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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
As an example of why I'm enjoying Printculture, have a look at my friend and colleague Eric's piece today on playing the online role-playing game EverQuest, which takes place in an imaginary world called Norrath. He considers why people -- mostly men, as he points out -- who play the game tend to withdraw so dramatically from the "real world" and what that withdrawal says about our society:
Thinking of online gamers as “addicted” or even “dead” is not going to solve the problem, because those concepts cannot confront the full import of virtual worlds: given a choice more social than hermitage and more compelling than mysticism, people are moving out of the world. As Castronova points out, the question is at some fundamental level economic: if reality can't compete with Norrath, that may well be reality's fault.

One of the things we might then be prompted to do is to wonder what's wrong with reality, or rather, to wonder what about Norrath deploys and makes actionable an alternative to that reality, and why that alternative is so compelling (especially for men). And once we have those answers, we can ask: How could we change reality to entice these people to move back “home”? And what's more, should anyone even try?
As someone who spends a good deal of time in the partially imaginary world of the blogosphere, I found Eric piece's as moving as it was thought-provoking.

Mode: valentinitudinal
Muse: a mind echo of Radiohead's "Karma Police"

7 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 15th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

oh no you dont get it.

As a person who's weirdly addicted to blogs and message boards myself, i can tell you that the pull you feel toward them is NOTHING like what gamers feel. I happen to have been dating a gamer for 3 and a half years, and i can tell you from personal experience that EQ players (or when they are sick of EQ they becaome DAOC players, dark ages of camelot, or WOW players, world of warcraft) would rather make their girlfriends wait for HOURS then to leave their guild when they are about to get the grown of legathra (a name i made up). Its ridiculous. I've had to sit in a living room full of my boyfriends relatives, whom i've never met, and wait for three hours while he finished what he was doing in the game. My boyfriend's electricity will be turned off before the game hes playing will kick him for not paying his dues. I'm serious, this is worse than meth.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 15th, 2005 06:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: oh no you dont get it.

No, I recognize the distinction. I used to play D&D. It's just that blogging seems to carve out a space apart for the people who do it daily, hourly in a way that is similar, if less dramatic, than what happens in gaming. ESPN is my meth.
art_thirst From: art_thirst Date: February 15th, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I had a friend that was hooked on EQ. I played it a few times with him on his 2nd computer but, it takes time to learn how to play well. I understand how addictive it can be but, I wonder if it's something within each of those people that needs some serious work. I don't know what that work might be, but I know there is something deep there.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 15th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Absolutely. It verges on autism.
ogre6369 From: ogre6369 Date: February 15th, 2005 03:32 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I know something about this as a MMOG player. I played Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars Galaxies, and currently play World of Warcraft. I was one of those 30-40 hrs/week players. My wife complained incessantly about my habit. All fell to the wayside in my obsession. It IS hard to justify so I wont. Instead I'll give you a couple of insights.

The game designers have made it easy to get this way with certain game mechanics. For example in SWG you can have a character that is a merchant, artisan, crafter-type. In order to make all these ingame items you need resources. So you buy or make resource harvesters that provide you with your means. All buildings have upkeep and harvesters are the worst because the resources shift every few days. My wife said it was like coming home from work and going to work in the game. She was right. I felt obligated to my character to log in every day to take care of menial tasks. Not really even playing the game just upkeep. One day I realized this and just canceled all 3 of my accounts. Yes I had 3 accounts because in SWG you can only have 1 character per server.

Before I played SWG it was DAoC. It was just as bad albeit for different reasons. You feel so compelled to keep up with your guildmates and friends (real life friends separated by geography, this was our means of hanging out). If you dont play you don't advance. So the ones who played all the time had the advantage, they advanced further, got better items, weapons, armor. I think it was that feeling of being left behind that drove me more than anything. Looking back on my DAoC time I realized that my main (character) was only level 33 and I had played this game for 6 months which was something like a month and a few days of actual playing time. I felt cheated because at higher levels it was so hard to see any real progress. The grind was horrible. So again the day I realized it I cancelled both my accounts.

When World of Warcraft came out (I am going to try and not make this sound like a testimonial although it probably will and I may be deluded again :) I was sceptical about even trying it. I figured it would have the same cookie cutter game mechanics that nurtured the addictive behavior. For whatever reason I decided to give it a try anyhow. I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome. This game could turn out to be even more addicting than the others for very different reasons. There is no upkeep for anything so you can go on vacation for 2 weeks and pick up where you left off. The desire to keep up is curbed by the inclusion of a rest mechanic where if you log out in a city or inn you are rested and the longer you are offline (resting) the longer you get double xp for kills in the game. So if you were to take the 2 weeks off you would level very fast for a level or two presumably helping you keep up. There are still guild raids and instance dungeons that are time consuming although not necessary for an enjoyable experience. I have played my main since december and am level 51 (almost 52). I have never felt compelled to play for any other reason than its fun to do so. This may be the most addicting reason of all.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 15th, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

you play'd DAoC and WOW?!

Do you know Jitters? hes my bf in rl. hes uber l33t. hahahaha
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 15th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Sounds like World of Warcraft is actually addressing the "addiction" problem. A very interesting comment, BTW. Thanks so much for taking the time to craft it.
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