ďHi, my nameís Keith and Iím an online gaming addictĒ
ďAfter finally hitting 6 years of online gaming, I took a look around only to realize that my life was a mess. i'd became less sociable, sitting in front of a computer for so long, talking to my monitor and typing on my keyboard to virtual people. Iíd lost 50 pounds and I couldnít get out of my computer chair from the muscle atrophy.Ē
Online Gamers Anonymous - is something like this so far off? In todayís gaming community everything is online capable. Buy one game you like enough and infinite gameplay is possible, challenging or cooperating with people from all over the world. At first glance this is great. You donít have to call all your friends and have them come over your house to play a game and all your favorite single player games turn into multiplayer frenzies. But with a never ending line-up of opponents and a new goal to achieve every moment, why bother to stop? As our data transferring technology gets better and better you have to ask yourself -- Is this a blessing or a curse?
Multiplayer gaming took off like a rocket with games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, and a multitude of Blizzard Entertainment games, all letting you go online and play with millions of people around the world. Soon the simple world of online gaming took on its own form and everyone wanted a piece of it, developers and gamers alike. Internet celebrities were being made overnight from behind the glow of a monitor.
When the first Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) was released to the masses, a whole new area of the genre had been discovered. Not only could you play with thousands of people in an interactive world, but you could do it for however long you pleased. Long-time franchises, like Everquest, are still going strong. That just proves how strong the market is.
In the current gaming generation, online play isnít limited to computer owners. The newer generations of gaming consoles are all equipped with network ports. The future is filled with hordes of online gamers playing everything and anything that lets you plug-in. Everyone has access now. You can turn on your favorite first person shooter, and so long as you have an internet connection, you can jump into a match already in progress and play to your heartís content. MMORPGs are a dime a dozen too. Shadowbane, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, the list goes on. Even though i dont play them myself i know alot of people that do. You can pick from any virtual universe you could dream of living in. Whatever happened to the good old days of Ms. Pacman? If she were created today you would probably be able to go on a network and compete versus 4 other Pacmen in intense dot-for-dot combat.
However, there is a very real risk involved in online gaming that most people donít, or rather wonít, even begin to recognize: Addiction. As gamers, you know sometimes you find a game that you just canít put down. You find a game that you love so much that you donít want to finish it just because the experience will be over and you have to stop. Until that time, youíll be locked in your house, screening your calls, breaking occasionally for food and bathroom stops. Showering is optional. Imagine now a game that someone could be equally addicted to, except that it never ends.
It sounds great at first; great until you hear about neglected wives, girlfriends, jobs, children, and sometimes going so far as self-neglect. Cases like this fly through the media every now and then. The real shocker is theyíre not as rare as youíd think. Iím one of the people that can speak first-hand about it. You see, I recently quit my online gaming for all these reasons and more. I can also think of countless other examples of the spreading plague of online addiction. Itís not as hard as youíd think to become a junkie.
I knew a man once who would play MMORPGs all day. He had numerous computers surrounding him so he could control multiple characters at once. Why the hell would anyone want to play an online game by themselves controlling all the people? Well, heíd use all the characters to build up a given particular character that would later make him a hefty profit. MMORPG accounts are sold, for a good price might I add, on Ebay and other online auction services or the likes. He gets up in the morning plays all day and then quits and does it again the next day. After a character reached max level heíd sell the account and do it again. Never mind his wife or children or cooking or cleaning. I donít know whatís sadder, that this was his job or that people were actually buying the accounts.
Then there are more extreme cases. I remember a passing story in the news. A man from East Asia was found dead at his computer after playing Half-Life: Counterstrike for something like 2 or 3 days. Apparently, he forgot to eat or sleep. Oops. Please, take a queue from our buddy Darwin. Mr. Half-Life got his.
I wasnít safe from it either. Now, I consider myself a normal, intelligent, member of society; a semi-typical college student. I enjoy spending time with my friends. Iím social, some might even say charismatic. I play sports, go to class, and do all the things a normal guy my age would do. But I had gotten myself re-invovled with MMORPGs when I came to college. Classes, friends, and plenty of other things got neglected and bottom shelved so I could hit the next level. They didnít get neglected to a frightening degree, but enough to make a substantial difference. Take a look around your world. Maybe you know someone like this. Examples are not too hard to find.
One would think that itís not so hard to turn off the game, but these things still happen. If family and friends are getting put as a lower priority, there has to be something more than wholesome fun underlying online play, otherwise it would just be something to do with your leisure time, like watching T.V. The allure is prestige, self-esteem, the feeling of recognition. Iíll admit it. I fell in. Now, understand that I like who I am just as much as the next guy, probably more than the next guy.
In an MMORPG, other players can recognize youíre better than them easily; better gear, higher level, more skill. Thereís no denying it because theyíre playing the same game you are. Theyíre trying to achieve the same thing. Other games where competition is the focus fall into the same pattern. Players have ladders to keep track of rankings, wins, losses. The game becomes a sport. Itís a sport that you canít get tired from playing though; no fatigue, just the occasional blurry eyes and sleepiness. Itís nothing that canít be cured by a steady Mountain Dew habit. So thereís always the drive, whether it be the drive to be better or the drive to remind everyone youíre the best. Regardless of how you get your high, the shy kid who likes to read can become the strongest fighter in the world and an unsuccessful husband can become king of his own fragfest. That is why people get addicted.
Thereís so much online gaming to be had in this gaming age and only more to come. So is net-gaming good or bad? The answer still isnít clear cut. Anything can be good in moderation. Plenty of people gamble, drink, and use drugs in moderation and are perfectly well adjusted human beings, but we still see addicts of all these vices in our society. Personally, Iíve never been happier that I quit. I have more free time to do what I love and more time to concentrate on things that actually affect my life more directly. As multiplayer gaming takes off weíre all going to have to ask ourselves this question sooner or later. No matter what you decide though, online gaming is here to stay. Just know whatís waiting for you. Rather than asking yourself if you could, the more pertinent question is if you should.