Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MMO Anti-Depressant

(appologies in advance for the emo)

Let's face it. We're not all happy people. People think I'm a good natured gal with lots of smiles and happy, happy, joy, joy feelings based off of their pereception of my game play.

Can you have MMO split personality disorder? Where in RL, you're mute and serious, and in VR, you're outgoing and dorky?

I've never been one of those people who thought everyone in the world should be happy or that living to be happy was an appropriate motto. I just live. That's it. And I hate those people who tell you that life is all about being happy and doing crap that makes you happy. It's not. That's just a dellusion.

Anyhow, my point for all the emo weirdo sh!t is that I'm wondering if WoW acts as kind of a drug. The way it enhances certain parts of your brain to be stimulated. All those endorphins sparking ... and at the same time, it can be quite meditating...especially the Outlands.

Is it unhealthy to think that you enjoy your WoW life more than your RL? or is your WoW life your RL? Can a virtual life be healthy? I feel like sometimes I can't seperate the two. Like most of my experiences with my friends and family have been acted out in the metaverse for the past 2.5 years. Are those experiences just a game and I can't see that? Or was that experience valid?

Sometimes I wake up and I get that momentary feeling of "am I in the Matrix or is the Matrix in me?"

I know.. weird.



Starman said...

It's an interesting point.

I can't say I enjoy it MORE than RL, but there are times when most people sit and read a book or watch TV and instead I log into the game. I see the game as a personal interactive movie in a way. Anyone can sit and watch Law and Order until their eyes bleed, but what do you get out of it? Not much. When you're playing a game and interacting with people, it's still interacting.

Is it a drug? That's for you to decide. For me, I hate pushing off a goal. If I have a goal to get my Karazhan key, I have to go do it. However, there are times when I have no goals for the day or week and I can simply leave the game off. Other times I'll wander over to Teldrassil and just have the game on in the background, or log into EQ1 and plop myself at the bank in Plane of Knowledge and just sit there while I clean or edit or draw or something, or just sit in EQ2 and sit around in Antonica. It's like having a window to somewhere else.

Do I NEED to be in those places to be happy? Not necessrily, but it's a lot easier to log into an MMO than to drive to PA and find a nice spot to sit in, or drive to the Jersey shore. MMOs make things convenient, and your imagination takes over.

I have found that I'll have a crappy day and finding a good group and getting something accomplished makes me happier than a bad day at work when things go wrong.

Moonknight said...

Do I think WoW is a drug? Absolutely and we all have various forms of addiction. For some, our addition is just the need to play the game. For others the game fulfills inner desires that cant be accomplished in RL.

Lets look at a definition for addition that I found on Wikipedia: Psychological dependency is a dependency of the mind, and lead to psychological withdrawal symptoms (such as cravings, irritability, insomnia, depression, anorexia etc). Addiction can theoretically form for any rewarding behavior, and is believed to be strongly associated with the dopaminergic system of the brain's reward system (as in the case of cocaine and amphetamines). some claim that it is caused as a habitual means to avoid undesired activity, but typically it is only done so to a clinical level in individuals who have emotional, social, or psychological dysfunctions, taking the place of normal positive stimuli not otherwise attained

If you think about this definition it seems that it could apply to many of our WoW lives. There are experiences we only can get in our WoW lives that seem to give us the same highs as someone on a narcotic. We also can feel the same lows of withdrawl when we are not playing. We at times also show the same signs of addiction in our ruthless pursuit of goals in game in which we ignore our RL responsibilities for another "hit" of an instance run or finishing up a quest.

I think the challenge for us is how we deal with this addiction and how it affects our real lives. I dont think it is unhealthy to enjoy our WoW life more than RL as long as you dont give in to living your entire life in WoW. WoW is meant to be an escape from RL and the hassles we deal with otherwise what would be the point of playing?

Starman said...

Is WoW meant to be an escape? I don't think the designers meant for that. I saw MMOs as a worldwide tabletop version of D&D. All my friends scattered so the only alternative was to play EQ.

The effects of the game might be addicting to some, but not others. I didn't sit around for 8 hours in Naxx because I was addicted to the game, I wanted to see the content. There's also a social part of MMOs. You want to hang with your online friends and if you're not there, they'll pass you up for someone that's online at the time.

