It's 10 pm. Do you know where you and your loved ones are? Here is a collection of experiences from those who live / have lived with an obsessive MMOG gamer and from those who have lived the experience of obsessive MMOG gaming.

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's the time of the year again to wish everyone Happy Holidays and a good upcoming year. It's a good time to reflect a little and for me personally, time to feel a little sentimental.

So sure, sometimes I think back about my time in Norrath, the other life that I had for a while. And while I don't have any desire to go back, I also do not regret my time there. It was fun and exciting, and the comraderie felt real (for a while, at least).

What I do regret are the things I missed out on while I was tied up on the computer ... instead of reading up on my epic quests, I could have read a few greek philosophers; instead of debating strategies and politics in our guild and on the server, I could have gone out and done some things I've always wanted to do; instead of chatting with people online, I could have collected "can you believe that?" dating stories; instead of conquering Lord Nagafen in his lair, I could have done some real trekking across the globe.

Thankfully, it is often not too late to change things. But even when we know and want that, there is one thing that can hold us back: Fear.

Changes seem a threat to our existence. We cannot predict the outcome of change and as a result, we feel a loss of control. We cannot imagine how things could possibly be better than the current situation. We are afraid to be humiliated, to feel shame or worse, to have no respect for ourselves. We are afraid that our decision to change might - as a direct result - bring about misery. And we wouldn't have anyone else to blame for it. So, staying in a predictable pattern is safe and give us the predictable satisfaction level.

This - by the very nature of predictability - means that we limit our level of joy to something that's been previously experienced. It's so easy to forget that sometimes things we never thought about may bring us much more joy than anything we would have expected.

Before this year ends (if you care about yourself) take some time off from your routine (even if it's just for a cup of coffee / tea) and think about what you could do to make things less predictable - it doesn't have to be a huge gesture. It could be as simple as deciding to go for a walk by yourself. Don't let your life be shaped solely by the boundaries of fear. Happy Holidays and take care of yourself...

Friday, December 16, 2005

This email landed in my mailbox yesterday afternoon:

As a game scholar and casual MMORPG player, I have followed your web log with interest for quite some time. I thought you might be interested in this article about addiction that I recently wrote for The San Antonio Current.

I tried to take a balanced approach: acknowledging problematic addictions while also comparing gaming behaviors to other types of media habits. My recommendations at the end of the article might be somewhat controversial, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks for making such a valuable, supportive resource available to the community. The stories posted on your site stand as a cautionary tale for all of us who enjoy these games.


I followed up with an email since he's asked me for my opinion on the conclusion that he's drawn at the end of the article....

"While I understand your arguments for and against online gaming, the one number I have been questioning is the 23 hour / week that you cite based on Nick Yee's research. From what people typically report about their own game play (total hours) and from my own experience, playing "casually" which in the MMORPG worlds means playing 3-4 hours every weeknight and most of the weekend can easily add up to 35+ hours a week. And that's not even considered "addictive" by the the average MMORPGer! It's reasonable to ask someone stay within the limits of 29 hours but what would that do if it's not being adhered to? It's easy to stay the extra hour or 3 once you're immersed in the online game, and it is exactly for that reason why TV and online games are hard to compare - TV doesn't depend on you, TV doesn't punish you for turning it off, and TV doesn't offer an alternate (idealistic) existence.

Also, I'm not quite sure if you read my story (March 17, 2004 post), but I don't believe that playing together is going to improve the relationship but more likely to polarize existing issues and differences. It's not unlike deciding to spend more time watching TV together - then again, perhaps I'm wrong, and watching more TV together has saved a relationship.

Anyways, I think it's always something worthy of discussion. I know that after playing for so many years, I made a few choices that leave me with very little time or desire to forge a parallel virtual existence. I still love fantasy, sci-fi and role-playing but I do it in my own terms now. With MMORPGs, I felt like I had lost that control."

He's emailed me back the following (posted with his permission):

"My girlfriend and I have been successful in incorporating MMOs into our relationship. During the long distance phase of our relationship, we used World of Warcraft as a way of keeping in touch with each other. (I actually wrote something about this at:
When she moved out to San Antonio, our playing time diminished considerably.

