Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Might as well face it...

"Expert" (note the quotes, dammit if I didn't already reveal my stance in the first word of this post) psychologist Maressa Orzack says that as much as 40% of WoW players are addicted to the game. TwitchGuru has an interview with the expert. Here are some choice quotes:

Orzack: A lot of people are asking me to get help for their teenaged children, boyfriends, spouses and sometimes themselves.
Q: So more often than not, the addicted person isn't seeking help?
Orzack: That's correct. Usually, some type of intervention is needed.
And who exactly will be doing this intervention? Is it dad on the couch watching football? Or mom out shopping compulsively?
Q: [Are] the issues at home more of a problem than the actual games themselves?
Orzack: No, I disagree. You can't say that about Blizzard, which structures the games like World of Warcraft to be addictive. They design these MMORPGs to keep people in the game.
As opposed to what exactly? Is it really possible to distinguish between designing the game to maximize playability and designing it to be addictive? Are television producers guilty of designing shows to be addictive? I'm guessing 100% of season viewers of Lost are addicted.
Orzack: It's called variable ratio reinforcement, which basically means that you keep playing or gambling and failing until you reach your intended goal, but once you reach that goal, you still keep playing. [emphasis theirs]
Doesn't VRR basically describe everything? I mean, seriously, when has the world given you static ratio reinforcement? And if it did, how quickly did you get bored with that?!
I think there needs to be warning labels on MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, similar to warning labels on cigarettes. People should know that these games are potentially harmful.
It'll look like this: Warning: This game features content that has been found to be highly addictive. In addition, this product causes aggressive behavior, unprotected sex and a penchant for wearing clothes that do not match.

Ok, look. I'm not denying that there's definitely a problem with game (and MMORPG) addiction out there. But to say that 40% of players are addicted and to suggest a warning label is ridiculous. People are going to like doing things that make them feel good. Some people are going to be addicted to things that make them feel good. It can be food, sex, nicotine, working out, dancing, singing, whatever. The fact that things get taken out of control are rarely (nicotine and other brain altering chemicals aside) the fault of the actual thing being consumed. The only way to avoid addiction is to take away everything that makes people feel good.

40% of WoW players are not addicted, they're enjoying themselves and perhaps prefer the game to other things. If 40% were truly addicted, we'd hear about all the jobs being lost, the pawning of personal belongings for the broadband fees and the sex market for heroic armor. We're talking millions of people here. No, these people are not addicted, they're having fun. God forbid we're allowed to do that anymore.

What this is is blatant alarmism. Google the "expert" and you'll find an informative little site on addiction, "computer" addiction that is. The site looks circa 1999 and Warcraft seems to just be the latest vice on the addiction list here. Now this isn't an outright commercial site but one has to question the doctor's objectivity. If you make a living looking for addicts, how long do you think it'll take before everyone starts looking like an addict?

via Digg

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