On the subject of addiction...

My own common sense told me yesterday that this is a subject I should stay away from. It can be very hard for someone inside the industry comment on a story like this without being accused of having a biased opinion. People are thinking 'of course he would say that' before they even start reading.

I'm going to risk it anyway...

In addition there have already been several well written, observant and insightful editorials written on this subject around the web. John Walker's piece over on RPS is probably the best, and most rational, response I have read. It is partly what I was going to say, just much better written, so you should go read that first and save me the time of repeating what he has already put across so eloquently.

Likewise Leigh Alexander covers the 'all things can be addictive, this isn't just a game issue, it's a people issue' angle nicely over on her blog.

So the important stuff to me is being said elsewhere, and very well covered. So I should have left it well enough alone. I can only guess that our PR guys are a little nervous reading on (don't stress guys, I don't think there is anything controversial coming up ;) ) but this is also an important subject for me personally. Both as a gamer and as a developer.

My take on this is of a little more of a personal nature...

Lets take the gamer part first...

If you are uncomfortable with people sharing their past life experiences to support one issue or another, you probably want to stop reading now, because that is what I am going to do.

This is a personal issue for me, because in some ways I identify and understand those people featured in the Panorama program. It is easy to call them 'losers', easy to stereotype them, easy to defensively dismiss their cases as the extremes of human behavior.

That's partly valid, they are certainly extreme examples, and representative of a very small, probably minuscule, percentage of how people experience and interact with video-games.

Ten years ago, for a relatively short period of time thankfully. I might have made a good subject for the Panorama team myself.

I didn't think I was 'addicted', I certainly wasn't in the scientific, chemical sense of the word. I was never in danger of any physical or medical withdrawal symptoms. Gaming, and in my case, the original Everquest, was an escapist crutch that allowed me to escape from a very difficult time in my own life. I was having other issues that were having a detrimental effect on my health, my relationships, and my work. I wasn't an 'obvious' addict in the way some of those profiled by Panorama are cast. I still went to work, I struggled on, I kept up appearances, in the same manner that many who suffer from either depression or actual addiction do (be it drugs, alcohol or something else).

I did however use gaming in an unhealthy way. Hindsight allows me the clarity to be unequivocal about that.

The game did not make me unhealthy, I made me unhealthy. I just didn't realize it at the time.

I can also readily acknowledge that from the outside looking in, the game would easily be seen by an observer as part of the problem.

I escaped into my gaming at every opportunity at the expense of the possible support offered by my friends and family. In many ways I was afraid of admitting that I wasn't coping. Immersing myself in the game allowed me to ignore the issues, it allowed me to leave all the stresses and problems of my real life at the log-in screen. It became the only thing important to me outside of those things I had to do, like earning money to pay bills.

I actually also worked too much at the time. In a weird way that was also an escape, if I kept myself immersed in either the stress of work or the relief of the game then I never really had time to work through the actual problems. It was in many ways a perfect storm of unhealthy behavior.

I played as soon as I got home from work until I slept, and most of the weekends. For a period of time I pretty much had to literally be forced to do other things. I also often refused to do other things unless I really felt I should, or wanted to, and usually only when it also offered an escape I enjoyed (like going to a movie)

My guild were a great virtual support structure precisely because they didn't know all the details of my personal problems. I am sure if I had revealed everything to them then they would have universally called me out for being an idiot, and also pushed me to get help. I could hide those things from my virtual friends very easily, or simply twist the truths just enough so that, to them, it would just sound like 'bad day' vibes, which we can all sympathize with. So they made me feel better about my life...it allowed me to justify it to myself as 'normal', we all bitched about our days in guild chat.

I was in effect deluding myself.

Admittedly I never got to the point where I also neglected the essential things, I never lost a home, or was in danger of being fired (at least not that I was aware of!)...but not before I had neglected or damaged many relationships. I allowed a virtual support structure to become more important to me than a real one. It is both easy to have happen, and a part of what, to normal, well adjusted people, makes playing an MMO such a fantastic experience.

To some extent I am sure many people recognize elements of this.