Playing together did highlight different aspects of our personalities. I am an extrovert, and she is much more introverted. I love the interactive, social aspect of the world, and she's just as happy to play stand-alone role-playing games. In a way, the game helped us to recognize these differences early in the relationship.

I think a crucial difference is that my girlfriend and I have not been caught up in the higher-level end-game content. At some point, in the mid 40s, we both just walked away from the game altogether. We've jointly experimented with other MMOs (e.g. SWG), but have not made a huge time commitment. I'm currently enjoying EQ II, but am too busy to get caught up completely.

You make a great point when you question Nick Yee's findings about the average playing time. His methodology is quite solid, but it is possible that there are other factors at work. One possibility is that people tend to under-report their addictive behaviors. However, on an anonymous public survey, there seems to be less of a reason to do so. Plus, among the most intense players, there seems to be real pride in the amount of time they've devoted to the game.

A second possibility is that our impressions of the MMO universe are affected by the people with whom we interact in the virtual world. Since I tend to play at the lower to middle levels, my perception is that most people are able to contain their addiction. If one plays at the higher end of the game, it is more likely that they would encounter gamers who display problematic behaviors.

The tragic thing is that Blizzard and SOE must have access to data that would shed light on the situation."

Followed by some of my own blabbering back to him:
"I ended up separating from my husband after 8 years together. I don't blame MMORPGs for that at all since the differences and underlying issues were there from the start but it certainly didn't help since we both went onto our own separate (online) lives as soon as he got me playing....

I think you and your girlfriend did the "natural" thing when playing time decreased when she moved out to San Antonio. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if that did not happen and if you two were playing everyday side-by-side instead? Then again, you are playing the game together - it would be interesting to do a survey seeing how many partners play together and how many have their own separate groups and guilds - I'd be curious to see if those who have separate online friends / guilds are more likely to split up in the long run!

You are very accurate about your interpretations, especially with about mid- versus high-level play. High-level play is a very different experience and far more immersive than mid-level / raid-less play.

Oh, another reason why Nick Yee's average weekly play amount is so low is that - well, it IS an average... I would be curious to see the individual numbers reported or at least see the standard deviation (actually, it might be reported?). Without a low standard deviation it is possible that responses were polarized (i.e., half of the people reported 10 or less hours per week; half of the people reported 30+ hours per week). Anyways, I will have to get back there and have a look at the statistics.

It is really too bad that Blizzard and SOE aren't open to making their data available - in an anonymous / double-bind manner. So much could be learned from the raw data."

I think there is one thing we both agree on: Regardless how tough/insensitive/painful it is to some, these issues have to be talked about in order to allow any conclusion or improvement to be reached. There are definitely angry people on both sides of the fence. The truth is that these fences shouldn't be there in the first place because this isn't about personal opinions.

It's about personal rights and responsibilities. It's about self discovery and the pursuit of happiness. And it's about respect for others and caring for loved ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ok, so I'm not always so serious in life as I appear on here. After reading on someone's blog that I apparently stopped playing MMORPGs to focus on this blog (um ... this blog only takes me several hours each MONTH to maintain but thanks for that), I thought: "Why NOT devote some extra time and show my feeble attempts at wisecracking?" So here it goes...






WARNING: IF YOUR LIFE SUCKS, THIS GAME WILL NOT FIX IT (ok, this one's stolen from another blog)

Any takers?

