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Deep in the 'World of Warcraft'

A sociologist digs deep into the super-popular online game “World of Warcraft” and looks into our human future.

In the age of the Internet, new worlds have flowered online — and giant communities engaged in virtual environments and role-playing games.

The biggest of the massive multi-player online role-playing games is “World of Warcraft.” More than eleven million enthusiasts pay a monthly fee to immerse themselves in a vast digital world of elves and orcs and trolls and warfare.

One of them is sociologist William Sims Bainbridge. Now he’s come out to say he may have found the future of human civilization in an online game.

This hour, On Point: the sociologist and “World of Warcraft.”

Guests:

William Sims Bainbridge, sociologist and director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation (NSF). His new book is “The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World.” He has logged more than 2,300 hours playing 22 characters in “World of Warcraft” — all in the name of research.

Elizabeth Harper, editor-in-chief of WoW.com, which provides news, analysis, and opinion on the “World of Warcraft,” and a producer for Massively.com.  Her top-level character in “World of Warcraft” is a blood elf paladin.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Tim

    I’m not a player but an investor in WOW’s parent company, Activision – which, makes about 2billion a year in subscription fees alone. One of the big markets to crack is China – but recently the Chinese government has banned WOW apparently because it includes “culturally insensitive” characters such as the skeletons. Is this really about culture or getting a cut of the profits? Do your guests have any comments on this case?

  • Bubka – AD

    My Chinese friends all play WOW on servers in Taiwan. So the market in China is not completely untapped.

  • Ann

    Why are we not playing: The World of Peacecraft? The World of Kindness? The World of Education? The World of Music, Art, Dancing, and Theater?

  • Linda Kazalski

    I am in a Warcraft guild with several of my friends and chosen family and it is a wonderful way to spend time together, even though we are separated by hundreds of miles and only see each other once a month or so, we can chat online or through the microphone. We laugh together and fight together – and yes, die together.

  • loninappleton

    One wonders what sort of wording in the grant got the professor the funds from NSF. This is piffle and here’s why:

    The theory put forth by one technology apologist is that Everything Bad Is Good For You. The apologist here is giving credibility to that which is an infantile activity.

    This is an opinion to be sure since I will not listen to the program.

  • Eric

    Constant busy signal when I try to dial in to listen.

  • Cynthia Gilliatt

    Does Mr.Bainbridge discuss the issue of addiction to such games? I am told this is a real danger.

  • Tom Fulton

    I would like to ask Mr. Bainbridge to comment on the possibility of using virtual worlds like WoW to raise money for charity. Accumulated virtual money can be translated into real money for targeted charities, in much the same way that Paul Newman sold food products to finance charities. 11 million people @ $15/mo amounts to a lot of real money!

  • David

    What have you learned about the concept of collective intelligence and how it is evolving from your immersion and interactions in the World of Warcraft?

  • Rich in Aiken, SC

    I played Warcraft religiously for over 3 years, and even managed to get Warlord status before the expansions packs. Having been away from the game for a long time now, I can say the importance of the game has shrunk considerably for me. It attracts an motley group of people, and can consume massive amounts of time. The fact that lots of people waste their time playing it doesn’t give it any relevance. I regret the time I lost playing World of Warcraft.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Why not a World of Peacecraft? This reminds me of a placard I see going around downtown on top of an old lady in a wheelchair: We Want a Department of Peace; eliminate the Department of Defense. Something like that.
    I believe that’s called the Department of State.
    I understand there’s a sort of museum of war games somewhere in Pennsylvania that is used to entice young adolescents into joining the armed services.
    I would like an online museum set up by State Department types (CIA?) where the link to reality was a little clearer than it seems WoW sets up. I suppose it would be insulting in the extreme to somebody at every possible turn, but it could be a lot more informative. I don’t have time to waste on fantasy anymore. WoW seems a rejection of reality in disconcerting ways — as a choice, I mean.

  • http://www.theweirding.net manodogs

    They said, right at the front of the program, that he did not get paid by the gov’t or anyone else; he spent 2000+ hours on WoW at his own expense.

  • Steve T

    I have tried several MMO’s and did not truly like them.

    I think It’s my personality.

    I am a very social person, but I have found that when people are able to hide behind a persona, they leave behind, their true selves.

    it’s like Forest Gump “You never know what your gona git”

    I would rather meet you face to face. and play a game by myself.

  • P Uncorrect

    This is silly. What a waste of time!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Interesting idea: virtual cooperation.
    Real counterpart: campaign financing. Terrorism financing. All smoke and mirrors. No physical body needed.

    Some say that standing “up,” getting arrested, and getting the attention of the police is what “counts.” Or that getting your face on TV is what “counts.”

    The idea that a solo thinker “counts” — out there playing a game — well, it’s different than sports, or the idea that the swiftest with the sword wins.

  • Lindsey Sellers

    I played World of Warcraft for many years when the game first debuted in 2004. I’ve watched it evolve since then, and have many close friends who have remained in game.

    While there are many amazing team-building and diversity barrier-breaking concepts worked into the game, the fact is that more than anything else it requires ONE resource: time. This is the crux of the problem for me with World of Warcraft. I respect the game for all it offers, but at the end of the day it is a black hole where 11 million people are investing their lives and their time into an intellectual property that has absolutely no value outside of the artificial game world built by its developers. THAT is my problem with it.

  • Victoria

    http://all-thats-interesting.tumblr.com/post/453798400/what-my-spring-vacation-looks-like

    The only thing sad thing about this cartoon is if it were a WoW player, they would not even go to the window.

  • Kris Kanzler

    Unfortunately, the majority of Warcraft players will probably miss this unique broadcast because they are too busy playing Warcraft!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Waste of time? I think WoW et al must be a step above sitting in front of the TV set in terms of the engagement of the intellecty and the personality. It seems to me a kind of training. I think the brain seeks out the appropriate exercise (unless it is drugged on too much food or the wrong food). So if people seek out WoW, someone is getting nourishment from it.

  • Amy

    Please address. Find WOW very hard to limit for children. Very very hard to sign off, in part because of connection to other guild members in game. Don’t want to let people down, etc. I agree with the various positives being talked about. But real life interpersonal contact does indeed suffer as a result of online interpersonal contact.

  • Marc

    You have barely scratched the surface of WoW, there is large community that exists outside the game in which players participate. For example, wowwiki, a wiki about WoW is the second largest wiki only behind Wikipedia. Online guilds often have offline website. There are countless blogs and boards that discuss gameplay and theory-crafting of in game performance.

  • Mark Jones

    Does Dr Bainbridge see an effect on on attitudes toward race, sex, and cultural differences, given the plasticity of player’s ability to customize their avatars in these games. (A white man playing a black female superhero, for example.)

  • Jeff

    The game is very addictive. The nickname for it is World of Warcrack. I know from experience, I have 9 level 80′s and 1 level 70 on the same realm. I run a guild and have made many friends from around the world. I had a friend who I met in the game and he was my co-gm. He had duchenne muscular dystrophy and was unable to get out of his wheelchair and get out and meet new people. Most of his friends walked away because of his immobility. Sadly he passed away a year ago this coming May at the age of 23. It was a very sad time. His mother plays as well and takes great comfort in being able to come online and see the people who cared about her son. It has its good points and bad points.

