The Real-life World of Warcrack
Dustin Liaw / Aug 15th, 2012 No Comments
You know it had to happen eventually: Diablo III saw its first real-life fatality in Taiwan, where an 18-year old was found dead in an internet café after an unbroken forty-hour playing spree. To be honest, I’m slightly surprised that he wasn’t Korean, given that D3 is a Blizzard game, but I guess you shouldn’t underestimate the obsessive power of any Asian internet café. Now if you are reading this you have not gone to the bathroom, eaten, or moved muscles that aren’t your fingers and wrists in more than eight hours, go ahead it and do it now. Really, I’ll wait.
Video game addiction is different from substance abuse in that you’re not altering your brain by snorting little white crystals, but it’s the same in that you receive gratification for continuing to play. It’s a psychological phenomenon, like compulsive gambling, and while there isn’t enough evidence to officially diagnose it as a disorder, that hasn’t stopped dedicated rehab centers from popping up in several countries, including the US. Website like Wowaholics, a website dedicated to sharing stories from former World of Warcraft addicts, highlight exactly how widespread the problem has become, even if the scientific community won’t recognize it yet.
Developers have been putting health warnings in their games for years, telling players to get off their swivel chairs and use the other 95% of their muscle groups. As you might expect, people pay exactly as much attention to those as they do to the EULA. Wii Fit and the innumerable dance game clones that have been saturating the market in recent years have tried to make gamers think that gyrating your body in a bad imitation of Soulja Boy is fun. Judging from the sales figures, they’ve had some success, but are at best a distraction for the gamers that play the core genres that dominate the gaming industry: FPS, RTS, RPG, and other fun acronyms. I’m just hazarding a guess here, but don’t expect to see Dance Central at MLG tournaments any time soon.
For the foreseeable future, a respectable percentage of gamers are going to be sedentary for a few hours every day. However, despite mainstream media coverage of video games being largely negative, there’s not a shred of solid evidence to prove that video games are any more hazardous to your health than is reading a copy of People magazine (well, that one might be detrimental to your IQ), or that playing Call of Duty teaches you how to shoot a rifle (and oh, how my gunny sergeant would not let me forget that). It’s common sense, really: in moderation, video games are just a way to sit down, relax, maybe get cursed out by a few twelve year olds over Xbox live. It’s only when you forget to eat or sleep over the course of several raids that we might need to get a shrink to take a look at that head of yours.
I know what you’re thinking: pro gamers do this all the time, so why is it bad for all of us silver-league peons to do the same? The thing with pro gaming is that it is not in their best interest to play to the point of exhaustion; as little physical exertion as most gaming is, it is still not a good idea to forego the essentials of life to practice your micro the rest of the night. If your dream is to be a pro gamer, then more power to you, but I certainly wouldn’t tell you to quit school and sit in a darkened room all day with nothing but a greasy bag of chips to sustain yourself: there’s a fine line between devoting yourself to your passion, and letting it completely consume you. The Diablo III guy? He hadn’t eaten for two days. That’s not a recipe for success.
While there’s a growing trend of video game addiction in the US and other western countries, there’s been an even worse outbreak in Asia. The ubiquity of internet cafés make locking yourself away for hours to escape the social pressures of home and school much easier. Having experienced the sorrows of growing up in a strict Asian household firsthand, I can tell you the three things you need to do to survive. One: get A’s in school. Two: get A’s in school. Three: repeat steps one and two. If that sounds like fun to you, then maybe you should put yourself up for adoption or something. Being forced to go to private tutors for hours at night in addition to regular school sounds like a stereotype, but for many Asian students it’s a reality, and the extreme pressure can lead to things like forty-hour Diablo III marathons. It’s definitely a cultural issue, and an unfortunate one at that: China, Japan, and South Korea all rank in the top ten countries for suicides. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that teenagers and adults alike in those countries are flocking to internet cafés like never before.
Because video game addiction is clearly the single most important problem facing society, as opposed to petty things like government corruption and the sad, sad state of contemporary C-pop, China has implemented drastic policies such as limiting the amount of time any person can play in an internet café. It’s much more difficult to police gamers here in the US for obvious reasons, and if the fate of SOPA and PIPA indicate anything, that’s not likely to change. Playing games is a personal decision, and attempting to somehow restrict or regulate gaming for the sake of combating some perceived social epidemic is exactly the kind of decision that shouldn’t be put into the hands of people who have never experienced the joy of teabagging the cold, dead armored suits of your enemies.
If you sit and read a book non-stop for forty hours, you may die. If you work out at the gym non-stop for forty hours, you will probably die. If you chew bubble gum on while bouncing on a pogo stick non-stop for forty hours…well, you’d probably choke before you got that far. My point is, you can take pretty much everything a step too far, and video games are no exception. It’s unfortunate that there will always be people like Jack Thompson to go on misguided moral crusades against video games, but as long as incidents like that Taiwanese gamer occur, we as gamers have a responsibility to uphold the image of our fairly young pastime. So go outside and play, and for the love of all that’s holy, stop chugging energy drinks every five minutes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to dodge lightning bolts 200 times in a row in Final Fantasy X. Shouldn’t take me more than three hours or so.
tags: diablo 3 , opinion , video game addiction , warcrack , world of warcraft