"I am yet another EQ Widow. I have been with my husband for 10 yrs. We moved from ... to his home state ... two years ago.... I followed after the house sold .... When I got here he still had not gotten a job. I found work ... and took all kinds of courses to become a .... In the mean time he still did not find work. By August of 2004 I had threatened divorce. I finally had to threaten to sell the computers and the televisions before he finally put in 8 job applications. God forbid I would sell the computers. We stayed with his parents for just over a year then we moved over ... to the house he grew up in back in Feb of this year.... There is alot of work that needs to be done. Most people out here heat by wood stove. This means that trees have to be cut down and logs split months before fall and winter get here or they are not cured in time for burning. Well, we haven't done a whole lot since we came over here because he won't help with anything and I refuse to do everything myself. I already take care of my ... Mother who has lived with us as long as he's known me. I also take care of the dog and the cat. I run two motor newspaper routes .... He works one job. He comes home and goes right to his computer room and plays EQ. He usually eats in there. I recently told him that he has got to stop staying up to the wee hours of the morning then sleeping half the day away on the weekends because we are wasting precious daylight that outside things could be getting done in. We had a huge fight a couple of mornings ago which is why I came in search of a support group. I get really tired of have to take care of everything around here, including splitting the wood, cutting it to fit the stove on the saw then stacking it so we can have alternate heat and my electric bill won't be so high. I told him the other morning he was about three seconds away from a divorce and I meant it. Between MOM and I we have enough money to live on our own. He doesn't make enough to live on his own. He recently had a heart attack so the last thing he needs to do on the weekends is sit behind that computer all day and all night. I even called his Mom the other day. I was ready to hold an intervention. He has gotten better since our big blow-up the other day. He has actually done a few things around the house. His behavior is that of a child not an adult. I hate that this game has put us in this position but I don't thing sueing is the answer either. I can't believe how many marriages this thing has ruined. Hopefully I will be able to bring my husband back to reality before it is too late if it isn't already. Mine happens to be his guilds treasurer! I havne't minded him playing his role playing games in the past but this one is different. As we have all found out. I like to play my computer games too but I don't do the role playing thing. I like puzzles and mentally challenging games. Right now he has to get motivated to do all the things we didn't get done over the summer because his whole family is coming here for Christmas dinner and his brother and his ... boys are going to stay a few days. Maybe his brother can talk to him about it while he's here.... If he slips back to where he was a few days ago my next tactic is to ask him how he would like it if I played my computer games and didn't make dinner, or do laundry or do the grocery shopping. How would he like that?! If that doesn't get his attention I don't know what will."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A good friend sent me this recently: The Noob.

If you want to distance yourself from your inner (online) elf/dwarf/troll..., this is a good place to start.

"I am a recovering EQA. It started about 2 years ago. I had just gotten married and was leaving a bad job after several years of suffering. My wife encouraged me to go on unemployment and pursue the field that I really cared about. She said she would take care of us financially while I made the transition. Everything was looking hopeful... My wife's brothers introduced me to EQ. They called it evercrack. I laughed it off as a ridiculous notion. Little did I know what lay in store for me. After quitting my awful job, I felt my body and mind unclench slowly. I realized that I was so unhappy before and was looking foward to relaxing for a month or two before I aggressively began pursuing new work. Thats when I started playing EQ. It started off as an hour or so a day and steadily grew. After two months, I was playing at least 8 hours a day. I would go to bed at the crack of dawn, get a few hours sleep, wake up, and then play some more. When my wife came home, I would make dinner, spend time with her until she went to bed, then get back to the game. Eventually, the time I spent with her decreased. If it was a raid night, I didn't see her at all. At first she didn't really think there was a problem. Her brothers were EQ vets but they didn't play anymore. Two months passed and I didn't start looking for work. Fast forward to one year later. Still no job but I've created quite a character in the EQ world. By this time I've been flat out lying to my wife about how I spent the days looking for work. When my savings ran out, things came to the eventual climax. I am not lying when I say that I had no idea I was addicted to this game. My wife confronted me and I felt like a cornered animal. I got defensive and said some things I should not have said. But being the amazing woman she is, she didn't give up on me. She helped me realize what had been going on. I had literally escaped into a fantasy world where I thought I was somebody of quality. I dreamed about EQ every night. When the server went down, I honestly felt like I was going to die. My marriage came so dangerously close to ending. My health suffered as well. I stopped exercising and doing any of my other hobbies, like reading books, making music, etc. I stopped seeing my friends as well. Now things are much better. Our marriage is flourishing once again. I am doing things that I used to do. I'm slowing getting my life back. But I have to say once in a while, I feel the pull. I feel it calling me. That game was so intoxicating. But I resist the urge. It's not easy and I wonder if it will get easier. That game is evil. It almost ruined my life and my marriage. Please for god's sake, make your husbands stop playing. I feel like I have blinked and two years have passed me by. And what do I have to show for it? A marriage on the mend and pieces of an old life. My wife did not deserve what I put her through. I failed her and it kills me to think that I almost lost her forever. Because of a stupid game....

On a side note - someone told me that the tradeskill system in EQ is based on a highly addictive model of risk and reward."

