I used to be addicted to MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). I believe online games are the drug of the 21st Century. In the same way that cocaine became the party drug of choice and heavy drinkers find their old friend in alcohol; online gaming has created a whole new genre of escapism that never even existed 20 years ago. Sure there are still druggies roaming nightclubs, kids experimenting with substances for a new kick, and alcoholics still riding on their blurred memories of the harsh realities of life, but nobody will be able to police the end-users of online gaming. So far there is nothing illegal about it; not when all we are doing is sitting in our bedrooms. But that is exactly the problem; isolation is not a step towards achieving Oneness. Sad to say that even Facebook addicts are at least dwindling their way into the right direction. Enter the world of MMORPGs where connectivity is king.
Escapism is experienced when we enter a mental state of mind-frame that is not ordinarily available to the normal human body within everyday life. It occurs when we feel a sense of escape from reality, through the direct or indirect use of substances or acts which harbor the natural release of dopamine in our brains that provide mental relief and relaxation. It started with alcohol, a substance that has been brewed and fermented since the Mesopotamians in 4000 BC. The coca plant has similarly been grown and chewed by ancient civilizations in South America for thousands of years, only to be popularized in the 1800-1900s during the discovery of its medicinal properties. In the late 90s, cocaine became the party drug of choice, even till today with 600 tones being consumed annually.
There may be a million and one reasons for why people undergo substance abuse, however I only want to focus on one, the one that truly grabs people by their ankles and drags them under; escapism. We live on a boring planet, there is no doubt about that. If we lived somewhere actually interesting we wouldn’t have a $41.9 billion a year video game industry, a $9.5 billion movie industry, nor a $23 billion movie rental industry. Entertainment is one of the most acceptable forms of escape, there is a lot of glitz and glamor and special effects, it almost feels like its actually real.
And this is exactly where MMORPGs come in. There are two types of extremely addictive online games; first-person shooters (such as Call of Duty; Modern Warfare), and MMORPGs (such as World of Warcraft). MMORPGs are extremely addictive because they were created to be exactly that. I remember reading a highly controversial article a couple years ago that delved into a study a particular gaming giant undertook in order to test or increase the addictiveness of their games. It produced results such as; a compelling story line, spammable skills or attacks to continuously required the attention of the gamer, etc. If only I could find that study somewhere. Here is a link to another article that suggests internet addiction is as addictive as cocaine. Just an interesting coincidence considering my earlier ties between the two. The key difference being that the drugs will likely kill you, while gaming addiction will just help you become morbidly obese, develop psychological problems such as increased anxiety and depression, and demonstrate extreme anti-social behavior every chance you get. Not to mention the B.O, which may just tip the favor back towards the drugs…
Gaming is addictive. It is addictive not because the game itself is just so well made, often the most addictive games are sometimes the most childish and immature things ever, however they incite a repressed emotion out of the user that does not ordinarily come to light in real-life. We can be an absolute superstar online, the most hardcore outfits, extremely ultra cool weapons, guilds spanning hundreds of people all following us like Gospel itself, however none of it mirrored in real life itself. Gaming worlds are handcrafted by animation geniuses creating fantastic worlds we wished we could live in high in the clouds, however all we have is regular urban sprawl to meet us when we wake up every morning. Addiction deepens when it is used to escape Life. Problems as a result of our lives, people in our lives, boredom pertaining the unfolding of our non-lives, events that make us want to run away from the harsh realities of our lives. There is a lot of pain and sadness in the real world, the only pain we feel online is when the servers unexpectedly crash and we lose all our hard-gained items. Sometimes we work weeks on-end for those items, yes we can sometimes even cry.
MMORPGs are almost set up like casinos. Instead of cashing up our chips at the end of the night, we attain gold, or any other form of in-game currency. The inevitable churn of killing monsters, selling items, leveling up, killing more monsters, upgrading our equipment, killing even more monsters, PvPing, MvPing, did I mention killing lots of monsters? The in-game games are always the best, the PvP (player vs player) arenas are like poker tables; everybody is against each other (except the couple inside friends nobody knows about). The MvP (monster vs player) maps are like blackjack tables; everybody vs the ‘house’. The NPCs (non-player characters) are like good casino dealers offering us advice and showing us how to play the game. The whole thing is structured to suck you in and keep you there while the good times are rolling. At least we leave the casino when we run out of money, with online games they are already in our houses, meaning we don’t have to leave, or even sleep (hello 5am wake-up calls to make our guild wars: Respect).
We really like to escape reality on Earth. Very little keeps us mentally dedicated more so than astronomical debts or sex. The entertainment industry allows us to see a small sneaking glimpse of what it means to truly live within our model concepts of reality. The fame, the fortune, the power, for a lucky few it even promises a career where all our dreams can suddenly be realized. For the vast majority of others, we are left to escape our lost dreams by filling in time with what interests us beyond the scope of every day life. Escapism is about living in a world that either captures our imagination, or lets us forget who we are and where we came from. One way or the other, we are not being physically present here on Earth in the NOW.
I was addicted to games my entire childhood, even till today its grasp is still so powerful that it takes the full force of nearly all my Masters before I let go of them and start concentrating on my Life again. And this is the most serious issue; our escape from what we have come here to do. If we are not present, then how are we expected to do what it is we came here for? The simple answer is we can’t, it doesn’t happen. We may allow ourselves to get into a stupor, become high, immersed into a guild war with all our online comrades, what we won’t discover is the forgiveness for simply being here and moving on into a state of Enlightenment. It takes a lot of maturity to give up online games, social maturity to give up the latest social craze mobile games, and spiritual maturity to enjoy the essence of Life in its most pure form; in the NOW. Escapism is for those not psychologically strong enough to deal with real life, it is only a matter of time before Life catches up with us, there is only so far we can run. One day we will look back and think to ourselves “Where did all that time go? What was I even doing?” then the nostalgia of the game will hit you before the “That’s right! It wasn’t on Earth. It was all in that gaming world.” That’s the scary part.