I firmly believe however that the extreme reactions, like those highlighted by the Panorama program, are more to do with the personal situation, well being, and condition of the individual involved rather than anything specific in any given game. In my case if it hadn't been EQ it would have been UO, or Civilization, or something else. I was able to play games in a perfectly healthy way before, and have been able to do so since.

I am no scientist, psychologist or chemist, but to me it wasn't any given element of the game that made me have to play. It was that I had to do something, anything, that effectively allowed me to shut out my problems. It was certainly a psychological crutch. That behavior contributed to making matters worse, as I refused to acknowledge my issues for far too long, and escaping into the game certainly didn't help anyone but me, and it only helped me in a short term manner.

My problems were with me, and my life.

I used gaming in the same way that many use alcohol too much, but are still not considered alcoholics. I still functioned on a day to day basis (albeit just about on occasion), and it caused issues of varying degrees of severity, slowly, over time, in my working life and relationships, rather than any kind of sudden catastrophic failure. The issue however was not a piece of software, it was my own psychological and physical well being. The game just allowed me to be stubborn and deny there was a problem because I could ignore it.

If I hadn't been escaping into games, I would have tried something else. I might have played golf too much, shopped too much, spent too much, drank too much or ate too much. I would have found another crutch. The answer actually lay in support, treatment and help from real life, flesh and blood, people. I was very lucky that I had some people in my life that were also stubborn enough to finally say 'enough is enough' and not let me keep ignoring it.

That process allowed me to see how I used things like gaming as a crutch, and the key, as it usually is, was about finding balance and happiness in your life. learning to cope with work stress better, placing more value on your relationships and your friends...appreciating life more! I understand that I was lucky, and many struggle to find the strength to pull themselves out of such situations. I was just as weak for some time. I wish I could pinpoint a turning point that would allow others to benefit from my experience, but it was a personal realization that is probably different and individual to each of those who suffer from things like this.

I can however vouch for the fact there is a way out, and you can be much better off for the experience if you are willing to acknowledge the issue and seek help.

I thought a lot over the last few days about whether to write this and publish it. A personal acknowledgment of something like can always be taken the wrong way. However it is also important that people hear from those who both sympathize, but don't offer an easy excuse. Hopefully hearing of someone who has come out as a healthier, and better adjusted, human being after going through a very similar experience. So if you recognize too much of this to be comfortable right now, then I have only one piece of advice, and that is to take that first step and think about whether this might actually be a problem you should talk to someone about.

My life is happy, I cope with stress better, and I know how to prioritize things to keep a balanced and reasonably healthy life. I didn't just magically do it on my own though.

That's why the subject is important. It is important that, as a society, we acknowledge that mental health issues are worthy of acknowledgement, and most definitely need study.

That has next to nothing to do with games.

There needs to be help available, and that is also likely with better understanding. (in particular in light of the 'over-diagnosing of American society' as Leigh Alexander mentioned in her piece)...and games are clearly a medium that lends itself to being this kind of psychological crutch. That is also worthy of study. Prevention is always better than cure. Who is to say we shouldn't have better methods of identifying this behavior. We should not have to spend time apologizing for the extreme examples of this behavior, and instead be willing to recognize them for what they are, as potential signs of a deeper issue. It doesn't have to be the games fault, and neither may there be any fault on behalf of developers, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be willing to understand that behavior, and be able to at least flag up that 'you know, that extreme behavior is probably not healthy'

I am not however sure that the cause is best served by exaggeration and sensationalizing a subject. That just puts people on the defensive and gets in the way of actual constructive discussion. It just distracts from progress on diagnosing and offering support for those who suffer from conditions which could be identified by this type of behavior.

Recovering from something like that is a tremendously insightful process. In many ways it can, if successful, make you very self-aware. That is the most important thing I took away from that entire period. It also means this subject is personal to me...

So that's the gamer covered, my past. What about the here and now, and the developers point of view?

We should talk about this...

Firstly, as hinted at above, we should not avoid or deny that these extreme examples exist. We should be able to acknowledge that they exist. be allowed to say that they are rare, and not representative, without being seen as being overly defensive.

...this is relevant for a very, very, important reason.

Actual addictive behavior really only has downsides for us as MMO developers.

