Welcome! A primer on online-games

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Diggo McDiggity
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Welcome! A primer on online-games

Welcome to our discussion board, and thank you for visiting.

The website that brought you here, as well as this discussion board, is designed to assist people and their friends and family whose lives have been impacted negatively by online games.

For those not familiar with online games, they are in essence very sophisticated computer games with splendid graphics and sound and are usually based on a very in-depth story line. The genre of the games may be Fantasy, or based on war or battle scenarios or may even be as simple as online-poker or other online "board games." They are played on one's computer, usually across the Internet and in conjunction with few or many other "live" persons also playing from their homes.

Online gaming begins with the purchase or acquisition of the "client" software. This software is installed on one's computer and may have single-user and multi-user capability, or may only have multi-user capability.

Single-user means the game is playable by the individual without connecting to the Internet. The game would have "scenarios or missions" in which the person is essentially playing against the computer. Most computer games available today fit this category.

A multi-user game is one in which the person must be connected to the Internet or other computer to play, usually against a live person or persons.

A very large multi-player game, often a roleplaying game, is known as a "Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game." You will see the acronym MMORPG often which stands for the above. These games are often played with up to several thousand other individuals all sharing the same world at a given time.

Many roleplaying and strategy games today offer both single-user and multi-user play. However, the games which are only multi-user tend to be much more sophisticated and are, in my opinion, more conducive to one having problems with.

These MMORPG games such as Everquest, Anarchy-Online, Ultima-Online, Asheron's Call and others are fee-based, costing about $10-$15 per month for unlimited hours of gameplay. It is estimated that Everquest players for example, play an average of 20 hours per week. But 40-60 hours a week or more is extremely common...a category that this writer fit into for much of his 2.5 years of play.

Online games have been around for many years, but with the increasing sophistication of computers, Internet connectivity, the very low cost of gameplay per hour and the increasing stress and tension of everyday lives, it's no wonder why many come to, and eventually find themselves unable to leave online games. As these games involve "community" interaction, you will find the same relationships and politics emulated as in "real-life," the term used to describe the players' lives outside of the game.

There are relationships and frequent in-game marriages. There are hierarchal groups established, usually called "guilds" which have guild-leaders and other posts or positions with specific duties. There are alliances of guilds and in some cases, even political bodies created to administer certain aspects of gameplay within the game. As items acquired through gameplay can be traded, there are even sophisticated economies which follow the supply and demand model, and as in real life, those with the most gold make the rules...or at least have the best stuff.

These worlds are rich with things to do which can appeal to any personality type. However, advancement and attainment of these riches comes only with dedicated gameplay reinforced through reward. The more you play, the more "stuff" you get. If you want to get better stuff you need to play more, etc.

Typically, as one plays, he advances in stature, often referred to as "gaining levels." A level 1 person is just starting out and a level 50 person has been playing for some time. As you increase in levels, you usually receive better abilities such as being able to do more damage with your weapons, or to create more sophisticated items using the various trade skills available in the game. This is to compensate for the more powerful adversaries one encounters in the game.

Based on most of the games' designs, as one increases his level, it becomes more and more necessary for him to "group" with others. Typically, the higher the level, the more grouping that is necessary. And eventually, further reward is almost non-existent unless one groups with many people. This point has been criticized by many players who do not always want the hassle dealing with coordinating large groups of people for a "raid" or "mission."

As you can see, the sophistication of these games is enormous and what takes place behind the scenes to make these games happen from a technical perspective is astounding. The allure of these games however, is what makes them fertile soil for addiction.

Often, when you begin these games, you build a character based on attributes you like. For example, you may choose to be fierce warrior who hacks and slashes through enemies with powerful weapons. Or you may choose to be a character with powerful magics, or you may choose to play the role of a sneaky rogue or thief or perhaps a combination of those or others. This avatar you create then becomes your "baby" as you nurture and grow him, increasing his power and his collection of money and items such as weapons and armor.