  • Glenn

    Does all our speech have to sound gutteral and breathy, while making professional-wrestler threats to each other?
    I’m not opposed to this stuff, but I do think I’d rather read the Lord of the Rings rather than play the game, as Tolkein had something to say. What a gaggle of nerds with borderline Asperger’s have to say would not interest me.
    This warfare theme may appeal to the powerless, but nobody wants to be immersed in a world surrounded by antisocial wimps.
    8^)

  • David Wright

    How about:

    “Mad Men” online?

    “Julie and Julia” online?

    “I Love Lucy” online?

    Any of these would be easier on my vocal cords.

  • Rizla

    @Ellen Dibble,Tom Fulton
    google “second life”. WoW is a _game_. ie the same activities spread between people with a common protocol and shared ideal with expected outcome.
    you play, collect experience points and level up accordingly. let’s leave it at that.
    there are other more suited virtual worlds which operates on a more generally social level than just leisure entertainment.

  • Sherry

    My husband and I both play and our discussions often revolve around the economy inside the game. I find it very intresting that it is a world that can mirror real life. I also enjoy the visual aspects of the game, the detail that they put into the world is amazing at times and I find myself going to my favorite places where the beauty or the music relaxes me after a hard day at work.

  • Amanda Hathaway

    I always thought the D&D crowd in high school were so geeky – and I think WoW is geeky!! Why not find your power in the REAL world, slay your own inner demons, fight for real justice and socialize with real friends?! If you want to learn about magic, join a wiccan coven and use real magic for real good. I think all the gaming makes people less and less in touch with the real issues of our own world – not to mention adding to the obesity epidemic as so many people spend hours sitting at the computer!

    Thanks – great show!

  • michelle

    WOW is the end of civilization. If a marriage is not plagued by infidelity, boredom, or financial crisis, it can and will be brought down by WOW. WOW is not real life. It is a poor investment for our future. It is an escape from reality, it is a cop out.

  • Sascha

    Theoretically, I have nothing against social networking sites or even group fantasies. I’ve never played WOW, but the dialogue you’ve played sounds like it’s from a Saturday morning cartoon. What about the infantilism these games encourage? Are these groups of adults regressing to childhood escapism?

  • Mike

    I do not see how someone can call this game, or any video game for that matter, silly and dismiss it as a mere waste of time.

    Anything taken to excess can be labeled an addiction. Obsessive hobbyists of any stripe are not often labeled as participating in useless activity, yet people engaged in online activities are dismissed by so many as doing so.

    Truly, which evening pass-time is more constructive? Spending your evenings watching television media participating in a one-way stream of information flow, or interacting with friends, from physical or online relationships, engaged in problem solving, and in a way creating a piece of the media you are observing?

    I would argue that there is a place in everyone’s life for activities of all stripes, be they real or virtual.

  • jeff farber

    In a real world where electricity generation is a major source of CO2 and demand from the internet and infrastructure that supports this type of experience is projected to be the largest portion of electricity use growth in the coming years, how can you justify this use of this technology to support this non-productive, (basically entertainment) energy and time. How does the working together to solve problems in the game translate to people trying to address real world issues like climate change and the increasing demands for electircity to support such gaming? Also why you are suggesting that you can learn about human nature from those playing, but aren’t the player just a pre-selected small homogeneous segment of the totality of humanity.

  • Ellen Dibble

    These games “appeal to the powerless,” I see posted by Glenn. Sounds to me like 90 percent of adolescents.

  • Judy

    I have several characters on WoW and certainly find that a balance between real life and playing can be a challenge. What I find interesting is how the personalities of the player come through in the “chat”. However, I wonder if the personality is “real” or a role play that the person has adopted for the game play.

  • http://n/a Adam S.

    I wonder if the professor studied the online plague that inadvertently spilled into the world back in ’05. Blizzard implemented a new Dungeon (Zul’Gurub) with a new mechanic that players had to overcome, a curse that would eventually lead to death. Players soom learned they could teleport to major cities and spread teh disease to entire populations.

    It is apparently still studied as a model of viral infection.

  • Roger

    I find some of the comments posted here interesting, and telling of those who left them.

    There are still a lot of people who see games merely as an “infantile activity”. Now you are of course entitled to that opinion. However it is important to note that in the statement left by loninappleton, your opinion was not just to the credibility of the funds, but also to games as a worthwhile activity.

    I wonder if you would be as insulting to works of literature or the cinema. Understand that the method a writer uses to convey a story does not matter. Not all games are mindless, and some will cause you to think. Others will immerse you in a story, in a manner that neither books nor movies ever could.

    Calling this game infantile is akin to saying all movies are junk because of the opinions you have of a few bad films. There have been import films in history. There have been important novels in history. And we are in a time where important games are being created. Games whose impacts are incredibly broad in terms of their scope.

    Understand that more people play this game than who live in Greece.

    Let me repeat that. Currently, Blizzard has more subscribers to World of Warcraft than the population of Greece.

    To imply that they are all infantile is not simply demeaning to their intellect, but clearly demonstrates an ignorance.

    As for the comment regarding the aspect of war in the game, and why it cannot be more cultural, I wonder if you would feel the same after reading Tolstoy, or any number of writers who have engrossed us in stories of conflict.

    Conflict is interesting. It drives us in a variety of ways. It changes us as people.

    Also, though the game is called World of Warcraft, there are a lot of aspects of the game which are not violent.

    Finally, as to the addictive possibility of playing such games, that has all but been proven to be a fallacy. Games are not addictive. One chooses how to spend their time. If someone chose to read one book after another and constantly had their nose in between a book’s covers, would you say they are addicted?

    If so, I was addicted as a child and teenager. I still read voraciously, however I also love being immersed in an interactive story within powerful games which allow me to make complex moral choices which shape the characters and the game’s outcome.

    Its time for people to let go of outdated stigmas and open their minds to the possibilities of being entertained in new ways.

  • christina young

    my question would be, that apart from social science research as an end to itself, wouldn’t the 2,000 hrs spent be better used ourside the virtual, and rather in the actual worlsd.
    i see participating in the real world, saving real forests more important to pursue, than these on-line virtual wastes of time

  • Jennifer Grucza

    A lot of the discussion in the show is focusing on the dialog of NPC’s (non-player characters) and quest content within the game, but for many (probably most) players, these are almost secondary. So many of my fellow players barely read the quest text, and mute the in-game sounds. I find that more interesting is the social dynamics between players in how they collaborate together (or fail to collaborate), as well as something that was touched on in passing – the very addictive system of setting and meeting goals and getting achievements within the game.

  • Roberto

    While I readily acknowledge the potential benefits, I challenge someone to identify if a large proportion of players are really benefiting. For instance, what are the ways players are applying their “recognition” of natural resources to real world situations? Anyone playing 40+ hours on a PC/large screen is using up considerable electricity — not to mention being too busy to CFL/re-insulate their house, etc. (on the other hand, they are not driving a car those 40 hours either…)

    I worry about teenagers not tackling priorities or young adults not getting healthy amounts of exercise. One very well-known prep school dean told me WOW is the MOST addictive and problematic diversion at his school; he has been advising/leading for 30 years and is very concerned about the negative impacts…

  • Ellen Dibble

    Does gaming develop sense of self? “Status,” as the guest states? The sense of “I can interact,” “I can trust and depend on others or lead others”? I suppose so. I suppose an Asperger’s nerdy person, or somewhat say in mourning, abstracted by circumstance, such a person would get and give differently than someone else. Mothers hopefully can tell the difference — I mean, if it matters.

