[MUD-Dev] Dopamine and addiction

Rayzam rayzam at travellingbard.com
Mon Dec 15 20:23:52 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Ola Fosheim Grøstad" <olag at ifi.uio.no>
> Lars Duening <lars at bearnip.com> writes:
>> On Nov 27, 2003, at 6:07 AM, Ola Fosheim Grøstad wrote:

>>> What are the implications for ethical MUD design, and will
>>> "addictive" become more of a negative term rather than a
>>> marketing term?

>> Hmm... - the problem I have with studies of this kind is that
>> they tend to be used to scapegoat certain activities, implicitely
>> painting the others harmless.

> Yeah, perhaps, but then again... Games aren't something you
> need. So it should be kept harmless if possible? Words such as
> "game" and "play" imply something very innocent.

All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy. Why isn't it needed?
Actually, a better question may be what you define as really being a
need?  Yes, games don't get us ahead in life, don't feed us, don't
put a roof over our heads [unless you're paid to make one]. However,
you can replace 'games' with 'sleep'. We need sleep. The benefits of
entertainment are currently intangible/ephemeral, yet by mother's
wisdom there are benefits.

I could also discuss 'game' and 'play' as innocent. I'll leave it
simply at: the same words are used to describe intimate and
not-so-intimate relationships, especially in various
stages. Innocence isn't a requirement of games or play.

>> People can become addicted to any activity they consider
>> exciting, and the only way to prevent that is to make the
>> activity so boring that nobody participates in the first place.

> I think it is a lot more complicated than that, though.

I'd like to back up to the start of this thread. Ola, I think you're
avoiding the age old question of which came first, the chicken or
the egg.  There's more and more evidence for a genetic
predisposition for addictive behavior. I think its fair to discuss
this point because it's as valid a point as discussing dopamine
imbalances, biologically. At the same time, anything that is
pleasurable can be the focus of an addiction, hence things like
obsessive-compulsive behavior. Futhermore, pleasure is in the brain
of the beholder. So if someone is addicted to a game, and that
affects his life negatively, did the game cause the addiction [and
thus ethical game design is an issue], or does the individual have
an addictive personality and manifest it in the game?

I think the issue of whether it's internally generated is an
important point to make, not a point that makes the topic less
complicated. You're right, it's much more complicated when you
include this factor. For those with a predisposition:

  - does the person have some threshold that after so much intense
  game playing, now becomes addictive.

  - did the person become addicted earlier, and work his way up to
  mogs?  I.e. started with adction to reading novels, movies, single
  player games, then online games. You need bigger fixes with
  biological addictions after all. That'd be either more intense
  experiences, or more time spent overall to increase the dose/day
  or dose/week.

  - is a games addiction replacing a more destructive addiction? I'm
  not saying mogs can replace say alcohol addiction. But there are
  other destructive behaviors that could be replaced by gaming. Do
  note that when people try to break their smoking addiction, they
  often still have an oral fixation and chew gum, chew pens, take
  lollipops, etc.

For those without a predisposition:

  - what part of the game is addicting?

  - is it the social aspect? If so, is this increasing or decreasing

person's interactions with others? Some people are too shy to
interact in person, but find that they can online. This could help
them overcome their shyness in the real world, similar to the
fear-therapy through games study done recently. Others get so
involved in the game world that their real world social aspects
suffer. These are different cases that can't be easily lumped
together, especially when viewed for ethics.  - is it the
achievement treadmill? Perhaps the individual has low
self-confidence. Again, this could help the person overall, if he
can overcome it. Or it could cost him a job and a family. Both are
extremes of the continuum once more.  - is it the PvP aspect?
Perhaps its a form of anger management. Perhaps its an outlet to
deal with abusive situations that the person is stuck in.  Or maybe
it will provoke real life violence.

Overall, the question about whether our games are ethical or not is
complicated and nuanced. Mostly it depends on each individual in the
player base. As it is in general, it is in our games for the user:
Your Mileage May Vary.

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