Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm Not an Addict

These look yummy, don't they?
I don't want to write this post. I've been stewing over it for days, maybe weeks. I've blurted out portions of my thoughts to my unsuspecting guildies and online friends in Raidcall and Teamspeak. I've lain in bed pondering how to word what I'm thinking without sounding overly critical or entitled or shallow.

But here's the deal: I'm not addicted to Guild Wars 2.
And that bugs me.

It may sound strange, especially to those readers who aren't gaming freaks, but I WANT to be addicted to GW2. I want to obsess about the game. I want to fidget when I'm not playing. I want to dream about it.
Basically, I miss my high.
It's not entirely unexpected. It's common knowledge that video game addiction exists, and also that some games have been deliberately, psychologically and scientifically designed to be addictive. has an informative yet easy-to-read article on the five techniques used by gaming companies to get you addicted to their product.
Being a biologist and having taken the required Psychology 101 course in university, and having actually run a rat through a maze to get a pellet (yes, they still do that!), I understand the science behind gaming addiction. I've studied the basics of intermittent rewards, the Skinner box, avoidance behaviour, escalating difficulty for equivalent payback, and that oh-so-lovely false sense of accomplishment.
But knowing all that in my brain doesn't prevent me from succumbing to the power of psychology.
And I'm not alone with my withdrawal symptoms. Scan the official forums or the ones over at GW2Guru and you'll find several negative threads, not just about criticizing the game, but players who want to love it, and just don't.

My theory about the general gamer dissatisfaction with GW2 is this: we, as gamers, were expecting crack. Not just crack, but NEW crack, better crack, the best crack ever. We got excited. We followed the development of the drug. We signed up early. We raced forward with greedy hands to be given the new drug that would give us a higher high than we've ever experienced.
And we were given a low-fat, gluten-free carob chip cookie.
"Try it," they told us with gentle smiles. "You'll like it."
We ate the cookie. We waited for the high, the buzz, the energy, the sleepless nights.
"We know it's different," they said, patting us on the head. "But it's good for you. Stick with it. You will feel better soon."
Some people left immediately, heading back to their crack den of choice. Some stuck it out, eating more and more health food, wanting to believe that a natural high would sustain their addiction, yet feeling more and more disillusioned. Some jumped onboard the granola wagon, waving their straw hats and proclaiming that low-fat, gluten-free carob chip cookies was the best thing ever and they felt FREE for the first time.

Me? I'm wavering. I like Guild Wars 2. It's beautiful. It's funny. It's exciting. It's loaded with content. My friends are there.
But I miss my high.

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