No developer in their right mind actually wants to create something that could be technically and scientifically addictive. Sure, we all know that marketing folks, reviewers, and executive producers the world over, often like to use 'addictive' as an adjective when maybe they probably should be using the word 'compelling' instead. They don't actually mean addictive. Addiction to anything is bad, but it is one of those words that suffers from overuse and misinterpretation.

So why do I say that encouraging addictive behavior would actually be counter-productive?

Think about it for a second.

If we were actually designing to be addictive, then that would imply that we would be encouraging players to consume our products more and more. We genuinely don't want our players over-consuming our products. Certainly not as an MMO producer I don't. You couldn't possibly keep up with an actual addicts appetite for your content. I really don't want a player to want to play our game for more hours than is healthy per day.

Those players interviewed by Panorama are examples of the types of extreme of behavior that we actually don't want to see. Anyone capable of playing ten hours a day is burning through the same amount of content we might intend to last a week, a month, or more, in a much shorter period of time. That wouldn't be something we would want by design...ever...really. I would have hoped that wasn't as obtuse a concept as it seems to be for some people.

We do indeed talk a lot about things like player retention, incentives, average play time, and hours spent. Likewise we really strive to make compelling gameplay. That however, is a world away, from intentionally trying to craft something that is actually addictive. We want our games to be fun and diverting, we don't want them to be overwhelming and addictive...at least, I can vouch for that with our process, and somehow I really doubt other developers are any different.

Negative associations...

Then you also have the fact that the behavior of a true addict is rarely something you would want your game associated with (which underpins a lot of the defensive reactions you get from the industry on the subject). It would create a negative association for friends and family of the addict. You will rarely meet more vocal advocates of drug, gambling or alcohol control than those who have experienced living with, have cared for, or interacted with an actual addict. There would be no advantage for us having that kind of an association. Why on earth would we want our games associated with that type of behavior? I genuinely don't think any right minded person in the industry would want any of our games thought of in the same way as narcotics.

That kind of common sense doesn't make for a good sensationalist report though...

Wrapping up...my little soapbox edition...

This is actually an important, and worthwhile, discussion. Unbiased, objective research into things like addiction should be supported. Not just in how games can be an outlet for that behavior but how many different things in our modern lives can be.

As always a discussion like this is all about understanding and context. There are some very important associated points well worth actual scientific study and understanding. That is how we develop as a society. However, just as the exaggeration on one extreme doesn't help build our understanding, neither does the defensive reluctance to recognize that there are associated areas that can be furthered by being open to the discussion, without accusations of wrong-doing.

...alas in this day and age, such a rational approach tends not to make for quite as dramatic news and reporting. Thus it gets marginalized at the expense of point scoring, accusations and rhetoric. I would much rather see some constructive debate and a wish to seek an understanding of the issues on both sides. That is why it is always worth repeating this view, even if the rational or objective point of view rarely wins out these days, it is never a bad thing to remind people to actually stop and think about an issue instead of just jumping on one or more of the already rolling bandwagons.


AmandaP said…
Commendable to talk about your own issues with that so openly. Rational discussion doesnt always get considered much in our modern age.
Unknown said…
I hate to disagree with you, but your assertion that designers are not designing games to be addictive isn’t consistent with the evidence.

MMO’s are specifically designed to be addictive and as a result designers are constantly struggling with consumers who cannot get enough content. You have been blogging about this recently yourself with the discussion of progression and difficulty.

MMO’s are unique in the games field in that they don’t have an end. There is no ‘You have won” screen followed by credits. Instead there is a progressively steeper effort curve associated with obtaining the top items and skills, a curve which very few players will ever reach the top of. Players are encouraged to roll alts, to re-experience content with different classes, achievements are added, leader boards established. All of this is designed to feed the player’s growing hunger for content. Players are encouraged to view their achievements against other players engendering their sense of competition. They are encouraged to work harder and harder to better the characters they have invested so much time in.

If MMO’s were honest, the starting experience for new players would be more like the grind at the top, but then the new players would never stick around.

