continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences
January 2, 2018 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO [BBC] “Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition "gaming disorder". The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes "precedence over other life interests". Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue. Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to "treat" the condition. The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018. The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease. It will suggest that abnormal gaming behaviour should be in evidence over a period of at least 12 months "for a diagnosis to be assigned" but added that period might be shortened "if symptoms are severe".”

• Experts Have A New Reason To Debate Whether ‘Gaming Disorder’ Is Real [Kotaku]
“The push to pathologize gaming, he believes, is based off misguided comparisons to heroin or cocaine addiction: “There are many myths such as that games involve dopamine and brain regions similar to substance abuse,” Ferguson said. “There’s a kernel of truth to that but only insofar as any pleasurable activity activates these regions. How gaming involves them is more similar to other fun activities like eating chocolate, having sex, getting a good grade, etc., not heroin or cocaine.” University of Oxford psychologist Andrew Przybylski echoed Ferguson’s concerns, adding that “It’s a very bad idea.” He’s concerned that most studies done on gaming addiction are low quality. Codifying gaming addiction as a tried and true disorder could risk “stigmatising millions of players and may divert limited mental health resources from core psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety which might be at the heart of problematic play,” he said over e-mail. ”
• Is Video Game Addiction Real? [Gizmodo]
“Despite the ongoing dispute, both sides agree that unhealthy gaming shouldn’t be seen as something that affects anything more than a slim minority of gamers. “It’s similar to what we have with gambling, alcohol use, tobacco use, etc. People who drink alcohol, most of them don’t have any signs of alcohol use disorder; people who buy lottery tickets, most of them don’t have anything close to gambling disorder. So we are not at all pathologizing normal behaviors,” Pozynakv of WHO said. “We are talking about a very specific condition, with specific criteria. And only a very small proportion—probably no more than one percent of some populations—who would qualify for the disorder out of all gamers.” The ICD-11, and its inclusion of gaming disorder, is expected to officially debut next year, though it may take years before most countries exclusively use it. But as to whether video game addiction can be considered a disease akin to alcoholism, it’s unlikely that even a WHO-endorsed label will settle the fierce debate.”
• Is Excessive Gaming a Disease? The WHO Is Considering Listing It as One [Motherboard]
“When severe, people with video game addiction put gaming above even their own wellbeing, forgetting to bathe, sleep, or even eat. It can lead to depression and withdrawal symptoms, and extreme gaming addicts have died from lack of sleep. The WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is like an encyclopedia of all known diseases, and it’s the diagnostic standard for health agencies across the world, used to monitor statistics and report on epidemiology. It’s updated nearly every year and the draft version for 2018 includes, for the first time, a listing for gaming addiction. Dubbed “gaming disorder” in the ICD, addiction is described as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour” that includes “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” It also noted that the behavior must be so extreme that it’s causing “significant impairment” to the rest of the person’s life, such as family, school, or work.”
• Psychologist says rush to pathologize ‘video game addiction’ is dangerous [Polygon]
“Bean and his co-authors argue that one of the reasons gaming addiction is being thrust into the public eye is to drum up support for individuals and organizations who want to profit from its existence. “We raise the potential that video game addiction is a ‘thing’ for the psychiatric and medical community less because empirical research has demonstrated a clear foundation,” the paper states, “but rather because video game addiction is a ‘thing’ in the general public’s eye. That is to say, video game addiction offers the potential for grant funding, practice opportunities for members of professional societies and political influence not offered by other potential behavioral addictions.” With regard to the World Health Organization’s ICD, the paper says, the rush to create a formal diagnosis for gaming disorder may actually be coming from a much higher level. In an email shared with Polygon, Dr. Geoffrey M. Reed — a member of the WHO’s advisory group tasked with creating the next iteration of the ICD — says that he is being petitioned by politicians to make sure gaming addiction is included. “Not everything is up to me,” Reed wrote to one of Bean’s co-authors in an email from August 2016. “We have been under enormous pressure, especially from Asian countries, to include this.””
posted by Fizz (104 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmmm. It seems completely obvious to me, as someone who works with college students, that a very small number of students have a real problem with unhealthy video game usage. It is much less clear to me whether the video games are really the problem. I think that “video game addiction” is likely a symptom of other stuff, and we could probably address the underlying issues without pathologizing video games.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:54 AM on January 2 [41 favorites]


I think that “video game addiction” is likely a symptom of other stuff, and we could probably address the underlying issues without pathologizing video games

would this be altogether dissimilar to how alcoholism is viewed and treated?
posted by runt at 9:09 AM on January 2 [16 favorites]


I don’t know terribly much about this, but I think that alcohol is different in that it’s both mind-altering and physically addictive. You don’t get physical withdrawal symptoms from video games. I imagine that it’s more like compulsive gambling. Is that a diagnosis according to the WHO?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:15 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


When severe, people with video game addiction put gaming above even their own wellbeing, forgetting to bathe, sleep, or even eat. It can lead to depression and withdrawal symptoms, and extreme gaming addicts have died from lack of sleep.

The local CBC Radio recently ran a call-in on this, of which I only caught part. But good luck telling the people with the "addiction" that it's not a thing. A quick recap of the proof I heard goes went like this:

"Addicts" filled out a questionnaire on quality of life (covering everything from personal health to family relations). The average "addict" scored three out of ten. After three months of gaming abstinence, the average "addict" was up to seven out of ten.

To my incomplete grasp of the situation, that sounds like something worth digging into more.

I think that “video game addiction” is likely a symptom of other stuff, and we could probably address the underlying issues without pathologizing video games

would this be altogether dissimilar to how alcoholism is viewed and treated?


Absolute yes to both of these. I've been enjoying the effects of alcohol off and on my entire life (since age twelve anyway), without ever falling into a soul-sucking life destroying alcoholic hole*. Which doesn't mean that others haven't. Let's please acknowledge both of these "facts".

* I cannot tell a lie. I have fallen into a few holes while drunk
posted by philip-random at 9:18 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I sometimes think that the addictive substance is not as critical as the addictive propensity. My family has a history of anxiety and mild obsession (we have a lot of academics), and, for my own part, I’ve become sensitive when, say, I’m spending time binging on a show or game out of enthusiasm (which feels “healthy”) vs when I’m doing it as a sort of self-medication (which feels “unhealthy”). So I have no trouble believing that some people are addicted to games, even though games are generally non-addictive, in the same way that alcoholics don’t preclude a lot of people drinking more or less constructively.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:18 AM on January 2 [19 favorites]


would this be altogether dissimilar to how alcoholism is viewed and treated?