  • Barbara

    For a real insight into the people who play this game, check out the web series, “The Guild.” It is written by and stars a “recovering” WoW addict.

  • JD

    I hate to say this to all the people who get so angry about this. There are many people who are not geeky and that are not shut-ins. Many are not overweight nor do they hide from the real world outside. We discuss the real world often. I have family and friends that I see every day. I control the game, the game does not control me. I play because I enjoy the game, I enjoy the friendships that I have made and I enjoy accomplishing things in the game. Each of you who stereo type the WoW player goes to show how narrow minded you are.

  • Robin

    The next expansion of the Warcraft world is actually going to take into effect the repetitive quests that players have done and change the world. One example would be that the barren land of Desolace will actually become green and lush again.

    And as far as this game developing social abilities, it can be good for that but it can also stunt them. People can be exceptionally harsh in this game because they forget there is a human being behind the pixels in front of them. You have people who can leave the game behind when they shut the computer off and you have those who can’t leave it alone and let that drama that occurs in game take them over. It’s an interesting contradiction.

  • Brian

    As a member of the Industry that produces these online games I’m happy to see not only that there are studies on social studies on this new media but how similar the social structures are akin to real life. Jane McGonigal did a recent TED talk with a focus on how we can focus players as problem solvers for the worlds issues.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Say in this global world I meet someone on a school trip to Costa Rica, and I tell them, “Hey, I play such and such a game; see ya’ there,” and then the two of us can expand our two-some into a broader social context, and we can interact in ways I might not, as a teen, in a phone call.
    Or a senior citizen, who doesn’t talk politics or religion, but frankly cares intensely about those things. Just get an avatar and go for it. You’ll get an opportunity to exercise those brain neurons, with pals or strangers.

  • Windz

    As a psychology major, also a warcraft player since the 90′s, I have looked at WOW as a social environment, a place where I practice different social approaches. Life is not all black and white, neither is world of warcraft. Since vanilla warcraft to the expansion of lich king, when you look at the lore of warcraft itself, which many outsider have ignored, it is actually as complicated as the reality. It carries many ethical issues where we have can find delimmas. As ironic as it sounds, the lore is actually as complicated as stories from the bible, where different kinds of ethical challenges and values are hail from.

  • Roger

    “For a real insight into the people who play this game, check out the web series, “The Guild.” It is written by and stars a “recovering” WoW addict.

    Posted by Barbara, on March 30th, 2010 at 11:50 AM”

    When you’re done that, make certain to check out reruns of Bosom Buddies for a insightful and accurate look into the lives of cross-dressers.

  • Philip

    Speaking as a recovering WoW addict, it is impossible to overstate how easy it is to wreck your entire real life playing this damned game. I spent thousands of hours maxing out my primary character, and hundreds more on a second before I finally quit.

    I still have rl friends on the inside. I never see them anymore irl. The last time I saw them was at a superbowl party. They both brought laptops and spent the whole time playing WoW.

  • Kathryn

    It seems Dr. Bainbridge is so blinded by his infatuation with the game to even accept the downsides of WoW. It would be helpful if he would eliminate the excessive defensiveness in his argument.

  • Andrea

    I wonder how those who are touting the positive aspects of WOW would feel if they had a child or spouse who spends 18 hours a day doing WOW ignoring the rest of his or her life. My child, now 22, has been addicted for years and has spent the past year in a therapeutic residential program trying to deal with his addiction. Positive aspects can be found in ANY ACTIVITY. That doesn’t mean they are beneficial overall.

  • Roberto

    Two things –

    Brian, will you give my recluse son a summer job? He is investing considerable amounts of time in WOW and feels he is “preparing” for a world of software development. I have great respect for some of the benefits, but WOW seems to take up valuable “oxygen” leaving no time/air for the mundane: resume/cover letters, networking contacts, etc. Perhaps he is so good a WOW player, he can just submit his avatar for the job?!

    JD, kudos to you for achieving balance. That should be the goal of any entertainment or vocation. And while only anecdotal, the two (boys) in my house who play are showing more and more signs of imbalance. We have resorted to turning off the modem and clocking time, and they just learned to play at school or library. If that is not bordering on “addiction” it certainly is a problem as other priorities fall by the wayside.

  • Rich

    Folks, it’s a *game*, nothing more, nothing less. One plays for the enjoyment of the in-game achievement and for the companionship of those with whom you play.

    Folks who become “addicted” to it are simply addictive personalities, period. The addiction reflects some imbalance in their lives that, were they not playing WoW, would simply manifest itself by some other means.

    I’m in my mid 40s and have played the game off and on since it started. I have a professional career, pay the mortgage, and spend time with my family.

  • James

    I am a World of Warcraft player. One of the major draws that keeps me coming back to the game to play is the fact that I can connect with friends and family, in a virtual world, across large distances.

    I can talk/interact/show emotions with friends that have moved to other states, military members that are deployed to other countries(Japan), and I am able to maintain all these releationships without costly telephone charges.

    I play the game often, but I’m not a “shut in”. I know that I need to adventure into the real world as well! I’m currently married, have a successful job, I’m getting a Master’s degree while working, and I can run a mile in less than 7min.

    Where some people would rent a movie for an evening’s entertainment I choose to play World of Warcraft for 1-3 hours. I enjoy the challenge of working together as a team in the large 25 man raid groups.

    As a final note. People can become addicted to the video game, just like any other vice (alcohol, knitting, reading, watching tv, etc…). As with most things moderation is key, and if you can’t help yourself have a friend help you with your problem.

  • Erin

    Two comments here.

    I believe Wow and similar types of games to be the evolution of entertainment. Used to be, sitting around watching TV for hours on end was the ‘accepted’ form of killing (wasting?) time. Wow is essentially that behavior brought forward into a new media. No longer, for many players, is Thursday night important because the new episode of CSI or Survivor is airing, now, Thursday night is important because there is a Icecrown Citadel raid. Does this mean it is the future of our society? I am not sure I totally agree with it…though I do believe it is fair to say that our future is a plugged in future.

