Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Addicted to Warcraft, or was it just an experiment?

Update 10-26: My audio interview with Eloy and the Taverncast crew is available for download here!

Last week I talked about The Pod People, a World of Warcraft guild run by and for fans of the various Warcraft podcasts.

In their June 4 episode, one of the hosts of Taverncast spoke candidly about the game and his personal experience with game addiction. The host, known by the name Eloysius or Eloy for short, subjected himself to a grueling experiment where he forced himself to play Warcraft for 10 hours a day.

The experiment started with a conversation Eloy had with a couple of people who were starting to describe Warcraft as a lifestyle — not just a game they played, but as a world they lived in. Like some folks who play golf constantly or follow sports teams across the country, these people had embraced Warcraft as a permanent part of their lives.

World of Warcraft had taken over their lives and they described it as a positive thing.

“This was all they wanted to do.” Eloy said, “WoW is who they are. It defines them.”

Inspired by Morgan Spurlock, the film maker who made “Supersize Me!” and “30 Days,” Eloy decided to turn himself into a hardcore World of Warcraft player for 30 days and see what the lifestyle did to him. He forced himself to play 10 hours a day. He didn't have to play consecutively, and he didn't have to give up the rest of his life.

“I didn't have an 8-hour workday that was going to get in the way, so I was free to try it,” he said.

So Eloy went from playing two or three hours every other day to playing 10 hours every day.

At first, the 10-hour commitment was annoying and disruptive, breaking him away from gym routines and social functions to come back and sit in front of his computer.

Somewhere around day five, Eloy started feeling stiff and getting back pains, but instead of getting up or going for a run he would say, “Nah, I'll just grind out this next level.”

So he stayed at the game, and kept staying, for the next day and the next day, and the next day.

Over time, he said, “The game life became far more important. During week two, all I wanted to do was play the game.”

His game time increased from the required 10 hours a day to 15 or 16 hours per day.

“I would literally be up until 5 a.m. or later. I saw the sun come up at least three or four days.”

Eloy shifted into a new pattern, where he stayed up until 5 a.m., slept until 10:30 a.m. or so, and immediately went back to the game.

“I always knew what I was doing,” Eloy said. “I always knew I was doing this experiment, so I can't say I just became addicted. It's not that simple. It's just that the game itself became so compelling because of this goal I had set for myself.”

Some people call that addiction, but Eloy is reluctant to use the word.

“I have a problem believing I could become addicted to something within two weeks time.”

Eloy gets into week three and starts taking large amounts of medication for back and tailbone pain. “Then I would take a couple shots of something … messing around with alcohol at the same time, not really thinking. I got bad headaches, probably due to sleep deprivation more than anything else.”

He even got blurred vision and muscle spasms. “I stood in front of the mirror in week three and literally watched my left eye vibrate.”

So at this point, did Eloy keep going back to the game because of the experiment or because he was addicted?

Eloy said, “The game was compelling. And by compelling I don't mean fun, because sometimes it wasn't fun at all.”

Next week, we'll talk about Eloy's decision to quit the game, and about the external forces that keep people playing, even when they know it's a bad idea.

You can hear Eloy's complete story in Taverncast After Hours #3, available at taverncast.com.

Written by Michael B. Duff

October 26, 2007 at 14:48

Posted in Games, Warcraft

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