising the games and the people who play them. They want eyeballs, and if associating video games with addictive substances like crack cocaine can get them some, then that is exactly what journalists and editors will do.

    Keep in mind that most journalists nowadays, in the 20-35 age bracket, will probably have a games console and HD-TV in their home. They probably have a laptop and grab all the latest music, tv show and movie torrents. They probably (almost certainly) go clubbing, sleep around, drink heavily and take illegal drugs. Yet these very same people write stories and reports that demonise, sensationalise, vilify, and condemn every last one of these activities. They do this because it pays the money they need to fund the very lifestyles they are decrying.

    This rot has started at the top. With the newspaper industry. We have allowed them, time and again, to publish rot such as "video game addiction" and get away with it, with not a pip of objection from anyone. The game industry has bent over backwards, creating highly conservative [] rating agencies like the ESRB to self censor its produce. While violence is par for the course,(albiet towards aliens, Nazis or zombies) swear words in video games remain unusual to this day; "Fuck" is still reserved for only a handful of titles, and I cannot recall a single instance of the word "cunt" in any title I have ever played. Sex in video games, simply does not happen. Even Rockstar cut out the Hot Coffee content.

    But it's not enough. The media will never be satisfied. They will never acknowledge the extraordinary efforts which the video game industry has gone to to mainstream its content. To the media, video games represent an easy target, the attacking of which will produce enough of a spectacle to attract the eyeballs they need. Video games, and the people who play them, will never be given a break by a media industry that has become, in effect, a established and tyrannical bully, preying on those who cannot defend themselves for its own gain.

    In short, newspapers are rotten. Stop reading them.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:14AM (#27595923) Journal

    >>>Don't you realise women are perfect and deserve special treatment?

    Actually you're not far from the truth. Women are "perfect" in the eyes of the mega-corporations because they spend a lot of money shopping. Therefore a shoe addiction is not advertised as an addiction, but as a hobby or "pleasure" or "fashionable" on the morning talk shows and other corporate sources.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:24AM (#27596001) Journal

    It all comes back to control.

    Some people, for whatever reason, think they have a moral obligation to tell us how we should live our lives (don't watch tv, don't play D&D, don't smoke marijuana, don't drink beer, don't have sex). I'm sick of their bullshit, and I think we should viciously lash them as petit-tyrants trying to take-away liberty.

  • by Brandee07 ( 964634 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:31AM (#27596043)

    But a girl who spends 18 hours a day playing WoW is even more anomalous than a guy doing the same. A guy who does that is "just a nerd," where a girl doing that has "serious problems" and needs help, asap. Dorm RAs will try to intervene and get the girl involved in the dorm bake sale next week, but completely ignore the guys in the next room who haven't stopped playing Halo (or showered) in three days.

    Also, god damn it's hard to find a pair of regular, black, work-appropriate shoes that don't have 4 inch heels or are ugly as sin. Few things infuriate me more than shoe shopping.


  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:33AM (#27596055) Journal

    >>>I've never heard of people staying up until 3am to kick a soccer ball

    You've never heard of Olympians? Only difference, instead of staying up late, they get up early. 3 am in the morning; spend all day in the gym until suppertime, and go to bed. Someone like skater Michelle Kwan has been following that routine for ~20 years now. That's called "dedication" in the sport-loving media which profits off sports broadcasts, but it's really an addiction.

    The fans are addicts too - dressing in weird clothes, spending thousands of dollars traveling around the country to follow the teams and/or buy huge wall-sized televisions to watch them late into the night. But for some reason we celebrate that addiction.

  • Re:Games vs TV (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brandee07 ( 964634 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:37AM (#27596081)

    Your parents have a very good counterargument:

    You need to turn off the console and do your English homework. Games are a wonderful distraction and far more engaging and active than watching TV, but you shouldn't do either to the extent that you ignore homework and study, as you so obviously have.

  • in all of the endeavours you mention, 99% of people don't make any success in the field

    and this bit is especially ridiculous:

    "Hey, be addicted to real drugs and write incredible novels, poetry, or music, and you'll be applauded for it."

    nobody takes drugs and makes great art. rather, some great artists, after already having great talent, enter a stage of self-destructive hubris, and start wasting their talent on drugs. classic correlation!=causation

    your understanding of the relationship between art and drugs is kind of like the cargo cults of the south pacific: that if you build bamboo control towers and bamboo radar arrays, airplanes full of cargo will magically appear out of the sky. saying that taking drugs will let you make art is exactly the same sort if foolishness

