AMA States: No Science to Support Video Game Addiction

28 Jun

Apparently the AMA says you can stick your face into World of Warcrack 90 hours a week and it’s not an addiction.  Spend so much time in chat rooms that when you smile at your friends your fingers instinctively type 🙂 ??  Not an addiction.  Sold off your roommates things on Craigslist just so you can get calls from people to chat?  Not an addiction.

The AMA went on to say… that they should have it sufficiently researched as soon as the rest of their guild makes it to level 70 and they get the "cool" flying mounts and finally pwnz the guys from APA in pvp…

Okay – I made the last part up.  But the fact is that this is an issue that inspires awe and rage between gamers, online people and … the rest of the world.  When will the non-cybernetically enhanced worlders learn… we are NOT addicts?  We can quit any time we want!  Right?  Just … not right now… we need to check our email!!

All joking aside – this proves something I’ve long suspected.  Online addiction – like video games and chat rooms are not actually personal addictions.  They’re societal addictions – which is pretty sad.  It means that we as a people are so desperate to connect to someone like us – we become addicted when we do.  We’re not addicted to the game, or to the chat room or to some technological glowing screen that gives us knowledge – we’re addicted to social interaction with people … like us.

People who we know like what we do – because, hey – they’re doing what we do!  You like games about dragons and fantasy?  Cool – Me Too!  You like talking about llamas?  HEY – NO KIDDING!!! I LOVES ME SOME LLAMA TALK!  And so on … it’s not just the World of Warcrack zombism – they’re just more obvious because their method of inclusion involves large portions of their time so they can, like peacocks – demonstrate skill and display their colorful plumage.  It’s all about being accepted – and in WoW – everyone can be accepted, because they are all equal.

…More on the equality that online games bring to the equation…. get a seat – this is a world class Mike November rant like in the old days… you may want to get a drink, some chips or go to the bathroom now – it’s gonna take a while…

Let’s face it – no one would become addicted to chat rooms if they didn’t find people who accepted them, made them feel good about themselves, and otherwise provided an enjoyable experience.  Wanting to do something you like, that provides emotional reinforcement for long periods of time – is not something a psychiatrist can fix in you.  The reason is – you’re supposed to want to do that.  You’re supposed to want to congregate with others and feel accepted.  The problem is – we found a way to do that, without actually being there… and that’s kinda creepy on some levels.

Until the arrival of the Internet, people were forced to locate others like themselves by making compromises in their social behaviors.  The guy / girl you saw and wanted to meet didn’t like smoking?  Then you didn’t smoke around them even quitting if necessary – if they smoked – you tolerated it and often became a smoker yourself.  The same is true of drinking, and even drugs.  On the upside – since the arrival of the Internet, eradication and control of these addictions has become more and more common.

I have no numbers to back up that statement – but you go into a bar and light up a cigarette (if you’re legally allowed to) – for that matter, go into a "bar".  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Not the clubs, not the theme bars or the sports or the micro-brews.  When was the last time you went to a "BAR"?  You haven’t.  Not in a long time.  Why?  Because bars are generic meeting places – and now we… repeat after me… go to places that are themed with things we like.  Just like with the Internet. 

When we congregate in groups – alcohol isn’t the draw it once was, and smoking – definitely isn’t the "cool" of the Marlboro man.  For that alone, you’d think the ascension of the Internet and technology like cell phones as the center of our social interchange would be a positive thing.  Maybe it is.  But I can’t help but wonder what happens as we rely less and less on our physical skills of interaction, less and less on our mental and emotional skills of societal congress.  Lets face it – if you can just find people like you – why bother putting up with people who aren’t like you?

Pre-Internet if the person you met was dressed differently or acted more or less mature – our natural mechanisms of mimicry kicked in and we would become more like them.  Standing out in a crowd when you’re not leading the crowd is a Darwinian formula for being cut from the group.  And leading the crowd means you better have the chops to lead – and accept that leaders are often dethroned.  So – most people learned skills they never new they had to get along with others.   But getting along with others is a lot of work.  If you’re lucky enough to find people just like you – then you don’t have to work as hard do you?

And what if your lot in life is just well, let’s be honest – to be not accepted by a lot of people?  Maybe you’re clumsy, your over weight, your not as strong, or athletic or good looking or smart as everyone else in the group?  You will have to face a lot of social embarrassments a lot of personal adjustments – to learn to fit in.  And – to be honest, you may never fit in.  You may have to go form your own group and find others of your type.  But that was before the Internet.  The great equalizer. 

