Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 28, 2011
 
Giving gaming a bad name

Newsweek has an article with the usual examples of online gaming addiction killing people. That sort of article with always the same examples must have gone through every newspaper and magazine over the last years. For most rational people it should be clear that the chance to die from online gaming addiction is about the same as dying from TV addiction, and several orders of magnitude below the chance of dying from alcohol or drug addiction. But "addiction" makes such a nice word for headlines.

Unfortunately this sort of sensationalist journalism finds easy targets in the so-called "hardcore" players. MMO Melting Pot reported this week that the first Ragnaros HC kill came after 500 wipes, and that even after knowing how it is done most guilds need about 400 pulls before they down Ragnaros. But while MMO Melting Pot asks whether that is good game design (easy question: no, it certainly isn't), I'm wondering about the much more difficult question whether that sort of "hardcore" playing still is sane, or whether such behavior can rightfully be called "addicted".

There is certainly a problem that hardcore gamers are causing to the perception of people playing games in general. Every documentary about gaming (not to mention South Park) shows the unwashed guy living in his mother's basement playing WoW raids excessively while swearing profanities in his headset. We gamers know that this is a caricature, but in the end the perception hurts us all. We get to hear: "Oh, you play video games as a hobby? I've seen a film about that, isn't that rather unhealthy?"

What do you respond to that? That watching TV for 3 days probably isn't healthy either, even if it gets you a world record? Or do you launch the long-winded defence that the overwhelming majority of people playing video games plays them for less hours a day than the average American watches TV, and that a few crazies playing much more aren't representative for the rest of us? Sometimes I wonder if the Chinese aren't wiser than we are, when they impose limits on online gaming. Until then the hardcore gamers are going to be an easy mark for journalists writing about gaming addiction, and will continue to give gaming a bad name.

Comments:
Is there really such thing as "giving something a bad name"? Does someone see an extreme example as form a view based on that, or do they pick out the examples that fit what they already think? It didn't require hysterical stories of "gaming addiction" for gamers to be looked down on for years.
 
The maximum score in snooker is 147. Even professionals don't often achieve it. Amateurs dream of it.

Is it addiction to play snooker for year after year, hoping to get a perfect score?
 
The Chinese are also "wiser" about all that pesky journalism.
 
Magazines also kill people:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/8023864.stm

Newsweek might do better to worry about that.
 
Personally, I regard hardcore video gaming as similar to other hardcore activities.

For example, consider high-level chess players. They must spend a lot of time playing, practising, researching, etc. The differences are (a) chess tends to be less about twitch and more about thinking and (b) the board is more 'real-world' than the setting of a video game (although the gameplay is just as - or perhaps more - abstract).

You can compare gaming with athletic sports, music, offline games, other hobbies, and so on. There are obviously differences in the demands they make on the person (e.g. twitch skill, tactical skill, physical strength and fitness, etc.), but there are many similarities too:

In each case, many people play (or whatever) them casually. A few play them hardcore. In some cases, a subset of the hardcore players can make a living from them. And sometimes, people like to watch (or listen to) the top players play.
 
I'm wondering about the much more difficult question whether that sort of "hardcore" playing still is sane, or whether such behavior can rightfully be called "addicted".

You may call it that. But then you also have to call people like Dominic Frasca "addicted".
 
I'm teaching a course now which operates like a freshman writing course called "Fun, Games, and Learning" which examines the relationship between learning and game playing. It's been interesting to see how the (it's a private school, so) preppy, popular kids have shifted their opinions about games and gaming as more and more of them admitted to secretly playing this or that. I used Koster's Theory of Fun, Rose's Art of Immersion (which is not directly about gaming but involves this generation's interest in making the world more game-like), and (since it goes well with the last book) McGonigal's Reality is Broken.

I point all this out because generally what these reporters need is a course like this to help them understand that gaming is not only natural, but beneficial, and that like all things (such as water) the right amount is crucial to life, but too much can be bad.

Nice post!
 
Actually, the image of the WoW-gamer in his mother's basement screaming homophobic/racist/sexist obscenities is not a caricature. It is something even the most hardcore players admit.

I believe the documentary, "The Raid", was covered on this blog?

This was not some mainstream media hatchet job. This was a documentary made by hardcore gamers, for hardcore games.

What did it show?

People screaming f*gg*t, n*gg*er, and almost everything else imaginable into their headsets. Other illuminating episodes include another apparent basement-dweller saying female gamers were either really nice or bitches. Misogyny much?

My personal experience is I've encountered homophobia in *every* MMORPG I've played. In the majority of games, this has been use of f*g. In a small minority, it has only been use of "gay" to mean crappy.