"My husband ... has been addicted to EQ for the past 26 months! ... I'm sure we've all said that same thing, it is running our marriage into the ground! And it really is, I noticed there was a problem about 6 months after we got the game (which ironically I bought him for his birthday… so it's quote, unquote my fault)...[he] was taking his two weeks of leave ...I was working during the day but when I would get home he would be on the computer, soon he was eating his dinner at the computer and crawling into bed just hours before I would be getting up. I figured that this behavior would stop once he had to go back to work, I was wrong. Some how he still managed to work and play just as much EQ. Soon it got to the point where we weren't spending time together and I brought it up. You would have thought that the whole world had come to a halt, he came up with some lame excuse like would you rather that I was at the bar? At least you know where I'm at, or things like, it would cost more money to go out. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, before EQ there was an awesome tavern down the street from our house and we would go in there together and play pool and darts, shoot the shit and knock back a few beers. [He] and I would always have a good time. In my efforts to understand the game I asked if he could teach me how to play, he gave me a half ass lesson and then would get frustrated when I asked questions. Since I prefer not to be yelled at I figured I didn't want anything else to do with it.... All of his new friends play EQ, and are single. [He] had some married friends who also played EQ and I would hang out with their wives, but [he] and one them got into a fight about the game over changing guilds and we haven't heard from them since. [One of the married friend's wife] and I aren't talking because of our husbands and it just sucks, my friend ... is the only one of my friends that knows what I'm going through, her husband however has been making big improvements on spending more time with his family. My husband however has gotten worse. I came home from work a few months ago and his friend's computer was in our house, my dinning room had been taken over. His friends have pretty much taken up residency at our house. There are always there at dinnertime, doesn't matter if I have the flu or not. They will not get the hint and my husband doesn't care. He gets so involved with his game that he will say things like 'oh honey I didn't realize you've been home' yet I've been home for hours. About 2 months ago I went out a bought myself a computer since I could never use ours and set it up in the spare room. Since we live in an apartment and were not allowed to have another cable jack installed I went with the wireless Internet, I discussed this with [him] and had it installed. Apparently there was a problem with the setup and it wouldn't allow him to log on his game, he missed his raid. He accused me of doing it on purpose and we got into a huge fight over it, until the whole thing got fixed. Then I got to hear about it for days. Yesterday he disconnected the wireless Internet leaving me with no access for my computer. I was told that I could move my computer out into the dinning room with the other ones if I wanted service. And I'll be damned if that happens. Because I know what will happen, he will download his game on there and play the two computers at the same time. I'm not sure what has pushed me closer to the edge, not having time with my husband or having to take care of all the household responsibilities on top of working a full time job. I've tried going on strike but that doesn't seem to matter because I'm the one that can't stand the mess, he couldn't care less. Then I end up with much more on my plate to do. My marriage is falling apart and I'm ALMOST to where I don't care. I hardly bother spending much time at home because I can't relax and unwind in my home. I have turned my attention towards working out at the gym, which he makes fun of. I guess I can't have a hobby that is actually good for you. I'm at a loss for what to do. And if things don't change I'm done."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Here is a news item I stumbled upon by pure chance - which feeds into what I said in the previous post about loneliness...

Tech guru dials into gaming's social side
Quote: "Hawkins started to feel that something about video games was lacking. Madden Football might be astoundingly realistic, yet it's played by only about 5% of the people who watch the Super Bowl, Hawkins says. Participants in fantasy leagues - a very low-fidelity activity based on statistics from real football games - outnumber video game football players 3 to 1.... So, Hawkins spent time thinking about what people need, not just want. As we become more mobile, 'There's a loneliness we feel in our society,' Hawkins says. 'We want to grab onto what we've lost.'"

Needless to say... stay tuned?

Another story arrived in the mailbox today. Thank you.

You brought up point that I have not commented on much but may have some significance: loneliness. Is one of the reasons why people spend hours and hours online because they want to feel less alone in this world?

"Hello, this is another story of MMOG addiction only that this time it's from the addict's point of view. Let me start by saying that I'm 19 years old and currently working as a programmer.