Before you create your avatar, you must often pick a "server." A server is a real world computer, one of many, which contain parallel versions of your in-game world. The servers typically are assigned names, and it is on that particular server you choose that you meet others, form relationships and to which you return day after day to play.

Some servers you play collectively with others against the computer-controlled adversaries. Your character cannot harm the avatars of other players, only the computer-controlled adversaries. Yet other servers might be what are called "Player-versus-Player" or PVP servers, in which you do actually play against other real world people.

As you play, you eventually form relationships and friendships with others through their avatars. You, playing a powerful warrior, might frequently be a hero as you help them attain items or simply find their way through a dense forest. This reward of being a hero is very easy in these in-game worlds, in comparison to the real world where one may be stuck in a job he hates or plagued with the rest of the toils of everyday life. It is no wonder then, why these games hold so much appeal. One can be everything he wants to "in game," achieving prosperity and notariety which he might never achieve in real life. These are powerful "drugs."

As with a chemical addiction, withdrawal from real life is very common and can happen very quickly to those who become obsessive online-gamers. The person may begin to play excessively, particularly at the beginning, getting very little sleep. He may eat all of his meals at the computer and spend all of his free-time there. He may find excuses for not going out with friends or family or find excuses for leaving them early to get home and play. His conversations with others will often be to tell them of his in-game achievements and successes. And, he will often seek to get friends to play. This is one reason why Everquest is commonly and jokingly called "Evercrack." And while I use the male gender throughout this post, females are just as susceptible to the allure of being a heroine.

Ah yes...the reason we are here.

Our lives have been impacted by this excessive and/or obsessive gameplay. We are gameplayers who have become affected, as well as friends and family of others who have become obsessed with online-gaming. It is the hope of creating sites such as this which focus specifically on online-gaming that we hope to heal ourselves and others who have become caught up in this addiction. It is also one of our goals to work with the game designers themselves so they may better understand the impact these games have on their customers, and so that they may design these games more responsibly. The phenomena of online-addiction is fairly new and we have alot to learn. This is why we are soliciting your help.

We want to better understand the nature of our obsessive and excessive playing and how it relates to being online. We want to know what aspects of gameplay are more attractive to folks with addictive personalities. We want to understand how we can work with these things to ultimately result in having a more healthy and safe online-gaming experience. Or in the case of those of us who have gone over the edge, how we can rescue our lives and rebuild our friendships and relationships with our loved ones.

If you would be willing to participate, either through dialogue or the development of a program to assist with overcoming online-gaming addiction, please contact us. Or, if you simply have some ideas or suggestions, we welcome those too. We are just getting started...there is a long road ahead, but we believe that we can make a difference.

Thank you for visiting, and for any help you are willing to provide.

Cordially

Ron Jaffe AKA Diggo McDiggity
eMail: eqaddict@cfl.rr.com
Discussion Board Administrator
Everquest player from July, 1999 to April, 2002
Over 4,900 Hours Played

Edited by: lizwool at: 10/28/05 10:48

Co-Founder of OLGA and member since 2002

Soprena
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Re: Welcome! A primer on online-games

Ron did an excellent job explaining some of the basic elements of MMORPG's and how those can interest players so greatly that they play to excess.
However, in the time since I quit playing, and started to do a lot more reading about the excessive gaming issue, I've learned that those factors do not account for the entirety of the problem, for everyone. My experience with excessive gaming (over 4,000 hours in Everquest in 3 years; often 30-40 hours per week) did not inform me of all of the issues.

I would like to comment more specifically on some of the social aspects of the game, and how those tend to keep people coming back to the computer for more.

A. GuildsFirst, Everquest in particular is strongly "guild" oriented. Everquest is a good example of a game where progressing through its content by playing solo is impossible. Overwhelmingly, to kill the big boss monsters (dragons, gods, etc.) which have the most-desirable weapons and armor as the rewards for killing them, requires groups of players. Killing the biggest monsters can require 40 to 80 or more players. To facilitate this, players routinely organize themselves into clubs, called "guilds."

