Sunday, January 15, 2012

The High-Functioning Gameaholic

Pictured: Matt Shafeek, as represented by Jeff Winger
We have a problem here.

You see, I’m kind of a High-Functioning Gameaholic. I have a serious problem that’s lurking right beneath the surface, but I get by just well enough that no one has to say anything.

Last time I wrote on this blog, I labeled my iPhone gaming habits as “finding my new drug,” and the more I think about it, the more literal I think I was being. I recently found myself in an endless gaming cycle on my iPhone, to the point where I’d play/update one game and be ready to play/update the next one. I was on a steady dopamine drip of mental pleasure, but for a man with excessive gaming habits who once gave up games for a year to try to find other things to do with his time, this seemed like I’d gone all the way around the ride and come back to the other side, ready to start a more advanced questline where the monsters are tougher but- ah, geez, there I go again.

Not embarrassing
The first game in this loop is Words With Friends, which started off as a handful of games of virtual/mobile Scrabble that I’d get around to in my spare time, but quickly snowballed into over a dozen simultaneous matches with different people, which might sound like a low number, but just imagine you’re walking around a beautiful park on a lovely day trying to take in the majesty of your surroundings, but in this park are more than a dozen people sitting at a Scrabble board (and some of them are at two), screaming your name, and telling you its your move. Now try and enjoy that lovely park, I dare you. Are you going to look at that rare black squirrel you just spotted, or are you going to try to find out if QADOXEF is a word?

Somewhat embarrassing
The second is Hero Academy, a recent release from a company I like, that was put out for free, and so naturally I had to try it. It plays like WWF, only this time instead of putting silly little letter tiles on a boring little board, you’re hacking away at your opponent’s crystal with knights, wizards and ninjas. You know, the kind of stuff that’s actually worthy of your a five year old.

True shame
And finally, there’s the game I’m frankly embarrassed to even admit I got addicted to (and this is coming from the guy who’s not embarrassed of his enjoyment of Hero Academy), called Tiny Tower. Tiny Tower is an insidiously simple tower building sim where you slowly build the world’s most illogically constructed tower, one floor a time. You construct a ridiculous combination residential floors and commercial floors, where the residents you put in have their jobs at say, the Vegan Food shop or the Putt Putt floor(?). In other words, you’re creating a sort of bio-tower, where everything everyone needs is in one location, and once you come in, you never ever have to leave. Your build upward is seemingly endless, unless at some people the tower gets to heaven and your tower’s residents take the elevator to the pearly gates and you’re finally released from the game’s unrelenting stocking and construction updates.

What’s funny about Tiny Tower is it's clearly made to be addictive, and there’s very little “game” taking place. Everything happens at a snail’s pace and you need to have “Tower Bucks” to build faster. You’ll gain a tower buck every now and again from the game, but if you happen to have a few real life dollars to spare, you can be swimming in Tower Bucks in no time (for the record, I've thankfully not purchased any, though doing so would have simply swapped the embarrassment of putting money into the game with the amount of time I put into it). The game has all the appeal of completing a To-Do list, with none of the actual work. Which is great and all, but I have an actual real life To-Do list I’ve managed to find myself neglecting all week, and it’s becoming a problem.

Pictured: Matt Shafeek, as represented by Jeff Winger
I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of game addiction, and I’ve always wondered how close I am to being a genuine addict. I play a ton of games, but I feel like I've never crossed that line. I’ve never had an all night gaming session. I’ve never skipped a day of work in order to play a game (or worse, lost a job due to playing one). And I’ve never had issues in any of my relationships - with families, friends, or significant others due to gaming. And yet, I haven’t finished reading a book since I got my iPhone, and I’ve written far less than I’ve wanted post NaNoWriMo (thank goodness I’m able to enact some kind of manual override when I plan things like that), and I find myself feeling generally mentally handicapped by the loss of attention I’ve had lately.

All of the iPhone games I’ve been playing capture a few seconds of genuine fun and, with the help of technology, either allow you to play them with anyone else who’s willing, or, have a perpetual updating system in place that keeps you coming back in the name of an endless grind. Either way, they’re all incredibly addictive for someone like me, and frankly, it’s a little scary.

Pictured: Matt Shafeek, as represented by Jeff Winger
I’ve never played an MMORPG like World of Warcraft specifically because from the description I thought I might get addicted to it. When EverQuest first came out some 10 years or so ago, I actually bought it, and had a genuine moment of clarity where I thought: “I’m already playing too many games as it is...I don’t think I can afford to get hooked on this.” I think I’m having a second moment of clarity right now.

Like I said before, I feel like a high-functioning gameaholic. I get by well enough with my addiction, its not causing any serious problems at the moment - but 'well enough' isn’t sitting well with me. So I’m going to have to give most, if not all, of my iPhone games a break for a while. My Heroes will not be graduating from their Academy, my Tower will remain Tiny, and the Words I will have with My Friends* will be in person (or more likely, via text or instant message).


PS: I'd like to imagine Jeff Winger on Community is struggling with a similar problem.

Pictured: Matt Shafeek, as represented by Jeff Winger
*Ok well, I may still keep a few WWF games going. It's fine people, I can handle it!


Leona Raisin said...

Don’t know about the addiction but Words With Friends is a great way to pass the time. Better than watching TV. … WHAT AM I SAYING! … There’s nothing better than TV, but I’ve come up with a great way to build your WWF skills and have fun with TV trivia at my blog. Let me know what you think of it.

Okay, when it comes to TV, an addict I am. Hello my name is Leona.

smeth ross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smeth ross said...

Now a days there are many people like to play the different games. It is one of the best part of the entertainment. I am also playing a games and WWF is my favorite fighting game.
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Buzzers Kuber Natarajan said...

Animated Game is one of the best part of the entertainment. I am also playing a games and Angry bird is my favorite fighting game.
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