Yes, it's considered to be a primary condition, I think. I'm not sure how much I agree with that.
posted by thelonius at 9:20 AM on January 2


I guess my understanding of alcoholism as a psychiatric diagnosis is that it tends to be seen as indicative of another disorder - that the physiological component is only one piece of a larger puzzle of cognitive / behavioral addiction. a video gaming disorder, similarly, would fall very naturally into one of the broader umbrella categories if it were a disorder listed in the DSM

I don't know how the WHO classifies disorders though or what their approach to diagnosis and treatment would likely be should this disorder be included and formally adopted. IANAP, etc
posted by runt at 9:30 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


So I have no trouble believing that some people are addicted to games, even though games are generally non-addictive, in the same way that alcoholics don’t preclude a lot of people drinking more or less constructively.

anecdote from Narcotics Anonymous that was passed on by a friend.

Most people don't ever even try heroin ... certainly not intentionally. It's a drug that carries with it all kinds of dire warning bells. So rather like base jumping (or whatever) most people never even think of trying.

Of those who do try it at least once, 15-percent end up addicts.

So the question that perhaps needs to be asked isn't, Why is heroin so addictive? but what is it about that 15-percent of an already small minority that puts them so at risk of heroin addiction?

Which, of course, speaks to:

my understanding of alcoholism as a psychiatric diagnosis is that it tends to be seen as indicative of another disorder - that the physiological component is only one piece of a larger puzzle of cognitive / behavioral addiction. a video gaming disorder, similarly, would fall very naturally into one of the broader umbrella categories if it were a disorder listed in the DSM
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I sometimes think that the addictive substance is not as critical as the addictive propensity

Yes, the underlying "substrate" seems less important. There may be good clinical reasons to distinguish between dependencies that involve physical addiction and those that do not, but, otherwise, do we need a new disorder for every type of compulsive, harmful reiteration of a consumption activity? Is there a meaningful difference between compulsive gamblers and compulsive gamers? (Note the recent crossover between the two made possible by loot crates.)

for my own part, I’ve become sensitive when, say, I’m spending time binging on a show or game out of enthusiasm (which feels “healthy”) vs when I’m doing it as a sort of self-medication (which feels “unhealthy”)

Definitely a skill needed by us obsessive types.
posted by praemunire at 9:36 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


I imagine that it’s more like compulsive gambling. Is that a diagnosis according to the WHO?

I mean... yes? Of course it is. How would it not be?

It doesn't seem like the least bit of a stretch to me. Eating disorders are disorders even though eating itself is not a disorder. Playing video games is not a disorder. Playing video games in a way that is disruptive to your life and relationships? I've been in gaming communities since I was a teenager, and I've seen it happen, absolutely. I've also seen plenty of people with reasonably healthy relationships to video games, or where their video game playing might have been technically unhealthy but was a symptom of depression or the like where it could just as easily have been anything else.

The thing about all these diagnoses is that if it isn't a problem, it doesn't meet the standards for diagnosis. If it comes from another mental health condition--so can things like gambling or eating disorders, and they still sometimes benefit from specialized treatment for that particular part of the problem. I don't know why people get up in arms about this. Certain kinds of specialized disruptive behavior benefit from being treated separately. Nothing about this says that games are bad. Given that we have a lot of games right now trying very deliberately to exploit addictive behavior, I think it's more dangerous for games as an industry to try to pretend that this isn't a part of how people respond to this.
posted by Sequence at 9:38 AM on January 2 [31 favorites]


I think there's an underestimation of how much games do to try and make them 'sticky'. The analogy to gambling addiction is particularly pertinent, especially because many games, including big, popular ones like Dota 2 and the most recent Star Wars game, literally use random lotteries to distribute rewards.
posted by Merus at 9:42 AM on January 2 [27 favorites]


I do think there is something weird about the same word referring to physiological interaction with a substance and a psychological condition that could be attached to any compelling activity. But language is hard.
posted by selfnoise at 9:42 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


do we need a new disorder for every type of compulsive, harmful reiteration of a consumption activity

I think so if a large enough population is affected by it so that it can be formally researched and also billed as an actual disorder. again, IANAP, but I imagine that there are salient differences between video game addictions and gambling. one example that I can think of would be gauging time spent at home which would be different for gamblers - likely also affecting, then, a host of other things like hygiene and basic functionality wrt being able to own/use a vehicle, dressing oneself, etc - which would have an impact on the baseline functionality of a person which, as Sequence pointed out above, would necessitate different kinds of therapeutic treatments along with being comorbid with things that gambling might not be (such as agoraphobia)

most people don't come into clinics knowing they are depressed / schizoaffective / whatever - it's usually a pattern of disorders that lean towards a specific illness that then has evidence-based treatment pathways. like, a video game addict could be depressed / anxious but if you don't see their gaming as a disorder and they aren't exhibiting another official diagnosis then how would you know that they were suffering from a mental illness in the first place?
posted by runt at 9:43 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Just spitballing here, but it also depends on the game.

World of Warcraft? Oh yeah, super addictive. It's basically a skinner box that you pay a monthly fee for.

Same with Overwatch, really. Every once in a while you get a loot box, and just like the "loot" dropped by enemies in WoW, it's all random loot.

People get obsessive about this stuff not because they necessarily have a "gaming" problem as much as they are having their psychology exploited to demand the max amount of attention possible to their gaming platform and their games. (Why? Because they can make money selling loot boxes and monthly subscriptions, neither of which you will pay for if you're busy having a real life.)

I mean, Activision (owner of Blizzard, who created WoW and Overwatch) recently filed a patent for making loot box purchases "seem more valuable" to the player. An example: I buy a new item from a loot box that is supposed to be a more powerful weapon. I log into an online game. Activision sees my new purchase, and to make me feel like my purchase was a "good purchase," they will stick me with people at a lower skill level, so I can kick their asses with my new toy, and then feel justified in my purchase. This way, they can count on more repeat purchases, instead of people feeling like "I wish I hadn't spent that money."

Obviously, these companies have zero shame exploiting psychology. I mean, the new EA Star Wars: Battlefront II got a lot of shit for basically having gambling in the game, but they're far from the only people who do so.

Now, beyond the fact that a lot of games are inherently designed to exploit human psychology and get people stuck on the game there's also the issue of mastery.