I’m not saying that MMO designers are deliberately setting out to create addicts, as you rightly point out only the individual player can make themselves an addict, however MMO designers are definitely enablers and that is the consequence of the progression, difficulty and other systems that are the core of many MMO’s.
Craig Morrison said…
We'll have to agree to disagree a little Chris.

You see, I think we need to separate the thinking here.

Those are arguably two very different subjects.

While I acknowledge and do genuinely see the point. (and like I said in the post, from the outside looking in I can completely understand why it seems that way)...but I genuinely do not believe that any one genre is any more open to 'supporting' this behavior than others.

With progression or not, with or without an RPG system, a game is still capable of being the enabler of this type of behavior. It could be a casual game, it could be Tetris, it could be asteroids, it could be World of Warcraft. That is the point.

If anything I can concede that the social and online elements of modern games can provide an easier escape, but I genuinely think you would find that even if you removed all 'progression' or 'retention mechanics' from a game, you would still find people who could use games to be that emotional crutch - especially if they retain that social element.

So yes, we do want players to play for a pro-longed period, but the point is exactly that this is a world away from actually wanting them to be addicted. So I would argue we, as an MMO developer, are no more of an 'enabler' than someone who makes .

The issue is in effect far more complex than that, and far more about the issues and problems people face medically and psychologically than it is about any given game mechanic, or incentive for play.

If we can't acknowledge and differentiate between the two discussions then you can't have a really constructive discussion about the problems that people face with things like this.

So yes, any subscription, or repeat return, based business provides incentives for people to return. That does not necessarily make them enablers of addictive personalities (at least there is no research to suggest so that has been made public yet), but it also doesn't mean that some games are more likely to appeal to that personality type over another...I have seen and heard of people unhealthily attached to many different games though. The Sims, Civilization, Tetris, Mario.

That is kind of the point I am making, and have some insight into having been through it. The actual game doesn't matter, it could just have easily been Civ or another game that I was playing at the time (as above with the acknowledgment that the social online factor does probably contribute, but that isn't gameplay, and these days virtually everything is online and shareable in some way.)
Chris W said…
oops sry double posted by accident!
Geoff said…
The most 'addicted' (there I go also misusing the word!) I have been to a game was Galactic Civilization, and that is neither an MMO or online, but I also tired of it within a few weeks. For those few weeks however I was spending almost every waking moment on it, at the expense of my girlfriend at the time. We can probably be 'addicted' in the short term to something like that. The problems arise when you don't stop. I would agree with you that an MMO isn't any more or less 'addictive' than any other game, but there most likely is a case that games should answer as to whether they have addictive elements, a virtual equivalent of nicotine. It would of course have to be proven conclusively before I would support labeling or sanctions.
Chris W said…
Craig, I too went through an addiction to a game (in my case WoW) and the pull of MMO’s is very different from the pull of other game types.

There are a number of mechanisms which are collected together in an MMO that act to make them more addictive:

• The social aspect – many MMO’s include tools designed to foster and encourage social grouping. This is great, for the majority of players, but who hasn’t had the experience of having guildies or people your grouping with encourage you to complete ‘just one more run’ or to log in the next day ‘because it’s raid day’. The social aspect of MMO’s has particular attractions for individuals who for one reason or another find it difficult to socialize with people in the real world. It is the attraction of relationships without the problems of your day to day life.
• Competitive aspects – MMO’s also include a variety of tools that encourage or enable competitive behavior. These range from killboards, rankings and titles to gear. Competitiveness is part of all of us, but MMO’s allow nearly anyone to achieve the top ranking provided that they spend the time to do so. It doesn’t matter that you may not be able to throw a football 20 feet in the real world but in an MMO if you spend every waking minute playing, then you can become the envy of everyone on your server.
• Re-playability – MMO’s don’t have an end. In a game like Bioshock, you play the game, you get your 40 hours of game time and then you probably move on. You won, you beat the game and all you have left is to replay the same game again. Maybe you have different choices but there is an end. MMO’s do everything they can to avoid you reaching the end. Designers have come up with ever more imaginative methods of ensuring that you never reach the end. To experience everything, to acquire every item you are after in a game like WoW could take years and just when you get close, BAM! More content. Developers want their players to stay with their game.
• Investment – The more you invest in something the harder it gets to walk away. MMO’s are a big investment. Players invest money, time, effort and creativity into their MMO’s, they become emotionally invested with a persistent, identifiable, unique alt. In games like Bioshock, I can become invested too, but I know at the start that once I hit the end (in 40 or so hours) I will be back to the start with nothing more than a warm fuzzy feeling. If tomorrow, somebody irreplaceably wiped every copy of CoD from every console in the land, there would be a lot of anger, if you did the same with WoW there would be people in mourning.

