Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The damage games do

There has been an on-going discussion about the effect that time and money spent on games has on the rest of your life. Real scientific data on the subject is sparse, and there is a lot of sensationalism instead and talk of "addiction". So as I don't have a statistical study on the subject, I can only offer an in-depth analysis of the one case I know perfectly well: Myself. What damage did games do to my life?

The reason why the damage of games is so difficult to assess is that there is no simple black & white answer to the question of how much time spent and how much money spent is still reasonable, and how much is excessive or damaging. Games are not like drugs, where you can with some certainty say that using heroin once is already too much; it is more like alcohol, where a lot of people consume alcohol regularly without any problem, and a few people become alcoholics and damage their lives with it. Furthermore different people at different points in their lives have different amount of disposable income and free time. As long as you only spend the money and time that you have plenty of, which you would otherwise have spent on a different form of entertainment, I would consider games to be not damaging at all.

I am 50 years old, and I have played games since I was a little kid. Of course not computer games, they weren't available yet when I was a kid. I was already in my teens when we got the first console, playing Pong in black and white. My first "home computer" was a ZX81 with 1 kilobyte of RAM. So my gaming career started with board games. My first "fantasy" game was Talisman in 1983. From there I went to pen & paper role-playing games.

I can't think of any damage games did to me during my childhood and teenage years. I finished high-school with the second highest grades in my class, and unless you want to nitpick and claim I could have had the highest grades if I had played less and studied more, I don't see any evidence of damage. I certainly didn't spend anything but disposable income on games, because as a teen all your income is basically disposable as long as you live with your parents who pay for all the essential stuff. I could even make a case that I used to be bad at English, and then suddenly developed an interest in the language due to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st edition, being only available in English at that time; so somewhere games even helped with my education. Even computer games were often educational, as magazines printed the code in BASIC and you had to type it into your computer and learn a bit of programming in the process.

This changed during my college / university years. In the early 90's I discovered that I could access LPMUDs via the university's main frame computer. It was basically MMORPGs as text adventure, but already having levels and being played online and with multiple players living in somewhat persistent virtual world. I am pretty certain that without LPMUDs I would have finished university at least a full year earlier. That basically cost me one year of life earnings. If you start working later but have to retire at the same age you can say you lost your *last* year of earnings, and that for me is a number in the 6 figures and a substantial financial loss. But this also shows how time and money aren't completely independent from each other, I wasted my time and ended up losing money. So this is probably the biggest damage that games ever did to my life and ever will. If there is any lesson to be learned from me here it is that during college / university gamers are at their most vulnerable to damage from games. Procrastination from students is nothing new, but games can be a major time sink, and it is very easy to spend too much time on them in a period of your life where you have a great degree of control over your time and little supervision.

During my Ph.D. I was already earning some money as a teaching assistant. And that was the period where I spent the largest percentage of my income on games: I had gotten into Magic the Gathering, and bought around $1,000 worth of cards per year at a time where my income was barely at subsistence level. I only got a fraction of my money back years later when I sold my collection of cards. My disposable income today is much higher, but there still isn't a single game in my life on which I spent as much money as I did on Magic the Gathering.

Once I started working a job with regular hours, games stopped to be damaging to my life. My disposable income rose, and it turned out that many games, especially computer games, are relatively cheap entertainment. I am spending less money per year on games, even if you include hardware which isn't used exclusively for games, than I would spend on an annual golf membership or other comparable hobbies for grown-ups. And I play only during my free time, after having dealt with all time requirements of work, family, and other real life stuff. That still leaves me 20+ hours of gaming per week with no discernible damage to my life.

As I said, my story isn't necessarily representative for everybody. But there are lessons to be learned here: Wasting time is frequently a danger when your life doesn't have structure; if you are supposed to organize your time yourself because you are a student, or because you are in the process of looking for a job, it is easy to err and assign too much time to entertainment and not enough to real life. Once you have a 9 to 5 job with a boss who watches over your work hours, and family at home which doesn't hesitate to demand your time in no unclear language, there are more obstacles that prevent you from wasting too much time.