  • yeah but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @09:58AM (#27596977) Homepage Journal

    there are millions of hunter s thompsons in regards to self-destructive behavior. thats nothing rare or unique. hunter s thompson, meanwhile, IS rare and unique, but not because of his self-destructive behavior, but because of his communicative skills, on top of his self-destructive behavior

    but people glorify his self-destructive behavior, when thats not what makes him a great artist

    my whole point is that the glorification of the self-destruction is wrong

    if you want to be a great artist, you'll create art. anything you snort along the way is baggage, not some intrinsic part of your art form... which is exactly what you said. i'm just trying to do away with the glorification of self-destruction

  • there is no such thing as a fount of absolutely impartial, absolutely trustworthy information. so go ahead and watch fox news... then listen to the bbc. then pravda. then read a chinese news site. then a venezuelan one. then an iranian one. finish it off with pbs

    in this way, by being exposed to as many different half truths as possible, from as many different sources, do you begin to actually see the real truth

    meanwhile, your prescription to stop exposing yourself to the media actually makes you more vulnerable to propaganda, because you have nothing to judge against what little slivers of info that do reach you

    this is the value of a free press: let anyone publish any goddamn lie they want. the truth will bubble up the surface, atop a rotting festering pit of lies. this is only possible with a free press. in countries without a free press, you are breeding weak flabby partisan minds who can not know the truth

    a free press, sleazebuckets of media (which is the way its always been, by the way, there was no glorious past of impartial media), is really the only way it can ever be. because there is no such thing as an absolutely impartial and trustworhty news source. they all pander to our lower instincts. and only through repeated exposure to this bullshit do you develop a healthy bullshit meter. and we all need that, badly

    so bring on the lies, the half truths, the propaganda, the demagoguery from all ideological sides. atop that festering pile of bullshit we will sit, with a good lock on the real truth. its the only way to discover thr truth, the only way media can work. the more free it is, the more festering lies out there, the better for your understanding of the truth. paradoxical, but true

  • Re:Not new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @10:26AM (#27597409) Homepage Journal

    The item I was obsessed with was the symptom, not the problem. The problem was me and lack-of-self control.

    I can't speak for anyone else, of course... but I've found that every time I've become engrossed in something like that to the exclusion of all else, it was escapism. I was trying to avoid fixing something broken in my life. I would say this was true even as a child playing video games for hours; I could relate more easily to the computer than to other people because of my [lack of] upbringing. If you're ignoring your girlfriend to play a video game, you probably need a new girlfriend. Et cetera.

  • Re:Not new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 16, 2009 @10:37AM (#27597557)

    Was going to make the exact same point.

    Seeing it right now, I play a MUD that just wiped. My clan (myself included) is all running around on our forum like a bunch of crack fiends waiting for the mud to finish the code changes and come back up.

    Work has been hell for the past three months, not by my own making, and I've spent a lot of time playing this stupid game to deal with the fact that I haven't wanted to be around other people because of the intensity of what was occurring with work.

    It is escapism, and I know its dangers all too well..

  • Re:Not new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @10:53AM (#27597805) Journal

    I can't speak for anyone else, of course... but I've found that every time I've become engrossed in something like that to the exclusion of all else, it was escapism. I was trying to avoid fixing something broken in my life.

    Likewise, and well put.

    This gets to be a particular problem for me sometimes because of two additional factors - I have a daughter who is not allowed to watch me play (she's 4), and when tired I have a tendency to feel depressed. So I wait for her to go to bed, then start playing, which is a distraction from the fact that I'm tired and therefore feeling down, which causes me to stay up until I really can't anymore. The next day I'm exhausted, and the pattern repeats itself. Additional sources of stress (usually job related) make the problem worse.

    I'm definitely better than I used to be, and I'm not anywhere near the numbers that those guys are talking about (it's rare that I'll hit 10 hours of gameplay in a week, for example). But I still have some of the same stupid behaviors that I did as a kid and in college.

  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @10:54AM (#27597809) Journal

    Flip on the TV or radio (excluding NPR here, but lets face it, NPR listners are not the majority) and you will mostly hear a bunch of bullshit, no matter who you listen to.

    Why are you excluding NPR? Over the last few days, I have listened to reports on NPR about illegal aliens in the U.S. I have heard NPR reporters refer to illegal aliens as immigrants, undocumented immigrants, undocumented workers, and unauthorized immigrants, but I don't recall them using the word illegal. I did hear some of the interviewees refer to the illegal aliens as illegal immigrants. No one actually used the proper term for these people: illegal aliens.

    I heard people who are against illegal aliens and illegal immigration as "anti-immigration" which is a bald face lie.

    The NPR reports on illegal aliens in the United States defended the illegal aliens and denigrated those that want the laws of the United States upheld. That is a bunch of bullshit.

