In the past week or two,
idiots have gotten a lot of press - Gamespot ran
an article on them, Slashdot
covered it, the BBC were
in on the act too. In many ways, some may have thought
it was an "epidemic" - after all, the accusations were
horrid. Video game publishers who hire designers with
degrees in psychology - either to make them addictive, or
simply to make them fun. And of course, we have the story of
the poor mother, cruelly robbed of her son by his
suicide over a game in 2002. Of course, if you pay any
attention to the OGA, the arguments they make are specious,
their complaints silly, and their zeal sadly misplaced. In
many ways it resembles the
attacks on Dungeons and Dragons during the 1980s, which
brought so much grief to tabletop gamers until and even
after the now-legendary writer Michael Stackpole published
Pulling Report and completely exposed the founder and
driving force behind the anti-gaming crusade of "BADD"
(Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons) for what she really was.
There are many parallels
between Liz Wooley of OLG-Anon and Pat Pulling; first and
foremost is their belief that it was the game they were
playing (in one case EQ, in the other D&D) rather than the
rest of their lives or their other psychological problems
that caused their sons to suicide. There are many suicides
each year all over the world - some people kill themselves
because they lost their job. Some as a result of drug use.
Some because their relationship has ended. Some simply
do something really
stupid. Some suicides the world never finds out the
reason for. For Liz Wooley and Pat Pulling, we can all be
sad for their losses, but we shouldn't allow our compassion
for the bereaved to override good judgement.
I am not saying that OLG-Anon
do not have a purpose. To the contrary, many things in the
world can be "addictive." Pornography, sex, shopping,
gambling, tobacco, "dangerous" sports, to name just a few;
each and every one of these can be addictive, and
destructively so. Addicted gamblers and shoppers can destroy
their economic livelihood and put their families into the
poorhouse in a single day; junkies who pursue ever more
"extreme" sports in search of an adrenaline high eventually
do something stupid, and lose their lives. Tobacco and drugs
are well known for their addictive possibilities. Alcohol,
while being at least benign (and possibly healthy) when
taken in moderation, has its own problems when overused.
Indeed, at the base level, ANY activity that stimulates the
pleasure centers of the human brain has the potential to be
I have to take issue
with many of the statements made by OLG-Anon and Liz Wooley
with regard to gamers. Many of the "tools" and self-tests
they put on their message boards are specious - for
list of questions on whether or not you are 'addicted'.
It would be so simple to reword some of these for other
people, and see how ludicrous they are. For example, health
nuts instead of EQ players:
- Are the majority of your
friends health nuts as well, who mostly get together at the
gym to work out?
- Do you try to find ways of exercising when you're not at
- Are you finding yourself flirting with others at the gym?
- Do you deny addiction to working out, but somehow still
feel the need to work out, or just keep your workout clothes
with you in case the opportunity comes up?
- Do you feel a sudden rush of intense joy when entering the
gym or completing an exercise?
- Do you experience stronger emotions while working out than
you do outside the gym? (this is very dangerous)
I could go on, but the point is
clear. We could put the same questions to gambling, or to
playing in a soccer league, or to shopping. The line between
enjoying an activity, loving an activity, and being obsessed
to the point of addiction is never a clear one, and
OLG-Anon's assertion that all gaming is bad, or that
companies are deliberately trying to push gamers to the
point of addiction, is highly problematic to prove.
There's the additional problem of
Mrs. Wooley's assertion that game manufacturers hire
employees with psychology degrees specifically to make the
games "even more addictive." This is silly beyond belief.
Psychologists and those with psychology degrees are hired
for many occupations and reasons. Psychologists work
together with architects to make new buildings and their
furnishings more inviting and relaxing. Psychologists
influence the color schemes of fast-food restaurants to
induce appetite, or in normal restaurants to encourage a
relaxing atmosphere. They work with roller-coaster designers
to increase the perceived length of time and "scare factor"
of drops and loops, or to supply enough distraction that
patrons waiting to get on the ride aren't too tremendously
bored while standing in line. They are involved in making
movies, suggesting ways in which directors can increase or
decrease - as appropriate - the emotional impact of certain
scenes. And yes, they work in the video game industry,
because video game makers want to know how to make the games
more fun and engaging... not in order to addict people but
because the more fun and engaging a game is, the better
I'd hope that Mrs. Wooley would
kindly read the Pulling Report just once, and take a good
look at her own conduct. To her credit, over the past few
years she hasn't sued Sony, hasn't gone on a gigantic
witch-hunt to ban all online games, hasn't presented herself
as a "private investigator", and hasn't brought herself into
courts as an "expert" on online gaming.
However, the accusations she made
BBC article were a step closer to Pat Pulling's raving
lunacy than she's ever gone, and it would be a scary thing
to have to relive the days of the D&D witch hunts over
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