Personally I consider a waste of time on games a much bigger danger to a life than a waste of money on games. Of course that does not include gambling. Board games and computer games are low-cost luxury items compared with many other alternatives. Games are in the cheap category together with activities like watching TV or reading library books. Many other sports or hobbies are a lot more costly. But this is from the perspective of a middle-class professional with a regular income, and there are certainly people for who a console plus games isn't really affordable. I just don't think these people are reading my blog.

Well, Tobold, first of all you seem like the kind of guy who can handle his shit re: balancing priorities. Two, if you're 50 now, you were in your late 30s when WoW came out. I don't think you're a good example at all. Could be wrong.

Was it here that someone was claiming to have cut back to 300 hours a month?

In my experience, watching the people I knew who played a lot of WoW, (which ranged from lonely rocket scientists to kids working the cash register at Auto Zone to alcoholic construction workers, folks singers and preachers) a serious WoW habit, the habit was a crutch to compensate for being unhappy with the rest of their lives. It was certainly true in my case. Once they got a boyfriend, joined AA, or got a better job, their playtime dropped and then ceased. So that's the anecdotal evidence.

The quantifiable evidence is that a 40 hour a week habit is 22% of your time. If you want to do well in college, for instance, you should spend 3 hours for every hour in class studying. A 15 hour class load would then translate to 60 hours, plus travel time and wastage of waiting between classes. You tell me how you can do well in college and support an MMO habit? Not to mention having RL friends and relationships and take care of yourself physically?

WoW has, without a doubt, seriously lowered the worlds GPA.

Since the purpose of the game is to trigger that kind of behavior to ensure lengthy subscriptions, you can't totally chalk that up to personal responsibility either.
Nice post, it was like peeking at your life for a couple of minutes and learning a bit more about... your real "you". Nice (and scary, I often fear the connections between real and virtual life).

First thing: you're 50, I thought you were 40. That's good, you look younger on paper :-P

Second thing: your gaming time.

You say you spend more or less 20 hours/week. Which means around 3h/day (weekends included, right?). I have 2 kids, a job and a wife. I can't spend that amount of time, I really cannot, because I don't know where I could ever get that time. Unless I don't go to bed and play at late night.

I'd like to better understand your day, if you want and you don't feel too observed. I'll start by telling you mine.

Wake up, prepare breakfast for wife and kids (2 glasses of milk, bread with butter/marmalade, 1 cappuccino for my wife). Clean the kitchen, help the kids with some basic stuff (they're 8 and 5 years old). Run to the bathroom for self-hygiene. Leave home and jump on the car.

Car + walking time + breakfast at bar and then office time (yay!).

Work. I consider it passion and fun too... but it's work. I can waste as much time as I want, if I deliver my projects. In theory I could play all the day but that's not something I do.

Back home while picking up one of the kids (or both) at karate, soccer or at the swimming pool. This happens 4-5 days out of 7.

Shower, daily chat with wife and kids. Dinner with family (and more chat). Wife cooks stuff, I clean the kitchen (and floors, where needed). By 20:30 more or less we put kids to sleep and we can start our "single time!" "couple time!" of the day.

20:30->next day
At this point I am free. Meaning I can -in theory- do whatever I want. Can I? Sure thing... but I am married. Sometimes I feel the need to stay on my own, obviously (bad day, stress day, leave-me-alone-day, gaming day, ...). Sometimes I want to cuddle with her. Sometimes SHE want to stay with me (more chat, movie, help with office stuff, etc). I am not a single man with plenty of time. I can't do whatever I want, when I want, because I married to stay with someone and I perfectly understand that if your someone spends time on videogames/tv/reading/sleeping ... Well, that wont work on the long run.

That's it. As you can see, I can't stuff 3 hours/day on gaming. I could find 1 full hour, yes, but not more (not on a regular basis).

To spend 3h/day I should cut out some time from everything else: work, kids time, wife time. That means -in my specific case- I would be "addicted" because those 3 hours would mean sacrificing something else... which would be ,ore important than killing orcs for example.

How do you find those 3 hours/day? I bet you don't have kids and that's a huge powerup for sure. Is it? What more?
WoW has, without a doubt, seriously lowered the worlds GPA.

I doubt that. I don't doubt the fundamental mechanics of "I'm unhappy with my life, I'd rather escape into a fantasy world". But I do doubt that it matters *which* fantasy world is on offer. WoW doesn't "trigger" excessive playing any more than Netflix "triggers" binge-watching a whole TV series in one go, or public libraries "trigger" women escaping into the fantasy world of novels, which was apparently a worry in the 19th century.