Humans love to master skills, and video games are a great way to get that feeling mastery without having to spend your time actually learning new skills. (Arguably, learning a new control scheme and getting good at it is developing a skill, but not necessarily a really useful one)

A lot of people in the world right now have really, really rough lives. Lives they wish they could escape from. People who want to do more than just sit back and watch television. They want to be involved with something. Lots of those people don't live in cities with their friends, having chosen a career over being close to loved ones. They often stay close to loved ones through playing online games together.

Often, games give people these things that real life can't, and sometimes that can lead to real life taking a back seat. We talk about poverty and suffering and how it can lead to drug addiction, well, you know what, it can lead to game addiction, too. Because the people who know heroin is dangerous, well, they don't that World of Warcraft is just as dangerous.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:45 AM on January 2 [34 favorites]


I imagine that there are salient differences between video game addictions and gambling (one ex that I can think of would be gauging time spent at home which would be different for gamblers - likely also affecting, then, a host of other things like hygiene and basic functionality wrt being able to own/use a vehicle, dressing oneself, etc - which would have an impact on the baseline functionality of a person

I'm not an expert, but the definition of these kinds of disorders usually defines the problem as one of impeding or impairing one's necessary life activities on a general level. You don't look at time spent at home, you look at whether activity X has caused you to miss work, spend money you don't have, lose close relationships, etc. That's exactly what distinguishes a disorder from regular engagement in [x] lawful activity, and, realistically, from regular use of [x] drug, too.
posted by praemunire at 9:47 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


In my opinion, if the most important factor in addiction were physical dependency, then all you'd need to do to treat it is detox people and do some supportive therapy. But that is not how it seems to work.
posted by thelonius at 9:48 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


"there's a shit ton of wacky stuff in the ICD"

- my partner, 1st year psychiatry resident

lol
posted by runt at 9:52 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I do think there is something weird about the same word referring to physiological interaction with a substance and a psychological condition that could be attached to any compelling activity. But language is hard.

Mental health researchers and practitioners talk about substance addictions (i.e., alcoholism) versus behavioral addictions (i.e., sex addiction, video game addiction). There is evidence that similar neurological dynamics happen with both substance and behavioral addictions.
posted by overglow at 9:53 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


but I imagine that there are salient differences between video game addictions and gambling.

I don't want to get into a whole derail but I'd like to note that this difference is being blurred. Lootboxes, microtransactions, and the trend of monetization inside of games as services is risky for people who are prone to these types of addictive behaviours.
posted by Fizz at 10:06 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I don't want to get into a whole derail but I'd like to note that this difference is being blurred.

It's not blurred. This shit started in Diablo 2 with random loot drops. (maybe even sooner than that, that's the first skinner box game I remember) The industry has gone whole hog on exploiting human psychology for profit.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:08 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I may have woken up in a ditch a time or two after a Civilization bender.
posted by clawsoon at 10:12 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


I quit sugar and alcohol last year and have more than made up for it with FFXIV.
posted by The otter lady at 10:19 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Is there a meaningful difference between compulsive gamblers and compulsive gamers?

I don't think so.

I used to work for a slot machine manufacturer. Everybody and their sibling expected online gambling to have federal enabling legislation in the next few years (rightly or wrongly). As preparation for that, every manufacturer and every major casino chain launched a freemium online casino. It was expected that these would serve a variety of functions but not particularly generate revenue - I believe the roadmap presented for our effort in that direction anticipated profit in Q5.

Q1 was wildly profitable. One person spent $40,000 in one day. That's real money to buy fake money to play fake slot machines to get more fake money. Everyone in the company was shocked at how profitable online was.

Are there issues with the medical model of addiction? Yes. Are video games and for-money gambling blurring into each other, to an extent that it's worthwhile thinking about dysfunctional engagement in each as related or even the same dynamic? Sure looks like it to me.

(Online gambling in the sense traditionally understood is going to destroy a lot of people if it's ever legalized at scale. You have to leave the casino at some point...)
posted by PMdixon at 10:22 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


Random loot drops predate video games. They were featured in Dungeons & Dragons and probably many earlier table-top games. They were then adopted into things like dnd and Oubliette, early mainframe computer games in the 1970s.

However, it is certainly true that in recent years, video game publishers have been much more interested in increasing the addictive gambling portions of their game design. Loot tables are altered so it is harder to get good in-game items, at the same time blind boxes full of possibly useful, but unknown, gear are offered for real money.

This type of real-money gambling in gaming has been with us for a long while. I'm sure you remember a little game called Magic: The Gathering.
posted by demiurge at 10:23 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]


If you’re going to have gambling addiction in this big book I think it’s absurd not to have video game addiction. I think they are close to the same phenomenon.

Most of my understanding of this has come from the really excellent book “Addiction by Design” by Natasha Dow Schull. It’s both an anthropological study of some people addicted to gambling in the Las Vegas region and a study of the design and technology of casinos and slot machines. Extraordinary book. One of the most striking things I learned was that casinos figured out very early to optimize for “time on device”, basically the same metric that a lot of websites and other products now use. Free-to-play mobile apps explicitly and consciously imitated these techniques.

Another interesting fact was that a lot of modern slot machines allow for some amount of mastery. They’re never going to give you fair odds, but there is generally somewhat complex decision-making involved and expert players can lose less money.

Schull’s idea is that we’re in a society that applies an almost impossible pressure to be perfectly rational and optimal and blames us if we ever fail. The trap of slot machine gambling is that it offers an escape from this. People find it incredibly addictive to master a skill and to be rewarded (intermittently but certainly) for that achievement, and to know that they are not failing.

I don’t think it’s too hard to apply the same basic framework to non-casino electronic games. Especially since there’s a flow of ideas and tactics between casinos, casual/free-to-play mobile games, and big budget AAA companies.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:27 AM on January 2 [20 favorites]


If people's lives are being seriously negatively affected by gaming they feel is compulsive, and this addition lets them get treatment for this problem that otherwise wouldn't be covered by national health systems or insurers, then it seems good to me. I don't believe there's some Platonic Ideals of Mental Illness Categorization waiting out there in the aether for us to slowly grope our way towards, it seems to me taking a pragmatic approach of "this is making your life worse, let's make your life better instead" makes most sense even if [this] is something prima-facie "trivial". I've probably butchered Plato here, sorry, old man.
posted by threementholsandafuneral at 10:30 AM on January 2 [11 favorites]


Because the people who know heroin is dangerous, well, they don't that World of Warcraft is just as dangerous.

maybe Warcraft's as dangerous in terms of addiction, though I suspect that's still unresolved. It's definitely not remotely as dangerous in terms of one's life suddenly ending because they got the dosage a little wrong. There are very many people who die of heroin overdoses who are not even addicted, just living a little dangerously. In fact, I've heard (again from within the addict-community) that, certainly until Fentanyl came around, it was the "weekenders" who were most likely to end up in the morgue, because their tolerance could not be as high as with daily users -- rather like the college freshman that dies of alcohol poisoning the first or third time he's even been drunk.
posted by philip-random at 10:30 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I imagine that there are salient differences between video game addictions and gambling (one ex that I can think of would be gauging time spent at home which would be different for gamblers...)