It all starts back in the early High School, I was an excellent student, I had goals in my life and you could call me a good looking guy. At that time I started playing games at my free time, situation wasn't very bad I was just having my fun. Later on I discovered online games and the experience was much better. This kept going on and every year that passed I would find a new game and I would get even worse addiction. At my last year of high-school were my exams were the most critical of all the years I was very badly addicted with a MMOG. School, Comptuer, Sleep. That was my schedule. At that time I lost a girl that cared for me, I lost most of my friends because I was never there for them, I stopped being a good looking guy because I never exercised and I lost a lot of weight. In the end I failed in my exams, got in a low-grade university and gave up my dream of being an Engineer. After that the summer that followed I got the game called World of Warcraft. I played and played and played and played. At some point I had played around 100 hours in 1 week. Then I left, for 2 months I went away from my city to a place where I didn't have a computer. In the beggining I was very bored a bit later though I got used to it, made a few new friends and had a nice summer. Then I returned home and the addiction kept going. Around 1 month after summer I got a job which limited my playtime to around 4-5 hours a day. Now 3 months later I still got my job and I still raid almost everynight. I'm still alone and I still hate myself for doing this. Why don't you stop you might say? Well I believe that's the point of my whole mail.

I have asked myself many times: Do I like this life? No I don't. Many times I've thought to log on my account and destroy all the items on my hunter and delete the character itself (that character IS one of the best equipped in game) but then I think: "Then what?"
What am I going to do after I stop playing? I don't have friends, I don't have someone to care for me. My life will be even emptier after that. We live in a world of fashion. A world where you got to be trendy to be liked, I'm not that. I hate how all the people wear masks and hide behind them the same way we hide behind our characters in-game. They talk shit for a "friend" of theirs and when that "friend" arrives they kiss him and talk with him.

I'm really sad that I've given up the life I once had because the friendships I had were real and not with people wearing masks.I wish I could have it back but you can't go back in time can you? I guess I'll keep playing, maybe one day something will make me change but untill then I don't want to be more alone than I already am because believe it or not when we "talk to the computer", we do actually talk to real persons that keep us company when we stay up at nights playing."

Friday, December 09, 2005

"I am an EQA. I fit the description perfectly. My husband is also an EQA. We our leaders of a guild in EQ2. We are both 31, we are both parents of 2 lovely girls. I don't know exactly how our gaming got to this point but it is out of control. It is like it is sucking the life right out of me (us). I was once a great mom, my home was always a nice, cheery place to visit, I used to like to read, workout, play with my kids. It seems lately all of this has come to a screeching halt and I am so tired of it. I'm sick of it all!!!

I can't even remember the last time I read my ...-yr old a story or played with her. My .. yr old daughter is so busy, she is at that akward age where she needs me.. I mean, really needs me, yet I push her away for a dumb ass game that is meaningless... just truly meaningless really. My ... year old hates this game, she says it to us all the time. Normally, I would just tell her it is an alternative to watching TV, but it is not. When you are gaming, you are totally emersed in the game...and for hours. That doesn't happen with TV.

My house is a wreck and my life is a wreck. I feel very unhealthy. I am done with the game. Period. And I hope that my husband will do the same. For all of those hardcore gamers out there that won't listen to reason... quit now.. just STOP!!! Do something else, anything!!! Look at your little girl's face when you shut off your stupid computer and read her a story instead, look at her eye's whenshe is desperately seeking your attention... but the raid you are in is so overly-important. The raid is not IMPORTANT. When you die, you are not going to be remebered for all that uber gear you acquired in those raids, but you WILL be remembered for being a good mother/father/wife/husband. You will be remembered for doing valiant deeds in REAL LIFE. There are other ways to escape and other things to focus on. As long as they are not hurting anyone go DO THEM!!!

This is going to be difficult for me, folks. It is 3 am now and usually I would just be signing off my game around this time, but instead I am cancelling my account and erasing my uber character from all existence. It has been over a year now since I have wasted my time on this godforsaken game and I will waste no more. I have seen

This is what I got from EQ2 :

Unhappy kids.
Loss of friendships. REAL friendships.
Loss of a good job.
Failure in school.
Loss of good health.
Poor sex drive.
Lack of motivation.
Detachment from family.

WOW! What great accomplishments! I must have been crazy to let this go on for so long!"