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'Addictive potential of games must be acknowledged...'

Response to the Gamesindustry.biz article, posted on 12/06/2010, discussing the 'defensiveness' of the gaming industry on the subject of addiction.

Addictive Nature of Games and the Mentality With It

Tucker Abbott | Student, Drexel University

In a response to a BBC Panorama episode, Emeka Onono (Director and Producer of Panorama) recently had an interview published with gamesindustry.biz. The episode focused primarily on the potential addictive nature of videogames, and that awareness needs to be improved to battle the growing problem. This quote starts off the interview:

"What we've said is there's a potential for things in games to be addictive," he explains to GamesIndustry.biz. "There is a potential there. And that's something that the industry's always doggedly denied. The fact is it's there and however small or large that possibility is it needs to be researched and acknowledged."

I am wondering where exactly the industry has ‘doggedly denied’ this potential. I think instead of denial, game developers and avid gamers have instead come back with the fact that everything has a potential to be addicting. It doesn’t have to do solely with the artificial worlds or a game mechanic that keeps you coming back for more. People turn to games as a stress reliever, as an escape. It can be healthy to do this, to a point. Some people are addicted to exercising because of the self-fulfillment they get afterwards, and the energy they release. Some people are addicted to eating because they love food, or it comforts them.

Game developers have widely accepted this addictive nature of games, and to a point I think it has been embraced, and even glorified. In any review of a great puzzle or casual game, the reviewer will often say, “This game is incredibly addicting,” in praise of the game mechanic. I don’t think that the problem of addictiveness is ignored or thrown under the bus, but instead I feel like it is being given a new meaning in that addictive gameplay is something that developers aim for. They aim for a mechanic so good that it gets users minds off of their world and draws them into the world that they play in.

Once people spend so much time in a world that it becomes a pseudo-reality is where it becomes a problem. Game addiction needs to be addressed at a certain point on the developer-side when games rely solely on addiction and replayability value.  Certain games such as MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) such as Second Life or World of Warcraft bank on the fact that players will need to come back because they have formed relationships with other players. From MMOs, players get the feeling that they have mastered game mechanics or ideas. Self-confidence is boosted through encouraged social interaction between players. These mechanics (intentionally or accidentally) push the player to the brink of addiction, and many people fall into a trap where they need to play because they feel like they will be letting their teammates down.

"There are positive things that can come from playing games – the issue is the lack of knowledge as to the potential dangers."

People fall into these games expecting to play at most an hour or so a day, but once they get a good foundation in the game world, that one hour can soon become many hours. One mother was brought up in the gamesindustry.biz interview:

Mrs. Dando angrily pleads with the games industry to "think about the fact that people do become addicted". This is after she allowed her son, living under the same roof, to play World of Warcraft, by his admission, for up to 20 hours per day.

Game developers cannot assume that parents are going to be responsible. If they were, there would be infinitely less lawsuits over Mature –rated titles, we may not even need a ratings system. Mrs. Dando said in response to being asked about her allowing her son to play such ridiculous amounts of World of Warcraft that she "had no idea that a computer could be used in that way". It is near impossible to judge the addictiveness of a video game like a rating, because it depends solely on the player and what influences them. Certain games I believe should be focused on in increasing the awareness of the dangers of addiction.

From: http://www.onlinemassivelymultiplayer.com/mmos/wow-ulduar-raids-walkthrough-hd-videos-screenshots/MMORPGs, or games where the player lives in a persistent world, and gameplay revolves around social interactions should be focused on. Games where micro-transactions can be made should also be pinpointed. Working at a video game retailer, I have seen people who come in once a week and dish out $400 on the latest Facebook game. Checking them up is almost painful to see how extreme their spending is. I am not one to judge their purchases, considering I have no idea their background or how much money they may have to spend, but I feel like if a player gets psychologically addicted to a game where micro-transactions can be made with the press of a button, then there should be increased awareness of the addictive nature of the game.

Games as a whole cannot be generalized into being abnormally addictive. Games can be a healthy hobby, as with television, the gym, movies, etc. Awareness should be increased in certain genres where problems arise more often than others. And in some way, I feel the mentality of the gaming world needs to shift from thinking that ‘addictive’ gameplay isn’t comparable to solid core gameplay that has a long shelf life.

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