Long-Haul Gaming

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Well I'm no doctor but playing for stretches that long without sleeping or eating I would say would cause damage for sure. The guy obviously has irregular diet and disturbed sleep patters. Those never lead to good things.

30 hours, easily done. 50, somewhat harder.
I remember piling through Starcraft custom maps, intensely addictive stuff was made in that
star-edit.

I'm going to argue that 30-50 hours of game play without fatigue is actually a sign that the experience isn't emotionally fulfilling. This is why he's gone to such length of play... he's playing longer to get the same kind of buzz he got when he first started.

I'd recommend playing some other kind of game, like Guild Wars or maybe Eve. I'm not a doctor, but if you're playing 50 hours a day without real satisfaction, it's time to switch.

Of course, he's said he likes playing the game, but my point is that he doesn't like it enough, or that he's grown a little too comfortable with it. And a little variety in your gaming habit can only be good!

Dastardly:

I think the greater hazard in video games is the sense of accomplishment we feel when completing tasks.

I agree with this, but with one major amendment; it's not a hazard that we feel greater accomplishment from virtual tasks. It's a natural reaction to being praised for doing something and being duly rewarded. It's why we play games in the first place, and you could even argue, partly why sports is popular. The feeling of "oh yeah man we just beat the other team!" is the same feeling you get when you go "oh yeah man we just beat that huge-ass boss!".

The reward is often extremely disproportionate to the task, even though both are fictional.

Given the context of what is being asked of you, i would argue that no, it isn't disproportionate at all. Take a quest from world of warcraft that has you go kill ten zombies and the reward is a sword or some kind of weapon. Your argument is that being rewarded with a sword, item or money would be considered disproportionate to the simple task of click on ten mobs until they are dead, but if you imagine it in terms of the game world, it's actually a pretty horrifying thing to do - having to slay the living dead. If you think about the world through the eyes of your avatar, i'd say that it was actually disproportionate in the other direction. A few measly silver for putting my life on the line? With risk of being dinner for the undead? That's almost as bad as working for hours on end 9-5 and getting a measly tax-deducted paycheck at the end of the month!

It's easy for that sense of reward and accomplishment to overtake its real-world counterpart. Rewards are more immediate...

This is where i feel the crux of your argument should be. rewards are more immediate. When you do that quest to slay those ten undead, you don't have to wait for the end of the month to get your reward. It's just a thirty second jog down to the guy who gave you the quest and you collect your reward. Multiplying that by the dozen, it's easy to see why the feeling of reward and accomplishment is much more pronounced in video games. Even if you don't take the MMO template, simply killing another player in an online shooter is still a feeling of "accomplishment and reward" for the skill of the player.

Even your smallest achievement in the real world is far more valuable than your largest in the game world...

Here is where i take serious issue with your argument. While getting a stable job, a place to live, and making sure you have food on your plate are very serious real life achievements indeed, having a girlfriend, having kids, climbing mountains, or learning to play an instrument is not. They are not necessary to your survival and it is up to the individual how much importance they put on doing those other secondary activities. You may think it would be a terrific achievement to learn to play the violin, but many others would not. In fact, many others would not even care, period. If i find slaying ten zombies to be more rewarding than learning to play the violin, then that is my choice and how i choose to weight what is important to me. After all, we all live on borrowed time. Once Death comes for what he is owed, the world will forget you. Unless you revolutionise the world, all those real life achievements will be just as meaningless as the virtual ones. You might say things done in the virtual are not important because they are not real, but i would contest that things done in the real are just as unimportant. No-one is going to care that you climbed a mountain or learned to play the violin. We are all dead men walking.

I disagree with the popular conception that games or any other form of entertainment is addicting. What happens is when people have problems they attempt to evade it instead of solving it so they choose a medium through which to do so. Be it games, drugs or books it's irrelevant.

30 to 50 hour gaming sessions sounds seriously unhealthy. Ignoring any physical issues, metally and emotionally it doesn't seem right. What about a job, relationships, activity and a life away from gaming. I would advise the guy to take a serious look at himself and his life.

Everything in moderation.

Even heroin.

The SettingSun:
30-50 hours. Lawdy, i thought i was badass spending 9 hours on Red Dead Redemption.

You rebel, you!

RvLeshrac:
What's *really* interesting is that people see almost nothing wrong with sports fans obsessing about a sport they don't actually play, spending dozens of hours a week watching every game their team is playing, or related to their team, or sports-related programming on ESPN... yet the same behaviour is considered aberrant for a gamer actually participating in the events.

Like Dr. Kline said, as long as you're willing to reflect on what you do, and change your behaviour if it negatively affects your life, there may be nothing wrong with it.