As I said, I'm old enough to have lived in a time without internet and online games. And people were unhappy with their lives before, and escaped into one or the other fantasy or hobby before. Yes, the quantity and quality of entertainment on offer has hugely increased from the days where we had just a black & white TV with 3 channels and no computers. But the number of people slacking hasn't increased, and in fact GPAs have increased over the last 25 years, not lowered.
How do you find those 3 hours/day? I bet you don't have kids and that's a huge powerup for sure. Is it? What more?

You guessed right, I don't have kids. That mainly affects my free time on the weekend. I'm not playing 3 hours each day, I play 2 hours each weekday, and 5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise my day strongly resembles yours. Evenings are about evenly divided between time for games and time for my wife.
I'm pretty much in Rugus's corner on time distribution, but foolishly end-cap my nights with some game time (usually two nights a week) to pick up slack. I've also been sneaky about some of this: for example, I bought Star Wars: Battlefront specifically to play with my son, who loves it. He and I played for about an hour and a half last night. I don't feel bad about letting my son play video you I'm older (44) and video games have been with me my entire life, so the idea that he can also enjoy the medium (in amazing HD graphics) seems normal to me. However, I totally agree the issue isn't money but time: I'm well to do, so cost on games isn't an issue. I can't own it all, but I own all I could possibly care to. However, it will take me most of next year just to finish the five or so holiday games I did purchase, and watching my son play I can tell that the ability of children and young adults to gauge their limits is completely nonexistent; if I don't slam down the hard time limit on his gaming he will basically game until he starves to death.

I think you and I are from a generation that escaped the crippling risk of going in to college with a bad gaming habit. For my years at college I was without a computer worth much of anything, and I had no love of most PC games by for me it was D&D and occasionally Magic later on (luckily I broke that habit after only a couple years), which are social games that take some time and effort, so it was much easier to balance the D&D hobby out with normal life. But the current generation? My own anecdotal evidence as a small business manager is that there's a millennial generation right now that has some staggering prioritization issues....the idea that gaming 30+ hours a week is maybe not a good life strategy isn't even on their radar. Recruitment of younger workers for my business is a hit-or-miss affair, and when someone's work performance suffers due to external issues it is almost inevitable that I can figure out the source issue as being a significant other or video games (so I guess in that sense at least we know the species may keep propagating). I'd hired a couple cohorts of mine who needed work and I knew through gaming and in each case it was a case of "TMI" when I could directly correlate tardiness or poor performance at work one day to their late night Steam or WoW escapades the night before (Payday 2 was one friend's severe vice). Knowing I sometimes do this myself....playing whatever game I'm in to from 10 PM to 1 AM then waking up at 7 AM to start the work day doesn't help any....but I've got a strategy and do this when I can (wouldn't be running the business if I didn't); both of the people I mentioned eventually lost their jobs because performance was too consistently poor (and surprisingly both still talk to me outside of work or even game with me, so awfully good sports).

...Hmmmmm anyway so TL;DR I do agree with you time is the chief issue, and I would dread the concept of trying to do a work/life/play balance as a young teen or 20-something in today's world.
I play MMOs every evening after work and for a good portion of each of my non-work days. That can add up to 40+ hours a week although unless there's something new and particularly exciting out it's more likely to be 30.

The question of what I could do with that time instead is not hypothetical. I know what I would do with it instead because I was 40 years old when I began playing MMOs. The idea that I would be using the time for anything financially productive is laughable. I would be watching TV, watching movies, reading, sitting in the pub drinking, chatting and playing pub games. And at the weekends I'd be going to other towns and cities and going round the shops looking for obscure books, movies, comics and geeky bric a brac. That's how I spent those hours before EverQuest came along.

MMOs have saved me an absolute fortune, financially. So much so, in fact, that I've been able to reduce my working week from 5 days to 4 and still have more income than I need. It's an exceptionally cheap hobby and immensely satisfying. And if you extend it into blogging/vlogging/streaming/podcasting it's also highly creative.

