Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Addiction Overload


Three things in two days is going to provoke a reaction from me. This is one topic that strikes close to home and really (REALLY) annoys me.

As a society, we are obsessed with obsession. Our pursual of normalisation with culture has created a monster that condemns those who are somehow different and the weapon of choice is the accusation of obsession and addiction. And what a wonderful weapon it is as well because it latches onto two phenomena.

The first is social norms. It is very easy to accuse someone of addiction if they do something out of the ordinary. Something strange. Dare I say geeky. Secondly, it is an unbeatable arguement because any attempt to defend yourself is met with the panacea of 'denial'. Echoes of middle age ducking stool interrogations methinks?

Online gaming is a major target for the obsession obsessed at the moment and naturally it is something that has effected me. I play World of Warcraft a lot. Usually a couple of hours every night (when I am in the house). And yes, I have been accused of being addicted to it. Which, I have to say, is a load of bollocks.

The truth of the matter is that it is a past-time that I enjoy, that helps me relax and that allows me to stay in contact with my friends from the comfort of my own living room. I have a family and the responsibilities that come with that, so I cannot be out roleplaying and card playing and pubbing three or four nights a week anymore. However, I see no reason not to socialise with my mates. The internet (as a medium of communication) allows that. I can sit, watch the TV, play WoW, talk to my wife - all at the same time. Thats decent time management in my book.

However, one of the real bugbears of my interaction with this subject is the issue of stopping and letting people down. Note in the (actually very funny) advert, the woman expects the man to stop playing as soon as she approaches him with the offer of sex? The expectation I and many of my friends have met, is that playing Warcraft is like reading a book or drawing a picture. Something that you can drop instantly and pick up again.

Really, it isn't. In virtually all activities you are working as part of a group and have an essential part of that group. In our game, I am a healer and my job is to keep people's characters alive. If I walk away in the middle of an encounter for a quick shag, those characters WILL 'die' and that means that everyone I am playing with will be inconvenienced. In fact, if I go AWOL in the wrong place I can create a situation where the entire event will have to stop. Now, no doubt some of you are reading this and thinking - so what? It's only a game?.

Next time you are say, playing a game of football, take the goalkeeper away from the game. What would the reaction be? Would he be able to say 'sorry lads, it's just a game...wife wanted a shag ASAP!'. Imagine a horse race where the jockey you backed pulled up and got off his horse for three minutes to check out a nice patch of greenery?

Just not going to happen is it?

Time is another factor that enters into these calls of obsession quite a lot. The length of time played in one 'sitting'. Now, lets consider how long some other activities take? Like golf? A proper game of tennis? A long hike up a mountain? Going to see Pirates of the Caribeean II? A night out on the beers with the lads?

Not really short passages of time are they?

However, they are all socially acceptable because the Obsession Obsessed cannot rally against anything socially accaptable like sport, outdoor pursuits, cinema or face-to-face social interaction*. ANYTHING involving technology is fair game though. Open house for the OOs to vent their spleen.

Don't misunderstand my ranting - I know that there are many people who are truly addicted to gaming. Those people that take time off work to game, that pull sickies to game, that care more about the game than their families, those that spend inordinate amounts of money they cannot afford on gaming and those that game for so long that it makes them ill. They all need help.

However there are some of us that have a happy balance between our gaming hobby and our private lives and our work lives. Sure, sometimes things need a little tweaking - more often between work and private, than private and hobby. But please don't just knee-jerk and associate everyone who games with obsessive buffoons who cannot differentiate life from pixels


* I stand constantly amazed how, when it suits, going out on the piss is bona fide social interaction encouraged by society - whilst at other times it is virtually criminalised, akin to an attack by marauding hordes!

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