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Geeky addictions: My final thoughts…

December 3, 2008

I think we’ve pushed this little debate about as far as it can go; I have only a few quick observations.

First, I think the whole “addiction” schism between us is largely an issue of semantics. There’s a casual use for the word – as in “right now, I’m totally addicted to my iPhone/Deadwood/Gears of War 2/Dan Simmons/geocaching/etc.”. It’s a casual use which doesn’t really mean addiction, in the dictionary sense of the word, which indicates some level of compulsion. I do believe that everything you’ve talked about is well covered under the casual use of the term; as I mentioned, in the current high-tension political debate around a psychological “illness” termed “video game addiction”, it makes it a loaded term, which I try to avoid in semi-formal online writing.

It is not a sensitive matter to me personally, except in the greater political debate around avid gamers these days; as I mentioned, I had an addiction problem with EverQuest (and I think the issue of MMO addiction is a much more real one, as they are engineered as Skinner boxes for just that purpose) for a period of about 9 months, where compulsive behaviour was definitely part of it. While I am an avid console gamer today, it is just one of several diversions which I pursue in my leisure time – and not even my favourite, which is and always has been the printed word – but there is no compulsive aspect like there was in my EQ days. Coming back to my original post, the current video game season is like the summer blockbuster season for action movie fans; it just takes up more of their leisure time than it does in the winter because there’s so much more to choose from.

Secondly, we really shouldn’t be debating the issue of gaming and interest in SF in the same geek stripe. As I’ve endeavoured to express here and elsewhere, gaming is entering the mainstream as a platform for entertainment; SF is and always will be a collection of genres within many entertainment platforms that will come and go in popularity. What I see coming now and in the future is that gaming, which was formerly a part of the geek cultures we both love (and wear proudly, whether at work or in a SF bookstore), is no longer a part of geek culture, but is taking its place alongside TV, movies, and books as a form of popular entertainment. Thus the jock of the future will play the latest Madden game but disdain Japanese role-playing-games; the hard-scifi Mass Effect fans will disapprove of the supernatural elements of Dead Space; but all will be playing these genres without any thought to the fact that they are all gamers, any more than the guy who doesn’t like a SF show like BSG denigrates the entire medium of television.

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