Provided you are staying within the law, keeping yourself fed and housed and not causing damage to anyone else then it really is no business of anyone else how you spend your time. Neither is it anyone else's right to decide whether or not you are "wasting" your life. No life is ever wasted if you enjoyed living it.

Your point that WoW is just the crutch and that people will find something else is a good point. It's true. In the absence of an MMO people would find other ways to cope. Maybe some of them would actually try to get help or deal with their problems, but that might be too far. What makes MMOs worse than other fantasy crutches is that it is a) designed to encourage obsessive behavior and b) it never stops.

You get too into MTG or a TV show or something, there's some kind of natural barrier to it. There's only so many episodes, your MTG friends are busy, or you just have all the cards, or whatever. WoW, barring a few hours of server downtime which I think they got rid of, has no inherent barrier, and is designed so there's always another carrot to chase.

Also your point about GPAs is more about grade inflation than people being better students. Plenty of very smart people have failed out of college or had substantially reduced academic performance due to their WoW addiction.

Bhag, the thing is that most of those activities would actually have positive consequences. You'd have spent the time reading books, watching movies, and hanging out with friends goofing off. You'd have a social network and be more educated/cultured. Instead you've got one of each class in WoW. WoW doesn't even make you good at video games, it makes you worse. It's a complete time suck. Reading books and watching movies and hanging out with friends are activities with permanent benefits. Once they turn off the last WoW server all that time will just be utterly gone.
@ Bergquist

I think that smartphones are more dangerous than any random videogame on a PC/console. They're always with you, beeping all the time with useless informations: chats, groups, alerts, messages, emoticons, reminders, streams, photos, events, ... You name it. We're constantly checking the smartphone, updating apps, playing some ultra-simple videogame where we buy "diamonds" or "energy" or "candies". Switching off a smartphone isn't easy as quitting Battlefront on the Xbox.

@ Bhagpuss

That works if you don't have a stable/healthy relationship (by stable I mean you live with someone). Unless you find a nice woman who loves gaming like you, which would be a win-win obviously!
Wait, your WoW experiences will vanish when they turn off the servers, but a movie you watched will still somehow be part of you?
Gerry, if you spent 300 days playing WoW, how many of those memories are you really going to treasure?

Looking back, the most fun I had in the game was getting into stupid fights with people in STV and Northshore and Nagrand. A few PVP moments, a few raid moments.

Nothing remotely worth the 200+ days spent. I have nearly as many fun memories from Call of Duty Modern Warfare at 1/10th the time spent. There's a reason the language of the game is all about grinding this and grinding that. It's because it's not actually fun. And I can prove it.

Imagine you had a button that would accomplish anything instantly. Daily quests? You can press the button or you can do them. Garrison duty? Button or do them? PVP and Arena points? Running Karazhan or whatever the entry level raid is to gear up the guild? Button or do it. Play the AH, or just hit the button and get paid?

How often would you actually do almost anything? My guess is that damn near everyone would be slamming that button. The activities people actually want to do because they are fun instead of a carrot dangled in front of them is almost nothing. People would just hang out and have pet duels. In that sense the game is really just the worst Pokemon game in history.

And yes, the books and movies you read should stick with you. If they aren't you're watching the wrong ones.
@ 8f559f86-7761-11e3-ac30-000bcdcb8a73

I could say that if you play WoW the right way you can have a lot... lot of fun and a lot... lot of great memories. By "right way" I mean leveling 1->100 reading the quests, understanding the lore, etc. Not just "Ok I'll kill 10 boars for some npc I can't even remember who is so I can grab that +1/+2 sword asap and then collect all the zone quests asap so I can level and join the next instance".

Reading about WoW lore, knowing/understanding the npcs, the quests, everything that turns around this MMO... it can be a rewarding experience. Some quests moved me, some real-life stories connect to the game in a way that can let tears flow on your cheeks (example: Ezra). Other stories are just fun, smart, deep... Really, the choice is infinite if you focus on the story.

In that sense, WoW is an incredible book. It's not just grinding in a garrison. This is what we do now because we're seasoned gamers and we played Wow for a very long time.
Maybe the question shouldn't be why WoW keeps people playing for a long time, but rather why so many people first play thousands of hours and then declare that the game sucks.
Well, hey if it works for you it works for you.