A huge amount of gambling is done online from home.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:31 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I sometimes think that the addictive substance is not as critical as the addictive propensity.

There's a reason why I frequently see flyers up around campus asking for people who smoke cigarettes only occasionally (i.e., "socially") to please come in for a research study and some brain imaging. Some people can do this, even with a physically addictive substance like nicotine.

I have gambled. I am able to stop at a set amount won or lost, no problem--it's not even tempting. I play video games, but inevitably after about 2 weeks I'm just bored. It doesn't matter how well-engineered the game's reward structures are or how obsessively I played at first, I just stop caring. I can also "smoke socially" (or did when I was younger and didn't find tobacco to be gross) without developing a dependence. I don't think these traits are unrelated and I 100% think it's brain chemistry rather than my stellar life choices.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:36 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


It's definitely not remotely as dangerous in terms of one's life suddenly ending because they got the dosage a little wrong.

You're right in that it is extremely rare for video game addiction to kill (although it does happen), but as someone who was part of The Great Warcrafting of 2011-ish, I saw a lot of people lose their jobs, homes, and relationships to games. Sometimes they even ended up moving in with other addicted gamers, living in drug-den-like squalor with people who wouldn't interrupt raid time.
posted by jess at 10:38 AM on January 2 [15 favorites]


Given that we have a lot of games right now trying very deliberately to exploit addictive behavior, I think it's more dangerous for games as an industry to try to pretend that this isn't a part of how people respond to this

Any industry that depends on the 20% of people who abuse their product in ways that are detrimental to their health to supply 80% of the revenue should probably be regulated to hell and back. Alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and, based on the way the gaming industry is developing, video games.

If your business model is built on exploiting whales who become addicted to your product, you are creating a social problem for which you should be held accountable.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:40 AM on January 2 [16 favorites]


One aspect of this I find interesting is the distinction between "compelling" and "fun" in games. Most gamers are familiar with realizing that they are still playing even though it long ago stopped being a rewarding activity. I have also run into games that are very fun, but not at all compelling. I recognize these games because I forget to play them even though I have a great time when I do.
posted by poe at 10:41 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


This type of real-money gambling in gaming has been with us for a long while. I'm sure you remember a little game called Magic: The Gathering.

I had a friend say he'd given up smoking for M:tG. The packs were cheaper and less physically harmful, and if he could keep it to one a day, he'd be ahead on money.

One aspect of this I find interesting is the distinction between "compelling" and "fun" in games.

Extra Credits has a video on The Skinner Box - How Games Condition People to Play More.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:44 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I imagine that there are salient differences between video game addictions and gambling

my perhaps simplistic take is that addiction is best viewed as a multi-headed beast. Or more to the point, there's a beast, the main body of which is mostly submerged, but it manifests in various ways via various "heads", which are seen as different addictions. Some of these heads may show themselves when you're alone at home alone in a room via gaming, others in a crowded casino -- but it's still the same beast, I suspect.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on January 2


And now all I can envision is a LAN party with someones head popping up once in a while, like some kind of modren day hyrda.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:53 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I mostly dislike playing video games, but last night (actually earlier this morning) I sort-of accidentally nerd-sniped myself with the Collatz Conjecture. Eventually I googled it, and found an essay on it, referencing this page on "mathematical diseases."

How long before WHO pronounces on this terrible scourge?
posted by Coventry at 11:05 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It's definitely not remotely as dangerous in terms of one's life suddenly ending because they got the dosage a little wrong.

While this is technically correct, this is not some magical property of heroin - that's like saying that alcohol is deadly b/c bathtub gin makes you go blind.

Honestly I think vidya industry is more of a life wrecker than opioids
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 11:18 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Honestly I think vidya industry is more of a life wrecker than opioids

Whoa whoa whoa, let's not pit one horrible capitalist pig-dog industry against another.

The pharmecutical industries and the gaming industries are both pretty damn horrible, but only one of them profits off of purposefully making things that could save lives more costly than most can afford.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:22 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Have they heard about Metafilter yet?
posted by miyabo at 11:24 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Honestly I think vidya industry is more of a life wrecker than opioids

It really isn't. Not many murders are committed to support a video game habit.

A person who's taken opiods in the last hour is not safe to drive. A video game addict whose friends drag them away from the game, is not unsafe behind the wheel, not unable to eat normal foods, not usually incapable of doing their job. Part of why gambling and other mental/behavior-only addictions are so hard to verify (and therefore treat) is that even a short break means the person is "back to normal;" it's easy to claim that the only harm is the specific time they spend on the addiction, and the fix would be just limiting that.

It's harder to figure out how an activity-based addiction, rather than a substance-based one, affects judgment and behaviors, since it doesn't directly affect hand-eye coordination or physical health.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:26 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Have they heard about Metafilter yet?

Gotta get that endorphin boost from those favorites!
posted by deadaluspark at 11:26 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


But surely everyone just uses favourites to store a small, select list of comments and posts that they regularly re-read?

Surely?
posted by clawsoon at 11:30 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Periodic reminder that two of Mefi's potentially-skinnerian features can be turned off if you want. On your Preferences page, you can hide/dequantify favorites and turn off inline comment updating ("x new comments" at the bottom of a thread).
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:35 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]


Which is why MeFi is leaps and bounds better than other sites, thanks for always giving us the option.
posted by deadaluspark at 11:37 AM on January 2


turn off inline comment updating ("x new comments" at the bottom of a thread)

I can still sit in my box tapping the F5 key with my beak.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:39 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]


deadalus - you know what you are right - was only thinking about people who are addicted to one or another

eris - heroin users don't fucking swat people, nor did they do a gamergate - thats gamers - and not gamers that would qualify as "addicts" - it's a fucking cesspit - i am not saying this to troll or be witty
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 11:50 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


It's harder to figure out how an activity-based addiction... affects judgment and behaviors, since it doesn't directly affect hand-eye coordination or physical health.

Some of my activity-based addictions contribute directly to my financial wealth and general education.