    As to the addiction factor, the question is this game addicting? Wow shares the same non-physical addiction territory as TV watching, speeding, surfing the internet, looking at porn…or any other compulsive, habitual behavior that does not have a chemical additive. To blame the game for being so addicting, to say a video game ruined my life because I stopped living is fallacy. The reality is, a player of a game made a choice to modify how that player lived his/her life because they wanted to play this game. We all have the ability to limit ourselves, to decide whether or not we are going to do something…games, sex, drugs, whatever…we ultimately are in the driver’s seat, in our mind anyways. Wow itself is not addicting. There are no chemicals in the game that force you to play. Wow does lend itself to compulsive behavior, as do many games in general.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Maybe the deans at those schools and the families with children going off the edge, maybe they need to beef up the “reality” of the real world. Maybe the curriculum isn’t proven to the students to have as much relevance. I mean, apparently so.
    I think we can trust/assume that the real world is far more engaging than the shadow of it that we find anywhere online.
    Say I have work that is far more compelling than anything online. This work seizes me so I might as well be on a Caribbean island when I’m working. It’s totally engaging. What work would that be? Well, each person has to find that. Each child has to believe that it exists.
    Interpersonal reality can also seize you, and with far more seductiveness than a computer screen. Count on it.
    Does the dean at that school count on it? Probably just the opposite, and is trying very hard, at the behest of the parents paying for the schooling, to prevent too much “interaction” among the students. The worst crime a kid can commit would be something interactive — that is, until the kids, deprived of the hair-raising risks all adolescents need to undergo in assuming their identities, find themselves dismissed (by the dean) from the reality they deeply need to engage in and therefore dress up in camouflage and act-out some fantasy.
    Think about it.

  • David

    I am 23 and have been playing computer games for most of my life. I know I am addicted, but I have made something of a study of why I am addicted. The thing to note about World of Warcraft is that it is fundamentally not fun.

    The majority of the game is about repeating the same boring task over and over (the way you increase your level is by finding a computer generated “monster” and essentially holding down the left mouse button until it dies, after which you repeat exactly the same thing for hours on end), but it is still very addictive because the game shows your progress towards your final goal in real time.

    I think people just crave to know they are working towards something and not just endlessly spinning a hamster wheel. It also helps that a player can show off his progress to any other player.

  • Chris

    I have a son who disregards his (real) family and doesn’t have (real) friends but is always trying to figure out how to get computer time to play WOW. He is built like an athlete and is very good at anything physical but isn’t interested in sports or going outside to use his gifts. I’m worried about him.

  • jeffe

    This game is addictive. All computer games are on some level. I know from my own experience and that of some friends and of a student I had who dropped out of school as due to her addiction to WOW. My friend was addicted to this game for months and finally just went cold turkey.
    Deleted the game and that was it.

    I think games like this can be very addictive to certain people and I know that I’m one of them.

    Some people spend over 12 hours a day playing this game.
    The student I mentioned above was doing that. She lost all control of her life. I have read that in South Korea this is a huge problem and that people die from playing these games due to doing it for days on end.

  • Katherine

    No, most of us WoW players who aren’t listening to this as it’s being broadcast are at work.

    I run a guild of about 150 people, and the average age of our members is in the early 30s. Most of us are gainfully employed, a lot of us are married (and play as couples or families), and quite a few have children. Not every WoW player is a stereotypical geek – my mother, a church secretary, plays. We’re located around the globe (U.S., Canada, Chile, New Zealand, a handful deployed in the Middle East), so it’s a much broader mix of people than if I had just joined a bridge club locally.

    We’re drawn to it both for the compelling characters of the in-game stories as well as for the cooperative (and sometimes competitive) play environment. The music is also amazing (often reminiscent of any and all of Holst’s Planets suite, Appalachian and Celtic folk music, your standard fantasy trumpet fanfares… and a James Brown tribute thrown in recently, as well).

    Being someone who met her husband online 10 years ago, I don’t buy the “online relationships aren’t real relationships” argument. The internet is becoming just one more “third place.”

    All in all, it’s cheaper than cable TV, and you get to interact with other people.

  • Erin

    Chris,

    I wanted to respond to you here because I feel like this is something my parents didn’t really understand about video game playing for me when I was growing up. As a kid (I am in my thirties now) video games suddenly popped up on my radar, and all I wanted to do was play them. They were fun, exciting and accessible. You could adventure from your room! How awesome is that. But, as a kid, I had no concept of limits, and certainly, defining my own didn’t enter into my consideration when it came to my video game playing. I know now, that when I have kids, I will play a big role in how my children play video games. I will set clear limits for them, help them understand and develop balanced play time. That means I might have to play bad cop with them…but ultimately, developing good video game time management habits when they are in their formative years will create behaviors that last long into their adulthood. Chris, if you are worried about your son, as a parent, you must step in. He may not thank you now (or ever…though you hope not), but chances are you will make a difference.

  • jeffe

    Erin you are correct, people need to control themselves but as with drugs and alcohol some people lose control and need help. I stopped playing online games as I realized I was spending way to much time doing this and I had better things to do. Some people can’t help themselves because they don’t see the problem. Don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming the game but there is a part of that is designed to attract people who are compulsive, all games are.
    Ever meet a compulsive gambler.

  • Roberto

    Erin, excellent points. My attempt is to make “life” as relevant as “virtual” experiences. I seek balance, not isolation. But when someone fails at some pretty basic expectations, then a parent needs to make adjustments.

    I would feel the same if they were bookworms or sweaty jocks, and not balancing academics. For the majority of young people, the HS or BS degree is absolutely critical to achieving financial/health security.

    WOW seems to have infected many kids’ sense of priorities. I also believe “many” young people of a certain socio-economic level have not had to work for their keep. And thus, they don’t “feel” the real world, yet. We have steadily increased the level of responsibility as our kids mature. And each kid develops differently. We try to set expectations commensurate with abilities, and yet, my two WOW players seem to be slipping. Their motivation for “real” life priorities will directly impact my level of financial support. If they are not showing the drive, they know they will soon be on their own. I have been clear about this, as I ask them to balance their “diversions” with my “priorities” — the chips will land where they fall…

  • Ellen Dibble

    In my high school there was actually a course in time management. There was a book, a waste of money in my opinion. Decide what to do when, and then do it. It created a kind of imprisonment. Every moment was spoken for, like a job where there is always more in the in-box than time to deal with it, so the “free time” was time spent in guilt-ridden catch-up. Who would buy-into such a scheme? Well, you can’t say we weren’t being guided. The downside is that like an alcoholic, someone in that time-prison ceases to develop. Doesn’t learn what it means to regroup, to need to regroup. I would rather have learned that crucial skill in high school, what it means to be overwhelmed, to take that on-board, cool to a simmer, maybe seek out some allies or maybe not, then proceed. As with diets, you have to expect some nights you’ll pig out and eat the whole pint of ice cream. The anorexics who go down to 80 pounds on a strict food-management diet are like the time-extremists who either manage not at all (the game addicts) or manage down to the minute. Some are control freaks. Some do that for a reason: You don’t want to see what the person is like without it. Parents don’t want to. Do you want to see the teen who is NOT tied to his computer? He/she might not be too sure about that. The dragon within is beginning to kick.
    The posts about people in their 30s being in WoW, the global connectivity and social pluses — well, food is good too, if used properly.

  • Roberto

    Katherine,
    You sound balanced, successful, etc. I applaud you. Now before I get in trouble with my boss…

    Would be curious how much time you and your husband “clock” on average each week, and then compare that with the hours you invest in:

    –Are you raising kids? What activities do you do together with them?

    –How many community service hours do you give/week? (Church, Coaching, Non-profit, Food shelter, etc)

    –Physical fitness?

    –TV/Movies/Surfing Web

    –Reading

    –Sleeping

    –Home repair/yard/housekeeping/Food preparation

    Just curious. That list takes so much of my “free” time, it is hard to wedge in other things. AAacck, here comes my boss… FASCINATING program, Tom!!

