Addictiveness and MMORPGs

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This post from a “Guild Leader in a Top-Ranking World of Warcraft Guild” does a pretty good job of summing up why I will never play a MMORPG. It’s rather strange because a lot of the things about MMORPGs appeal to me: the creation of long term, sustained virtual environments as places for socialization, content creation, and roleplaying. And in the basest sense, I know I’m attracted to the core gameplay of gaining experience, levelling up, improving a character, and getting better gear. But in a more intellectual sense I know that all of the MMORPGs require intense amounts of devotion and require inordinate amounts of time to make significant progress. Couple this with the monthly fees of a traditional MMORPG and you have a recipe for disaster. Although something like Guild Wars isn’t my ideal game (what is, after all?), I do enjoy being able to jump into the game for an hour, accomplish a task, and then not play it again at all for a month without any twinge of guilt over subscription fees or compulsive grinding activity.

As some have pointed out, if you are “addicted” to an MMORPG the fault lies solely with your own lack of self control. I know those are alien words to people who have grown up spending eight hours a day watching television, but the solution is not to blame game companies for your own character flaws. Yes, one can probably make uip a huge amount of verbiage about how these games use frequent rewards and challenges to stimulate production of serotonin, dopamine, and other brain chemicals and so on and so forth. The only reason why this chemical dependency exists is due to a lack of perspective. Is advancing in the game worth sacrificing real experiences for? The valuation that makes getting the epic gear so important and so anticipated is a conscious one. No one who sits down at the game with a casual attitude is going to get a self-induced high off of that gear in the same sense that a person who has valued the game over their immediate life will do.

In somewhat related news, via BoingBoing, Congress is looking for ways to tax trade that occurs in MMORPGs. The Escapist blog also takes a brief look at traders in MMORPGs. I have a more modest proposal: Euthanize people who are willing to spend real life cash to progress in games. Not only will it nip this whole “illicit trade” thing in the bud, it’ll also significantly reduce the numbers of people whining about how addictive the games they choose to play are.

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