Gamers ignore hype over video game addiction
Ten million: that’s a big number.
It’s bigger than the population of Sweden (around 9 million), it’s 10 times the number of people that read The New York Times everyday (about one million) and according to a press release from video game developer Blizzard Entertainment dated Jan. 28, it’s also the number of people who play the staggeringly popular online video game World of Warcraft, making it one of the best selling titles in history.
“It’s probably the most popular game that we sell here,” said Matt Carson, an employee in the electronics department at Target on the 29th Street Mall.
According to Blizzard’s Web site the game’s first expansion pack, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, broke all previous sales records for PC games, selling 2.4 million copies in the first 24 hours after release and 3.5 million in the first month when it was released in Jan. of 2007. An average one-month subscription is about $15 a month, meaning Blizzard made $52.5 million dollars off the game in that first month alone.
Yet, in spite of the game’s undeniable appeal, it is rare to find someone who will admit to playing the game.
“There’s so many kids that play, they just don’t talk about it,” said Ben Lawless, a 17-year-old senior from Palmer High School in Colorado Springs.
Lawless, an admitted avid WoW player, said that he consistently plays two to three hours a day during the school week and more on the weekend. Lawless said that there is a definite stereotype of the typical WoW player out there as a “nerd” or “geek”, but that it is totally unfounded.
“They’re normal, totally,” Lawless said of his fellow players.
Another WoW enthusiast Matthew Manka, a freshman engineering major at CU-Colorado Springs, said he was initially attracted to the game after hearing about it second hand from friends and family. Being a self-described heavy gamer, he said he had to give it a shot and ended up getting a 10-day free trial.
“As a gamer I said to myself, ‘you know, I have to try it,'” Manka said.
Manka said the aspects of the game that appealed to him the most were its simplicity and the ability to customize his character however he wanted.
“It’s a no-brain game, at least early on,” Manka said. “I thought it was totally awesome I could have a pet.”
While Manka said he led a normal life and was not addicted to the game, he also said that at times it really sucked him in and he had to be careful to watch how much he played.
“I was able to control how much I played,” Manka said. “You have to control your urges to play the game.”
Many people in the medical and psychological community are becoming increasingly concerned about the addiction to online games. Multiple organizations dealing with “video game addiction” have surfaced in recent years offering treatment and help for people spending too much with their computers.
On-Line Gamers Anonymous is an online self-help organization that offers a 12-step program “dedicated to helping those addicted to computer/video/console/on-line games.”
OLGA’s mission statement from their Web site reads, “On-Line Gamers Anonymous is a fellowship of people sharing their experience, strengths and hope to help each other recover and heal from the problems caused by excessive game playing.”
Some gamers are dismissing this as overzealous hype by the media and medical professionals.
Ezekiel McCaslin, a sociology graduate student currently studying online role playing games such as WoW, said that most of the efforts to label gamers as addicts are being driven by agenda-oriented politicians and that research on the effects of gaming is limited.
“I don’t know if there’s anything substantial . anything you would consider well researched,” McCaslin said in regards to the existence of literature on online gaming that he knew of. “There’s lots of people playing tons of games that are totally normal.”
McCaslin added that some doctors had recently attempted to add video game addiction to the American Psychological Association’s manual for diagnosing and treating mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, and failed.
McCaslin, who said he’s been playing video games since he could pick up a controller, said that gamers keep playing WoW because game-play is simple and it rewards them regularly and often in the form of new abilities and in-game items.
“It’s easy and it’s straightforward,” McCaslin said. “There’s a lot of instant gratification.”
WoW has also made it into popular culture. The TV show “South Park” aired an episode making fun of WoW and online gamers in October, 2006, titled “Make Love, Not Warcraft.” The episode went on to win an Emmy, and Lawless and McCaslin both said that it’s given gamers everywhere an undeserved bad reputation.
“People who weren’t exposed to (online games) before, they were (surprised)” McCaslin said. “My TAs at the time came up to me and they said ‘oh, are you one of them?'”
Lawless said that he’s going to keep on playing no matter what people think.
“I don’t care if people make fun of me,” he said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at email@example.com