MMO’s are certainly not the only enabler out there, our environment is full of creations that are as bad if not worse (I know plenty of Facebook addicts, TV addicts, even golf addicts), MMO’s are however amongst the most addictive outputs of the games industry.
Craig Morrison said…
Like I said we will just have to agree to disagree Chris.

Many people say what you say in closing of your last reply, stating 'MMO’s are however amongst the most addictive outputs of the games industry.' as if it were a fact, when in fact there is no research to suggest this at all (at least none that I have seen, glad to read any people can link), so a subjective opinion is presented as fact.

Hey, I am not a doctor of any description, there might be some truth to it, but no-one has been able to prove any yet. There is a difference between playing a game a lot, playing a game too much (categories many fall into, I would wager most 'I am addicted to ' comments actually fall harmlessly into that category) and actually having a medical or psychological problem.

My point being that those who are qualified need to be able to research the issues objectively without being pressured one way or another as part of some witch hunt against the medium. It is a serious issue that requires serious research.

I don't think any right minded person denies that some people have issues with this. I know I don't deny it, but I also don't deny there is probably an equal size percentage of people who golf, shop, cycle, drive or engage in gardening that show exactly the same behavioral issues, because of medical or psychological issues unrelated to the activity itself.

So that's the difference, and the point I was trying to make. Virtually anything can be addictive, and I genuinely don't believe that the games themselves are inherently intentionally designed to be 'addictive'. If they were we would see a far deeper social impact on society than we do, given how many people play games these days. The vast majority of people experience games, and MMO games, without any ill effects, which to me, makes it hard to argue that they are, in and of themselves, 'addictive'.

I guess all I am saying is that the discussion needs to be in the objective middle ground, not at the extremes of an already exaggerated debate.

That starts with posing the questions, not posing conclusions that people have already jumped to.
Lily said…
Thank you for posting that. The difficulty many people with real problems face is the fact that so many people band the word 'addicted to' around like it was a good thing, a status symbol, or in some cases a 'what is your problem?' way and downplay how life-shattering it can be.

Exaggerating the issue just turns more people away from seeking help because they feel that they will be labeled as some kind of social pariah.
Waldgeist said…
A documentation/film from a wow player on the subject:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlpEOaLyx1s
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHDpgzpd16I
Chris W said…
Craig, as you rightly point out, this is ultimately a question that is going to be debated and decided in a variety of forums.

For the games industry and health professionals, the question of whether MMO’s are addictive has very specific legal ramifications and will no doubt be settled (if it ever is) by psychologists and lawyers. There is a lot at stake (regulation, law suits) and the case will require a burden of proof that will take time and money.

There is the public debate which is far more fickle and far more subjective. It is being played out between the games industry’s PR departments and the media (who love to have a bad guy). My guess here is that the legal question above will not be resolved for some time and as a result the PR departments will always be able to say that there is no conclusive proof. Meanwhile the media will continue to highlight the sensationalist cases of people who destroy their lives playing the latest MMO’s. The impact could be a loss of popularity for the genre and self regulation by the industry.

Then there’s the ‘pub’ debate (I guess that would be the forum / blogosphere debate these days). Here, we are all just interested parties with our own unique perspectives. For my part, I am an enthusiastic player of all games from board to MMO. I enjoy MMO‘s and would hate to see the genre demonized. My experience is that I found myself addicted to an MMO to the point where it was having a significant detrimental effect on my life. I didn’t get addicted to scrabble, or Zelda or CoD, I got addicted to an MMO and that was because it provided a psychological pull that those other games didn’t and couldn’t, because they don’t include the same mechanics.