Concentration meditation, as the Buddha described it, is an addictive mental behavior in the initial stages.
"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal."
posted by Coventry at 11:50 AM on January 2


I'm sure you remember a little game called Magic: The Gathering.

Heh. My 11 yo son plays M:TG; I introduced him to it a couple of years ago, as I had played it a bit from I guess about 1995-1998. The game has changed a lot, but interestingly my son has absolutely no interest at all in buying booster packs (the loot boxes), he says they are pointless and wasteful, he just meticulously plans an exact precise deck and saves his money to buy the individual cards he needs. Seems crazy to me, but he is effectively bypassing that gambling aspect.
posted by Jimbob at 11:59 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Y'all might scoff at this, but I think videogame grinding and possible addiction has some similarities to workaholism.
posted by puddledork at 11:59 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


Despite the ongoing dispute, both sides agree that unhealthy gaming shouldn’t be seen as something that affects anything more than a slim minority of gamers.

Sounds like an industry talking point. As someone who played two years of EQ, a game that was virtually impossible to succeed in unless you invested several hours a day, a game where there was almost universal agreement among players that it rewarded unhealthy devotion, I find the "slim minority" quote laughable.

Nor was EQ an exception, not within the MMO genre or within any multi player game. Now with the industry diving headfirst into games such as Overwatch, Borerlands, and Destiny, the lessons continue to be ignored for $obvious$ reasons.

The publishers want us to keep playing, because the more time we invest, the more money we will invest. They have a built in incentive to keep us playing both longer than we want and longer than we should, and one Huge Red Flag is any game with randomized loot. That feature alone should be regulated out of the industry.
posted by Beholder at 12:06 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


They have a built in incentive to keep us playing... longer than we want

You must want to on some level, or it wouldn't be an incentive. And it's not like they have a gun to your head.
posted by Coventry at 12:11 PM on January 2


You must want to on some level, or it wouldn't be an incentive. And it's not like they have a gun to your head.

I'm honestly surprised that anyone would still say something like this. The Skinner Box was being widely discussed among gamers going all the way back to 1999, perhaps earlier.
posted by Beholder at 12:16 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


Coventry: You must want to on some level, or it wouldn't be an incentive.

I don't ever want to drink again
I just, oh, I just need a friend
posted by clawsoon at 12:20 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


> Y'all might scoff at this, but I think videogame grinding and possible addiction has some similarities to workaholism.

I learned how to work a job by playing World of Warcraft. Grinding is just like a job except you don't get payed real money. When I got my first job, I immediately quit WoW. I have a tendency towards workaholism when I'm healthy and enjoying my job.

It helps that I have a lot of self-determinism and work from home, at the same computer I play video games at.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 12:31 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Heck yeah games are addicting, for many reasons. As stated above, they are designed to be addicting. Not only the casual smartphone games but the AAA titles as well. Random lotteries, loot boxes, special events, new daily challenges, and especially leveling systems that make you want to play just to get to the next level and unlock new skills and items. Many AAA titles are bigger budget than Hollywood movies and they intend to keep you playing them as long and often as possible.

Games are also far more stimulating than other entertainment because they're active and social, not passive. It's so easy to get lost in a shooter or RPG for hours and completely ignore the outside world. Not to mention we're on our PCs so much of the time already that it's easy to just make two clicks and start playing.

Then there are the sociopolitical reasons. Games give a sense of progress and completion and real goals to work toward. They're designed to give a sense of accomplishment when you beat that level or earn that status. How often does the real world give us similarly attainable goals and reward us for reaching them? It's The Great Escape.
posted by hexaflexagon at 12:35 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


A Skinner Box is an environment in which an incentive is provided for a certain pattern of behavior. If the subject doesn't want the incentive, the Skinner Box doesn't work.
posted by Coventry at 12:38 PM on January 2


Then there are the sociopolitical reasons. Games give a sense of progress and completion and real goals to work toward. They're designed to give a sense of accomplishment when you beat that level or earn that status. How often does the real world give us similarly attainable goals and reward us for reaching them? It's The Great Escape.

A way more eloquent way to get to the point I was trying to make. Games offer a lot of things real life can't, a lot of things television and radio or podcasts can't. Entirely because they're social and offer concrete, achievable goals.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:43 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


A Skinner Box is an environment in which an incentive is provided for a certain pattern of behavior. If the subject doesn't want the incentive, the Skinner Box doesn't work.

Wow, I guess people who are lonely because they've been isolated by career choices, or people who desire mastery but can seem to only land low-level jobs without much skill needed, or people who like figuring out systems and exploiting them, I guess all those kind of people just need to say no to those real life incentives that capitalism can't give them, and accept that their lives are horrible and just suck it up. /s

I think the point here is that there are plenty of fucking people who those things are incentives for, and the people making and selling these games know this and don't care about how it might affect those people negatively.

But sure, let's just pretend everyone is perfectly rational, infallible, and never, ever has had a seemingly uncontrollable urge that has lead them down a dark path. Let's just keep pretending humans are fucking robots without psychology we are very, very aware is easily exploitable.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:46 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I've had plenty of uncontrollable urges lead me down a dark path. It happens a lot less frequently and is much easier to turn around when I take responsibility for those choices.
posted by Coventry at 12:49 PM on January 2


I should say "seemingly uncontrollable." They are absolutely controllable, as you can see if you imagine someone actually were holding a gun to your head and telling you to stop.
posted by Coventry at 12:50 PM on January 2


Coventry: A Skinner Box is an environment in which an incentive is provided for a certain pattern of behavior. If the subject doesn't want the incentive, the Skinner Box doesn't work.

I think the "on some level" part of your earlier comment is the important part. It's possible to want something on one level and not want it on every other level, and to have the compulsive power of that one level override all the other levels. That's what makes addictions a problem.

By contrast: I want to breathe, to, but I want to breathe on all levels. It's a compulsion, but it's not a compulsion that conflicts with and overrides my other needs and desires. Opioids and computer games, on the other hand, sometimes do.
posted by clawsoon at 12:51 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


> deadaluspark:
"Have they heard about Metafilter yet?

Gotta get that endorphin boost from those favorites!"


Dopamine feedback loop FTW!