    And, don't get me started on the NPR reporter who, during a report last year, repeated referred to "Mr. Bush" and "President Clinton".

    NPR reflects your personal biases, so you falsely exempt it from the accusation of spewing bullshit.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <> on Thursday April 16, 2009 @11:15AM (#27598109) Homepage

    You are right, but at the same time... unlike many of the other major media outlets, they actually do have a fair amount of what I would consider reasoned discourse. They are not spot on all the time, they still have a fair amount of bullshit from every side. However, its one of the few places I have seen an in depth discussion on any topic that wasn't all sound bites and frothing at the mouth.... look at shows like "on point" or "Talk of the nation" and they really do at least seem to try to avoid being just a superficial sound bite pissing match.

    Sure they don't always triumph in that regard, but they seem to me to be the only ones in broadcast media even trying.


  • #1: no one can know the real truth. everyone's conception of the truth is fuzzy, out of focus. so the problem is your stated goal: that because you can't get to 100% truthfulness, the effort is not worth it. no. your yarstick for measuring success on understanding the truth is the problem. and by using your insane yardstick for truthfulness, it just means you won't get anywhere near the truth because you have impossible standards. the solution to your problem is to stop applying such ridiculous standards to what the truth is or is ever supposed to mean to you or anyone else. no one will ever satisfy your demands on that subject, so drop your ridiculous demands

    #2: you are 100% correct: you need to spend hours reading different sources to understand the truth. but you have it completely wrong on who's fault that is. there is this insane attitude of yours that you need to approach every news story like a scientific research paper. question: how much do you a read story? answer: as much as you are interested in it, no more. question: how much will you understand the truth of a story? answer: as much as you are interested in it, no more

    let's make believe for a moment that there really is a 100% impartial completely trustworthy news source out there. ok, a scenario in this alternate reality is like this: some awful event happens, but you're not interested in this awful event. so you skim two sentences and move on and barely give the event a thought. now i come up to you 3 hours later and ask you the truth of what happened.

    guess what: in this hypothetical world of a perfect omnipotent media, there is still no way you can know what the truth is. because understanding the truth is dictated by how much effort you devote to the news story, REGARDLESS of the quality of your media. the ultimate yardstick of you understanding the truth isn't the media at all. its your own interest level

    It was a sociopolitical attack that had a lot of factors, perpetrated by a group that we created in the middle east to do our bidding before we left them in the cold.

    so if my girlfriend wears the dress i told her not to wear, its her fault when i beat her face to a pulp. this is the mentality you are supporting with your understanding of how responsibility and accountability works in regards to al qaeda

  • by DaFallus ( 805248 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @01:20PM (#27599717)

    Pedophiles, who should be took out back and shot IMNSHO, are hard-wired to be attracted to children. They can not be re-wired. You may modify their behavior to an extent(BTW, my solution actually does modify their behavior) but you cannot alter their attraction to children.

    At the risk of being labeled as someone who sympathizes with child molesters, I would just like to point out that there is a very large difference between being attracted to something and acting on that attraction. In my day to day life I find myself to be very attracted to a number of women that I consider "hot". This however does not create some uncontrollable urge for me to hit on them or follow them down a dark alley and rape them. There is a distinction between those who are attracted to children and those who act on that attraction. If you had your way, a lot of innocent people who haven't actually done anything wrong would be executed.

  • by oneTheory ( 1194569 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @03:53PM (#27602147)
    War. War never changes.

    Since the dawn of human kind, when our ancestors first discovered the killing power of rock and bone, blood has been spilled in the name of everything, from God to justice to simple, psychotic rage.
  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @07:20PM (#27605081)

    ^What he said.

    However often people try and persuade the greater bulk of humanity of our own ignorance, it just doesn't stick. We don't deal with uncertainty that well. On some level, people would much rather be sure of themselves, and wrong, than unsure, but right. We'd rather cement our preconceptions as "truth", no matter how flimsy they may be.

    Even if what the guy quoted from TFA is saying is blatantly obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, it nonetheless needs to be said, said simply, and repeated.

    Slightly more on-topic; I do not personally doubt that games can and do addict people, but I've seen enough of addicts to know that gaming addiction is not a serious problem, as some seem to think.

    We refer to addiction as if it were something a small minority suffer. Our attitudes toward that minority range from viewing them as degenerates, to viewing them as victims, but few if any people see them as normal. The reality is that addiction is far more widespread than that, and the sufferers far less remarkable.

    Want a good example? I'll bet good money that there are innumerable coffee drinkers here on /. Some of us probably drink the equivalent of four or more cups a day. If this describes you, the try and see how long you can go cold turkey, no caffeine at all (and that includes chocolate and soft drinks). You might or might not last, but you will suffer withdrawal in fairly short order.

