Commentary: Online Gaming is Spiritual Opium?

[UPDATED] During the past weekend, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made the Chinese people aware that playing online games is equivalent to “Opium for the mind” or “Spiritual Opium”.

So, is the CCP’s assertion true: Is online gaming addictive? And if it is, does government have a duty to suppress gaming companies, or suppress individuals from playing games?

First of all, I agree with the CCP’s assertion. I believe that online games are additive.

My experience with computer gaming and online gaming is that it is a type of “spiritual opium”; that is, assuming opium is a metaphor for addiction. I believe that if you play online games you already know that they are addictive. In fact, these games can be so addictive that they keep you from living a “normal” life; meaning, a life where you interact with human beings and navigate your way through life’s challenges. This last part is much more complicated than you might think, but I’ll stick with basics.

I started playing simple games that shipped with Windows 3.0, games like Solitaire, Tetris, and others. Maybe it was because I worked in technology, but I found computer gaming fascinating and I spent many hours playing the games when I should have been sleeping. I think that was a kind of addiction. However, I backed away from those games because my interest in programming, databases, and the Internet was even more fascinating. So, in hind sight, that was a brief interval of my life, but would I have been better off if our nation-state had turned off my access to the games? I don’t think so. I played games to relax after a hard day’s work.

BTW, tech workers in China live a “996” way of life (“9am to 9pm, six days a week”) and this has enabled China to make the massive technology gains they’ve made in the past twenty years. Put another way, China expects its tech workers to devote themselves to the projects that propel the country forward. They’ve openly criticized activities that don’t  directly contribute to the advancement of the states objectives. They aren’t even shy about saying this.

I made progress in my tech career and was online before the Internet. I played some of the early online games. I played various online games on Prodigy, and enjoyed running the  Golden Streams Brewery business game. But the early online games weren’t that awesome, and I graduated to other computer games like Might & Magic (a solo role play, adventure party game) and F-15 Strike Eagle. I had a fancy fighter control stick for Strike Eagle and loved flying up to 40,000 feet and descending on enemy targets at Mach 2. So, I had a taste for gaming and that gave me a certain connection with fellow software developers. I was even a “Guerilla Programmer” (meaning programmers that did not to surrender the software industry to foreign countries) back in the 1990s.

I joined a Redmond, Washington software development company and that led to my greatest achievements. I fit in with this group easily because of my devotion to the art and science of software technology, but also because I could walk the walk as a computer gamer. In fact, I played online multi-player games with the guys on our team in the afterhours at our office. We used the company’s servers to run our own versions of popular multi-player games like Doom, Rise of The Triad, Duke Nukem, and many other crazy games. That gaming was part of my company’s culture. We’d play from 6pm to sometimes as late as midnight, and it was a lot of fun, even though the guys saw us girls as easy kills.  If I had been a staunch women’s libber, I probably would not have fit in, but I’ve always felt comfortable letting guys be guys.

The question arises: Were we addicted to online gaming? Maybe, but I just don’t know.

I am sure that all of us were addicted to our careers. In fact, I think everyone who lived in Redmond at that time was addicted to their careers as well. And we helped invent the future of software in our own small pocket of the software universe. We also helped build our company from a small shop to a public company within a few years. So, there’s that.

The real question is: Could we have done more to contribute to the art and science of software technology or to our company? I really doubt it, but I understand that there are people who would disagree. The thing is, unless you live the life, you don’t realize how important the shared developer experience is. Was that share experience really necessary. I’d say yes, but others may disagree.

Were we addicted to gaming or addicted to our careers, or both? Addiction is real. Gaming companies are well aware of how dangerous it is. But should a nation-state attempt to force it’s tech workers to be addicted to their jobs and give up gaming? In America, the answer is obvious. In China, well, there is evidence that tech workers are getting tired of being bullied into devoting their lives to this level of work.

My Conclusion: Online gaming is addictive. I’ve battled that addiction and had to make decisions to disengage from games when they’ve become too addictive. Again, it’s like drugs, some people can stop and some can’t. If you believe human beings must go into the world and make their own stupid mistakes, then you have to let people follow their own paths. No, you can’t protect everyone and some young people will make terrible mistakes. For me, I enjoy some types of online gaming and frequently have to decide whether I’m becoming too addicted to a game.

Just my humble opinion.


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Second Life: Coming & Going

I’ve been hanging around Second Life for awhile. I’ve checked out some land for sale and have found that self-styled land barons have bought up a huge number of the desirable lots; they try to sell it at exorbitant prices or rent it. Sure, that’s a classic real estate play but it assures me that I don’t want anything they are selling. I’ve also been hanging out at a couple places I still love to visit.

A nice place to come home to

I even rented a room at the Blue Moon Motel in the Junkyard Blues sim complex. The nice thing about the Blue Moon is, it’s not over-priced and is kind of cool. It reminds me of olden times when my family rented motel rooms at the coast.

Yordie Sands is a blogger, writer, photographer, and gamer.
That’s the beach adjacent to the Blue Moon Motel.
That’s me in front of my motel room. Just thinkin’ about stuff.

And a place that’s gone

Since dropping my premium account I’ve been landing at the abandoned club, PIER. I’ve written about PIER several times in the past. I have a place in my heart for the joys I found there when I discovered PIER back in 2007. Sadly, it’s gone now.

Recent photo of PIER, my landing site.
That’s me this past weekend at the site where PIER once stood.

