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Just One More Hour
All gamers are familiar with that feeling of being so engrossed in their game that dinner just has to wait. We sometimes delay toilet trips for longer than we should. It is not unusual to try and stand up after a gaming session to find your legs are stiff and unresponsive from sitting in the same position for too long.
When it comes to being engrossed in a game and unwilling to take a break multiplayer games are the worst offenders. You can always pause a single player game and nothing will happen while you are AFK (away from keyboard). However when you are playing with other people online they will not wait politely while you grab a sandwich. If you aren’t careful you will return to find a twitching corpse.
MMORPGs are especially bad for encouraging you to stay focussed continually for hours on end. Asking your party to stand around in a clearing while you go for a dump tends to detract from the whole fantasy world illusion. If you are part of a guild, clan or faction then you will have specific demands on your time. You will be expected to help the cause of your group and sometimes you will be playing as part of a large party. Halting for one person is rarely an option and the pressure to stay glued to the game can be intense.
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World of Warcraft Pod
You can definitely take these things too far. If you are considering buying a commode or quitting your job to get in a few extra hours of gaming then you might be in trouble. As a test for all you World of Warcraft junkies what is your reaction to this pod? Created at MIT this is a self contained WoW pod with a computer that runs the game, a built in toilet and cooking facilities.
The pod itself is clearly based on in game architecture and you sit on a throne which doubles up as a toilet. There is a swing out keyboard, a monitor and surround sound. There is water within reach and an automated cooking stove which prepares your WoW inspired food and announces in game when it is ready. It even automatically puts you into AFK mode so you have a chance to wolf down the meal.
This is a research project at the moment and there are no plans to develop it commercially. However, be honest, was your first thought, where can I get one of these? If it was then you may have a problem.
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Obsession not Addiction
The so called “addictive" nature of MMORPGs has already caused some controversy. There have been cases of people playing MMOs for so long that they drop dead. It is important to remember to take breaks and make sure you eat. Obsession is never a good thing and despite some attempts to categorise unhealthy behaviour as addiction obsession is a more accurate term. MMORPGs may be fun but they aren’t really addictive.
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Online Gamers Anonymous
There actually is an organisation called Online Gamers Anonymous which styles itself after Alcoholics Anonymous. They even have a twelve step program to help gamers kick their habit. For me this is taking things too far. It is a matter of common sense and willpower, don’t try to blame the game for being enjoyable. There is nothing physically addictive about MMORPGs, it’s like Michael Douglas saying he is addicted to sex. What he really means is that he enjoys it a lot and doesn’t have the willpower to stop doing it. Trying to label things as addictions is about devolving personal responsibly for your actions which is just wrong when it comes to games.
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Are You Obsessed?
Doing some research for this article I have come across various discussions on this issue and lots of people recounting stories about obsessive gaming. There are also classic questions to determine whether you are overly obsessed. They pretty much apply to determining whether you have an unhealthy obsession with anything.
- Do you find yourself having to play for longer to get the same satisfaction?
- Do you think about the game when you are offline?
- Do you lie to friends or family about how much you play?
- Do you feel angry or restless when you don’t play?
- Do you feel as though you can’t stop?
- Do you use it as an escape from reality?
- Have you risked losing a job because of your obsession?
- Have you risked losing a relationship because of your obsession?
I can answer yes to a lot of these. If it wasn’t an escape from reality why would I bother with it at all? Surely that’s the basis of all entertainment? I’ve never felt the need to lie about my gaming hours, I’m not ashamed. The last two questions are the only ones you should really worry about and if you can answer yes to either of them then you need to change something about your life.
If your girlfriend or boyfriend is getting annoyed by your habit then you could always try to get your partner playing MMORPGs too.
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Variety is Spice of Life
Life is full of amazing things to do and there isn’t a single one that can command all of my attention. As the saying goes variety is the spice of life and for me all games become boring if I play them too much. There are always new releases to try out and it is always that initial thrill that is the most exciting. Perhaps that’s the reason I have played a lot of MMO games but never really stuck with one for longer than a couple of months.
I’ll leave you with a cautionary tale from a couple of years ago which freaked me out when I first read about it. Naturally it is from China which seems to be the home of extreme obsessive gaming and it centres on a report from the Shanghai Daily about a young man called Xiao Yu. According to the story the 17 year old high school student played for so long he suffered a detached retina and subsequently went blind. If that doesn’t encourage you to take a break I don’t know what will.