Racism I've encountered only in MMOFPS.

In this respect, MMO's really are lagging behind the larger society. About the only other place you can find such public homophobia is in a highschool hallway.

Until this is cleaned up, there is going to be little sympathy for MMO's in the media. No one worried about their public reputation, either among friends or in the worksplace, is going to be associated with them.
 
Except that imposing limits would be a dangerous precedence for a western nation and would only increase the feeling that you live in a nanny/police state.

Many countries let people gamble their money until they are left homeless and destitute, yet there are few places that put a cap on what you can gamble (There is alot of industry backlash in Australia, for example, who are trying to legislate mandatory caps and precommittment for poker machines).

Additionally, how could you cap gaming without capping other recreational activities? E-sports are starting to boom in the US, though is still nowhere near the popularity they are in Asia. One of the top SC2 players in the world has won something like 450,000 US this year in prize money. Could you argue a cap on time spent gaming would be detrimental to a pro gamers career?

Imagine if you imposed caps on how long, say, a football team could train each week, or a cap on how many practice rounds a golfer could play. You would have alot of outraged professionals.
 
If the untrue stereotyping is what causes problems for normal players, why do you want to give it credibility by treating it as the truth?
 
Is it addiction to play snooker for year after year, hoping to get a perfect score?

That is the question. Where is the limit? When you read the Guiness Book of World Records, at what achievements do you say "Oh, well done!", and and which others do you say "How crazy does one have to be to even try this?".
 
I agree with Thrumdi, it's not hardcore gaming itself that's giving the games a bad name, it's the utter fuckwittery associated with the people who do it. I'm put off playing games like LoL because I have zero interest in being part of that community. I don't care how good it is, I'll find something else that I can play. You could say the same about large segments of the EVE community - at least that's how it comes across to outsiders.
 
> Where is the limit

The limit is where you ruin your life (and the life of people who love/like you) for something that makes you happy or just feel good.

It can be a videogame, soccer, basket, snooker, food, alcohol, extreme sports, ..., the list can be infinite.

Videogaming is just one small piece of a bigger scheme, where you have to carefully balance daily tasks, family, job and fun.

Now don't get me wrong... I loved WoW and I think that heroics raids MUST be hard. But 500 attempts to kill a boss is just "insane in the mebrane".
 
A couple of points:

- putting things into perspective: one wipe-fest evening for my guild nets us 20-25 wipes in around 3h. That's around 0.16 hours/wipe, or 80 hours of gameplay. One Star Trek series (say DS9) is 176 episodes, running at around 40 mins per episode = 117 hours. Just like raiding, following a TV series is a committment in time and planning (they are broadcast at specific time and date). Would you qualify someone who: "damn I must go home to see the last DS9 episode" as an addict?

- I play (on average) 5 evenings a week, for 3.5 hours (parent control confirms 1000-1100 mins/week). The national TV watching average for the country I'm in is 3:24 per day. So I'm actually playing WoW LESS than the time the average citizen watches TV. Not to mention that in WoW I play and joke with a group of friends, which is a lot more social than watching TV.

Next time someone mentions the stereotype of the gamer, keep some numbers around. Chances are, they watch TV alone a lot more than the time you spend playing WoW with friends. This quiets them down real fast :)
 
Gaming addiction is a symptom that has a deeper cause. If it's not excessive gaming, it might be excessive drinking or another addiction.

As for China. Do you really want such limitations to our personal freedom? Freedom is the key to a democratic state.
 
@ Helistar

Your example does not fit this scenario. A Star Trek serie (season) offers different episodes.

Wiping 500 times on a WoW raid-boss it's like trying to watch the first episode of Star Trek 500 times.

Would you be able to do that?
 
Freedom is the key to a democratic state.

Actually by definition freedom is the key to an anarchic state. Democracy by definition is the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

I do not have absolute freedom in the democratic state I live in. I am not free to drive as fast as I want on it's roads. I am not free to download whatever I want from the internet. I am not free to consume certain substances the government decided could be addictive. And there are tons of other regulations which are ostensibly designed to keep me from either harming myself, or others.

I don't think that "governments should not forbid anything" is a valid argument here. It is far better to argue whether excessive video gaming is potentially dangerous enough to justify a government intervention.
 
I've given up on explaining my gaming hobby to my environment; it's hopeless. But wait another 2-5 years, and I'm sure they will present me with "e-sports-T-shirts" as the thing to wear.

I can live with that. Going with the latest fashion has become incredibly important today.