I found the "lore" to be a tedious retread of fantasy tropes done much better elsewhere and the quest text to be garbage. Granted, I stopped reading it the instant I discovered you could skip it, and my impression was formed once when I tried to read up on it because someone told me how cool it is. The quest text had all the hallmarks of some poor creative writer churning out quests based on a formula. There's a reason the players demanded the text display instantly. Based on my anecdotal experience, people who really gave a crap about the lore are a very rare minority. Could be wrong. If you're still hanging around here the odds

But if the players who actually enjoyed the lore and gameplay where the only ones playing, WoW would have died in the cradle.
@ 8f559f86-7761-11e3-ac30-000bcdcb8a73

Unfortunately I belong to the "buy 10 apples on AH so I can complete the quest ASAP and upgrade my sword ASAP". years ago, when I started playing the game, I was more lore-focused and I really liked that. Doing quests was actually fun and interesting. Very often the final quest/rewards meant something.

The fact is, WoW is old. Very old. And we are too, in that sense. My kids stare at the screen in awe when they see cool creations in Minecraft or flying dragons in WoW. They still are "pure". To me, most of the games are just pixels made by developers. It's like watching the "behind the scenes" of a movie... It kills the mood.

Maybe I became too old for this entertainment. I mostly stopped playing videogames but I still like reading about this world, because it's been part of my life for a long time. Hell, I keep reading about WoW on mmochampion and reddit and I don't play since a long time.
The average American still somehow finds the time to watch ~5 hours of Live TV a day. Presumably the average American doesn't consist of all single, childless Millennials. That's an easy 35 hours of game time a week, if you supplant one for the other (I haven't had cable for the last six years, for example).
Azuriel, other people doing the same shit with TV is a defense of WoW how? 49% of people have an IQ under 100 and the average 5 hour + TV watching American probably can't run a mile in under 15 minutes.

I knew the TV defense was going to come up, but good lord it is weak.
No, we demanded instant quest text display because the rate at which they revealed it was so slow my first grade daughter could easily keep up.

I've had people comment on the amount of time I spend playing PC games. When I think back though about how my parents spent their time they both had activities that they enjoyed and dumped every spare moment into. The only people I've met who didn't behave that way to some extent were very boring to be around. Before I had video games I read scifi fantasy novels constantly. Even today I carry my Kindle with me in the car so if I end up stuck somewhere I'll have something good to read.
Yeah George. And those books are good to read as they expose you to new ideas and exercise your brain.

I'm not saying don't play video games. I'm saying that an MMO where 20 hours a week get you treated as a casual player is way out of proportion to any healthy life balance. I doubt someone who spent 20 hours a week reading would be considered casual. I think he'd be considered very well read.
Nothing remotely worth the 200+ days spent. I have nearly as many fun memories from Call of Duty Modern Warfare at 1/10th the time spent. There's a reason the language of the game is all about grinding this and grinding that. It's because it's not actually fun. And I can prove it.

No, you can prove it FOR YOURSELF. Just because you regret the time you spent online, because you're not able to set priorities, it doesn't mean we all do. I raided 6 years in WoW, and I keep a lot of good memories of that, not to mention a list of RL friends which I picked up and which I keep in contact with (distance permitting). Online games, like all other forms of entertainement, are what you make of them: if you just want to waste time like watching TV with your brain switched off, you can. If you want to use them as a starting point to make friends or learn more stuff you can as well.
There's a lot of people who seem unable to believe that some players just play for the fun of it, doing completely useless stuff ingame just because it's fun, even if it doesn't increase gearscore, reputation, gold. Guess what, there's a lot of them, but of course you won't get to know them if the first thing you say after grouping is "go go rush!".
Azuriel, other people doing the same shit with TV is a defense of WoW how?

It's not a defense of WoW, it's to show that people like to waste time in pointless activities. Erase WoW from the universe and something else will take the place.

Personal anecdote: a couple years ago I was addicted to Reddit, spending there easily 40+ hours a week. I'm not sure it was specifically engineered to be addictive but it worked very well: new links appear very fast, only easily consumed information rises to the top (e.g. images, quotes, sensationalist news etc. -- it is basically Tabloid for millennials), you can post your opinion and immediately see how other people react...

