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More whining

I've heard defenses of them, that they're a good catharsis, that mmprpgs are social, but, more and more, I'm feeling the same way about video games the way I feel about watching my sister letting her life wash away so she can smoke marijuana. What a waste--not only killing time, but spitting on its grave. I lost a summer to Civ. Pointing and clicking was easier than facing the fact that I was unemployed, and it was better to be mindless than in pain. A huge part of my last breakup (besides all the other factors) was watching Samantha, a creative person who called herself an artist, fritter away months of her life--running away from company, whatever--to replay some game she'd beaten five years ago. I'm getting to the point where, if I see someone's back, with their hair haloed with phosphorescent glow, I can't see that person as human anymore, another damn pixel zombie. If there was some way of banking all those lost hours, of reclaiming that full day of a week freely given so that some busy friend can give themselves an eighth day, or a dying mother can spend an extra month with their kids before she moves on, I could see that as a good thing. But it's just so much time flushed down the crapper, and all we have, the only thing of any real value, is time. I'm not the best person about carpeing my diems, but shutting down? Letting the mouse take over? (shudder) I can't understand it.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2004 04:13 pm (UTC)
Sheesh. I'm glad I had my nose in a book rather than in something computer-y, then. You don't find someone reading a book to be a nightmarish zombie wasting their infinitely precious time, do you?
Jan. 28th, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC)
Does someone reading a book turn off their mind?

Maybe I'm just being snotty and elitist, or unnecessarily pissy. But more and more, video games look like an addiction, and I have yet to see someone who literally couldn't put down a book.
Jan. 28th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC)
I seriously doubt that computer games or video games really turn off your mind. This may have been true of the early video games like Space Invaders or Pac-Man. But I would have a hard time believing that Civilization would have this effect. Television, OTOH, has been documented to have this effect.

Oftentimes, when people become obsessed with video games, MUCKS, chat rooms, etc, the problem isn't really the existance of the object of their obsession, but rather their own inability to cope with life's problems.

If computers didn't exist, they'd turn to something else. Like maybe NASCAR.
Jan. 28th, 2004 06:51 pm (UTC)
For me, Civ had brief moments of mental engagement, it was interesting in an abstract sort of way and is still one of my favorite video games, but after a while, it was just killing time. Even the--gods, who knows how many hours I've spent on Dungeons and Dragons and its hundred spinoffs, I can still remember "Those were the days" stories, awkward junior high bonding, brief periods of RP that brought me to tears. My own video game days, though, is just time lost to me entirely, without any redemption.

I will allow that I have some issues in this area--I've lost some of my old friends to a combination of their game obsession and my intolerance of same, had my girlfriend play me second fiddle for Dungeon Keeper II, and watched one of my roomies lose a job, to my mind, because of his addiction (said roomie may have a different opinion on this). And there's always some way to shut down for a while (I re-re-re-read gaming manuals when I'm killing time). VGs just seem to consume time like no other force--particularly for the creative, entertaining geeks I've always associated myself with. And part of it is being an outsider--Having had, at some point in time the majority of my friends say, in some form or another, "Can't talk, clicking," I'm a bit sensatized. Sensitized. Whatever.

Chalk a lot of the previous venom to a dark mood, though. This is a whining post, after all.
Jan. 28th, 2004 07:08 pm (UTC)
Nothing wrong with venting the spleen ;?)
Jan. 28th, 2004 07:10 pm (UTC)
I have Civilization III and for me, part of the pleasure comes from nit-picking at its historical inaccuracies (like requiring you to learn alphabet before learning writing).
Jan. 28th, 2004 07:17 pm (UTC)
I have to confess I'm probably guilty as charged when it comes to Sim games :( On the bright side, I think I have a few brain cells left that I haven't rotted :)
Jan. 28th, 2004 07:01 pm (UTC)
Transmission from Absurdicon 6: Hey! I'll bet you are one of those people who think collecting yifish is a waste of time too!!!!
Jan. 28th, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC)
Time, never. Money, yes. Yifish are beautiful simulated life forms, sublime in their many-colored radiance.
Jan. 28th, 2004 08:27 pm (UTC)
yersh, I kinna agree with you on this one, but SpottedHyena has a good point, it depends on the person and there own control over the situation. It's kinna odd to see a tabletop gamer get very upset over another form of game. It seams like your more upset over the fact that video games have a high social vacuum; (at least to those in Real life). Tabletop wastes alot of time, as does RPG in general. Don't get me wrong; I have developed a high distaste for DaOC and what it has done to certain people, who would rather play it than socialize with those around them. Balance is the key; it's just keeping it that is a problem for some.
Jan. 28th, 2004 08:37 pm (UTC)

Which direction does causality go, though? Do complex, time-demanding games make people obsess about them, or do people who like obsessing about things (recreations in particular) play complex, time-demanding games?