Guilds typically plan such monster-killing events (called "raids") in advance, and often set aside certain times for doing this. Some guilds raid once per week, some more often, and some every day. In the game, the guild members chat with each other in dedicated guild chat channels. Outside of the game, they communicate via on-line message boards. Most well-organized guilds have a message board, and often much of it is private, accessible only by members.

Many who play the game excessively at home also devote excessive time to the game at work or school by reading these message boards. (In addition to guild message boards, Sony has many Everquest-related message boards, many servers have their own board, and there are numerous third-party boards, some of which are pay sites, with strategies, maps, item lists, places to catelog your avatar's items, etc. etc.). Between Sony, guild, server and strategy boards, one could easily read for 4-8 hours per day.

Although many players will state that they enjoy the social comraderie of being in a guild, clearly this fuels the fire of excessive play for many. Many do not want to miss what the guild is doing. Some may even be pressured by guild members to show up at raids because they are "needed." (We've all heard, "We can't do this raid if we don't have more ."

Further, play time can be directly linked to the ability to get "loot." Many guilds take attendance and record hours spent raiding in elaborate databases. The guild leaders award the "loot" obtained by killing monsters at raids only to those who play the most hours. In some guilds, the player can even be kicked out if they do not play enough. All of these factors can promote excessive gameplay.

B. Everquest as a Chat Room

Recently, I started reading the Everquest Widows message board on Yahoo. There, I have read many accounts of another unfortunate social aspect of Everquest. Communicating with other players via text chat is an integral part of the game. There is ample time to chat; the game is far from non-stop action. For some, this "chat room" element of Everquest provides the same opportunity for problems that other internet chat (IRC, Yahoo Chat, AOL chatrooms, MSN chat) areas provide.

"Flirting" can be the norm. Sex rapidly becomes a frequent topic of discussion. Players who are online a lot together, yet who have nothing else in common, turn to flirting and sex. The game for some becomes an online pickup bar, but worse because the same people are always online together. Relationships can develop over time, and unfortunately, some people make some very bad decisions. Players enter various online "relationships." Although they may seem "cute" in the game (for example, players having their avatars marry each other in-game), there most often are more significantly darker undertones. These relationships may move to email, the telephone, and/or to real-life meetings, sometimes on their own or sometimes as a side benefit of a guild get-together. I have read some accounts of 'real-life guild meetings' being, essentially, an excuse for various in-game "couples" in the guild to get to sleep together.

This issue for players who are married can be significant for both themselves and their spouse. Many times, only one spouse plays the game. This leads to substantial marital stress at home over the game and the time it consumes. The married player may then find refuge in the game, surrounded by players who similarly have such stress at home. Given the psychological stresses that arise from spending substantial time playing the game, players may seek the quick emotional fix of an on-line affair.

Given the many many facets of the online world created in Everquest and other MMORPG's, it is difficult to determine which element or elements are drawing-in any given player. For some it's the desire to make a powerful warrior with the best armor. For others it's where they communicate in their cyber affair. Understanding what makes any given player who appears to be playing excessively and/or obsessively (that is, an "addict") tick can be very difficult.

Edited by: lizwool at: 10/28/05 10:50

Patria
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Pretty good stuff.  Can

Pretty good stuff. Can someone tell me why we don't mention game names anymore?

I think it helps in identification.

vesalian.prime
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Patria wrote: Can someone
Patria wrote:

Can someone tell me why we don't mention game names anymore?

I think it is to avoid triggering newcomers. In NA, "drugathons" that mention every drug and connection and using method are seen (by some) as dangerous because they put the wrong tools in the hands of recovering addicts. On the other hand as you say, it allows newcomers to identify, which is important as newcomers focus on the differences instead of the similarities. I don't know what is best. I mention my games of choice by name. When in doubt I choose honesty over prudence.

Perhaps a man who is worthy of the name should put aside this question of how long he will live ..., and turn his attention to this instead, to how he can live the best life possible in the time that is granted to him
Marcus Aurelius

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