So yeah, people can get addicted to whatever. MMOs being such a niche activity are likely a drop in the ocean of lost productivity compared to Facebook et al.
Arguing the impact of an MMO is like arguing the impact of alcohol; most people don't get crippled by it, and can consume it reasonable (and the definition of 'reasonable' varies greatly person to person). Just because there is a small subset that can't handle it, doesn't mean gaming/drinking is the real problem. At some point personal accountability has to kick in, and not everything can be blamed on other factors.

Also Tobold I'd argue that extra year at school was beneficial in some ways, and not a total loss; you grow a lot as a person at school, even if a lot of time is spend gaming (as mine was), and I don't think trading that time for one additional year of earnings is an obvious trade-off, especially when money is less of a need now. I'd gladly trade a year of earnings for another year of University, as its the most unique and, if we are being honest, easiest time of your life.
The proof that WoW isn't fun was not my experience, the proof was the mind experiment with the button that completes any task instantly. I'd call it a magic button, except since it's a video game and all your activities do is change numbers on a spreadsheet, it wouldn't be magic at all.

Which nobody has even tried to contradict, I guess because it's so clearly true that if that button existed, a huge majority of players would be hitting it like it dispensed orgasms.

As far as the personal responsibility argument goes, sure, fine. That's why I'm advocating my position here and not trying to ban MMOs. Doesn't change the fact it's a genre designed to be an enormous time sink and does it's best to addict people through dispensing little rewards as a replacement for fun.
Time enjoyed wasting, is not wasted time.
Which nobody has even tried to contradict, I guess because it's so clearly true that if that button existed, a huge majority of players would be hitting it like it dispensed orgasms.

Or maybe nobody contradicted you because it's so wrong that noone CARED about contradicting it?
Just because you are unable to play an MMO because you enjoy being there, regardless of the "reward", it doesn't mean that everyone is like that. I skip daily quests without a second thought if I don't feel like doing them (after all, I can always do them tomorrow, they are DAILY), and I do a lot of pointless no-reward activities just for the sake of it (like traveling, exploring, or flying around). Something which, according to your vision, is impossible.
Example from the game I currently play: Archeage. In AA you can travel instantly to any city by opening a gate and teleporting there. There's a cost which is insignificant. Guess what? I travel around with a mount, or with a vehicle, by taking weird mountain routes. I HAVE the button for "instant result" you talk about, but I'm not using it (unless I need to be at my destination immediately, for example because someone is waiting for me there).
You've fallen into the trap of valuing your activities and deriving pleasure only by looking at the result, as a "real Skinner box rat". Instead you should try focusing on the pleasure of DOING an activity, regardless of the result.
Don't think I'm alone in my approach: anyone doing RP in MMOs is in the same boat, as is anyone who is playing to be with a group of friends. Even worse if you move to RL hobbies: sewing, pottery, woodworking, etc. In all those cases they could just click "buy" on the internet and get an item which is probably a lot better done, but they don't.
Your "huge majority" is a lot less huge than you think.

Azuriel, other people doing the same shit with TV is a defense of WoW how? 49% of people have an IQ under 100 and the average 5 hour + TV watching American probably can't run a mile in under 15 minutes.

The context was people wondering how anyone could have 30+ hours per week to spend playing WoW. And it's easy: it replaces some other form of entertainment. Which, incidentally, is the reason why the discussion of the "dangers" of WoW are often so specious: if WoW supplants already-scheduled entertainment, then it hasn't actually harmed anything. There is zero reason to believe that someone playing WoW 30 minutes less a day would result in said person exercising (or whatever) 30 minutes more. If someone wants to exercise, they'll make the time. If they don't, then they won't.

WoW needs no defense because it isn't much different from anything else. In fact, if anything, I'd say WoW is a large improvement over watching TV.

As for your "proof" mind experiment, what it actually proves is the exact opposite of what you're claiming. Nobody grinds anything in a game they do not enjoy playing. The mechanical action of playing WoW, pressing buttons, planning farming routes, and so on, is quite fun. And you clearly agree, having played it for 200+ days. I mean, you didn't play an unfun game for 4,800 hours because you're a masochist, did you?