Nor am I alone in this, I have a large group of friends from good backgrounds, with good educations and a wide and healthy set of interests, and yet of that group I know of at least 3 others who had similar problems with MMO’s. They don’t have other addictions, they don’t have terrible real life problems from which they wished to escape, but they all struggled with their addiction to this genre. Would they have become addicted to golf, to drink or to something else if MMO’s hadn’t been there? I don’t know, but I know that of the many games that they and I played it was MMO’s that proved to be our Achilles heal.

Beyond my personal experience I could point to many of the 50,000+ stories on WoW Detox and say here are more personal testimonies that are indicative of an issue.

I’m using the term addiction, and we could debate whether that is the correct term or whether I should be using ‘unhealthy obsession’, a ‘misuse of a product’ or any number of other terms. I think it is dependent on the forum in which it is used. That word has a particular medical meaning which will no doubt be critical to the legal question, but in the wider society, it has become a term often used to describe having an unhealthy obsession with something that negatively impacts your life.

My belief (evidenced by my own experience and that of others) is that the design elements used in MMO’s make them particularly easy to become addicted to as compared to other genres produced by the games industry.

I’d be interested to know why you believe your unhealthy interest was with an MMO rather than something else. It could have been golf, or photography or even another game genre, but it was with an MMO. Was that just a random choice from the activities you enjoyed before you hit that period in your life? Or did something about MMO’s make it your choice?
Anonymous said…
Shaddap and play more games
Craig Morrison said…

I honestly don't believe it was the fact it was an MMO game. Maybe, as I mentioned earlier, I can acknowledge that it came with a social circle of support in the form of my guild mates (who I was lying to)...but in that respect I do genuinely believe that is the same as the social elements of say, drinking with friends, but drinking too much to escape, or chatting to your golf partner about an 'edited' version of your life so they can sympathize with you and make you feel better.

My case was also truly medical and psychological in the first place. I needed, and eventually got treatment. Gaming was just a tool I used to fuel my denial that I needed help. So my problem came separately from an attachment to the genre.

I had played Merdian 59, UO extensively before EQ and I have since played many, many other MMO titles without the need to play more than is healthy.

I think maybe the issue here is actually two different issues. There is a difference between those who have genuine medical or psychological issues, and those who feel their introduction to the game is what start to trigger obsessive behavior (albeit less extreme)

Then I have more trouble seeing it necessarily as something inherent in the game, as I have seen people get 'addicted' (in the way you are defining the word) to many other things, be it football, any other sport, playing heir virtual counterparts like Madden, all the way through to cases actually thought of as addiction like gamblers.

..and then we need more research into what elements of the human psyche might be being over compelled by any given mechanic before we could say that designers are intentionally making games addictive.

I guess that is the root of the discussion you are hitting on. Could a game be 'addictive' (again, in the way you are defining it above)? I am sure it can...but...and here I have two major buts...

Firstly...given that we don't understand what parts might be 'taking advantage' of some unrelated psychological predisposition then it is very hard to argue that it is an intentional act.

Secondly...as I mentioned above, if it were a 'game' issue, rather than a 'person' issue, wouldn't everyone get 'addicted'? (as all smokers do?). I am not a doctor, but that is where the area gets very 'gray' for me...hence saying that we need research and a rational debate and not an argument.

My whole point is that we need to be able to rationally discuss the different factors at play here otherwise it will never actually be resolved and just cycle round and round as a 'he said / she said' argument.

...and I guess agree on the definitions, so the 'addiction' I am discussing is the same as you are :)
Resmuz said…
Interesting read. I also think that you will find it hard to separate those cases where it is just people playing too much, and those that are caused by actual medical conditions.

I would say that just about any game can be considered addictive, but I don't think devs set out to get people addicted, it is just that games, all types, not just MMOs, appeal to people and trigger things in our mind that are appealing and positive, that means we like doing it and we don't always like stopping.
Jenshae said…
I am an addict and I have played computer games since I was five years old and never have I been addicted to them, until I came across MMOs and virtual worlds (such as Second Life).

