I saw this video (thanks to Krystalle Voecks at Massively) and began to think about MMO addictions. I have gone out to social gatherings where the topic of discussion was what happened last night in an MMO, or discussions about the complexities or social dramas. While inherently it isn’t a bad thing, it makes you wonder how much people can be addicted to MMO’s, and the frame of reference for MMO addiction. This sort of conversation has been had with video games and television. There are people who would talk about, intimately, their favorite television show (find a really huge fan of Lost to see what I mean). I’ve always contended that it’s not the game that’s addictive; it is the person’s personality and their prospective. I feel that is a person has an addictive personality; they are going to find something to get addicted to. As for a person’s prospective that is a very different conversation.
We all have some sort of minor tech addiction, such as MySpace (I don’t need to say more), E-mail, and posting pictures on Flickr. Some of these activities in the public eye seem very healthy, through MySpace and E-mail and Flickr you’re communicating with real people. The same is true for an MMO, you are communicating with real people (which in many cases drives the MMO addiction.) Additionally some people are addicted to MMO’s because they are hiding, escaping from really rough times (such as a death, hardships at the job, bad luck, depression.) As humans we tend to have a need to be very social (no man is an island) and happy; MMO’s provide a really easy way to do both. I don’t very an addiction to MMO’s as inherently bad; it becomes bad based on the person’s prospective and approach.
Doing a Google search on the “MMORPG neglected children” provides a list of links that have become familiar for those MMO veterans. One thing I’ve always found interesting about these articles is the lack of inspection of the parents, where they really good parents to begin with? This topic alone is what has caused a lot of interest about MMO addiction, before this were the stories of people who got so addicted into a game that they lost their job, wife, etc. These are the extreme results of MMO addiction and they will always exist, regardless of the subject matter. Second Life shows that MMO addiction can be a positive, real world valuable, skill building exercises (yes this is a bit of a reach but follow my logic here). If there is any collective group of people who are addicted to Second Life it would be the top developers, scripter’s, builders, or “virtual professionals.” Ask them if they are addicted and I’m sure most of them will say that they are, but they have turned their addiction (or as I’ve heard many of them joke about it ‘love’) into profitable, skill building things. Many of them have found new ways to communicate with others than previously noted and have given them the ability to live a higher quality life. If MMORPG child neglect is the negative extreme of MMO addiction, then this group of people is the positive extreme of MMO addiction.
At this point your possibly wondering what my definition of addiction is. Yes, addiction has a very negative connotation to it, but its root word (addicted) is defined by Merrian-Webster as “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.” In our lives we develop addictions to a lot of things, television, the blackberry (i.e. the crackberry), even having social meetings or talking on the phone. Some of these addictions are not as destructive, for instance an addiction to tv is not as destructive as alcoholism (the addiction to alcohol.) With every addiction, we must find a happy medium between the positive and negative extremes. We all become very devoted to something, even for very short periods of time; it does not mean that the action is bad or negative.
People who have played MMORPG’s for more than 3 years (I like to call these people MMO Vets), in some way all joke about being addicted to something, most of these veterans have been addicted to an MMO for a short or long period of time. One easy “solution” that people tend to give is to go outside, but that is not a real solution at all. During my addiction with MMO’s, my circle of friends would include those in the MMO I was addicted to. The real solution is to use MMO’s in a socially productive way. MMO’s can replace some of the television time or junk time that we use to relax. MMO’s can also be great funnels of creative energy, hobby development, and even business creation. When I started to play MMO’s, I not only got very dedicated, involved, and became a habitual user of them (i.e. addicted); I also began to find ways to get creative. During a time when Anarchy Online held most of my attention, I began to DJ. Anarchy Online became less of an addiction and more of a means for me to develop my skills as a DJ (you can make several other arguments such as developing communication skills, but I want to keep it simple). The best way to prevent MMO addiction is to understand your use for it. If it is a game or something entertaining, then keep it in that prospective. In time your prospective may change and it becomes a prospective must be re-evaluated, but is must be one that keeps in focus a healthy life style. Never should anyone look at an MMO as their only life, it should be an addition to it, but not the only foundation.