The Addiction That Wasn’t

As part of my Empirical Research Methods course, I (and everyone in my class) had to create a survey to test for online videogame addiction. Once we were done making our surveys, we had to email the link to the class and everyone was required to take everyone else’s surveys.

Some of the common questions were as follows:

  • Do you play online videogames more often than you partake in non-gaming activities?
  • Do you feel irritated when you can’t play online videogames?
  • When you aren’t playing, do you anticipate your next gaming session?
  • Are most of your friends people you met in an online videogame?
  • Does your work/school performance suffer due to your online gaming habits?
  • Do you easily lose track of time while playing online videogames?

These questions were phrased a bit differently on the surveys, but the idea behind them is the same. All of these questions seem like good measures of addiction*, but I say these questions can be misleading. I would answer “yes” on a fair few of these, but I do not consider myself an addict. Not to videogames, at least.

There is another factor missing here that most surveys on the topic don’t take into consideration. That factor is friendship, and I’m not so sure a survey could properly identify this extraneous variable.

While most of my friends are people I’ve met through NaNoWriMo, I still do keep in touch with people I used to play online games with. One person in particular is my best and closest friend, someone I’ve known for close to five years now and care very much about. This friend also lives in another country.

So how does this skew my results of such a survey?

When I have free time, I want to spend it with friends. I could call up one of my friends in the city, but between time, money, location, and weather, it’s often hard to make impromptu plans. Playing an online game with a close friend is free and doesn’t require getting dressed for the weather. So yes, I do play online games more than I partake in non-gaming activities.

I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had to put off doing something fun because of some pesky “responsibilities.” I could go to the movies with my friends, but I have this paper due tomorrow… I could go to out to lunch with everyone, but my lunch break from work is only an hour and the locale is a bit out of the way… So yes, sometimes I do feel irritated when I can’t play videogames because homework is preventing me from doing something fun with someone amazing.

Do you not anticipate your evening plans while partaking in the mundane? Do you not lose track of time when having fun and enjoying pleasurable company? Do you not procrastinate in order to socialize with important people in your life? Most people do. In fact, I’d question your humanity if you didn’t.

Moral of the story: I’m not addicted to videogames, I’m addicted to socializing in a stress-free environment. An online environment means I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing, if I have food in my teeth, if I can catch the last train home before the T stops running for the night, if I have enough money for the food I ordered. There’s no judgment, there’s no cold weather, it’s just fun.

While face-to-face social interaction is ideal, sometimes the internet is your only way of communicating. IM, video calls, and voice calls are all wonderful ways of keeping in touch, but it’s nice to be able to do something together with someone you care about. Online videogames allow for this when physical proximity prevents anything else.

Is this a sign of addiction? I’d like to say no, as I’m certain were my friend within visiting distance, I’d have little to no need to play such games, but perhaps I’m simply in denial of my own problems. What is your take on it? Is the social desire simply another aspect of an addiction to online gaming, or are such games an acceptable form of long-distance social interaction when other options are limited?

*This is called content validity, for anyone who is curious. If you’re really curious I could tell you exactly how the surveys were structured, but I’m going to assume you’re like me and find surveys to be incredibly dull. Likert scale, bivarial analysis, and all that jazz.


About Squishy

Writer, dancer, gamer, and admirer of all that is beautiful.

Posted on February 15, 2011, in Fun and Games and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree with this sentiment. I think as long as you don’t regularly scorn duties or face-to-face time with nearby friends, it’s not an addiction. I play things online via XBox pretty steadily, and most of them are because of the way I can essentially hang out with friends that are too far away to do it easily.

    I suspect that’s what most people were thinking when they responded. Besides – an addict couldn’t turn away long enough to bother with the survey. 🙂

  2. I can definitely agree with this; I don’t get out often, but I keep in contact with all my friends online. But this survey is statistics is mathematics, and friendship simply does not compute. Which is why we have people to understand this, instead of computers. *Shakes fist at Watson* (Only makes sense if you watch Jeopardy.)

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