Siobhan Keogh 's Opinion

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: The shame and pride of addiction

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Is gaming addiction a real thing? Siobhan Keogh wonders what turns a hobby into a problem.
World of Warcraft - they don't call it World of Warcrack for nothing.
World of Warcraft - they don't call it World of Warcrack for nothing.

Once, when I was in journalism school, I had a conversation with another student that went something like this.

Him: "What do you do for fun?"

Me: "Well, I play a lot of video games."

Him: "Do you have quite an addictive personality?"

I was puzzled, and vaguely annoyed. I play video games the same way that many people watch TV. I come home from work, cook dinner, and instead of sitting down in front of the telly I sit down in front of my PC or console.

I play for maybe a couple of hours a night, when you average it all out, and maybe a couple more on weekends. I don't think that's excessive or absurd - at least not any more so than the other mediums people use to unwind.

But that's me now. When I really think about it with an open mind, I can understand why this guy associated the gamer with the addict. Fact is, I probably have been addicted to games before - at least temporarily.

I don't know how many hours I've spent on Guild Wars 2, or the Final Fantasy series, or even Pokemon. Add it all up and it's a lot of time - hundreds, if not thousands, of hours.

And I'm far from alone here.

Two of the Herald's gaming contributors, Troy Rawhiti-Forbes and Cameron McMillan, confessed to me about their own gaming addictions.

"I'm a sucker for taking a struggling sports team or franchise and creating a decade-long dynasty where they never lose a game and win every title and player award possible. This takes hours of ultimately meaningless dedication," McMillan said.

"It all started with EA's Madden 99 title when I played as the Indianapolis Colts for 12 seasons before the game retired my team's quarterback Peyton Manning in the season of 2011 (the real Manning is actually still playing). So I just created a new quarterback, called him Peyton Manning Jr. and kept going."

Rawhiti-Forbes sent through a list of 12 different games he'd been hooked on in the past, including one that came up frequently when I asked around - the Squaresoft classic Final Fantasy VII.

"Almost every year since 1999, I've played right through with a minimum of 60 hours invested each time. One year, I succeeded in playing out 99 hours on the first disc alone. Why? I still have no idea," he said.

"But it wasn't to drag out the storyline survival of one of the game's key heroes. I think it was simply because I could, and at no point does it feel like a waste of precious time."

I also sent out a tweet. "Hey Twitter, what has been your biggest gaming addiction and how many hours do you think you invested in said game?"


There were too many responses to share - and I do feel I should protect the innocent - but what was interesting was the mixture of shame and pride (often both within the same tweet). Some people thought spending 100 hours on a game was a lot, whereas others had played for thousands of hours, or even hundreds of days.

Unsurprisingly, MMOs [Massively Multi-player Online games] were brought up more than once - the genre as a whole requires an unusual amount of time investment - and World of Warcraft was the game that became an actual problem for people. There's a reason they call it World of Warcrack.

What makes a video game addiction a real, harmful problem? The same things that make other addictions harmful - when it's having a negative impact on your health, when you're neglecting friends and family or your work, and when you're neglecting your personal hygiene.

In my very unscientific poll, I found that the number of hours spent on a game ramped up significantly when a game didn't have an ending - it's incredibly difficult, although not impossible, to complete all the quests in WoW, and a lot of people can keep playing the same maps in multiplayer shooters like Team Fortress 2 essentially forever without getting bored. But you can eventually "finish" Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto. And then you can move on.

Some people might put 100 hours into Skyrim, but they can do it over a period of months in the same way that they might read a book in little chunks. Or they might binge and be done with it, like marathon-watching a TV show. It's not necessarily harmful in the same way that a game without an end can be.

Of course, that could just be the addict in me speaking. I'd be in denial, after all. Now, how long is it until I can go home and play Titanfall?

* Are you a gaming addict? What's the longest amount of time you have dedicated to a game? Comment below.

Siobhan Keogh

Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead.

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