I think it depends; if someone loves a sport, goes to games, watches it on the tube and plays it on the weekend, they would seem to have an active, full life. If someone sits on the couch and watches a sport they love all day, every day, they would look just as "shut in" as an obsessed gamer.

The problem is that there aren't many excuses to "get out" as a gamer. As a sports fan, you can go to see the game, watch it at a friend's and have a BBQ, play the game, coach others and many, many more. But in gaming, multiplayer can still be done with friends, but they look just as bad as you, playing for hours on end, or you can play online where no one can see your friends and look even more lonely. Aside from expos and the such, video games appear very confining.

There's also the issue of one sport being a real world experience with a physical pay-off that carries over into every day life. For most people, video games are a separate reality that has few, if any real world benefits. You can learn a lesson or a new skill, discover and solve realistic problems, engage in moral choice and epic, life changing journey, but when the PC turns off, not much of it carries across in an easily demonstrable way.

Humans are also hunters and gathers by nature. I'd guess the sport looks more "natural" and shows signs of a good, strong interest in competition and battle.

AndyFromMonday:
I disagree with the popular conception that games or any other form of entertainment is addicting. What happens is when people have problems they attempt to evade it instead of solving it so they choose a medium through which to do so. Be it games, drugs or books it's irrelevant.

Haven't they (researchers) demonstrated that video games are addictive? I've seen reports and numerous studies that suggest people can and do become addicted to the act of playing a game, as the released chemicals (mainly endorphins) are addictive - that is fact. Not unlike people being addicted to the thrill of gambling or the excitement of sex. Literal chemical addiction (like alcohol) is a whole other matter dealing with the body's growing reliance on certain chemicals and the affects.

Gender Unknown:

AndyFromMonday:
I disagree with the popular conception that games or any other form of entertainment is addicting. What happens is when people have problems they attempt to evade it instead of solving it so they choose a medium through which to do so. Be it games, drugs or books it's irrelevant.

Haven't they (researchers) demonstrated that video games are addictive? I've seen reports and numerous studies that suggest people can and do become addicted to the act of playing a game, as the released chemicals (mainly endorphins) are addictive - that is fact. Not unlike people being addicted to the thrill of gambling or the excitement of sex. Literal chemical addiction (like alcohol) is a whole other matter dealing with the body's growing reliance on certain chemicals and the affects.

Care to show those studies? Most of the times studies that "prove" video games are addicting tend to be extremely biased or on an extremely small scale.

Still, let's also remember that endorphins are released quite often. When you have sex, when you masturbate, when you're out with friends etc. If what you say is true then every single activity that brings joy to your life is addicting.

Gralian:

Dastardly:

I think the greater hazard in video games is the sense of accomplishment we feel when completing tasks.

I agree with this, but with one major amendment; it's not a hazard that we feel greater accomplishment from virtual tasks. It's a natural reaction to being praised for doing something and being duly rewarded. It's why we play games in the first place, and you could even argue, partly why sports is popular. The feeling of "oh yeah man we just beat the other team!" is the same feeling you get when you go "oh yeah man we just beat that huge-ass boss!".

Oh, I definitely agree that it's natural. No question at all about that. It's also logical and reasonable. But I call it a "hazard." That means that it could be dangerous. A sharp turn on the road is a "hazard," meaning it could pose a risk if not properly negotiated. It doesn't mean that turn itself is somehow bad or unnatural, just that it can more easily lead to problems than some other, gentler turns out there.

The reward is often extremely disproportionate to the task, even though both are fictional.

Here's where I wasn't very clear. By "the reward," I mean the feeling of satisfaction that comes with the awesome item. By "the task," I simply mean the in-game task--clicking the mouse at appropriate times to reduce a hit point bar to zero while keeping your own above zero (with other variations thrown in to add some complexity, of course).

We internalize the victory of a fictional situation far faster than we internalize the danger. What I mean is that it's more likely for a person to think, "I'm awesome for having completed this quest and gotten this awesome sword!" than it is for them to think, "I'm in actual mortal peril from these digital zombies."

A lot of this has to do with the fact that other people reinforce the satisfaction of the reward, whereas other people don't reinforce the fictional danger. "Sweet, man, you got that sword. I hear it's really hard to go, so awesome!" is far more common than "Wow, I can't believe you risked your life against those fictional zombies..."

Our sense of reward is generally proportionate to the amount of risk we perceive the task to entail. We can often allow a fictional risk to increase our perception of the risk we had to take to achieve the result. So, while you actually just had to sit at home and click buttons in a safe environment, your mind tells you that you braved hordes of zombies and demonstrated extraordinary combat prowess (and magic!) to get this sword. Consciously, we know there was no danger.