(Please favorite this comment. Just one favorite, man. Just a little taste of that sweet, sweet plus mark, man...)
posted by Samizdata at 1:01 PM on January 2 [11 favorites]


> nixon's meatloaf:
"deadalus - you know what you are right - was only thinking about people who are addicted to one or another

eris - heroin users don't fucking swat people, nor did they do a gamergate - thats gamers - and not gamers that would qualify as "addicts" - it's a fucking cesspit - i am not saying this to troll or be witty"


I'm a gamer. I've never swatted anyone, and I felt zero urge to be a part of GamerGate, so please halt the overgeneralization. Every community has asshats, but that doesn't make them the whole community.
posted by Samizdata at 1:03 PM on January 2 [11 favorites]


I have a lot of family with addiction problems and I try to be careful about my own addictive tendencies. I just discovered agar.io (from a Gift Guide linked on Ask Metafilter of all things, so I blame you all) and wow, is it designed to be addictive, and wow, did it work on me. I would put down my phone after playing it for hours over the past few weeks and couldn't shake the feeling I was still a dot that needed to eat smaller dots. I dream of agar.io. I introduced it to my girlfriend and she played a bit and admitted it was addictive and then deleted it from her phone, which blew my mind. She could just... quit?

Obviously this isn't the same level as people who are losing jobs, friends, and academic standing because I recognized the behavior and now that I'm back to work I put it aside. I definitely "forgot" to eat or shower and I got really pissed whenever something would intrude upon my game time over the past two weeks. I played until 3-4 every might when I normally go to sleep around 11. It was a very real reminder that it's something I need to watch for, and I guess that I welcome awareness of gaming disorders for people who are prone to compulsive play to the point of self harm. It definitely helps me to hear "here is what video game makers do to keep you hooked" so that I can be more mindful of why getting those free coins every hour feels like such a good reason to keep opening the app.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:05 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


A Skinner Box is an environment in which an incentive is provided for a certain pattern of behavior.

The Skinner Box showed that randomized rewards increase addictive behavior. The rodent wasn't automatically given anything for activating the switch. The rodent could only hope something positive would happen, a hope fueled by randomization.
posted by Beholder at 1:07 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


That depends on how well the subject is performing. It's generally more efficient to only start reducing reward frequency once they're reliably performing the behavior. (I used to train dogs on a volunteer basis at dog shelter, and the shelter's training focus was Skinnerian methods.)

That doesn't make any difference to the question of where the ultimate responsibility lies, though. A human has the capacity for abandonment of self-destructive behaviors through self-reflection.
posted by Coventry at 1:29 PM on January 2


I sometimes think that the addictive substance is not as critical as the addictive propensity.

One unusual thing about addiction research (from a medical standpoint, at least as of a year and a half ago) is that there's a relatively low correlation across addictions, even from one substance to another. While addictive personality disorder does exist, and can frequently be predicted, there's oftentimes little to no evidence for what particular addiction might result. Many individuals with a family history of alcohol addiction who grow up using alcohol frequently but whose addictive tendencies are entirely limited to gambling.
posted by Molten Berle at 1:39 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


[Coventry, you're kind of taking on all comers here, maybe take a step back and let the thread breathe a little.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:53 PM on January 2


Thanks for the feedback. Will do.
posted by Coventry at 2:01 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The publishers want us to keep playing, because the more time we invest, the more money we will invest.

The FaceBook is into the "sticky" site along with a timesuck with, perhaps, the only difference is who's spending the money.

This is not just "gaming firms" who use this feature of human beings.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:42 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I think it's odd that Destiny went in the opposite direction regarding addiction. Destiny 1 was a three year life-killer. Destiny 2 seems to have removed most of the gambling aspects.
posted by wester at 2:52 PM on January 2


Nah, Bungie just moved right over to bait and switch.

love all the comments in the linked thread blaming the end-user for not reading the EULA, as though a software license agreement means what they did is not a bait and switch. Last time I checked, making a legal document saying they are allowed to bait and switch that a customer agrees to doesn't actually invalidate consumer law somehow. I'm fairly sure the law supersedes such agreements.
posted by deadaluspark at 3:27 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Gaming absolutely can be an addiction. It's an escape, fills a void, and the moments of "winning" can feel amazing. Especially if your self-esteem is garbage and you don't feel able to accomplish much offline.

In MMOs I've talked to hundreds of addicted gamers. The two most common types of addiction I've witnessed are leveling/grinding and socializing. Grinders want to be top tier and take the game very seriously. They rarely seem to be enjoying themselves. Gaming is their job and they believe their importance as a human being is determined on how good they are at the game and how rare and high-tier their gear is. They're mainly young men who are unemployed, angry, lonely, and depressed. (They're also prime targets for extremism.)

Then there are the people who get addicted to the social scene. They are online all the time, have a ton of alternate characters, and create and participate in a lot of drama. They tend to blow up their real life relationships when they get entangled in online romance and are either unemployed or quit their jobs to spend more time gaming.

I personally have a problem with loot boxes/gacha. Fortunately I have enough self-awareness that I've banned myself from spending real money on mystery boxes, but I will still blow all of my in-game cash on them.
posted by Stonkle at 3:53 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


I really love playing WoW. Some friends entreated me to try it, and I never fathomed that I'd be the type of person to like such games, including Overwatch. My favorite games were limited to Myst and Escape Velocity, etc.

It's weird for me, because the hairsplittery about addiction aside, discussing the WHO news is making me consider stopping gaming for a while. I just finished heroic Argus the last boss of the expansion in WoW, so maybe I'll skip the inter-expansion lull, a good half year+, as an experiment to see if my life is better off without gaming. What do people think?
posted by polymodus at 3:56 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


inter-expansion lull? I thought Legion was supposed to be the last expansion.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:58 PM on January 2


Legion or WoW 7.0 was released Aug 2016 and will finish soon with a update 7.5.3, and then WoW 8.0, Battle for Azeroth, is expected this summer 2018. People are looking forward to it; the in-game artwork is gorgeous.
posted by polymodus at 4:09 PM on January 2


That's... disappointing.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:15 PM on January 2


What do people think?

I think the WHO trying to list exactly how many angels are on the head of a pin (aka, what common psychological states are a "disease" and what qualifies as "having" them) is a waste of time, and paying attention to the list is a waste of time. I also think it's never a bad idea to try doing something differently for a while and see how it suits you, if you're so inclined.
posted by value of information at 4:31 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I think the WHO trying to list exactly how many angels are on the head of a pin (aka, what common psychological states are a "disease" and what qualifies as "having" them) is a waste of time, and paying attention to the list is a waste of time.

