Beware of Addiction

By: Ziggy Salvation

(5 min read)

Addiction is often a phrase used for various substances. For more of us than we sure care to admit, alcohol, drugs, hell, and even food are tough to fight. There is another addiction that you don’t hear a whole lot about, and that addiction can easily take you over in the pixelated sense if you’re not careful.

Many of us in the gaming space have a very competitive side, and it can be found in a multitude of game genres. In most survival games, you or those you play with work to gather materials, build bases and weapons, and continually assemble to get the next tier of said items. You are often working around the clock tirelessly to get the edge against other players that may try to impede on that success with a hostile takeover. The difference in the online realm of survival games is the things you gather and work so hard to gather for the betterment of your group. When you lose, you don’t simply just turn your game off and get it all back when you turn it back on. It’s GONE! That being said, you’ll often find that people that are really into those types of games, that play at a higher tier, often schedule life in the real world around the availability of their time they can play the game to contribute to the bigger goal of keeping what they’ve worked so hard to build.

Now, when talking about addiction, there is a genre of games that is fairly dominant in the space of getting people to put the game first, even over their real lives, jobs, and loved ones. They’re called MMORPGs, short for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, and often referred to as MMOs. These games are an entirely different animal that I can speak in great volumes about simply because I’ve played the same one for LITERALLY over 20 years, and the game is still coming out with new content every other year, keeping its players engaged and growing with the title.

I’ve been an avid World of Warcraft player since 2002 when I was privileged to be one of the first 100 people to privately alpha test the game before it even had an official title, and since the first login, I’ve been hooked. In these types of games, you choose a character, in this case, one of 22 different races and 12 classes, that you customize everything from how their armor looks to facial features and hair color. This process in itself gives the player a connection to their character. 

In games of this genre, players are given quests to complete by doing a multitude of various tasks. Every other character that you see that you can’t attack as part of the quest are other players somewhere in the world playing at the same time you are. You can chat with them, group up for combined efforts, and many other social aspects. There are also guilds, and player-made clans, where players can gather under the same banner and do many other things in the game. This right here is where the game can take a turn from being a game to an addiction. After playing for so long with the same people day in and day out and getting to chat with them, naturally, you get to know people and gain friendships. I have some of the most solid friendships, and they’re with people I’ve never seen outside of the clump of pixels they are in the game. It becomes your after-work drink, looking forward to seeing your friends after a long day and playing together. In my opinion, it’s one of the most intriguing aspects of the game but also the hook to keep you engaged in the game. The crazy part of it all is seeing the choices they make in the game affect their lives in real life or IRL.

An example, back in circa 2007, a younger and much more sleep-resistant Ziggy was fully engulfed in World of Warcraft. I led a guild of just over a couple of hundred members, and we were doing end-game content, as in trying to conquer the hardest bosses in the game with a raid team of between 20-40 people. This is where the game gets exciting. You have to coordinate all these people and personalities to come together to properly execute their characters collectively to defeat each individual boss. To be honest, it is almost like comparing the sensation to winning a championship game on a team sport.

The industry as a whole has changed in recent years. They realize the hardcore players of the early and mid-2000s are now in their middle to late thirties and, more often than not, are found married with children and have less time than they once did in their youth to pour into the games they love so much. So these days, you see a lot of flagship games entering the arena, and instead of playing for hours on end around the clock to continually fight that one boss or hit a certain achievement to gain an item that makes your character have a certain aesthetic, they’ve introduced the monetization of micro markets. Meaning you can buy items that give your character or an aspect of your gameplay a certain feature or look. Most of these items are on a cooldown of anywhere from one to seven days. These items from the micro markets become sort of a status symbol, almost as though it’s proof to other players how hardcore you are about the game. And with that comes where the game companies make their money, straight from your wallet, paying for goods you will never hold in your two hands. I can surely tell you one thing from personal experience: peer pressure and impulse buying are definite factors in the shop items, haha.

If we really think about it, the micro market isn’t something most of us aren’t already familiar with. Most every game you can download on your tablet or your phone, there are options for a small monetary transaction to get more lives or tries at a puzzle. This is where another aspect of addiction can sweep in unknowingly because as you play and become more invested, you’re also pressured to keep up with the current look and almost gain bragging rights over those who may have missed out on a rare item that you can boastingly show off.

My advice to anyone entering the arena, whether it’s a mobile game, console game, or computer game, make sure those in your household are given limits of what is spendable if allowed at all. In my house, we tend to reward good grades, birthdays, holidays, etc., with a little ten-dollar gift card for the PlayStation shop, that way, the option to spend is given, but he knows once it’s gone, that’s it. I find that that method makes the kid really weigh out if the item he would so frivolously spend on impulse is well thought out and really chosen to be acquired or not.


Ziggy Salvation

All Things Wellness, LLC


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