The geeky addictions debate: Part 4

November 30, 2008

Okay, suffice to say, we have different ideas about what constitutes “addiction”. I think it’s a completely over-used term in our society. I think it often equates harmless habits, hobbies, diversions and so on with physically addictive substances in people’s minds. I think, by your definition, pretty much everything in my life except working, sleeping and pooping – ie. everything which is a necessity rather than a pleasure – is an addiction, thus the label becomes entirely meaningless.

Understand, too, that in gaming culture, it’s a dangerous word. We live in a world where lobbyists and anti-videogame researchers are trying to get “video game addiction” classified an actual DSM-IV disorder. If they ever succeed – as they have done the equivalent in some other countries – it opens the door to many things that should disturb far more than just gamers; foremost, government regulation and intervention in a creative industry. That leads down a very ugly and dangerous road. As such, I despise the term except in its strictest definition – compulsive habituation to a substance or activity to the exclusion of almost everything else. That’s not going to change through anything we have to say here.

On a personal note, I also, I have to say, rather resent you using out-of-context quotes from my apology post as fuel with which to brand me as in an “addictive state”, and to conjecture about how interference with my hobbies frustrates me. That was an off-the-cuff post for our readers meant to apologize in casual language for the fact that I have not paid as much attention to NAPA as I would like due to a recent video game glut. That post, naturally, greatly simplified matters in my own life, as I only referred to “NAPA-relevant” factors – and not even all those, frankly, as my nose has been buried in Orson Scott Card novels much of the past few weeks as well. The truth is, there’s a lot more than video games that takes away from my time spent writing online, here and elsewhere, but which I don’t usually choose to discuss in this forum – such as the fact that I do a lot of my online writing on the sly at work, which has been too busy for that indulgence lately. But we’ll set that aside.

But the real thing I want to discuss in what I brought up is the issue of self-loathing – I admit that I used perhaps too strong a term; embarrassment would be more appropriate. It’s in the larger world I see this, not “in front of the computer” – on the ‘net, we can all indulge in sub-cultures to our heart’s content with little interference or judgement.

The same is to be said for cons, or comic shops, or SF bookstores, or game shops, or RPG hobby shops. Of course the people there are spending money to fuel their interests. Of course they are open in these locales about what they love, and how much they love it, and are free to express that. That’s because these are the places where their like-minded individuals congregate. They are surrounded by their own kind, safe and secure. They, as you point out, disdain the mainstream in these environments – but would they do so outside such a safe haven? Conventions are often as much support groups as marketing and fandom events. Saying to go to these places and see if the people in them are embarrassed about their hobbies is like telling me to go to a crack house to prove that crack heads aren’t ashamed of their habit.

The real question is – when they go to work Monday morning and their boss asks them what they did on the weekend, do they say they put on a Starfleet uniform and went to a Star Trek con, or do they say “not much”? When they’re at the bar with their non-gaming buddies, do they brag about adding 1,000 points to their gamerscore last week? I know your wife has a friend at work who’s a raving BSG fan, but feels a need to conceal this from everyone but her, once he found out she shared his interest. Would this guy be embarrassed to admit he was a hockey fan, or loved the new Bond movie?

As for the last… we’ll see. I don’t think all of what we’re talking about here is just fad, though I certainly hope that sparkly romantic vampires are, and a short-lived one at that.

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