I -like- complex games. Wargames are complex in one way, RPG's in another, twitch games in another. I guess you could throw MU*s in there too because 'playing' well takes thought and skill.

I don't like the way that complex entertainments can end up being exclusionary, because you have to invest a LOT of time (or possibly money) in them in order to participate. I've poo-pooed 'simple' games like monopoly or poker in the past as being recreations for those too dull to play REAL games, the kind that take months to learn. But they're not stupid recreations only challenging to low IQ's; they just don't require obsession (or fulfill desire for obsession).

I'm not ready to say that I don't like obsession-games. I do. I'm just dead set on that not cutting me off from people. (at least any more than they do already, which is hopefully not very much) I'm worried that this makes the more diehard feel like I'm de-prioritizing THEM, which I'm not, but...I'm sure it feels that way.

Eeeh. I've said all of this before. What it boils down to is my seeing it as more of a prioritization scheme on the part of the player (to play the game instead of doing X) rather than any attribute of the activity (aside from being a fertile ground for obsession). Which stings a little more, since I have to blame the people (or myself for not being interesting enough to compete with thier activity) rather than the game. The notion that deleting the game from anyone's hard drive would change anything is not something I can take seriously; it's a matter of attitude.

So think I anyways.
Jan. 28th, 2004 09:43 pm (UTC)
The video game itself isn't really a problem. It's an entertainment form like any other, with an interactive element that makes it more compelling than, say, soap operas. And the decision to play them is entirely in the hands of the player. Marijuana's not physically addictive, either. The effects on the lives of people I've cared about, and care about, are quite similer (any number of rants may be inserted here--I don't have any really strong feelings on marijuana, except as it specifically relates to my baby sister). Games are harmful to people who let themselves be harmed by them. I may have cost myself a chance at a doctorate by not knuckling down and studying instead of blowing all my free time at the LARP. And while, yes, given a big red button that says "Destroy Ultima On-Line server" I'd press it for fun, it wouldn't solve anything.

VGs are a form of escapism, like tabletop role-playing games, like reading, like movies. It is my belief that, at the end of a book, and the better sort of movie, you have communicated in some way with the author, and come out of it changed in some way. Tabletop gaming is time with friends. MUSHing, which I don't play specifically because I'm addiction-prone, is a chance to show off your creativity, if you choose to use it that way. I don't see anyone walking away from a MMPRPG with life-long memories or any other tangible benefit, which means that a substantial amount of time is gone from the player's personal universe with nothing to walk away with. That's a personal choice, but seen long-term, that time can add up.

Big words from someone who never plays video games, though. Again, see LJ post title, I'm in bitch-whine-mode here.
Jan. 29th, 2004 12:05 am (UTC)
MMORPGs are a form of social interaction. Simply because you didn't meet the players before you met their characters doesn't invalidate that (if it does, it also invalidates the majority of my LARP expereince as well from being social, since I met Java before I met you, etc).

Some of the people I played on MUDs with I still maintain infrequent contact with. One of them found out about the Camarilla through me, joined the Cam after being given contact info for her domain through me, and went on to meet her husband there. If that's not a tangible benefit, I don't know what is.

DOes it provide as much of a beneift as the Cam LARP does? Not the way I played. Had I been more aggressive an Everquester, I might have the same network of crashspace the world over that I have through the Cam, but that requires far more money than it does in the Cam.

Most games have a pause feature. I usually use it. Everquest didn't -- one of the reasons I ultimately stopped playing (my weak bladder was fatal for my party more than once).

And I will admit -- I've lost a job to video games. I've lost a girlfriend to Everquest. I have a tendency to throw myself into digital worlds when I'm depressed -- because there are times when I simply no longer want to be me in any way, shape, or form. And it's easier to be someone else when you've tunnelvisions yourself to a monitor than it is in any other ways.

Would I be in better shape emotionally and financially had I not fallen into that rut? Definitely. It's a vice. It's a vice I've let control me more than once. Right now, I'm in control. I anticipate losing that as soon as my mother's condition worsens. Because if I don't llet the video games take over -- something else will.

And alcholism is far, far worse.

BTW, comparison of video game addiction to marijuana addiction isn't really fair. Ownership of a single marijuana seed can land you in prison, and cost you your job. Ownership of a Playstation 2 does neither of those things. MJ is far more self-destructive, in both the short and the long term.
Jan. 29th, 2004 02:31 pm (UTC)
MUDs/MUSHs seem to provide a more social context--they're designed for interaction (MUDs to a lesser degree). In, say, Ultima On-line, the only social interaction seems to be some brief haggling. The medium shapes the message--in a text-based environment communication seems to be more common than in a graphical fantasy adventure game. Again, outsider perspective.