(For another example, consider roller coasters or skydiving. People enjoy these tasks and love them because they feel that sense of excitement and accomplishment. You buy a keychain to show everyone how you braved that coaster, or you keep a video to show everyone how you braved the open sky. We feel as though we just overcame a very real and significant chance of injury or death. Statistically, these are both extremely safe activities (due to the gear, the training instructors, all all of the safeguards in place). Our minds amplify that perceived danger, however, and this also amplifies the "rush" and sense of accomplishment.)

With that cognitive bias, when we internalize the risks and rewards unequally, the reward is disproportionate to the actual task.

This is where i feel the crux of your argument should be. rewards are more immediate. When you do that quest to slay those ten undead, you don't have to wait for the end of the month to get your reward. It's just a thirty second jog down to the guy who gave you the quest and you collect your reward. Multiplying that by the dozen, it's easy to see why the feeling of reward and accomplishment is much more pronounced in video games. Even if you don't take the MMO template, simply killing another player in an online shooter is still a feeling of "accomplishment and reward" for the skill of the player.

This really is the crux of my argument. I just feel that this phenomenon is amplified due to the cognitive bias mentioned above (in which we can disproportionately internalize the weight of these accomplishments).

Here is where i take serious issue with your argument. While getting a stable job, a place to live, and making sure you have food on your plate are very serious real life achievements indeed, having a girlfriend, having kids, climbing mountains, or learning to play an instrument is not...

All hobbies have the potential to become the same kind of problem--when you sink that hole-in-one, you feel like the king of the world, and this could become an addictive feeling when the rest of your life isn't as exciting or immediately (or immensely) gratifying. But, yes, it is similarly "unimportant," all things considered. (I do think video games have the potential to contain far more, and more active, reinforcers for this sort of thing, though.)

When I talk about "real world accomplishments," I'm talking about those things that often don't feel as rewarding as "slaying a dragon," but are in reality far more important, difficult, and noteworthy. Few people feel the same thrill at getting a steady paycheck that someone might if they killed a world-ending necromancer... but that shouldn't diminish the accomplishment.

In the end, it's not about weighing the actual accomplishments, though. I'm just talking about the potential for someone to become addicted to the inflated sense of accomplishment that the video game world often provides, to the point that they play games to the exclusion of some more important real-world activities.

Someone that enjoys games, but still gets work done and keeps their marriage healthy, that's fine. Someone who enjoys games just as much... but allows it to interfere with work or with their marriage, because the game feels more immediately and immensely rewarding? That's the kind of problem I'm talking about.

(Also, the 'caller' in the original post isn't necessarily in that category. I'm just talking about some of the problems a person asking the "Is it too much?" question might want to watch for.)

UberaDpmn:
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/8903-Critical-Miss-Gamer-Science

I think this guy is on the 'laser vision enchantment' side of the argument tbh.

Any sane person would have said that 50 hours of WoW is obviously unhealthy. Surely your muscles being inactive for that long would lead to cramps, you'd get sleep deprivation, start to get starved of nutrients (If your only snacking), then you repeat the cycle after sleeping etc.

This article makes me feel like he doesn't want to piss off Escapee's, so he practically says there's nothing wrong with it, as long as it 'fits into your life'. He even says 'speak to a professional' implying either that he isn't a doctor or he isn't qualified in this particular field. WAIT. WHAT?!

I think it's more than the person writing in is asking questions. And that's a very good thing. But sometimes telling someone the truth directly isn't as valuable as letting them discover it for themselves.

Really think about this one. Which would you rather eat: a sandwich that was offered, or a sandwich that was thrown at your face? I bet it's the first. Even if they're exactly the same sandwich, how it's offered has a big impact on how it's received.

If Dr. Mark had said, "Yeah, dude, you've got a big problem. What the hell is wrong with you? Jesus." How would this person have reacted? For a lot of people, it would be defensively. When we feel accused (rightly or not), we go on the defensive--maybe I do have a problem, but who is this quack to tell me so?

But this is someone who is asking questions. If there is a problem, that means this person is headed in the right direction--they're on the verge of recognizing it as a problem. If you shove them, they'll turn back and run. If you give them some non-accusatory points to ponder, it might lead them to more questions (and thus more answers). Our minds are far more likely to receive a truth we discover for ourselves than one that is thrown in our faces.

The same is especially true for readers who sympathize with this player. They might be reading this and saying, "Wow... I do that, too. I wonder what this guy thinks about that." If Dr. Mark went on the offensive, these people might be pushed further from the point where they could openly ask questions.