    For my office, I have 30-somethings who can twitter and text AND get all their work done. I have some others who cannot.

  • Judy

    Children playing WoW: How is the child paying for the subscription? As a parent, if you are paying the bill and concerned about “addiction”, discuss it with your child and stop paying the bill. BTW, a child is not 22 years of age. 18 is the legal age of an adult in most states in the U.S. Again, if as a parent you are paying the subscription cost – then don’t aid the “addiction”.

    Avoiding real life: Perhaps playing WoW (or reading, sewing, woodworking, etc.) gets a person away from the real life of judgements from others (work/ school evaluations , fashion put-downs, etc.), but not always because there are critics in WoW also. Still, playing can make one feel in control of something when the real world feels so out of control.

  • Angie Fritz

    As an avid role playing gamer and MMO user, I am amazed as always about how people who game are en masse people who never go outside or do anything ‘useful’ and how videogames are infantile. Just because you have no interest in a hobby does not make it infantile, and the notion that all gamers sit around in parental basements and never see sun is a stereotype fed whenever some network picks up a lone addict as ‘news’.

    Why would someone spend hours online instead of ‘going out and being useful’? People in the universe so described can’t have break time to just have fun with friends ever? Or what about folks who don’t like bars and television in the evenings? “Hours of being online” for many people are very spread out. I have friends who are on a lot when the weather outside has them snowed in in winter, but who are on a lot less in warm weather when they are gardening, hiking, and doing other things for fun. Does not sound very unhealthy to me…

    As noted by other comments, playing games are not any worse than sitting watching television or movies, and I don’t think they’re any more ‘useless’ than physical sports for entertainment and getting together with friends. How many who complain here about people spending time and money on PC games also complain about how some folks spend lots of time and money going to towns to see ‘their team’ play or paying for stadium tickets regularly? The “at least sports get you outside” isn’t valid anymore when people who are observing are in fact often inside. And again, you cannot assume ANYONE who plays an MMO does not do other things for exercise, and never leaves their computer. That sort of lifestyle is not true of the majority.

    In response to the “Why not world of peacecraft”, I also second those folks look into Second Life, which is a non-combat based MMO setting, but the fact is that it’s a fairly easy theme to write conflict around for large numbers of players and games are not much without conflict. Assuming that all players who play a game with very cartoon like depictions of violence because they are into real life war and violence or that it somehow trains us is an insult.

    There are people in the game who are rude, cruel, crude, and everyone LOVES to focus on these people in their minds, but please show me one non-moderated place on the internet where you do not find people who will be offensive. Even a forum devoted to world peace will attract some people who say things that other will find insulting.

    As to addiction: MMO’s can be a refuge for people who do not want to deal with reality. So can movies, television, regular games, stamp collecting… ANYTHING can. This is not always a problem stemming from the hobby of the person. MMO’s are harder than others to put down as yes, companies write them in ways that are MEANT to bring people back. However, again, when you take a handful of hundreds of thousands of people as your grim examples, you are making gross generalizations and being unfair.

    I manage to somehow balance playing WoW with volunteering for various local causes and groups, being active in my local art community, working to market my own work, attending university classes with a 3.0 average, and having about a dozen other interests/hobbies. I am anti-violence as well, and even often have very good discussions with my friends when we find the game writing to be lazy or otherwise bother us a little. Please tell me again how I spend all my time at a computer game and am infantile?

  • George

    Dear Tom Ashbrook, Mr. Bainbridge, and Mrs. Harper,

    As a teacher and tween-parent, I dislike the emphasis on fight/flight adrenaline-stimulating games. I like the middle stages of SPORE because it emphasizes the value of cooperation between tribes.

    I want the market to generate a video game genre which does for nonviolence and environmental/ecological sustainability what the WII did for exercise in gamers. I suggest the game creators take a look at Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, MLK, Gandhi, and others who have played the game of Nonviolence effectively.

    Sincerely,

    George of Ventura County, CA

  • cory

    I was a Dungeons and Dragons nerd in the 80′s, so I believe I can relate. (still a nerd, just no rpg’s)

    Yeah, a waste of time I suppose. We all have vices though, and considering some of them I’d call this one fairly harmless.

    I’d probably give it a try, but being poor means you can’t do much buying of software and much of my time is spent working. So… play on dudes!

  • loninappleton

    Here is a scenario (I’ll be brief): The On Point starts a 9 AM EST. The instant messaging within the WOW community alerts the members to “flash crowd” the show and the comments so that the apologists for the activity get most of the ink. Sort of like a Tea Party blitz to a newspaper about health care.

    Do you see the similarity?

    My remarks earlier on this come from a text on the infantilization of society called “Consumed: How markets corrupt children, infantilize adults and swallow citizens whole.” by Benjamin R. Barber.

    No space here to discuss the fine points but this WOW program on On Point and books I’ve read on the world of Sim City give ample proof for the Barber’s premise. Highly recommended.

    One further example from the recent presidential campaign was that young Obama supporters did everything but go vote– because they thought that their online buzzing and other faux rallying techniques were all that were required.

  • Will

    What a surprise…a discussion about WoW brings out all the people who are ignorant of what it is, but nonetheless have strong opinions on the subject.

    To anyone here who said that WoW is a “waste of time”, I hope you are a joyless automaton, grinding through life with nothing but work and chores to fill your hours, because otherwise you’d surely drown in your own hypocrisy. WoW is a recreational activity, no more or less valid than television, movies, books, or spectator sports.

    Furthermore, how incredibly condescending to tell a stranger that his online friends aren’t “real” friends. How are they not real? Because I can’t shake their hand and buy them a beer? They’re still *humans* and I still communicate with them. I certainly spend more time talking to them, and generally have a deeper emotional connection to them, than people I know from the offline world, if only because the time/money costs for communication are lower.

    Go work on making your own life better, and stop telling people you don’t know that their free time is not being spent to your standards.

  • Benjmain

    Life is about maintaining balance.

    Before we play Dr Phil, & criticize or pass judgement on others, we should all acknowledge that wasting time is an American tradition that certainly predates the proliferation of the world wide web – let alone online gaming.

    I remember my entire family in the 80′s was “addicted” to and “wasted” much time in front of the rabbit-eared idiot box known as Television. Studies were done at the time that showed the average American spent a minimum of 8 hours a day in such a vegatative state. We quoted this factoid regularly while scarfing down fast food and watching Cheers reruns – in our best mock Cliff Clavin voices of course. “It’s a little known fact that…”

    I’m happy to report that I am now an avid excercise and health food addict (note the positive connotation here) who races mountain bikes and trains for triathlons. I still find time to visit with friends and family, cook delicious organic vegan meals, practice classical guitar, keep regular playtime with my (several) cats, and have a lasting romance with my SO. I work 40+ hours a week, pay all my bills on time, am a member of the green party, and I recycle everything.

    I also find an hour or two each day to play Online Games. I play a game called Warhammer that is essentially like Warcraft but a little darker, a lot less time consuming, and more complex. Is it a waste of time? Sure. Do I feel the need to justify this waste of time to the online Committee on Virtuous Living? Not really.