From an individual's perspective, I think this is true. But the WHO is not engaged in individual health care. The WHO is engaged in trying to maintain public health for, as the name suggests, the world. That means that it is very much within the WHO's remit to try to categorize, even if it's an extremely rough categorization, the ways in which we're all messed up, so that they have data over time about how we're doing as a population and whether things are worse or better and to do things like encouraging research into how to help people with certain types of problems.

The WHO and APA attempting to refine classifications of mental health conditions is important, but not in the way that pop psych articles would like for it to be important.
posted by Sequence at 5:07 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Gaming and work can both be activities you can throw yourself into, and forget about other things for a while. You can get a sense of accomplishment from either (at least from some jobs). That can be nice if you’re not getting a sense of accomplishment from other parts of your life. It’s not hard to see what an unemployed or underemployed person, or a kid who doesn’t like school, would get out of gaming, so much so that they might do it to excess (and, of course, games designed to be addictive wouldn’t help).
posted by Anne Neville at 5:16 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


If you believe that your importance as a human being depends on doing something well, and you don’t feel like you’re doing well at school, at your job, or in relationships, you’re going to want to find SOMETHING you can do well at. Nobody wants to feel like a failure at everything. Online games can also give you an opportunity to get some social status, at least among other gamers. That’s something a lot of those young men want and can’t get in other ways.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:25 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Here is what concerns me. No one takes an addictive substance in the belief that it is going to get them some place in the world. Precious few gamblers will be successful, if that is their goal. But how many children are now convinced that they can post gaming videos for a living, thus rationalizing the potentially unhealthy behavior. Technological society has wreaked such havoc on economic structures, on psychosocial structures, that people feel the need to aspire to more and more unrealistic and/or socially ridiculous pursuits out of economic or social necessity.
posted by sylvanshine at 6:22 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


ICD codes are the tail not the dog. People want to be able to say a patient has video game addiction, and health care systems tend to use ICD-10 codes, so video game addiction needs to be added to the codes. It's not WHO telling people that video game addiction is now a thing. As someone said up thread, ICD-10 is full of all sorts of crazy stuff.

As for whether it is valid? After much effort on her part a close friend finally gave her husband the "It's WoW or me and the kids" ultimatum and WoW won.
posted by markr at 6:38 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I remember how WoW affected a couple of my friends. I never thought of it as a Skinner box -- but it did create a social obligation to be online at a certain time to participate in raids, and to manage complex spreadsheets if you were a guild leader.

So I guess this is considered addictive behavior ... OTOH my relatives drive hundreds of miles a week to watch their kids kick around a truncated icosahedron with some other kids.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:32 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I literally lost contact with friends who spent every waking moment online because they couldn't be bothered to log into GTalk and they would say "If you want to talk, come play WoW, that's where I am."

Ugh. I'm so glad those days are over that shit was tedious. (Not to say they're over for others, just over for me and my group of friends.)

Needless to say I gave WoW exactly one shot and noped right the fuck out.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:56 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Alright, so if some video game behaviors are 'bad' - are there 'good' behaviors we can shift with this paradigm? Is Tony Stark's simulation of the last night with his parents so that he can get closure in Captain America Civil War potentially something we could do to correct and or repair damage we do to ourselves through our lives?

What about phantom limb pain? Can we retool video games and their effects into something net positive? Or do we just want to pillory on them and cite them as the root cause of all evil in the world?
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:54 PM on January 2


We couldn't have surgery without anesthetic but that doesn't mean barbiturates are not addictive.
posted by PMdixon at 9:10 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Because the people who know heroin is dangerous, well, they don't that World of Warcraft is just as dangerous.
There were 15,000 heroin overdose deaths in the US last year out of 64,000 drug overdose deaths. Drugs, guns, and cars kill several tens of thousands per year each. Video games are about as deadly as lava lamps. They are not the same.

Do crushed pro sports dreams really equal crushed Twitch channel dreams? Are the yearly $500 billion global gambling losses the same as the $70 billion spent on video games? How many orders of magnitude does it take before an analogy becomes an insult?
posted by netowl at 9:29 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Honestly I think vidya industry is more of a life wrecker than opioids

Kind of interesting that opioids and video games are being compared. China lost a generation to opium and it was one of the first countries that took gaming (and internet) addiction seriously. Sadly, some of the treatments involve sending kids to "boot camps" where they get beaten, abused, and sometimes dead.

The WHO is engaged in trying to maintain public health for, as the name suggests, the world.

This is true, and I do wonder if part of this is pressure from China, where one estimate says that there are between 16 to 27 million internet/game addicts in the country.
posted by FJT at 9:58 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


This I know - my middle schooler has the addiction and multiple teachers have contacted us about their concerns.
What we need are some real treatment options, and like an eating disorder, when you have to eat but it brings you in constant contact with the problem area, todays students almost can’t function without screens either.
I desperately want to help him. Yes, we already do all the standard routine of care: psychiatrist, meds, doctor visits, therapy, family therapy, behavior plans, outside activities, etc. His brain is hard wired.
posted by beckybakeroo at 10:03 PM on January 2


I'm a gamer. I've never swatted anyone, and I felt zero urge to be a part of GamerGate, so please halt the overgeneralization. Every community has asshats, but that doesn't make them the whole community.

#notallgamers

Not all heroin addicts are murderers, either. Murder is a thing that is done by heroin users to support their habit though, much like swatting is a thing that is done by gamers, and gamergate is a thing that was orchestrated and carried by gamers.
posted by Dysk at 2:25 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Swatting is more of an internet arguing thing than a gamer thing, IMO. So, obviously, I am giving you all some serious side eye right now.

On a less off topic note, it makes me sad that the parts of gaming that might legitimately be seen as addictive are being used as synecdoche for all of gaming. Grinding and clicking on loot boxes are in games, but they aren't in all, or even most games. A person who really likes building stuff in minecraft is doing something really very different to someone compulsively buying lootboxes. It bothers me that they might both be told they are gaming addicts and given the same treatment.
posted by surlyben at 5:56 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Swatting is done by cs:go players a fair bit, for example. No it isn't just gamers, but it isn't just heroin addicts committing murder, either.
posted by Dysk at 6:24 AM on January 3


IMO, CS:Go is a glorified version of internet arguing with a sort of SWATty theme, and any swatting is more down to that than its gamelike qualities. I'll bet swatting is inversely correlated with Stardew Valley, though that is as much a game as counterstrike (and includes plenty of the kind of grindy/clicky stuff that might be problematic from an addiction point of view)
posted by surlyben at 7:21 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


WRT the design of games to feed addiction (and, of course, to make my nearly-obligatory Mass Effect contribution to a Fizz gaming post), a former Mass Effect developer spills the beans:
"You need to understand the amount of money that's at play with microtransactions. I'm not allowed to say the number but I can tell you that when Mass Effect 3 multiplayer came out, those card packs we were selling, the amount of money we made just off those card packs was so significant that's the reason Dragon Age has multiplayer, that's the reason other EA products started getting multiplayer that hadn't really had them before, because we nailed it and brought in a ton of money. It's repeatable income versus one-time income.

