Addiction, Denial, and Other Words

| Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Larisa has a good bartender.

Some of the people commenting in the thread being idiots. They throw out words like addiction and denial and antisocial. Other people throw out weird comparisons like going to a movie theater alone and raiding with 24 guildies. Overall though, my sympathies lie with the side that isn't in denial, which is the side that isn't babbling about denial.


Is WoW antisocial? No. It's not social either. Few things in themself are social or antisocial. It's what you do with them that matters and also what they come at the cost of.

When I play WoW I often solo. This isn't social. It's not antisocial either. It's asocial. I have no need for other people to do dailies or random quests or farming. While I farm I do talk with friends though. Sometimes RL friends with IM or sometimes online friends with tells or a custom channel. Notice how the activity was not social or not, instead it was what else I did.

Raids are often the same. I interact with people, but it's mostly asocial. For the most part people aren't connecting due to raids. However raids are a time and during that time I can chat with friends, joke around, and connect due to the experience. Again, the raid is asocial and raiding itself doesn't require social connection. However like a movie it provides a shared experience and people can bond through it. In the same way, someone who totally ruins the raid is comparable to someone who talked during the movie, you separate rather than coming closer together. It's not antisocial to ostracize someone who wipes raids any more than it is antisocial to shun someone who talks during movies. They're both ruining the experience which would otherwise be a situation to help people bond.


Is WoW addictive? That's an excellent question. You're not going to find a good answer. Why not? Addiction isn't too hard to define physically, give someone cocaine for a while and their body will adapt to handle the surge of chemicals and will also chemically change in order to be prepared for the surge, both in terms of being ready to moderate it and also to not bother making the relevant neurotransmitters since they're being provided externally. The person becomes tolerant, experiencing a lowered effect from it, while also becoming dependent on that effect in order to maintain normal mental functioning.

Psychological addiction is much harder to define. Okay fine, to be fair, it has been defined, but that doesn't mean it's right. I can define ANYTHING, but what I can accurately define, that's a much smaller pool. Addiction varies with the person.

In some of the occasional small reviews of literature that I've done, I found that MMORPGs have addictive qualities. The randomness of loot replicates gambling, the rush of "oh this is the time!" You don't know when the particular piece of loot will drop. Obsessions and compulsions: gotta grind this rep gotta grind this rep gotta grind this rep only 10000024324 kills to go. Sense of accomplishment: MMORPGs are centered around making you feel that you have not just gotten something done, but gotten done something important, BTW there's something else over there to accomplish, so you're not done yet.

Here's where the deniers run into problems: they're in denial of what is being denied. Is WoW potentially harmful? Yes. I know this from personal experience. I know that education, relationships, and lots and lots of time can just disappear from excessive play. I'm not in denial. Oh no, it's other people who are in denial.

Why did I stop going to classes? Well let's see: boring class in which I don't learn much because the professor makes no sense in a field which I felt little choice about joining, after which I will get an assignment which I do not understand and would likely not complete whether or not I was aware of the assignment; or grinding Cenarion Circle rep with a decent group in Silithus.

Friends? I'm not much for drinking, I especially wasn't when I was a freshman. That's what my friends did. Hm, drinking and risking getting caught/sick or a live side Strat run? Oh sorry, I should give credit. Long discussion with friend about religion and politics and whatever else we can think of, or rep grinding: friend wins.

People don't just take magnificent lives and throw them away. They throw away lives with which they were not happy, but previously saw no alternative. A virtual life is that alternative. Was it destructive to the real life? Definitely. But don't blame the virtual life for being more fun and giving a greater sense of accomplishment, blame the real life. Make real life better and it won't be lost to fantasy worlds, be they online gaming, drugs, or religious extremism.

I'll use myself as proof of this. I now choose to hang out friends friends rather than playing WoW. Not always, but often. I don't have a rule like "friends > WoW" but I do have a rule of "enjoy yourself" and sometimes that leads me to play, other times to hang out with friends. My attendance improved dramatically, along with my grades. I play WoW less, but more importantly, I play it at different times. It is no longer at the cost of other parts of life, but is in addition to. What changed? I have different friends and a different major with different classes. RL > WoW not because of some stupid rule that someone created, but because it genuinely is better.

But so and so is a loser...
One of the case studies I wandered across was about a man in his late teens or early 20s whose life had fallen apart. He had no social connections except online. Cut that ethernet cable, right? Well no. The therapists and researchers recognized that his online life had taken over and to simply cut it off would be devastating and in simple terms: stupid. Instead they worked to correct the balance of his life, taking advantage of the social skills he had retained through online communication (what, social skills!? Imagine if this was before the internet was so common and he was just playing single-player games) to guide him into a wider social life.

Online social interaction is incomplete. It lacks physical existence. That's important. Physical existence adds to communication with nonverbal cues and also just as a species we desire the immediacy of others. This varies with the individual, but almost no one can survive with a sound mind in total isolation, or when constantly surrounded. However being incomplete doesn't mean it's nothing or that it's antisocial. It's different. That's not bad.

Online interaction should not be the totality of a person's social experience, but to claim that it is antisocial is just plain stupid. Don't be stupid. Which brings me to my final bit: One of the wrong people in the PPI thread claimed that it's bad that online you can cut people off. That's actually a great thing. That's so antisocial to say "I don't want to talk to you" and then actually make it so you don't have to talk to them! The horror! Ever been around someone who you didn't want to talk to, but didn't get the message or didn't care even when you said it? That right there is something antisocial: after too many times running into people like that, why put yourself in an uncontrolled situation? If I'm talking to you online it means that you want to talk to me, if you didn't, the conversation would be over. That ability to cut of any undesirable contact only reinforces the idea that you value the people who you socialize with.

But hey, maybe I should just take the advice of online social deniers and just start spending thousands of dollars to fly to Europe to talk to Larisa and Tobold. I'll go through New York so I can meet some former guildies that I knew a few years. Oh... oh I get it. I'm being sarcastic and antisocial. Sorry. In the future I'll be sure to restrict my interactions to only people within shouting distance in order to avoid those terrible telephone machines.


LarĂ­sa said...

Oh, how I wish you had thousands of dollars to spend coming to see me... :)

I can't help feeling a bit envious of the bloggers who'll gather up at Blizzcon.

That blogpost by Elnia and the discussion afterwards was amazing. And as someone pointed out - what were we doing in the bar of PPI if not reaching out to each other, socializing?

Klepsacovic said...

We might be arguing! My mom at least seems to think that's antisocial.

I do wish I could go to Blizzcon. Sadly, while I have time and money, I only have any money because I give up time.

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