Thing is, most people need a reason to get out there and push buttons. So, yes, if there was a magic button that removed all reason to kill mobs, people would stop playing. But that simply proves they need a reason to keep playing, not that they aren't having fun playing. Having the reward is more important than getting the reward.
Yes, they do. You think an addict likes it? Not after the first rush.

The term grinding alone is indicative. But the point is the game is mostly made of activities that nobody actually wants to do, but because they have been deluded into caring about the carrot dangled in front of them, they do it anyway. It's insane. The player is a rat in a maze pressing buttons for cheese, except the player can just leave the maze anytime he likes. But instead he's brainwashed himself into thinking that spending 36 hours doing stuff he'd rather not for the 4 hours of fun is great fun. But the truth is, and you can see this in the way people would absolutely hit that button for most tasks, is that they aren't having fun. Fun being defined as 'something you would do even if there was no reward to it'. There is no reward to WoW, but they think there is.

That doesn't apply to everyone, there's some odd ducks on this site. But it does apply to the mass of WoW players.
Az, do you realize that you just claimed that addiction and compulsion don't exist? Call Alcoholics Anonymous, they can turn off the lights once they tell people they just need to stop wanting to drink. OCD doesn't exist. Nobody does anything they don't want to. Good lord.

Addiction certainly does exist. But there must be a million people who play WoW more than 30 hours a week, and I'd guess that less than 1% of them would qualify for any reasonable definition of "addict".

You should take a very hard look at yourself and ask yourself why you first played so much WoW, and are now instilled with so much hatred of the game. I think you will find that it is due to a psychological reaction in yourself, and not an inherent property of the game or the genre.

Note that the feeling of "fun" is in fact a neuro-chemical reaction to naturally produced "drugs" like dopamine. You can't at the same time claim that WoW isn't fun at that people are addicted. The ones that *are* addicted are in fact addicted to the dopamine, and thus "addicted to fun". And because this natural drug can be produced in reaction to many different stimuli, WoW is just one among a long list of activities that can cause this addiction.

As far as the "people abusing WoW are vanishingly small argument," 28% are spending more than 30 hours a week, which is basically all the free time the average person has.

My definition of video game abuse is that abuse consists of playing so much that it harms other parts of your life, such as your health, social relationships, and/or career/education. A LOT of players are riding that line, if they aren't over it. All for a game that, if they had that magic button, they would skip most of it.

Something's very wrong here. I get that you guys aren't going to be receptive to that argument, but I still have to make it.
Read what I said! I said "millions of people play WoW more than 30 hours a week", and your counterargument is a link that proves that millions of people play WoW more than 30 hours a week. We all agree that millions of people play WoW more than 30 hours a week. We also agree that far more millions of people watch TV more than 30 hours a week.

What you claim is that all these millions of people are "abusing" WoW/TV/whatever, based on a completely arbitrary and personal definition of what you personally consider a healthy lifestyle. Sorry, but at best that proves that the normal, average person is not living a healthy lifestyle, and we all knew that before.

What you fail to prove is that WoW is somehow leading to a lifestyle that is *worse* than what people did without WoW. There simply is no "WoW effect". With or without WoW the balance of work, family, and entertainment that people chose remains the same. Maybe that choice isn't "healthy", but it sure as hell is "normal".
The fact that Tobold has no children really changed my point of view (in his regard). 50 years old, a long marriage/couple life (I guess?) and no children. That gives you a freaking LOT of free time, both physically and mentally (seriously, having children sometimes fucks your head).

20 hours a week isn't that much, in his situation. I'd say it's perfectly fine (and he could spend even more, to ne honest).

I love my children but when me and my wife are alone (like... 3 times a year) we immediately notice how much time we have to do... absolutely NOTHING :-)
@ 8f559f86-7761-11e3-ac30-000bcdcb8a73:

I love your approach to discussion. Disregard as irrelevant anything which does not match your prejudices, so as never being forced to question them. If WoW had you brainwashed, whatever came afterward did a much better job.

Any standard on this front is arbitrary. A standard that says that injecting heroin into your balls is a bad idea is also arbitrary. But a standard that says that your life should not revolve around one video game is, I think, a fairly generous one.

Tell me, if WoW is such an fun and fulfilling lifestyle, why is the churn so high? Why does almost everyone in this lifestyle, including a ton of people on this blog, burn out if it's really so great?

