[MUD-Dev] Death of a game addict

David Kennerly kallisti at tahoesnow.com
Wed Apr 10 17:55:27 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


Suicide and addiction trouble every sympathetic reader.  I wish
journalism didn't exploit our soft spots.  It was a sad story.  Many
of us know sad situations first hand, which have nothing to do with
MMORPGs.  Thank you, journalist, for exploiting our hearts.

The addiction and suicides are tragedies, but the cause of the
tragedy is clearly beyond the MMORPG.  Elizabeth poignantly summed
up:

(Stanley A. Miller. "Death of a game addict."
<http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/mar02/31536.asp>):

> "It's like any other addiction," Elizabeth Woolley said last week.
> "Either you die, go insane or you quit. My son died."

Addictions do that.  But she went on to reveal:

> "Shawn was playing 12 hours a day, and he wasn't supposed to
> because he was epileptic, and the game would cause seizures," she
> said. "Probably the last eight times he had seizures were because
> of stints on the computer."

She knew of eight seizures.  She ought to reconsider the extent of
her own responsibility as an aware observer to prevent suicide.  As
for the product's role:

> "The manufacturer of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way
> that it is more intriguing to the addict," Parker said.  "It could
> be created in a less addictive way, but (that) would be the
> difference between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine."

This seems plausible, even if an unintended side-effect of
maximizing profit.  Many products do this, including potato chips.
Mass profit-driven developers make the MMORPG as addictive as it can
be.  Those that don't will never become as large as EverQuest or the
others.  The business model relies on customers' recurring usage.
In the largest MMORPGs (or other games) there is no margin.  Whether
or not anyone understands what he is doing, profit feedback
eliminates unaddictive features.  Likewise, profit feedback
eliminates unaddictive memes from news articles.

Parker recommends a solution that would worsen the probem:

> Parker said.  "But they are all the same. It's like
> cigarettes. They need to come with a warning label. 'Warning,
> extensive playing could be hazardous to your health.' "

No.  Nicotene causes a chemical dependency.  The addict
uncontrollably shakes; his physiology changes when the substance is
removed.  An MMORPG correlates to a psychological depedency.  Many
things, including food addiction, obsessive behaviors and obsessive
social relationships correlate to a psychological dependency.
Nicotene is an addictive ingredient of a cigarette.  What is an
addictive ingredient of an MMORPG?  What Parker listed as "A game
without end," isn't sufficient.  Warning: Accepting news article
beliefs for your own may be hazardous to your intelligence.

Statistics in Suicide The article claims some cause, leaping out to
state there was already a correlation, which it didn't present
evidence of.  How many EverQuest customers commited suicide?  No
doubt most suicides didn't make the papers artificial selection
process for survival-of-the-infectious.  If EverQuest had an
_average_ of 300,000 subscribers from Mar 1999 to Mar 2002, then
over 100 suicides from Mar 1999 to Mar 2002 qualify it as higher
than the US average of 10.6 per 100,000 in 1997 ("In Harm's Way:
Suicide in America" http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/harmaway.cfm).

The addict was playing just minutes before his suicide.  However he
was already spending 50% of his time in the game (12 hours).
Therefore, it's not unreasonable for him to have been randomly
playing.  Basically, there's a 50% chance that he would be playing
or not playing at the time he killed himself.

I'm not skilled in suicides or statistics.  I'd like to hear a
better opinion.

David


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