    The point is simply this: if you value life, love, and happiness, you’ll worry less about the righteous thing to do and more about doing the right thing at the right time. Yes, there is a time for every activity under the sun, even Warcraft.

    Just remember Balance. Even scrumptuous micro-brewed beer can be wrong if you make a whole lifestyle out of it.

  • Alex

    In a previous comment it was stated that the game allows one to hide behind a mask, and you don;t get to see who they really are. But i believe this to be quite the opposite; without the fear of people knowing who you are, you are more able to express your true personality. What this is can many times be quite scary.

    As for addiction, it is what you make of it. There is no chemical acting on your brain that makes you go back for more (no more than any other activity). There are many stories, experiences, and rumors, and people fear that because it’s all new. People see it as abnormal because this is not the way humans have acted for the past few centuries, and eventually that will pass.

    It is not the game itself that is addicting, it is the draw of having a more perfect life, be it real or not. The shiny lights and pretty colors are just there as a sugar coating. People who claim gamers are infantile should look to the majority of college-aged youth, and explain how that is better in any way. The environment of pressure and partying is enough to drive anyone with sense into another world.

  • Michael J

    I played WOW avidly for about 2 years. Allowed my daughter to play (always under my supervision). Eventually I got tired of the killing. Say what you will, with all the cooperation, guilds, online relationships etc. the bottom line is kill, kill kill. All the rest is window dressing.

    Also I believe absolutely that THE reason people play these games is because few people have a real on going sense of accomplishment and achievement.

    The games give us just that, a sense of accomplishment, of being competent, of achieving great things. Anyone who disagrees with that, ask yourself how long you would play if you achieved your in game goal only about a third of the time.

    By the way, Sid Meier’s Civilization is about 10 times more addictive than WOW.

  • Archie Kubacki

    WoW (yes I am a player) is a good model for the virtual office where people work from home. INC. Magazine’s current issue on “working from home” was produced by its staff who all did their work without going into the office.

    People (in WoW or working from home) must know their jobs, Wow Guild leaders–just like managers, must know the strategic objectives and put them into practical tactics,and the group must cooperate to produce their product. In Warcraft the product is a successful quest, dungeon, or raid. Wow crosses age barriers, physically challenged barriers, and cultural barriers.

  • M. Smith

    Ok, so I belong to a guild with friends and family. We could all go over to my brother’s house and play pool, we could all come to my house and play in the pool. We could all go to any one’s house and do whatever.. except we are spread over 7 states now. So we can get on WOW in the evenings and have the same experience and spend time together all in one place. I think people who get addicted to the game, and I know they do, would be addicted to SOMETHING, anyways. Like any population or group the more members, the more the odds of good, and bad, and WOW players are a pretty big population.

  • Richard Ogden

    There is quite a lot of intellectual backslapping going on in this space at the moment. Casanova has written some very poor analyses of Warcraft and Bainbridge seems to mis s the points in his main commentary here. Some of the callers are far more adept at raising the real issues.

    There is a TED.com talk I’d recommend to people.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

  • Gary

    I have played some games that were quite mind altering, but no more so than books I have read, or movies I have seen. I suppose some do become addicted, but is not a “avid” reader antisocial and addicted to a wasteful pastime as well. Unless it has a practical use its a waste, but then by this definition so was most of my college education.

    I will not judge gaming as a useless behavior, because in some of these games there are very complex situations that seem to have no clear moral choice, and in that aspect they are much more complex than Chess.

    In the game Fallout 3, I still don’t know how to solve the ethical riddle of Tenpenney tower! A very good analogue for real life. In a novel the author makes all of the decisions for you, but in a game the players values determine the outcome.

    It know it is not up to me to morally judge how others use their recreational time. It is a waste of time, but I feel better about gaming, than I do about watching TV, or reading Dan Browns last book.

    Heck, I guess some could say that having sex without producing offspring is a waste of time!

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?ref=profile&id=683540950 C. L. Lewis

    I see a lot of people here who are adamantly opposed to the game, and a lot who are fervent supporters; both sides doing their best to sound the most intelligent and credible.

    Why so defensive, everybody? It’s just a pass time, after all. On par with watching television. It doesn’t harm anyone in any way.

    If someone is stupid enough to sacrifice their marriage, or the raising of their children, or their grades so that they can spend more time in an MMO; that’s hardly the game’s fault. If you have to remove all temptation to prevent someone from doing something self-destructive, then that person isn’t worth the trouble of doing so in the first place.

    If you lose your spouse to someone they met online, is the internet to blame? What if they met over the phone? Do you pull out the phone lines? Or what if your husband spends more time watching t.v than he does talking to you? Is it the broadcaster’s fault?

    All of that being said; I am proud to be on the gamer’s side of this love/hate argument. My husband and I BOTH play World Of Warcraft anywhere from one to five hours a day. The kids are grown and gone and we both have day jobs. I’m a 98 pound vegetarian and I work in customer service. Smiling and being friendly is how I make a living, so I’m in no way antisocial. :)

    What used to be t.v. time in our house is now game time, and it’s a vast improvement. Now we’re actually doing things together, as a team; and I freaking love it. We co-gm a very friendly guild. We’ve met an awful lot of other 35+ yr old people in the game, a few other couples, and at least one 55 yr-old mom and her 31 yr-old daughter. lol

    The bottom line, whether you like it or not, is that Warcraft is not going away. With over 11 million people now playing and Cataclysm set to hit sometime this year, I don’t expect the nay sayers to get very far ver fast. lol

    And hey, if you’re angry and mad and just really need to vent your frustrations; I can send you a link to a ten day free trial of this great game…… :D

  • Thomsa Perkins

    I do not play WoW, but play Lord of the Rings Online and have played computer games since I was a young child. I am a successfull technical professional with a family, a house, and good connections to my family, social network, and religion. I agree with the researcher online that the games like WOW are pretty much what you make of them. If you hate your life for whatever reason and want a release, then you can find it… If you want to build skills and form a social circle, you can do that as well.

    Several people who demonize video games do not understand this fundamental point. Video games are a media, neither inherently good or evil. It’s what people choose to do with the media that is important.

    Please don’t blame your teenager’s poor study habits on a particular media or form of entertainment: this is a cop out. Teenagers have been goofing off long before there was electricity, let alone WOW; and have struggled with feelings of powerlessness and isolation that whole time. That is the problem that should be adressed, not just blaming their chosen outlet.

    As far as the positives, I can testify that video games have increased my reflexes and coordination, made me a more strategic thinker, and have given me extreme comfortability with technology and computers. All of those translate into real world advantages. I feel that this will be more and more important for future generations as the real world and the electronic worlds become united.

  • Nicole Hoke

    I’m looking forward to the day when employers recognize the management skill it takes to be an effective Guild Master. A GM of a large, successful, end-game raiding guild must recruit, schedule raids, encourage people to sign up for raids, decide who goes on the raids if more people sign up for than there is room for, make sure everyone shows up, is on time, has all of their consumables and reagents, and has researched the encounters. A GM must reward good, prepared raiders with promotions, perhaps even officer rank. A GM must sometimes take disciplinary action when someone is a no-show or is unprepared. I learned more about organizing, motivating, and managing people as a GM than I did in college management classes, or the Radio Shack Manager in Training program. I’d like to list my GM experience on a resume, or at least mention it in an interview without fear of the inteviewer not taking it seriously.