I've been on the opposite side of this argument, and I know the dismissals and rationalizations that are used to justify it. The TV comparison, guaranteed to come up, the arbitrary standard argument.

Denial Checklist:

1. Avoidance: "I'll talk about anything but my real problems!"
2. Absolute Denial: "No Not Me, I Don’t Have Problems!"
3. Minimizing: "My Problems Aren’t That Bad!"
4. Rationalizing: "If I Can Find Good Enough Reasons For My Problems, I Won’t Have To Deal With Them!"!"
5. Blaming: "If I Can Prove That My Problems Are not My Fault, I Won’t Have To Deal With Them!"
6. Comparing: "Showing That Others Are Worse Than Me Proves That I Don’t Have Serious Problems!”
7. Compliance: "I’ll Pretend To Do What You Want If You’ll Leave Me Alone!"
8. Manipulating: "I’ll Only Admit That I Have Problems If You Agree To Solve Them For Me"
9. Flight Into Health: - "Feeling Better Means That I’m Cured!"
10. Recovery By Fear: "Being Scared Of My Problems Will Make Them Go Away!"
11. Strategic Hopelessness: "Since Nothing Works, I Don't Have To Try!"
12. Democratic Disease State: "I Have The Right To Destroy Myself & No One Has The Right To Stop Me!"

I count like 2, 3, 4, bit of 5 (blaming me for being so biased so they don't have to listen), certainly 6 (the TV comparison), and 12.

Like I said, I'm not saying don't play games, or don't play WoW, but if you're seriously trying to argue that there isn't a significant portion of the WoW population who are harming themselves through excessive play, well, I don't know what else to say. That's just willful blindness. I've been on the other side of this argument, so I know how it feels to want to defend it and yourself. Talking about this here is probably useless; all the people who this would make sense too have already left. But I have to try.
you're seriously trying to argue that there isn't a significant portion of the WoW population who are harming themselves through excessive play

You don't get it, do you? Nobody says that this is not the case. A significant portion of the WoW population definitely *is* spending too much time in the game. But do you really suggest that these were people who had a healthy lifestyle before? You completely failed to prove that! These people went from an unhealthy lifestyle spending too much time on some other hobby to an unhealthy lifestyle playing WoW. Nothing really changed! They didn't throw away their granola in favor of donuts for breakfast and became obese couch potatoes because of WoW, they were obese couch potatoes before WoW and will remain obese couch potatoes after WoW.

In fact if your numbers prove anything then it is that WoW is good for you! You see: Your numbers show that the number of hours played WoW is less than the number of hours TV watched in the general population. Thus the WoW population is statistically *more* healthy than the non-WoW or general population. If WoW were more addictive than other forms of entertainment, you would expect the opposite, more hours spent on WoW than other people spend on other entertainment. As this isn't the case, you haven't proven any negative effect yet.

And as we have previously established that I am playing far less than even you would consider critical, and in fact I'm currently not playing WoW at all, you can't simply dismiss my argument as defensive. I have nothing to be defensive about. I am a neutral observer, trained in statistics and analyzing facts. And your argument that WoW turns people towards a *more* unhealthy lifestyle than they would have otherwise chosen simply has no facts and numbers that support it. You *can* say that "WoW is bad", but only if you say the same about all the other forms of entertainment or hobbies that people spend the same amount or more time on, and that's a long list.

And I would still like to know why *you* have this deep personal hate of WoW. Did you get kicked out by your guild, and you decided only losers play this? Did your WoW-playing girlfriend leave you and you prefer to blame the game instead of yourself? Something must have happened to leave such deep psychological scars in you!
Tell me, if WoW is such an fun and fulfilling lifestyle, why is the churn so high?

Ok, so this is the core of the problem.
You see.... WoW is NOT a lifestyle, it's a game. Entertainement. Designed, as all entertainement, to "entertain" you for some time after which you pass to something else.
My random guess is that you lost perspective on the game and it become a lifestyle, eating up all the rest of your activities. This is your problem and not WoW's. To align myself on what Tobold says: it's not unhealthy lifestyles who chase people, it's people who chase unhealty lifestyles....

At 30+ hours a week, it is a lifestyle. You work, sleep, and play WoW. That's about it.
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