______________

I also can't be bothered to comment on the "democracy is not absolute freedom, so it can't claim to be about freedom" fallacy :-)
 
"Until this is cleaned up, there is going to be little sympathy for MMO's in the media. No one worried about their public reputation, either among friends or in the worksplace, is going to be associated with them."

What do you think of people who feel the same way about homosexuals?
 
What do you think of people who feel the same way about homosexuals?

Are you talking about ideals, or are you talking about reality? I would think that in reality "coming out" as a homosexual has a negative effect on your public reputation, either among friends or in the worksplace (sic). It is still in this day and age not an easy thing to do.

I am not saying that a world in which outing yourself as either a gamer or a homosexual would have no negative consequences whatsoever wouldn't be desirable. I'm just saying that as far as I can see, we are not there yet.
 
Things derailed quite a bit. I'd like to come here and have some interesting and clever conversation about fun/entertaining things, to be honest.
 
What do you think of people who feel the same way about homosexuals?

Haha, I hope you're not trolling.

People who scream f*gg*t into headseats (i.e. the subset of raiders portrayed in the documentary "The Raid") = basement-dwelling mouth-breathers. That was clear in the original comment.

As for those who are secretly thinking "f*gg*t" and don't say it (which I think is what you mean), I would put them in the same category.

At one time, say ten years ago, you could say such a person was simply ignorant, or the subject of a poor upbringing. Now, with gay men and women visible everywhere and in the media, that can no longer be used as a defense.

And as was said in the OP, this reservoir of thinking in the MMO community is lagging behind the larger society. Until it is cleaned up, the average person, worried what the world thinks of them, will keep their negative impression of MMO's and stay away.

Until then, the genre will continue to be perceived as a hillbilly sport like Nascar racing.
 
And speaking of homophobia in WoW. Blizzard airs anti-gay slurs at the industry's biggest convention.

And you wonder why the average person gets a negative impression of MMO's?

http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/10/28/blizzard-apologizes-for-anti-gay-slurs-at-blizzcon/
 
I couldn't help but nod and agree with you Tobold. Society tends to look down on the gamer society as a whole- with the help of people who like to look down upon others. Giving it a bad name can start all the way back to the first video games where people were looked down upon for spending more time inside playing the first Pong.

It's not that they are trying to give it a bad name, just over the years people have decided whats wrong and right for other people.

I find fellow teenagers that study for long hours and don't sleep but keep such a focus are just the same as the typical hardcore gamer. We all are focusing and processing data as we play just as a student is memorizing and studying. I've seen plently of students be sent home from pure exhaustion, and people who over work themselves at their jobs be hospialized for being addicted to making money.

The way we do it is just personal preference.

Too much of anything can cause something bad to happen. Gaming or not, it's just easier to point at those who don't have a voice outside of the computer screen.

Great post.
 
I wasn't trolling, Thrumdi. I was pointing out that in another context you would probably call someone a bigot if they condemned a group for the actions of some of them.

I don't remember anyone in my guild screaming sexual or racist abuse into headsets. As to whether they secretly think it, I don't know how I could tell. It is generally more effective to judge people by their actions than by what you think their thoughts are. Nor is it reasonable, I think, to insist that people must like or approve of any particular group, so long as they behave with civility.
 
I wasn't trolling, Thrumdi. I was pointing out that in another context you would probably call someone a bigot if they condemned a group for the actions of some of them.

I don't remember anyone in my guild screaming sexual or racist abuse into headsets. As to whether they secretly think it, I don't know how I could tell. It is generally more effective to judge people by their actions than by what you think their thoughts are. Nor is it reasonable, I think, to insist that people must like or approve of any particular group, so long as they behave with civility.


But, no. At no point did I say that all MMO players are bigots because a visible subset of them are (as immortalized in the documentary "the Raid", the anti-gay video played at the 2011 Blizzcon, and my personal experience).

I said that this subset will prevent outsiders from viewing MMO's as mainstream entertainment they wish to participate in.

Now, Tobold is making the argument that for a hobby that is already mainstream, say like golf, the unacceptable actions of a subset (a segregated country club in Georgia, for example) are not taken as representative of the hobby as a whole.

MMO's don't have that luxury at the moment. This is unfair. But when the President of the industry's most successful gaming company airs something like the Cannibal Corpse video, you wonder if that moment will ever come.

As for judging people for their thoughts. If you believe gay people are f*gg*ts, that is worthy of contempt, then your worldview is bigoted. Now we can get into a hand-waving argument as to whether if you never act on these feelings you can be rightly be called a bigot or not. Most reasonable people, I think, would agree that you are.
 
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