  • Rick

    My sister played Everquest and now WoW. She met her husband on Everquest, he relocated and they are now a family and I have a nephew as a result. All from the virtual world. I have no problems with how they met, it’s actually very interesting and unique to me. And they do spend adequate time in the real world. Some other friends do need more fresh air and less time in their online worlds, in my opinion.

  • Twilight Vanquisher Phimosis

    Why not World of Peacecraft, Art, Sculpture, etc?

    Because those things are boring.

  • Jim Zalman

    Seriously, to everyone that is lambasting this game the same could be said of television, movies and books of fiction. At least in WoW you get to interact with other humans, make new friendships, manage finances, work as a 25 man teams in raids and dungeons, and immerse yourself into the story of the game. Can’t say that for mindlessly sitting in front of the TV or even listening to NPR.

  • Michelle Cook

    I’ve been staring at this, trying to figure out what to write, yet feeling compelled to write SOMETHING! I play WoW. My husband plays WoW. We play for a few hours every week, yet over the course of three years I have managed to level three 80s. I enjoy WoW, much as I enjoy reading, independent films, listening to NPR, running, and crochet. I enjoy WoW vastly more than I enjoy watching TV, which is an entirely passive and mindless activity in my estimation. WoW does have the potential to be a time vampire to those who are vulnerable to such vampirism. But I’m not sure that makes it exceptional. Porn, Twilight (ack), sex, and in fact over-eating are all also capable of consuming mass quantities of time that might otherwise be used saving the world. Thanks for listening. M

  • Toni

    I am a responsible 40 year old woman who is a voracious reader, decidedly social, and very physically fit. My husband and I both play World of Warcraft. Why? It’s a FUN GAME. (And it’s infinitely better than most of the crapus on TV)

    This discussion reminds me of the Dungeons and Dragons panic of the 80s. Do we remember “Mazes and Monsters”? (I’m sure Tom Hanks is trying to forget…)

  • Shawn

    I am glad to see On Point bring up such a lively topic. I think all of the valid points, both for and against, have been stated and restated so I won’t add to them.

    I think community discussions of MMO’s and online gaming in general is definitely something that needs to happen more often. There are plenty of stereotypes and concerns out there but the only way to dispel any is to talk about them.

    My advice is to do your research on whatever game or activity you think may be destructive and make sure you aren’t falling into thinking of them as an easy stereotype. As with many facets of life the facts are much different than a brief surface analysis or assumption.

  • Joanne Greene

    Some of my best memories are of sitting on the side porch of my grandmother’s house in the early evening listening to the sounds of katydids and the soft voices of my grandmother and mother as they discussed family matters. When my cousins were in town my grandmother would tell ghost stories. When I came across Barber’s “Summer of 1915″ based on the prologue to James Agee’s a death in the family it became my ambition to perform it. I finally did at an outdoor concert attended by parents and their children sitting on blankets in the grass.

    My comment is this: turn off the TV, limit the computer to homework and research, pry the cell phone out of your child’s hand, take the head phones off their ears and just sit as a family and talk. Yes, the world is changing, but parents can still be in charge of how children learn about family and relationships.

    I work with children. They hunger for your attention. One of the saddest things I’ve noticed recently is that at restaurants where there are young people with children, often both parents are on their cell phones and no one is paying attention to the children. I’m not against technology: I’m writing this on a computer after all, but stop and think: can anything on that computer be as improtant as looking into the eyes of your child?

  • Teresa

    I play WoW and did so through my doctoral program and now through my years as an assistant professor. I am successfully teaching my classes and doing my research. I am maintaining a household and keeping my bills paid. I also have several level 80 characters or “toons” as we call them.

    My point here is that like anything, people can control their time or not. I choose WoW over television or reading as I would rather be actively doing something for my entertainment as opposed to passively taking in someone else’s imaginings.

    I have friends in “real life” that play WoW, but I also find that my “guildies” have become my close friends.

  • Colleen

    It irritates me to hear how parents are unable to control their Children, and thus blame the game.

    I have been playing for 4 years. I have 3 level 80 characters, My main character is in a high end raiding guild.
    I have not lost my job nor ruined my life playing the game. My husband and I both play as does my Step Son. We used the game initially as a way to improve his reading skills. (he now reads at an Adult level, where before he was well below his grade level).

    We control the amount of time he plays. The game Provides parental controls that allow you to customize the time your child plays down to the hour of the day. If you set it up, your child cannot log on AT ALL if you have blocked those times. You can even get a weekly email that tells you how many hours your child has played.

    Parental irresponsibility is to blame. The tools are there, get involved in what your kid is doing, instead of standing by acting as if you are helpless and calling psychologists to “cure” your child. Take control of the Situation. Use the game as an incentive. YOU ARE THE PARENT.

  • D. Jordan

    I am wondering how the cognition associate with playing video games differs from the cognition associate with tradition mediums such as books, in relationship to the learning process.

  • McClain

    “@ Why are we not playing: The World of Peacecraft? The World of Kindness? The World of Education? The World of Music, Art, Dancing, and Theater?”

    Either you’re extremely naive or a hilarious troll.

  • Patrick

    WoW can be simultaneously a wonderful and a horrible thing. It can be a waste of time and addictive (I confess to being an addict) – but games are, by definition, “non-productive” activities. And as for the worries that WoW negatively socializes children and adults, even classic games like Monopoly could be criticized for discouraging generosity and fervor for social justice. The spectrum of WoW players is hugely diverse, and it would be hard to define a “typical” player or the “typical” effect the game has on that player.

    I am sometimes shocked at the racist, homophobic, and sexist comments I see in the game’s general chat, enabled by the game’s anonymity – the dark underbelly of the American psyche. On the other hand, an NPR-listening liberal academic like me can find myself in a guild with people I don’t encounter every day in the Ivory Tower: tea-partyers, libertarians, Iraq war veterans, the newly unemployed, and soccer Moms (and Canadians!). We can work together as a team to achieve the common goal of fun and enjoy one another’s company as the complicated human beings that we are. The anonymity melts away and with it the stereotypes and assumptions.

  • Matthew

    The entire interview, most of the callers seemed to be trying to demonize WoW, especially one of the statements made by the psycologist caller.

    He said that world of warcraft had the most addicted players of the ones he’s seen, trying to show that the game was bad, but saying that is like saying New York has the most deaths than any other american city at any given time, so New York is the most dangerous city to live in. New York isn’t the most dangerous city in the US it just happens to have the most people living there.

    World of Warcraft has by far the most people playing it than any other online game of it’s type. There are addicts playing all of these games, WoW having the most does not mean it is any more addictive than any other.

