Monday, September 11, 2006

WoW controversy

... pointed out by Koster.

The article, from Newsweek, seems to be aimed at nongamer audiences, but it is still an interesting read for the way it portrays the game and its reflexes and consequences in 'real' life.

Comments at Koster's website have been mostly, so far, filled with a certain sense of outrage about the way the game is negatively depicted by the journalist. A passage from the text:

"Are you getting the idea that "Warcrack" (as some call it) eats up a lot of time? "Of all the games that my [addictive] clients are involved with, World of Warcraft is the most popular," says clinical psychologist Kimberly Young. Mostly, trouble comes in the form of kids who fall asleep in class, and furious spouses."

Do videogames need safety nets?

Could the article be accused of having sensationalist tones? Maybe. Could it be exaggerating its focus on the dark side of the spectrum? Yes, maybe it could. From the game's 7 million players, how many have pathological behaviours over it? I have no idea, but I guess it's a minimal percentage.

However, when players are willing to confine themselves to addiction clinics and some others are falling dead after long game sessions, you can not escape a justified dose of suspicion and criticism over the whole MMOG business.

Gamers have long learned to defend their medium from (unfair) accusations of stimulating violent behaviour. The problem is that, now, almost any accusation of anti-social behaviour caused/stimulated by games can be instantly dismissed as "unfair" and "prejudicial" by a mass of gaming advocates. Normally, I would be among them, but I guess all this unanimity around "games are good for you - no matter what" is not helping us understand some real issues surrounding games, and how the industry could improve their products.


Patrick Dugan said...

Sure, the psycho-pathology of playing WoW, or most games for that matter, rests on a dopamine release cycle that is essentially additive, much in the same way that marijuana is addictive (and don't I know about that). However, when the journalist actually inserts the word [addictive] you get a sense the reality is being distorted way out of proportion.

chico queiroz said...

Hello Patrick! Thanks for contributing.

Yes, he does distort the text. I do not agree with that - nor with his alarmist tone. Yes, the information is not exactly new. And yes, I believe there are more casual WoW gamers (just like there are marijuana smokers who do not become necessarily addicted to it).

Still, I think some debate on the effects of MMOGaming could lead to some better understanding of its nature - and, please, note that I am not the one comparing it to a illicit (in most countries) drug.

Also, my point is that if a journalist says something like "Sure, the psycho-pathology of playing WoW, or most games for that matter, rests on a dopamine release cycle that is essentially additive, much in the same way that marijuana is addictive", most game enthusiasts - like myself - would not hesitate to dismiss him as sensationalist - even if we dare to say those things ourselves.

So maybe we should be a little more open to external criticism. And should not be afraid of actually investigating why those kinds of side effects happen and if is there any kind of way to minimize their potential.

Of course I could be wrong, but I get the sense that we are too quick to attribute all sorts of qualities to video games, and close our eyes whenever something goes wrong along the way.

Copyright, Chico Queiroz