Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Growing Simulation

When most days one of our temporary housemates "Brett" spent eighteen hours or more in his room, I decided to research the topic and try to understand it more, as I was literally astonished at the potency and results of his addiction.

“Two percent of gamers [in the Netherlands] are addicted.” This statement comes from the Dutch Daily News in an article quoting researcher Jeroen Lemmons of the University of Amsterdam. Lemmons worked with 851 students for six months researching online and video gaming addictions. (
Of the online “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games” or MMORPG’s that are available, World of Warcraft (WoW) is by a significant amount the largest network of players in the world with a total number of subscriptions amounting to over 10 million . Keep in mind “subscription” is a highly qualified term, as a “subscriber” is defined by the game creator company Blizzard as “those who have paid a subscription fee, or are using an active prepaid card, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access.

Internet game room players who have accessed the game within the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers, but players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or canceled subscriptions and expired prepaid cards are excluded.” (
With it’s current subscriber base, Blizzard and it’s parent companies will be paid just over $2 billion a year from the players who totaled together now amount to more than half of Australia’s population. With 2 million subscribers in a Europe, 2.5 million in North America, and 5.5 million in Asia, the WoW players added together total more than the world’s ten largest armies added together.

A “Trace Summary” of gameplay done from December, 2005 to October, 2007 (4 days) observing 34,521 accounts concluded that 75% of gamers play longer than 2 hours per day, and 25% play longer than 5 hours per day. The peak gameplay hours were from 9pm-1am, and “even after a long vacation [more than half a year], 20% of gamers still come back.” (Kuan-Ta Chen; In the first 24 hours of it’s release, WoW registered 200,000 players who began adventuring, shattering all other MMORPG previous 1 day records. (

Online gameplay networking giant Steam (owned by parent company Valve) boasted massive growth in the last year. The site provides access to gamers with over a thousand games available to play each other in multiplayer mode and as of July 16th 2010, 11:58pm a total of 2,074,629 players were online challenging each other (
On 29th July, 2002 Sony announced that it had over 118,000 players logged onto Everquest, another Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, simultaneously. On January 17th, 2008 the 17a Vara Federal da Seção Judiciária do Estado de Minas Gerai (Federal Court of 17th Judicial Section of the State of Minas Geraes, a Federal court in the second richest state in Brazil) ruled forbidding the game sales in the whole Brazilian territory because “the game leads the players to a loss of virtuousness and takes them into ‘heavy’ psychological conflicts, because of the game quests, that can be bad or good.” (

“Chih-Hung Ko, a neurobiologist at the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues placed 10 WoW fans in the MRI machine, alongside 10 non-addicts, and followed their brain images while the test subjects were shown pictures of the game...such areas and regions of the brain as the right orbitofrontal cortex, the right nucleus accumbens, the bilateral anterior cingulate and medial frontal cortex, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the right caudate nucleus were all noticed to be activated by the pictures. These are the same portions of the cortex that activate when a drug addict fails to take his dose on time and starts withdrawal.” (

"What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather
the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task." These words written by Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” is what I believe to be the fundamental reason for the explosive growth in the gaming media. Appealing to man in the core of his being, online gaming deceitfully seems to answer the deep seated desire of a young man to fight for something.

“Nearly one in 10 children and teens who play video games showed signs of what could be considered addiction to games in a January 2007 Harris poll that the research is based upon.
The poll of 1,178 U.S. kids and teens (aged 8 to 18) found that 8.5% of those who played video games exhibited at least six of 11 addiction symptoms such as skipping household chores or homework to play games, poor performance on tests of homework because of playing, and playing games to escape problems...exhibiting six of 11 such symptoms can lead to being diagnosed with an addiction such as pathological gambling. The Iowa State University researchers adopted the gambling addiction criteria for its self-administered questionaire because there is no current medical diagnosis of video game addiction.
Overall, 88% of youngsters surveyed said they played video games at least occasionally.
On average, they played three or four times each week, with boys playing more often. Boys also played longer, more than 14 hours per week, while girls played more than nine hours.” (

On August 21st, 2009 the world’s largest international news media agency reported
“Video games might be regarded as an obsession for youngsters but in fact the average player is aged 35, often overweight, introverted and may be depressed, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the behavior of 552 adults aged between 19 to 90 from the Seattle-Tacoma area.
They found 249 of these, or around 45 percent, were video-game players, with men accounting for 56 percent of these.
The researchers found that the men who played video games weighed more and used the Internet more than other men.” (New York: Reuters -

“A study done by Park and Chen differentiate between MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming) and MUDs (Multi User Domain games such as first person shooter multiplayer arenas) and distinguish the reason behind addiction to each type of game.
They use two theories of addiction, Use and Gratification Theory and Flow Theory to explain MMOG and MUD addictions. The Use and Gratification Theory explains how people use media to get specific gratifications such as personal identity, personal relationships, and diversion. These gratification needs can stem from low self-esteen, lack of personal relationships, and dissatisfaction with life.
The Flow Theory explains the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, totally unaware of their surroundings but enjoying the task and having fun while doing it. MUD players who are good at communicating through text and were socially awkward would be able to make friends through the network.
Alternatively, MMOG players found satisfaction in reaching goals, achieving high scores, and joining teams with the same skill level as them. Addictions to MMOGs were related to the flow experience, while addictions to MUDs were linked to social interaction and the Use and Gratification Theory.” (

Jerald Block, MD wrote in his August 2008 article on Pathological Computer Use (or PCU) “Current data indicates around 3% of the 174 million gamers in the USA (5.2 million) play, on average, 45 hours and buy around 2 new games each week. 
In the US, around 2 per cent of the gamers – that is, 4m[illion] people – are heavy users. They average around 40 hours a week, some playing less, some much more. One out of three gamers – 66m[illion] people – play around 20 hours each week. It is people like these who helped generate a record $18b[illion] (£9.1bn) in US sales last year.
In one study from Asia, a typical patient had more than two other diagnoses in addition to compulsive computer use.
Most patients want medication, such as a stimulant, to wake them up during the day. They do not want to change the way they use computers; they just want to sleep less and to work more efficiently.
When technology is used compulsively, it soaks up at least 10 to 12 hours a day; it redefines relationships to include virtual entities and objects, like the computer itself; it encourages processing emotion through the computer.”

The promise of online gaming is a reward it cannot deliver, as it is controversially structured in a way to require the complete attention of the user as well as often a disportionate amount of time from them.
The travesty of gaming is that it offers nothing of significance or value for the gamer’s investment beyond a simulation of both. 

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