Addiction Revisited

Since posting on the state of video game addiction and it’s rehab centers, I found this link via Gameology.org showing the dark side of addiction.

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Rose Online

My daughter started playing this mmorpg – Rose Online, geared towards pre/teens (7 day or 35hour free trial). The graphics are adorable, as you play slight anime children who fight jelly beans, flowers and pumpkins (so far that is). You can play the usual gamut of classes (fighter, caster, healer and vendor). But what I like the most about it, is that although there are quite a number players, given their age range, there is little online in terms of out of game, third party information sites – which makes the exploration of the game a little more fun (in my opinion – a little more frustrating in my daughter’s).

What I find interesting is that she enjoys the rpg game, but is not interested in communicating with the other players. Surely age and shyness has something to do with it, but the odd thing is (imo) is that she is not really interested in playing single player rpg’s that would give her the play she likes without the hassle of other players. Back to the playing alone together theory I suppose.

The Growing Realm of Addiction

My skin crawls when I see articles such as this one. The opening of a “gamer addiction” center, to help people of all ages kick their addiction. I agree that people can be addicted per se to playing games. I think anyone with an addictive personality can be addicted to anything really. But I get worried of the increasing medicalization of addiction – and not in the psychological sense, but in the physical one.

Some show withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking and sweating, when they look at a computer.

I wonder where the rehab centers for ex-athletic children are. The ones who undoubtedly suffer from a decrease in strength due to the diminished quantity of excercise. I remember when I was doing yoga and working out weekly, if I missed a week let alone two, my muscles felt cramped and I had an increased desire to stretch. Yes – I am stretching the point a little far, but I cannot imagine anyone going into the shakes from not playing a good stretch of WoW. Distraction thinking about missing out on the ‘haps’ in the game maybe – but the shakes?

And I wonder what constitutes “addiction” if you don’t have the symptons? Is it purely defined by “I used to play alot and now I don’t want to?” or must it be accompanied by physical symptons. “I’m sorry sir, you arent REALLY addicted to video games – you don’t exhibit enough of the symptons to fall into that category”.

The article gives a (ludicrous) example of a guy who played games and smoked pot. Thinking he had a drug problem, went to drug rehab. But alas! Silly man! Twas not the drugs!!! it was the video games:

Hyke van der Heijden, 28, a graduate of the Amsterdam program, started playing video games 20 years ago. By the time he was in college he was gaming about 14 hours a day and using drugs to play longer.

“For me, one joint would never be enough, or five minutes of gaming would never be enough,” he said. “I would just keep going until I crashed out.”

Van der Heijden first went to Smith & Jones for drug addiction in October 2005, but realized the gaming was the real problem. Since undergoing treatment, he has distanced himself from his smoking and gaming friends. He says he has been drug-and game-free for eight months.

I guess it all just goes against so much literature I have read, along with many of my friends and colleagues. No one has to claim that video games are perfect, and all good things come from moderation if one were to be pragmatic. But to make claims such as the one below makes me very sad given all the social research about online communication that is out there.

“We have kids who don’t know how to communicate with people face-to-face because they’ve spent the last three years talking to somebody in Korea through a computer,” Bakker said. “Their social network has completely disappeared.”

Symbolic Order of Furniture

I have been reading Baudrillard’s ‘The system of objects’, and have been quite taken with his analysis of the role of furniture in socio-cultural history. How social status and structure is defined through the materiality of the home, how it reflects the nature of the family. I never really thought about my furniture before beyond its function and comfort. Yes, I admit that there is an obvious connection between material ‘things’ and social status (marble over melamine), but what I see Baudrillard talking about is a bit different. He talks about the architecture of old homes being many rooms, compartmentalized by social status and familial hierarchy. The dinning room is a room that is disappearing in contemporary homes that favor open concept living. Mirrors are decorative elements are diminishing, becoming more and more purely functional. Family portraits are waning etc, etc. All this a reflection of the change in society.

When I think about it, I am startled at how it makes so much sense. That when we are young, we buy functional furniture (usually low to mid price, with a short life span). There is no symbolic order in the furniture. The pieces don’t mean anything except their function. As people grow up, marry and have children, there is often a tendency to move towards furniture that moves beyond its function, becoming both a functional and symbolic artefact.

I am trying to think through my work on identity in mmo’s with this… the difference between symbolic and functional order. At what stage is the symbolic element implemented? How does materiality or the virtuality of material alter the potential symbolism? functionalism? Is it relevant at all? Or is it just a really interesting thought project that Baudrillard is taking me on?

Hearing what we want to hear?

As I sit here trying to get much work done, I am thinking of the ritual of posting and commenting – in blogs, forums and any other post/reply format. For the many years that I have participated in online communicative spaces, there has not been a lack of misunderstanding, left turn tangents and ‘say what??’ moments. When each person reads something, a book, newspaper article or review, we come to it with our own baggage. Our own perspectives and ideas of the situation. So when we are given the opportunity to comment on what we read, often the replies reflect this self-centered perspective.

This is not always a bad thing. It opens the lines of communication into other people’s point of views. But at other times, it can get frustrating when it seems like someone just isn’t getting the point of what was intended in the original post. Instead of it being a space of open give and take of pov’s, it turns into a ‘I am right’ kind of posting session, without regard to the potential idea that it wasn’t quite the point. When I see this happening on threads, a little high pitched voice creeps into the back of my head reminiscent of my mother’s voice telling me that we only hear what we want to hear.