Recently, I throttled back the time I spent obligated to the game (read: raiding). It's been SO much better doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Sure, I'm going to start doing Karazhan, but I'll no longer feel that I have to push to see it all. What I learned from 5 months in Naxx, 5 days/week is that it could all be worthless with the next patch.

But I agree that how we deal with it in real life can be a challenge. I think sometimes 'what would I be doing if I wasn't playing WoW?'. Well, for one I'd be playing Final Fantasy XII :D. Spending time with my kids is a moot point after 9, and my wife doens't watch everything I like anyway, so I'm back to doing what I want to do, be it drawing, playing guitar, doing something in Photoshop.

For me personally, the social interaction is more important to me than anything else. I hate soloing, even though I had to. I'd rather hang with friends doing nothing than beat bosses.

Anonymous said...

I think if you are at all 'worried' about it then it might be time to take a step back. While TV analogies do have some sway, most folks dont sit and watch 3+ hours of one show a night. Certainly not for 5 nights a week.

While you can have significant events online I don't think they are as valid as RL stuff. I mean it's fair enough if you already have a partner/kids etc but that stuff takes time to do and while you are online you can be wasting your life away. Sure a few days here and there isn't any biggie but soon it's a year and then it's 2 and then...

Also there's the switch between Virtual and RL. Do you know your online mates in RL? Then it'snot so bad, especialy if you socialise outside of the game. But if online becomes the main reason you go to work to earn money and you find yourself gaining/loosing alot of weight because of long hours at a monitor then I think you really should question what you are doing to yourself. Just as much as I would question a keen sports player who spendsover the odds on training shoes or equipment. Servicable quality equipment is one thing but become obsesive is not healthy IMO.

I certainly get concerned if my brothers spend every night down the pub, and they have a right to be concerned if I am online every night of the week for hours without breaks.

Fortunatley TBC has turned out not to be as amazing as I was led to believe. I have hit 70 and now I am not fussed about raiding or questing. I've started an alt and I am plodding along with him. I stop playing at about 10.00 each night. In fact I would say our guild is almost dying because of it. Those of us who need to attune aren't desperate for it so it's not happening.

Recently I moved apartment and while I didn't have broadband I really thought I'd miss (or that i should miss) being online, but it wasn't that big a deal and now I have the internet back I am not that fussed.

In WoW last year I found myself crying when guildies left, these were folks who I knew only a few months. Compare that to when a family member dies I was rightly devastated when my Grandma died last year but I had known her all my life and she had helped make me the man I am today my guildies helped em fill a few hours a week.

I guess I am saying would you be more upset if your best online pal quit or your uncle died? I know it sounds a bit ham fisted but WoW isn't the Matrix. Sure it's an interesting way to pass the time but it soon becomes repetative and for me I begin to feel like a hamster in a cage running on a wheel. Yes it's fun, yes I have friends in game but they aren't all that special to me that I would let them effect my life again.

As for WoW being an anti depressant, I know many folks who are borderline depressives who self medicate, be it with computer games, the pub, reading or whatever. Escapism is healthy and can help with 'depression' but ultimatley you have to find out why you are depressed and then work on that. For me alot of the WoW thing is feeling that I have achieved something and am in the top strata of a society, but that's not going to help with my RL goals of learning to drive and getting my own apartment and one day having kids. WoW can't do any of them and if I get too deeply into WoW I will never get the things in life I really want.

WoW will end one day and I don't want that to be a crisis in my life so I am easing myself away from the game. Many of my guildies are gettting burnt out now they made the big initial effort with TBC and now its like they have had too many sweets, or too much to drink and they have made themsleves ill. You can over do the euphoria. I am taking advantage of beign washed out and getting on with the things in life I need to do before it gets too late.


Anonymous said...