  • Philip Kaveny

    I have done critical work and creative work in the area of SF and Fantasy and now am in the process of editing with a collection of essays for release in the fall from a major publisher. I am so proud that On Point does these sorts of programs, and that your host as the awareness raise critical questions about the ethical and moral implications of these sorts of games. I would like to know more about the Lord of the Rings on Line game and how it differs from The World War-Craft. The point is made that there does seem to be a line between good and evil. Tell me more

  • Ryiana

    Ms Greene:
    My mother is 74. I too remember family evenings on the back porch of our Florida cracker home. I still spend evenings on her back patio now, laughing and talking, playing cards and absorbing family history. That is, if she’s not playing U.O. My mother, you see, is the one who first purchased a computer in our family some 20 years ago. She also was the first gamer. Did I mention her lasagna is to die for and she can still beat me playing Spades?
    “turn off the TV” I have friends who plans their lives around t.v. shows. “Sorry, can’t join you for dinner, 24/CSI/whatever is on”
    I have employees who won’t work overtime because they might “miss their show”
    We haven’t had cable in 12 years. Yeah, we missed the last umpteen years of “Lost”. We’ve also missed every ‘reality’ show. I think the trade-off is worth it. We travel, ride motorcycles, are renovating our house, having dinner with friends & run a race car.
    Can you honestly tell me what would contribute more to my balance and sanity than an hour of my avatar sitting in a wooded wonderland watching the sunset while I’m catching up with my best friend, laughing like schoolgirls (over headphones) while she and I are separated by 400 miles and 3 states. We take advantage of a program called Ventrilo, you should look it up. Saves a fortune in long-distance (it’s FREE for up to 8 people)
    Oh wait…technology is bad. I should be driving that distance any time I want to talk to her, face-to-face. Sorry, not an option.
    “limit the computer to homework and research” I’d miss CNN.com. And WebUrbanist. And lolcats, extreme sheep art ( http://tinyurl.com/yjsjksk )
    …and xkcd.
    Sorry, not giving up WoW (or computer entertainment). You make uninformed statements about an entertainment form you have not tried and have prejudged (prejudice is ugly, call a spade a spade). I don’t care for your choice in orchestra. Ergo, it is a waste of time. You should have spent the time you ‘wasted’ in rehearsal with your family.

    …and I’m not giving up my xkcd either :)

  • Ryiana

    Philip K. Suggestion: play both. Make friends with someone who plays both. Learn how players view the games. Realize that, while we do take these seriously, we also realize they are interactive games. Games. My character might kill an ingame NPC (NonPlayerCharacter) to retrieve an item it has or to fulfill a requirement. This does NOT mean I’m going to kill my neighbor, who mows at 8a.m. on Saturdays (although I do briefly fantasize about it)

    Moral implications? Ethical crises? Neither. My mother raised a couple pretty well-adjusted kids who know the difference between digital entertainment and reality. 45 years have given me a pretty firm footing in the world.
    If you’re looking for wackjobs, you’ll find them. In a pool of over 11 MILLION, I’m sure there a few loose cannons. I’m also sure that as a whole gamers are more balanced, focused, efficient multi-taskers than your average beer-swilling NASCAR aficionado.

  • Micheal klamann

    Amagine a REAL world where 11 million people give $20.00
    a month. Donated as many hours that they are in virtual world to fixing the same problems that they face in their virtual. Social conflicts, pollution education etc. pick one and help.
    What a beautiful world it woud be
    Micheal

  • http://www.lowgenius.net LowGenius

    C’mon, NPR, where’s the balance? Two hordies and NO alliance characters? Clearly you’ve been drinking the red kool-aid…

    Seriously, I’ve got more time on my main than your guest spent researching…and I’ve got two other level 80 charactes and three others over level 70. I’ve probably burned a year of real time playing this game, although I don’t play nearly as much now as I used to.

    The game — and ANY decent game, book, television, radio show, etc. — has serious addictive potential, and it genuinely is, as your guest points out, a “genuine new art form.” Not only do you have compelling and immersive game play and cinematics, but the usual human compulsion to please other humans keeps us coming back to achieve and know our ‘class’ or ‘classes’ (the type of character you play – rogue, mage, priest, paladin, etc) intimately so that we can be as effective as possible in competing for shiny baubles and improved equipment.

    And of course you have the added dimension of the internet’s psuedo-anonymity, which lends fuel to the urge some people have to act their worst when they think they’re not being held accountable for their behavior.

    Now if we could apply this kind of compelling technology and social pressure to excellence to real-world needs – say, education, or business ethics – we’d really have something.

  • http://N/A Dave

    I’m having a hard time with these self-pretentious people who pass judgment on people for playing a game. Stating you should go outside, well I do and it makes me sick to see what this world has become. If your kids have a problem with game addition then be freaking adults take it away its not child abuse trust me. If they can’t drop the game then your the issue grow a set and deal with your short comings. As a parent you are the ones failing for not giving the proper direction.

  • Roy

    My wife and I have been playing WoW for about 4.5 years. My wife is in her final semester in her Masters Program in Physics. I am a full time student also. My wife def. has a more casual play attitude while I am a more hard core raider. We find time 5-6 times a week to go to the gym and excercise and still make school the prioroity, not wow. WoW is a game, the games are not addictive, just the personalities of the people playing them.

  • Alicia

    Look at all of you self-righteous people. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You are criticizing people for what they choose to do in their spare time? To say that gamers never see the sun is very ignorant and an outdated viewpoint to say the least. Stereotypes are a terrible ugly thing. I work a normal office job, come home, clean, take care of my home, my family, and *gasp* even get out of the house all while *gasp* playing World of Warcraft. Get off of your high horses.

  • salzburg

    Want to see a show on “children with computer and video game addiction”. I’m a mother of a 12 year old and this is a real problem. I have a girlfriend with the same problem with her son. Our children have A.D.D. and this make the matter worse. Dr. Russell Barkley has talked about it, but in many cases selfhelp is all that is available to Mothers. Expensive therapies are not a reality.

  • pingach

    I don’t like therse style of the book.

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  • SomeGuyNamedMark

    I played it heavily for a while.  The feeling I got from it boiled down to three things. 

    One, if you form social connections on it then you may not want to leave them and you feel guilt or obligation to participate in game sessions with them even at the risk to real world needs.

    Two, there is a strong preening (“epeen”) and gambling element to it.  You see someone walking around and see how great their gear is and you keep trying to get it.  Getting the best gear can mean the difference between getting included in activities (raids) or not.  It might be very rare and require insane amounts of time to get though.  Plus, getting most rare items requires a good amount of luck, like a slot machine.

    Three, if you play long enough you feel a sense of investment in the game and think “If I quit I’ve truly lost all of the time I’ve put in it” so you keep putting more in.  Some people even form an emotional bond with their characters as extensions of themselves that builds up over time.

    The thing that finally pushed me to quit was the realization that with every expansion of the game all your super gear was now junk.  I also realized that these people I played with online didn’t care about anything but the game.  Their “friendship” was shallow.

    I’m glad I quit.  I’ll say I do miss the graphics of the landscapes, the mood the game sets, and the music.  They were very immersive.

  • SomeGuyNamedMark

    A masters program in physics?  She’ll soon need to quit gaming I guarantee that.

    Games are addictive but yes, it requires two elements for people to get addicted.  You need a person vulnerable to addictions also.  But to give the game a free pass is to deny the reality that the designers purposefully put elements in it that encourage gambling behavior and “grinding”.  This can be too much for some people to resist.

  • yanping huang

    can we download this audio?

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