The MJ comparison wasn't fair and is a hyperbole--though if you take away the social context (in badgering my sister, I've learned that "because you will be arrested" and "because society doesn't condone it" aren't valid arguments) it's a high that all of its users I've dealt with say is safe and non-addictive, but from my observation takes the place of real life. I'm totally biased, again, I'm very protective of my sister and don't like to see things which I percieve as harmful happen to her.
Jan. 29th, 2004 03:04 pm (UTC)
Of all the illegal drugs out there, I'll agree with most users that marijuana is probably the 'safest'... but that doesn't mean harmless.

I knew my share of stoners in college - hell, some of them were good friends. One, in particular, was not getting anywhere... which was a shame. He was a nice guy, educated, just... wasting his life. I think he realized he'd hit bottom when he managed to figure out that hanging out with high-school losers and college freshman wasn't getting him anywhere. He got into the Air Force, and last I heard was doing great following a medical track.

Too bad, too... I rather enjoyed playing Deion in Street Fighter 2 on SNES. Ah well.

Back to the stoners, tho... one of the guys I remember was a really good friend. Nice guy, but was so badly addicted that he literally had a hard time functioning WITHOUT pot. Whenever he'd gone for 'too long', he'd develop this bad twitch and cough. It would get worse over time. Once he got himself a few hits... gone.

We theorized that most likely he got ahold of something laced (i.e. some dealer decided it'd be fun to try to hook one of his buyers on another product), but I'm not sure how well that'd work. I think it may have been more psychological.

As for my own experiences with Mary Jane - I tried it once in college. it made the back of my eyeballs cold. Seriously. Now, while that was certainly an interesting feeling... it didn't appeal to me enough to make it a habit.

And that's storytime, kids.
Jan. 29th, 2004 05:37 pm (UTC)
The funny thing is, I feel the same way about movies. Basically shutting down for 2+ hours at a time to watch a flickering screen in a dark room. I've been in theaters (or the living room) watching good movies, movies I enjoyed, while still realizing that I'm spending hours doing a completely non-interactive activity; at times I can literally feel the minutes of my life being drained away. I could be out doing _real_ activities. Sports, for example.

For lots of one-shot computer games, they are literally a pass time. I can't recall offhand a particularly memorable frag in Quake... well, except for the time I sat with my crossbow at the top of a mountain and watched Sugar come up the same set of stairs three times in a row, never learning not to DO that...

Anyway, MMOG's aren't like that, in my mind. I still tell folks about my poor little level 10 character deciding to 'follow the road', taking him through unfamiliar areas of the game, at night, with death around every corner. Or the first time he was asked to go out to the frontier as a pack mule, and being one-shotted by the first monster we came across. Or the first encounter with the enemy with my enchantress, watching them mill around uncertainly as we cut them down from afar. Or my mentalist waving her hand and watching an entire *army* of trolls, dwarves, and norsemen all catch on fire and try to escape. Or standing atop a bridge shotting my arrows down at a trio of trolls, all of them trying to jump up to get me... until one of them rememebered that he had throwing axes. Ouch...

I also remember the people I've played them with, both out here in RL, and in the game. Evenings spent with Rob, and Joni, with Ken and Robin... or Mike, who'se character Egnaugh made no sense to me until I tried to say it out loud. They're all real people, and we interact in the game just as much as we would if we were in the Tavern on Tapestries. In fact, Josef has pointed out more than once that, when you get right down to it, DAoC is basically a text MUD with a GUI for commands like 'kill beetle' and 'wave'. In fact, sometimes the constant chatter gets so that you actually have to turn it off just to play 'the game' part of the game.

And sure, there are people whose 'real' name I don't know, like Leren, or Shen, or Rena and her son Pagge. I don't know the real names of 90% of the people I've talked to on MUDs, either. But I have real memories of the adventures we've shared, and the fun we've had. There are some aspects to it that I can literally sleep through; crafting comes to mind. But my mind never really gets a chance to disengage in the way it does when television or movies are the focus.

When I speak with my co-workers, I hear the things they consider to be legitimate 'fun' activities. Drinking and going to clubs top the list. At least, they say they do - several of them don't remember where their paychecks go. Now THAT amazes me. What's the point of spending hours of your evenings 'having fun' if at the end you don't remember any of it? It sounds like your view of MMOG's is similar.

Yeah, yeah, I know, "defend your addiction." Don't we all?
Jan. 29th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC)
Reminder to self: spell check is your friend.
Jan. 29th, 2004 06:49 pm (UTC)
I have a friend that hates movies, though his justifications range from being reasonable to a touch otherworldly. I enjoy them--I can't justify that in the context of this particular rant-thread. The tuesday night binges are mostly an excuse to hang out with friends, like I don't spend enough time at Nasco anyhow! Theater movies--I see maybe two a month, and yeah, it's mental downtime, escapism, but I (usually) really enjoy the ride and come out with more energy, something to talk about with people that have also seen it. There are exceptions. Ultimately it comes down, again, to moderation, priorities and proportion. Two hours at the Tinseltown isn't ultimately anymore harmful than two hours of Unreal Tournament, and possibly less mentally engaging, depending on the film.