My paternal grandfather was a multi-millionaire, who gambled away everything on owning and betting on horses. He also drank and died quite literally insane. My maternal grandfather's father died an alcoholic, while he, the grandfather, would only drink two, no matter the occasion. He knew that he had the disposition and would make a steady slide into it also otherwise. Both maternal grandparents died of emphysema as a result of being addicted to smoking. They couldn't stop even when it was life threatening.

My mother has fought both alcohol and over eating problems, she still smokes. My father had an addiction to cannabis in his teens, which resulted in manic depression, he has since stopped smoking tobacco and can't drink due to a gall bladder operation. Those make him violently and physically sick now.

I have been addicted to alcohol, cannabis and physical violence. I would seek confrontation in order to gamble with my health and life. It was the ultimate adrenaline rush.
I white knuckled my fighting addiction by replacing it with gaming on Anarchy. I have experienced and fully understand the effects of addiction. It triggers a chemical reaction, in the case of fighting, I am not imbibing a mind altering substance but getting a kick of adrenaline. Endurance athletes can get addicted to the endorphins that suppress pain. Over eaters are addicted to the fix of endorphins and dopamine that is triggered from eating food. There is nothing in the food that is actually addictive.

MMOs, do the same thing, I get an adrenaline rush when I am on the brink of an "epic win" or loss. I get an egotistical boost out of leading people in a group. I get immersed and lose track of time. I lose self awareness and don't have time for introspection. I get to occupy my time with challenging material. I get to portray myself however I wish.

Inversely to what you said about telling people your problems, I am more honest online. I talk more bluntly and I expose more of who I am. I have been even in and conducted addiction meetings in life and online.

I feel more free to be myself and not trying to be what others expect of me or to make achievement of the level that I have done in the past.
My school week consisted of:
Mondays - Latin & Classics society.
Tuesdays - Martial Arts
Wednesdays - Rowing
Thursdays - Martial Arts
Friday afternoons - homework
Friday evenings - acting and rehearsals at the city theatre.
Saturday mornings - archery.
Saturday afternoon - Dungeons and Dragons (P&P)
Saturday evenings - pool, snooker, clubbing and car racing.
Sundays - Rowing.
Sunday evenings - the balance of the homework and projects.

I did all of that while juggling 13 subjects of study, while cycling to and from school. I didn't delay homework, hygiene, sleep or eating to play any computer games.

I have cycled, driven, raced on circuits (both cars and motorbikes), Ballroom & Latin dancing, ridden in trucks, driven tractors, gone in trains, flown a Cessna, played golf, hockey, cricket, netball, ice skating, roller balling, volleyball, basketball ...
even ridden an elephant!
Hiking, camping, abseiling, the list goes on.

I can write, do art, a range of academic subjects, I am even working on photo realistic avatars. I have a natural empathetic ability for drawing people into talking about themselves (a reason that I play games is that I don't meet people and become their agony aunt.) I am sociable, have a dry wit and tend to be sought out by friends.

There are so many things that I can do.
Jenshae said…
Now, let me tell you about all the things I did since I started playing Anarchy, after burning out on a coding job that was national level finance and they judged work performance by the number of lines of code produced and not function.

I played, went to work, ate sometimes, played, slept a bit, cycled to and from work until I hit the weekend. Then I played from Friday evening through to 06:00 on Sunday, when I would sleep until about 11:00. Then I would play until 22:00 so that I would be functional for work.

Friends would drag me out to "get a life," - I fell asleep in one of the loudest clubs because I was so sleep deprived. In that same condition I would still be able to and would keep gaming.

I have been deeply in love since I started playing, with someone that I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I met them in RL, not online.

I have a fundamental belief that the human species should perish and want to go into game design because it does not forward their survival, detracts from their productivity and because I am a creative person with a vast imagination that wants to express the world that is in my head.
I can not help but use my abilities and find that I have to:
- be creative.
- do it in a logical way.
- interact with people as they are more complex than AI.
- incorporate this with leisure where possible.

The bottom line is, that I know all the things that I am capable of and could achieve but games are so conveniently available 24/7 and fulfil many of my cognitive needs.

I have found that I do not desire marriage, children, peer recognition, fame or wealth.

I am addicted to the cognitive challenge of game mechanics and group social dynamics combined with the endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline kicks, while wiping out my self awareness in games and distracting myself until I die.