Well, first off, I think Wow is just something different. I totally get what you say about WoW and the whole RL thing. Im sorry to say, but WoW life is just way more interesting than the normal boring life we have. We are so limited by everything. Its weird but when I play WoW, sometimes I just feel more free than when im in RL. When I am in WoW, I can be ANYTHING I want. In RL, its not the case, my personality in WoW is definately different that in RL. Sometimes I use WoW as an escape for my RL. Lets face it, RL can be extremely shitty. But somehow when I get on WoW, that whole RL mortal coil just melts off, and I become my character in a way. Those experiences you've had in the game are completely valid. They have happened and theres nothing anyone can do to change it. I have tons of wonderful experiences in WoW and damned proud of it. Its weird how such a synthetic world can make us so happy...

Matt Tan said...

A major flaw in the WoW environment that Alachia had pointed out in an early episode, is that it is too easy to block out the negative.

Perhaps it could be as simple as realising which life you find easier to live with.

Shawn said...

As a teenager I was a quiet, timid dork at high school, but when I went to my church youth group I was a funny, well-liked, outgoing goofball. Most of the kids at youth group were form another school which helped separate my two worlds. I enjoyed youth group and felt accepted and that changed how I behaved.

WoW isn't like that for me, but I see how it could be like that for others. Different environments and communities bring out different parts of ourselves. It's the difference between with coworkers in theh breakroom and hanging out with your friends at the coffeeshop. Different levels of enjoyment, expectations, commonality, etc.

Should you enjoy the whole of your WoW life more than the whole of your RL? I've got two thoughts on this:

1) My first instinct is to say no, I would hope that everyone has some friends or family who they love and enjoy and interact with face to face regularly and makes them content.

2) I'm not sure I like the question. What's with the separation between a WoW life and a "real" life? As far as I am concerned my WoW life is a part of my real life. My interactions, thoughts and feelings are is real in WoW as they are at work, at home, while playing golf, or while having a beer and watching football.

I think WoW can be problematic if it is interfering with your health (physical, social, mental, spiritual) or if it is seriously getting in the way of things you want, but otherwise WoW4Life, baby.

Anonymous said...

These are powerful and important questions.

I'm soooo new to WOW (first account created March 1st) and yes, I have had to rearrange some of my RL to match my new-found addiction. Psychologically and sociologically it is an interesting phenomenon, a shared virtual experience in which we all decide to build an alternate reality. There is an amazing amount of research that needs to be done in this area. I've never been able to stick to a "video game" very long. I seem to get bored too quickly and never complete said game. WOW and MMOs in general offer a connected and collaborative experience and that's what keeps me coming back. The fact that it is a beautiful world that Blizzard has created is just icing on the cake. Choice is also a powerful ingredient. I took a night off questing and simply explored a new city with a "friend". Sitting in a dark room and becoming part of the environment there were times that I forgot that the experience wasn't real. It feels the same as if one were in fact visiting Paris, or New York for the first time (except it's much easier to get around). This is something that traditional video games can't offer. I believe this goes back to a tribal human need to feel connected to something, part of a community. In this particular community, you also have the added bonus to live out your fantasies and create an entirely new you. No wonder it's addictive.

Quest on!

Anonymous said...

Strange interesting point, need to think on it more now.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree wit the split personality bit. But i see where you are coming from.

In game i like to think i'm a talented PvPer, i listen well to the leader's instructions and act accordingly which often ends in the leader personally telling me in vent after the instance that he is happy with how i reacted. Yeah it makes me feel good.
But in game, I'm a nice person. When someone asks for gold my response used to be:
'I'm a bunny... hop hop hop...' and each whisper after that from the begger deserved a repeat phrase which ended in ME getting blocked by the BEGGER. This fascinated and humoured me... so i thought I was doing the right thing.

After that I started feeling bad for them, I think it was about the time i hit 70 and i got SO many whispers when i went into Orgrimmar (i get none like that while in Shattrath. I changed my response to thinking 'How do THEY feel? Why do they think they deserve my gold which i earned!'... and i came to the conclusion that they may simply not know how to achieve some of the things I have achieved IG. So my response changed to things like:
'I have no respect for Beggers. Go out, earn experience - gold - loot and be respected for it. Power leveling results in high level players who have no idea how to interact in the game. Learn and be happy that you did.'
That usually ended in a 'Ok, thanks.'

If in the future I come across a begger in the street (which thankfully has generally not happened) I would like to think I would buy him/her a sandwich and a bottle of water. Much more helpful that 'Get a job!'