A good part of the movie thing is the shared experience. I've only gone to see maybe three films alone, at least in the theater. Lately I've been watching a lot of Buffy, and that's been specifically for escapist brain-turning-off purposes. I'd be reluctant to call it an addiction, but neurotransmitters do need to take holidays, nobody can be "on" all their waking hours.
Jan. 29th, 2004 08:09 pm (UTC)
Jumping on (and off?) the wagon
Knowing how well I do in RL social situations, which is to say, I don't do too badly, but they are a bit awkward for me, I prefer situations and conversations which have a backspace key instead of having to say "Hold on, that's not what I meant".

However, I can see where you're coming from, as video games and MMORPGs do take a strangely long amount of time, compared to the short amount of time they can seem to take while playing. I'd rather be "addicted" to something with a bit of socializing built in to it, rather than the many addicting things out there that take away the social aspect of life entirely, or make it even harder to deal with people, or even start encouraging the participants to go out and do stupid things in order to get money (often illegally) to support the habit.

Speaking of habits, have you played ................ Oh, nevermind.
Mar. 15th, 2004 01:41 am (UTC)
So I'm mean and unfair...:)
...for responding to this two months after the fact. ;)

So yeah, it's me. And I admit it. Gamer. Gamer of all types. It's always been a problem.

Mom and Dad figured that the computer was better, at least, than sitting slackjawed in front of the TV. You're doing something in a game, even if it's kinda scripted for you.

And for a kid who didn't have a lot of REAL friends, the options were pretty much to go someplace where either you have a thousand of them or it doesn't really matter whether you have friends or not. So I buried myself in books and computer games because they were so much better than real life.

I played D&D for that reason. I LARPed for that reason. Today, I'm MUSHing for that reason. Hell -- I work at a computer game company, and part of my actual job is playing a game.

I can go on and say that LARPing builds people skills for people who have no other social outlets, that tabletop games teach problem-solving skills and creativity, that the MUSH I spend too many hours a week on is keeping my writing skills from rusting over completely. And maybe all of this is true, but the simple fact is that I could be going out of my house on Tuesday nights and reading a good book in a coffeeshop instead of sitting in front of the glowy box.

There's a lot of hurtful things that I would say if it was a year ago, or think if it was six months ago. But today, I'm more just sad. Sad that I let something that useless rule my life. Sad that it took something from me more precious than rubies. Sad that, when it came down to it, I wasted hours spending time with my imagination that I could have spent with real, flesh and blood people.

But I'm also annoyed about something that seems to nag at a few other people who have replied here -- video games are not more innately bad than any others. Tabletop games are time-wasting argument bait, descending more often into rules-lawyering and egomania. I don't have to tell you, Spotty m'dear, how much of one's time a LARP can seize...time that could be spent dealing with real people in their real personalities. And books can, in fact, be just as addictive as video games -- though I'll admit that I never lost myself in the former as much as I did in the latter.

"Ah," you say, "but these are actually dealing with people. Except for the books."

So are MUSHes. And yeah, you've MUSHed before, and while it still has the Computer Game Kiss of Evil, it doesn't (from what I recall) seize you as so horrifying. But I think it really does come down to escapism...and whether that escapism is harmless or not is really rather dependent on how it's used.

To take your own simile: MJ can make, I hear, for a nice way to unwind and relax after a stressful day. Or it can be smoked constantly, so that the person is in a perpetual haze that interferes with their life. Computer games, ditto. As for the good memories, there's as many on an online game as there are in LARPs and tabletops. Believe it or don't. :)

Oh, sure, if I could have gone back on that year, I would have spent a lot more time downstairs. But you and I both know there were plenty of reasons for me to hide up there. And that was all it was -- hiding, and it was pretty immature and irresponsible of me to hide from the problems down there rather than deal with them.

And of course, as you mentioned, there were other problems.

I can say just this in my defense: I didn't waste my time completely. I got a job in the industry. I'm working on becoming a designer...and though I do (believe it or not) feel a bit of guilt from working on these games, I also feel a great sense of accomplishment from getting this far.

I hope you don't have any hard feelings. I don't. Regrets, sure, but everyone has those. My major regret is that I not only lost the love of someone I cared for more than words can express, I also seem to have lost a few friendships I really treasured.

I'd rather have that friendship than just about anything else, really. Of all the things I've lost to you, that's the one I regret the most.

But don't take me too seriously. I'm always serious at three in the morning. I'll likely be making hedgehog jokes when I've had a good sleep. :)
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