    Now, if you're the sort who views addicts as abnormal, you'll likely go into denial about this. You either won't try quitting in the first place (the "I know I can quit any time I want, so I don't need to prove it to myself by actually trying" method), or you'll try and write off the caffeine withdrawal symptoms as something else entirely. You aren't craving, you're just having a bad day, because you never really woke up without your morning cup. That sort of thing.

    Truth is, human beings addict rather easily. Nicotine, opiates and amphetamines are just the extreme examples; we get hooked on just about anything mood altering. That includes pleasurable activities that alter moods purely through neurological feedback.

    So are there gaming addicts? Yes. It's a strictly psychological addiction rather than the mix of physiological and psychological addictions that accompany alcohol or caffeine or what have you, so it's a lot less serious from a health perspective, but it's still real. Thing is it's not special. Any human activity that is remotely pleasurable has the same risk, and statistically is going to have addicts. Does this mean we should reject those activities entirely? No, thanks. Life as a puritan is just too dull to be called living.

    Idiots from the moral majority pipe up "but gaming addicts spend all their money/lose their jobs/neglect their kids". Well, so do addicts of any different stripe. And in some cases there are more tangible risks associated with being hooked psychologically - sex addicts run high risks for STDs, gambling addicts can find themselves in debt to people you really don't want to owe money too, food addicts have all the risks of obesity (and if they go the bulimic route, even more serious health problems arise). Enact ridiculous measures to try and halt one addiction, and they'll find something else to abuse. It's not about the substance or activity being abused, it's about what the abuser does about it.

    Psychological addicts have the simple (if not always easy) option of seeking help and quitting, something that the more serious forms of addiction often inhibit. Heroin or alcohol withdrawal can kill you; gaming withdrawal makes you grumpy. Given the membership numbers in groups like AA and NA, it's safe to say that chemical addiction can be beat in spite of this.

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:56PM (#27606027)

    ...certain video games (MMORPG's) thrive on addiction and are many times more addictive than others.

    I keep seeing this "MMOs are made to be addictive" argument pop up. I don't think people have generally thought it through well enough to see the holes in it. I'll grant you that they are addictive, but not because the designers thought that was the best way to make money.

    We'll use WoW as are baseline MMO, since it currently tops the market, at least in the english speaking world. Blizzard gets far less money from box sales, so we'll ignore those in our equation and focus on subscriptions.

    Players pay a variable, but capped, rate (baseline is $15/month, less if you commit for a longer span) to access the game servers. So the gross profit per subscriber is fixed at about $180/year, or less. However, the net cost per subscriber is fluid. Bandwidth costs money, server centres cost money, support staff cost money. The more hours a player logs in, the more of these resources will be spent upon them, and the less of that $180 winds up as net profit.

    A player who plays less earns Blizzard more than an addict, since they're paying the same monthly fee as someone online 24/7, yet use less resources. Based on that, what possible reason would they have to addict people? It doesn't make any financial sense. And what, if anything, motivates a corporation more than money?

    Addicts cost them money. Money spent keeping the servers up during peak loads. Money spent paying for bandwidth. Money spent designing new content, as they grow tired of the old and become malcontent. Money they don't get back, because the addict is paying the same flat rate as everyone else. Hell, if cigarette companies sold smokes on a subscription basis, do you think for a second they'd up the nicotine content?

    Before somebody chimes in with the very obvious "addicts will stay subscribed longer", let me point out the flaws in that argument. Addicts can and do quit, often after burning out altogether. You can only abuse something for so long before if fucks up the rest of your life, enough for you to seek help, or for your loved ones to force help upon you.

    If the players don't quit, it's damn easy for them to move on instead - WoW inherited a bunch of EQ addicts when it came out, and some of them have since moved on to WAR or LotrOL or some such. They are, after all, MMO addicts, not addicts of that particular game.

    The ideal cash cow that Blizzard, or anybody else in the business, wants is a non-addicted, semi-serious gamer. Not a fully casual one, since they don't tend to stay on long; someone into the game enough to keep playing, but not into it so much that they get hooked.

    And lo and behold, what features have they added? Fluff content (festivals and the like) that keeps the casual crowd amused. Competition that keeps the PvPers at each other's throats. A rest system that rewards players for spending time away from the game, or leveling alts. Daily quests to appeal to people who only log into the game seven times a week.

    These are not features that appeal to, or help hook, MMO addicts, and yet despite this (or rather, because of this), the game outstrips all of it's similarly themed competitors.

    It seems to me that the only ways to make money off of MMO addiction are to charge by the hour, or open a clinic to "cure" the addicts.

Variables don't; constants aren't.