(Also, think of it like drug addiction. Yeah, heroine is bad. Yeah, someone who's on it should quit. But if you attack and/or villainize them, is that going to make them more likely to find help? No. It's going to drive them away from help, further into themselves. The idea of quitting cold turkey, the risk of failing such a difficult task, can scare them out of even trying. A gentler, more gradual approach is what a lot of people need, if we're really interested in helping.)

UberaDpmn:
He even says 'speak to a professional' implying either that he isn't a doctor or he isn't qualified in this particular field. WAIT. WHAT?!

I think he is just suggesting that the person speak to someone if he feels he has a problem, as Dr. Mark is probably not even in the same geographic location and thus wouldn't be able to see this person as a patient. *grins*

I'm interested that Dr. Mark referenced the Game Transference study, as I was looking at that the other day. The study itself doesn't seem to have a great enough sample size to be particularly scientifically significant (42 Swedish teenagers - wow!), though my personal experiences would certainly back up the idea. But I would bet that any entertainment medium could produce the same type of effect if used long enough. I would really like to see what studies have been done in transference for movies, TV, or books.

Dastardly:
Snip

Also, excellent points, Dastardly. I worked for an eating disorders clinic for a while, and I can tell you that if a person isn't ready to change him/herself, if that person hasn't truly recognized their own behavior as a problem, then no amount of counseling, cajoling, or brow-beating will make the difference. If this person is asking questions, then he/she is on the way; but it's still a difficult road.

Man, stuff like this really makes me want to get into psychology!

UberaDpmn:
Any sane person would have said that 50 hours of WoW is obviously unhealthy. Surely your muscles being inactive for that long would lead to cramps, you'd get sleep deprivation, start to get starved of nutrients (If your only snacking), then you repeat the cycle after sleeping etc.

This article makes me feel like he doesn't want to piss off Escapee's, so he practically says there's nothing wrong with it, as long as it 'fits into your life'.

I had the same reaction. I couldn't believe the good doctor couldn't come right out and straight up say "Yes, 30-50 consecutive hours of any single activity - let alone a sedentary one like video gaming - is bad for your health." You don't have to be a doctor to see that, do you?

Is it addiction or another psychological condition? Maybe, I don't know. But I agree that it should be obvious to anyone that playing any video game for 30 hours straight is not healthy in the slightest.

This is one of the fest articles of his that I've enjoyed. Usually I feel he is against the gaming community as a whole, as an underlying bias. Course that could because my parents forced me to go to a Psychologist for most of my teenage and early adult life, which probably is why I don't trust them.

In any event good read well done!

Longest stretch of time I've devoted to a single gaming session is maybe 12-14 hours, and that was during the start of both Wrath and Cata. Of course, even then it wasn't a straight 12 hours. I think the longest I've sat down in front of a screen playing a game, without even taking a small break to eat or something is maybe 6-8 hours, tops. And that's assuming I can have something going on on another screen to occupy my attention; if not, it's maybe 2-3 hours.

Honestly, though, it seems over the last decade or so my attention span with games has seriously dwindled. When I was a kid, I could play a single game for hours on end with no interruptions. Now, when I play on consoles I'm typically switching back and forth between TV and Game during every break/random encounter the game gives me, when I've got my handheld I've gotta have the TV on in the background, and when I'm playing on PC I'll have the game muted and some movie or series on my laptop on the side. And of course, regardless of whether I want to or not, I can't seem to sleep for less than 8 hours a day, so there's no way in hell I could ever keep up with my guildies in Cata and Wrath who'd play for 24-30 hours straight, take a 4 hour nap, then get right back on.

As usual, I've really enjoyed reading all your reactions and comments. Its a fair criticism that I should have been clearer in identifying this kind of "Long Haul Gaming" as seriously problematic. As so many in my profession err on the side of pathologizing habitual gaming, I tried to take a different tack. I wanted to encourage this gamer to continue a thoughtful exploration of what he or she gets out of such lengthy periods of play beyond simply having fun, and I wanted to bring in the notion that intensive gaming can be deeply "neuro-stimulative" in some profound way that we are only beginning to understand. When I suggest that someone get help from a professional, I do mean someone local to them who can establish a relationship with the person and have a better shot of finding out what's really going on. For the record, 30-50 hours sounds like way too much to me, but a number of you report coming pretty close to the low end of that range, so perhaps its not as unusual as I'd imagined.

I agree that the "Game Transference Phenomena" study is very preliminary and has a small sample size, but in my view, it has a kind of face validity--it fits with what I and my clients have experienced and seems to make sense. I think deeply immersive video games have more potential to create this effect than other media, but that doesn't mean that dedicated TV watchers might not experience the same thing.

I don't know what else to say about my allergies. I'd like to blame then on global warming but they've been consistently lousy every spring for a long time now!

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