Everyone in an On-Line game, finally does have the same advantages – no one starts off behind others.  And if you work – you’re able to become as powerful as anyone else.  From a socializing view point … this kicks ass over hanging around a bar like a fish trying to find which school you can swim in without being too big – or too little.  It’s the Goldilocks of socializing … a bit of effort and you’ll never come off too hard or too soft –  follow basic rules and you’re always jussst right!  You can always find acceptance.

But let’s not just pick on video games.  This same issue applies to chat rooms, on line forums, you name it – selling things, sharing things, giving them away for free… just as you can always find someone for your items, or those impossible to find items somewhere … you can also find friends.  Even if you look at the cell phone social groups – your "circles" – you can always socialize and be accepted by someone.  No matter how much of a loser you think you are.  The sick part is – you’re not a loser and you’re already like everyone else.  You’re instinctively addicted to be accepted.

From cavemen on – if you were not accepted by the group, you were excluded from it, you got excluded – you starved, you froze, you got eaten… the bottom line is – you died.  So just like every, you need to be accepted no matter how much you insist you don’t.  No one wants to die.  Even the people who gather in chat rooms to talk about how much they want to die – aren’t dying – they’re gathering in chat rooms to talk about it.  So there it is … what psychiatrists should be trying to cure us of the fear of rejection and being alone…

…that’s the true addiction.  It’s not the Internet, it’s not video games, it’s not chat rooms or cell phones or anything of the like.  It’s our pathetic Paris Hilton like need for acceptance and our insufferable fear of being alone…

There was a time when group sports like football, baseball and so on ruled.  We often heard the term in American households of "Football Widows", between October and February – getting between men and TV for a woman required her to be naked and holding beer.  And women?  Women were no better.  Everyone had a favorite team – and you rooted for that team.  You went to games – and you socialized using – your teams, your sports.  Women discussed how their men were with them – and men – well they could never remember simple things – but running averages, yards, and games from 20 years ago?  No problem.

Which, it should be noted this was and is not just an American social experience and let’s face it – even the British Andy Capp was world famous for leaving his "Missus" for a game.  Here in America the concept of anyone caring about soccer was nil.  It’s now almost a decade into online socializing – and we don’t have to share the same fervor as we once did for a certain team.  In fact – we crave newer – even more globalized sports – like… soccer!  And even Andy Capps beloved "football", now – some 30 years after the height of it’s popularity here in America – American men can now understand half the jokes of his comic strip.

When the AMA concludes their report – they may be shocked to find that there is still no verifiable or logical evidence to support any recognizable form of addiction to those who suffer from … on line addiction.  What they may find – is a much larger problem, that we, as a society – are discovering not only how alone we truly are, but how desperate we are to be with others like ourselves.  To not feel alone.

It’s disturbing because psychologically – there’s nothing wrong with people who suffer from on line addiction.  There’s no drug to fix it.  And the problem is not just with one of us – it’s with alllll of us.  It just becomes more pronounced in those who are craving acceptance by others of their own kind.  A little craving of acceptance is normal for us all.  But the answer is not to medicate the problem away, or go through endless therapy sessions, or even 12 step types of programs (these just replace one type of social addiction with another). 

The problem is … we’re alone, and we’re too afraid or we’re not willing to put up with or we’re just… too tired to go through the societal dances needed to accept people who aren’t like us.  We’re not willing to make the changes to ourselves (and maybe we shouldn’t in some cases) that are needed to make friends with people who aren’t like us.  But in the end we’ll suffer for it. 

The less we need to compromise and negotiate through society – the less experience and tolerance we have for society, for each other.  Growing up – I was taught to believe that being like everyone else was bad, and it is – we need to be ourselves.  But how do you know who you are – if you don’t know what you aren’t?  You can’t be "yourself" if you lie to yourself.  If you don’t get out there and learn to compromise and agree to disagree with others and make your own path.  Its through the bruises and scrapes of social interaction that we become better parents, better families, better members of society, better leaders.  You can’t lead – if you’re always a part of the pack.  When everyone – is safe and comfortable, and no one has to risk social foibles and mistakes then no one gains the courage that comes from knowing those bruises and scrapes are just that – minor injuries needed to build a healthy and strong life.  If we lose that – if we fall victim to the trap that we can always just "go hang out with my friends in … <name city, place, or virtual world here>" when life becomes the least trial for us, we lose a lot of growth as people. 

Maybe as a society.  Then again… I could be wrong.  It’s hard to say – all I know is it’s Wednesday and my Supergroup has a weekly meeting in front of BlueSteel in Kings Row… if you’re on the Infinity Server give us a yell. 

(Editors Note: The Kings Row Taxi Service no longer meets Wednesdays – we got lives and play around our real lives.  If you see us – or me – on line… keep in mind, IDOFF – (For those who don’t speak MMO – "I drop off for family".smile_wink)
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Posted by on June 28, 2007 in Uncategorized


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