But i may seem to be going off in a tangent, my point is i think my RL life is reflected in game. Sometimes i learn things in each world which help me in the other world. Strange concept I know.

I am a nice person in game, i think courtesy costs nothing and is often rewarded with a good run, some nice friends etc.

I don'y think WoW is a drug for me, yes I accept Im probably addicted to it... (Denial alarms anyone? :P )

And in response to your point:

"Is it unhealthy to think that you enjoy your WoW life more than your RL? or is your WoW
life your RL?"

I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You can kick back, stop worrying about your workload... your failed relationships or whatever is happening in your real life, and interact with some friends in a really nice virtual world with so many awesome things to do.

So SO many friends have been made. I would definitely go as far as to say that I trust some of my IG friends enough to do things for me like take care of me if I had a few too many drinks at a party... that is if it were in real life.
A few examples are there is this one lady me and a friend met online by chance who we now both stay in contact with. We would ring each other on Skype regularly just for a chat. My friend now plays Poker with her online regularly and she is actually coming to visit during summer as she was visiting in the area about ten years ago and really enjoyed it.
- Big big trust on all sides. But we do not think of these things lightly.

Another friend is a guy in San francisco i met IG a few months back who actually offered me an online job when he heard i couldn't find a part-time one over here while in University. He has invited me to head out some time so we can go out and hang out in real life.... once i'm 21 that it, I can't drink in America yet... the concept is still strange to me as it is legal here.

Ok i may have went SLIGHTLY too in-depth but i didn't want to state my points without backing them up.

Be happy alachia, don't worry about going Emo on your blog. It's your blog. Who are we to judge you :)

Anonymous said...

You Bring up a couple of different and completely separate points.

Can you have a split personality?

You bet! I've participated in a lot of Medieval recreation guilds, Renaissance fairs and that sort of thing. Often times, once people get in costume, they often are completely different from their "Civilian" persona's. Just look at peoples behavior on Halloween for an example, and that's just off the rack costumes!

One of my fiends told me there is no better way to get rid of peoples inhibitions than to give them a mask. There is no bigger mask than the internet.

On the plus side, maybe this is the real you trying to get out! :)

In all seriousness, the real reason you are such a sunny person in the game is probably that you are having a good time. It's hard to be dour when you're having fun.

As for WoW being a drug. I think it is for some people. Back in College I had a lot of friends in the drama department. It went hand in hand with being in historical reenactment. There were whispers about some of the drama students that were being watched by the teachers. It seemed the faculty thought these students believed the parts they were playing were more real than their real life. If it can happen there it can happen here.

A more apt question is can WoW take over your life? Sure. Have you ever heard of Golf Widows? The Husband is out all day playing golf and leaves the wife at home (or the other way around). The only thing that makes WoW seem more freaky is that it is VR and so people fear that you are getting lost in the virtual world. If this was golf, people would just roll their eyes and think no more of it.

Part of this is nothing to worry about. People do tend to jump into new hobbies with both feet. I remember when I got my ham radio license. I was on the radio ALL the time. In the morning, evening, on the way to work and back. When I moved to an apartment and couldn't have outside antennas, I put one on the back of my truck and drove out to the point in Richmond (CA). Looking back on it, parking in a poorly lit, deserted part of the San Francisco Bay shore late at night wasn't one of my brighter ideas! :)

The big litmus test comes as it does with drugs of any sort. Is it interfering with your life. If you give up TV shows for another type of entertainment, you are not in trouble. However when you'd rather spend time online than do things you are suppose to be doing or when you lose touch with real people because you are spending time with virtual people, you need to reexamine your time spent.

Is it unhealthy to think that your WoW time is more fun than RL? Heck no. None of us has a real life nearly as interesting and varied as any we can create online. That's why we have MMORPGs. However, if you can't separate the two, you need to step back. If you can't say, "Wanna hear what happened in the game last night?" and know that it was the game, it's time to cut back.

Anonymous said...

Don't you noobs ever get tired of regurgitating the same shit over and over? I know, WoW is your first mmorpg, /jizz. Oh no, I don't know what is happening to me. I enjoy killing pixels more than yapping at morons at a bar.

Who gives a fuck? Just play the game and STFU with your emo nonsense.

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