As I sat down for my fortieth attempt at getting a 100% note score on My Name Is Jonas, a friend innocently remarked, “Mike, man, you’re obsessed with this game.” I denied this assertion, but then later, when I had taken over my friends’ turns to try attempt number 67, I began to wonder if it was true. What exactly constitutes obsession with a game? The most obvious examples that spring to mind are the stereotypical images of fat, pizza-faced twenty-year-olds locked in their parents’ basements playing World of Warcraft for days on end, sometimes without stopping for rest, food or even defecation (if you think that that South Park episode was ridiculous, check out this link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/02/28/wgamer128.xml). Multiple people have died from becoming so obsessed with games that they don’t stop playing for necessities. Almost all of these cases occur in Asia, where videogames are a huge part of pop culture. The biggest gaming events draw hundreds of thousands of fans, and in terms of TV ratings can rival the Super Bowl’s impact in the United States. The most famous players are treated as rock stars, with all the fame and danger that comes with it (stalkers are not unheard of, nor are marriage requests). Players join sponsored teams with their own fan clubs and merchandise. When videogames are so prevalent in a society’s culture it is only natural that a few people take it to an extreme. After all, there are plenty of people in America who are obsessed with sports. However, when does a passion for gaming turn into an obsession?
Dictonary.com defines obsession as “the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.” In that case, what gamer hasn’t been obsessed by a specific game in his/her lifetime? Everyone has heard a song on the radio and started thinking of how it would work in Guitar Hero, or checked a website ten times in five minutes to see if the review of the next big game had finally come up, or had a dream of being crushed by falling Tetris blocks (okay, maybe I’m alone on that one). However, that definition does not really work for me, because it isn’t strong enough. Obsession connotes a fascination with a subject so strong that it directly impacts your life in a negative way. Not eating because you are trying to power-level your crafting alt can safely be considered an obsession. However, obsession can impact your life in subtler ways as well. Not going to a social event or two because of a new game may seem harmless at the time, but it just makes it that much easier to skip the next event as well, leading to a snowball effect. This in turn leads to such rare cases as the one I linked to above.
Gaming obsession has become so serious that China has implemented “anti obsession” measures into online games that only allow players to play a game for three hours a day before it begins to impose gameplay penalties on the characters, including reduced health and wealth, as well as banning people under 18 from entering internet cafes. It may seem like quite the overreaction, but China loses an estimated 7 percent of its labor-hours to online gaming, a stupefying percentage. And the effects from concern about gaming obsession are beginning to be felt stateside. If a player is playing for an hour or two on Wii Sports, the game will freeze for a second and bring up a little banner saying that you should turn off the TV and go outside for a while. Things really have gotten bad if gaming companies are telling you to stop playing their products.
If you, having read this blog, realize that gaming is negatively impacting your own life, don’t worry. You can always catch a flight to Amsterdam to attend the world’s first detoxification center for gaming addiction. I think I might need it. Does staying up till 4 a.m. trying to perfect “When You Were Young “ count as an obsession?
Okay, okay. One ticket to Amsterdam, please.