"I've seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."
Thus the end of updates (and no DLC) for the single-player Mass Effect: Andromeda, but continued patches for the multiplayer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 AM on January 3 [10 favorites]


"I've seen people literally spend $15,000 on Mass Effect multiplayer cards."

I'm fairly certain that if I was well-off that I could very well be one of these people. Maybe not Mass Effect but in other games. Right now I don't have much of any disposable income. When I did have more I did spend money on extra things in games. It was never a problem because I had a budget and that's what I chose to spend some of my fun money on.
If I ever fantasize about winning the lottery I will think things like 'oh cool and then I could buy all the things in Elder Scrolls! I understand where the desire comes from. I understand how games can be designed to create and facilitate this sort of desire.

I don't have a problem controlling it and letting it become detrimental. (like spending my food money on a digital house or whatever) I can see where the desire and compulsion come from though.
posted by Jalliah at 7:46 AM on January 3


I used to play a lot of games when I was younger, but these days I almost exclusively play games socially in person. Like I have to be in the the same room with the people I am playing with. One of the driving factors was finding out how much psychological manipulation is going on behind the scenes, which I absolutely had no interest in being part of. A few examples:

- In loot based games, your loot is absolutely not random in most cases. It is carefully doled out to you in a calculated drip to keep you playing depending on your playing habits and (in modern and mobile games) your spending level. This is the reason the designers are so dead-set against publishing actual set odds on loot boxes - they don't exist.
- You're not as good at games as you think. There are so many tactics single-player games use to make you feel more skillful and powerful than you are. Your last bit of health usually counts way more than the rest, and your last bullet is usually much more powerful than your others. Enemies get very stupid when many are attacking at once. All of it is you make you feel like you're pulling out a last minute underdog win.
- Online competitive matchmaking will often put you in games based on delivering a sense of progression rather than providing "even" matches. Low-level players will consistently be put in games against higher-level opponents with the aim of increasing your win percentage as you progress. Only once you reach maximum level and continue playing for a while the system will eventually start trying to give you "good" matches.

I guess my point is that you have to consider that there are benign games and games specifically designed to be addictive. There are involuntary urges being manipulated here. No, gaming addiction isn't exactly the same as drug/alcohol addiction. Probably not even in the same ballpark. But definitely the same sport.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:08 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I guess my point is that you have to consider that there are benign games and games specifically designed to be addictive. There are involuntary urges being manipulated here. No, gaming addiction isn't exactly the same as drug/alcohol addiction. Probably not even in the same ballpark. But definitely the same sport.

so rather like marijuana vs heroin vs cocaine vs mushrooms etc. All are "drugs", all are (or certainly were until recently) illicit. Yet each affects us differently, plays to different aspects of our psyche etc. So though the temptation is to speak of them all as more or less the same (or at least on some kind of continuum), that's really just lazy and ultimately a bad idea insofar as it breeds divisiveness and/or alienation in users/gamers.

tldr: occasional marijuana use has about as much in common with heroin addiction as a two-speed bike has with a runaway train. I imagine the same is true for various games and realms of gaming.
posted by philip-random at 9:25 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


A person who really likes building stuff in minecraft is doing something really very different to someone compulsively buying lootboxes. It bothers me that they might both be told they are gaming addicts and given the same treatment.

By whom? You can play a game for many hours a day and not be addicted. Addiction is compulsive and destructive.

If you're worried about the WHO classification increasing stigma toward gamers, I wouldn't worry about it. Gaming is more mainstream now than it ever has been.
posted by Stonkle at 11:59 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


vogon_poet mentioned this book, but I'm going to second them: if you're at all interested in how people are manipulated to spend more and more money and time gambling, and how that can bleed over to things like gaming, please check out Natasha Dow Schull's fantastic book Addiction by Design. I read it a year ago and still find myself thinking of it weekly.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:33 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


> Dysk:
"I'm a gamer. I've never swatted anyone, and I felt zero urge to be a part of GamerGate, so please halt the overgeneralization. Every community has asshats, but that doesn't make them the whole community.

#notallgamers

Not all heroin addicts are murderers, either. Murder is a thing that is done by heroin users to support their habit though, much like swatting is a thing that is done by gamers, and gamergate is a thing that was orchestrated and carried by gamers."


All I asked is for a lack of overgeneralization. I am SURE adding "some" to your statement would not have caused you any actual physical harm.

Or should I say "A MeFi annoyed me. MeFis are jerks."?
posted by Samizdata at 7:21 PM on January 3


The thing about gamers in this context is that we are at this point talking about a definition of "gamers" that includes everybody that has games downloaded to their phone, because microtransaction-enabled mobile games can 100% be as life-destructive as anything else. Addiction is not a thing that's associated with some particular subset of people who call themselves gamers. If anything, I'd say that some of the most vulnerable people are the ones who don't think of themselves as gamers at all, but just as people who regularly dump time and money into a little toy on their phone while their lives fall apart. Gamer culture has all kinds of problems, but this is not a gamer culture thing. I will not be surprised when we get a similar category for social media addiction, and not because I don't like social media, but because while I know lots of people who use social media in a way that fits in just fine with their lives, there are very clearly some people who cannot.

I know WoW is kind of the classic example of video game addiction, but like--I don't have a serious problem but the point where I have most recognized this tendency in myself was with freaking Cookie Clicker and other games of that ilk, to the point where just typing that made me think "oh I should go load that up again". Video games in this context does not necessarily only mean multiplayer games, PC/console games, any of that.
posted by Sequence at 10:00 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


All I asked is for a lack of overgeneralization. I am SURE adding "some" to your statement would not have caused you any actual physical harm.

JFC. Get off the cross, we need the wood.

Gamers are not some kind of marginalized group by any meaningful metric. All y'all acting like they are need to do some combination of taking the chip off your shoulder and getting some damn perspective.
posted by PMdixon at 5:39 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. Nothing's going to be improved by repeating the obvious rebuttals and counterpoints etc further here. Suffice to say, people aren't talking about literally every gamer, and let the discussion proceed with that understanding.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:58 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


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