Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Got a friend playing too much Warcraft? Here’s how you can help

Got a friend playing too much Warcraft? Here’s how you can help

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about Eloy, a well-known Warcraft podcaster who forced himself to play the game 10 hours a day for 30 days. Eloy gave up his experiment after 17 days after suffering anxiety, depression and a variety of physical pains.

Eloy is careful to avoid generalizations when he tells his story, and I want to make sure I don’t fall into that trap. I’m not saying all gamers are addicts, but these games are designed to be addictive, and because of that, time spent playing them must be managed, the same way people manage gambling habits and alcohol consumption.

Michael Duff

Last week, I talked about the peer-pressure aspect of guild membership, about how encouragement from guild members can keep people playing the game when they might otherwise be inclined to stop.

No one wants to deny the role of personal responsibility here, but at what point should the group get involved? Eloy says the first step is simple awareness. When you see a friend logging on more than usual, don’t just blindly pat him on the back and praise his dedication.

Think of the character as a human being for a minute and ask if there’s something wrong. Ask if he’s eating right. Ask if he’s getting enough sleep. And cut him some slack if he wants to bow out of raids or group activities. Let your guildmates know it’s OK to take time off when real life calls, and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you see someone spending extraordinary amounts of time in game.

In his June podcast, Eloy says, “If these people are your friends, if these are honest-to-God viable relationships, then people need to be willing to occasionally call their friends out when they see them doing things that may be harmful.”

He says the situation demands responsibility, not just from potential addicts, but from the community that plays with them.

“Step forward and care,” he says. “If you say you care, care all the way.”

But I agree with Eloy’s co-host, InfernalBill, who says caring may not be as easy as it sounds.

Gamers like to brag that Internet interaction is just as real as real life, but the truth is, online interaction happens in a very limited context, and people don’t always feel comfortable crossing the boundary between discussing the game and discussing real life.

And for that reason, Eloy says it’s very hard to counsel someone about game addiction from inside the game itself.

“There is no accountability when everyone is addicted,” he says.

The most effective interventions come from outside. Don’t just walk up to your buddy and say, “You’re playing the game too much.” He’ll get angry and defensive and you won’t accomplish anything.

Instead, ask him to go out to dinner or go see a movie. Maybe even play another game. People can get addicted to anything, but console games don’t require as big a time commitment. They don’t reward long-term loyalty, so they’re easier to put down.

If you want to help somebody, don’t just lecture him about the virtues of real life. Take him out and show him, one meal, one concert or one movie at a time.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

November 9, 2007 at 14:06

Posted in Columns

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