Ambrosia — Always Cool

The only other night club I visit regularly anymore is Ambrosia. I’ve written about the club many times in the past, but thanks to Phil Kearny, it is still going strong. I think part of Ambrosia’s success is the enthusiasm of Phil’s personality.

That’s the quintessential Phil, but you have to be there to really get the experience.

And this is the Ambrosia Dance Club before the crowd overruns the place.

I’m not sure how long Second Life will exist in its present format, but I’ll keep checking in. The one thing I always come back to is the music and dancing, especially on special holidays. Also, I have to remember to get back to the Motel and pay my rent each week.

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Sha’Carri Richardson

She’s America’s top female sprinter.

Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Below is the video of her qualifying for the #1 spot on the USA 100 meter team. The thing about her is, she has an amazing ability to unleash her top end speed. Check the video of Sha’Carri’s qualification run, and I think you’ll be thrilled as her top-end is released. It is particularly amazing when you consider that she is only 5’1″ tall. In sprints, physical height, especially long legs, has proven to be decisive for many top sprinters in the late stage of a race. For example: the top sprinter of all time was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (6’5″ tall). And among women Olympians, Florence “Flo-Jo” Joiner was 5’7″. And top female sprinters do not “run like girls”, just saying. Simply said: Her ability is awesome to watch.

I’m deeply saddened that this magnificent young athlete made an impulsive mistake. She has been suspended 30 days and that will cost her a chance to compete in the USA Olympic Team’s 100 meter dash. I doubt that the US Olympic Committee can make an allowance for her, because of the precedent it would set, but her suspension expires before the 4×100 sprint relays and I’m praying for to be part of that team.

Sha’Carri is a great talent and has a lovely spirit, and she would represent our country proudly.

I ran sprints in high school, but never had Sha’Carri’s talent. Nonetheless, I did come to understand that 100 sprints have at least two stages: the start (first 30 to 50), where you run as fast with all your strength; the later stage (50-100), where the best sprinters transition up to their top end speed. Many sprinters that are good in the start get overrun by other sprinters in the second stage because they can’t make this subtle transition. And the best sprinters do something that very few sprinters understand, they relax and let their bodies loose; it is an almost transcendental experience. And very few coaches know enough about this to really coach it.

In the above video, you’ll hear the commentator refer to Sha’Carri’s ability to relax, and how it is unusual for a 21 year old. But the relaxation is a real thing and I’ve rarely heard track coaches mention it (but my experience was a long time ago); although once, I heard one coach refer to a male sprinter, saying: Watch him coast. That’s was the coaches observation, and it was a poor description of what happens. I discovered the power of relaxation by watching a world champion sprinter at a track meet at the University of Miami. My mind translated what I saw in the context of my Zen studies, and a old saying about horseback riding: “Give the horse its head.” I came away with a theory that I must transition from my fast start and release my body’s strength naturally. The very next day I tried the technique and my 100 speed showed an immediate improvement: 0.3 better than my personal best (0.3 in the 100 is a lot).

It’s easy to identify people who don’t understand relaxation, regardless of their speed: They seem tightly wound up through the entire race. But the people who can relax are equally easy to recognize; remember how easily Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt cruised to his victories? The guy was egotistical to an obnoxious degree, and in the China Olympics his behavior offended the Chinese people. But he clearly was a master of relaxation. Being short is a big disadvantage for Sha’Carri but her incredible top end speed is a gift from God.

Praying for you, Sha’Carri.

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Second Life: 15 Years at Junkyard Blues

Fifteen years is a long time and in the time distortion field that surrounds a virtual world it seems even longer. Many things have changed in that period of time, nightclubs have come and gone, people have come and gone, friends have passed away. Maybe it’s no more amazing than real life, but the fact is, almost everything in a virtual world is a product of a massive network of computers; everything except the people behind the avatars that live there.

On Sunday evening, people came to SL to celebrate 15 Years of Junkyard Blues and it’s owners, Kiff Klutterbuck and Dina Petty. In fact, people who hadn’t been around for many years showed up for the event. In fact, I spent five straight hours inworld and enjoyed every minute from an early set with DJ Seven and through the full show of the longtime DJ Fiery Otaared. And there were nearly 60 people at the JY when I left at midnight; that’s a big crowd on a Sunday night. I was so engaged with old friends that I only snapped a couple photos, so I hope they capture some flavor of the gathering.

Dina & Kiff are the owners of the Junkyard, and its heart & soul.
Much loved Fiery Otaared has been spinning great blues as long as I remember.

I was a regular in Second Life for about seven years. I did so many things but I found it too addictive for me and faded away for another seven years. Last night reminded me of many of the wonderful qualities of this virtual world. It’s hard to grasp why I feel so much love for the people that all are part of the experience. Several people were surprised to see me show up but hey, I spent many of my Saturday nights at JYB and was a JYB hostess for a couple years. I was also a REAL JYB Dreamgirl even longer. And I wrote many blog posts about the goings on at the JY. So, how could I have NOT been there.

Great love and appreciation to Kiff and Dina, and Fiery and all the other great bluesy DJs that bring us the music that we love.

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Fallout New Vegas: Yordie at Boulder Dam

I’ve continued playing FONV up to Lever 14. And I’ve enjoyed because the story line flows so well written. There are things I dislike, the whole ammo reloading thang, for example. Also, I found the constant degradation of weapons makes me a bit weary. But I’ve been engaged in the gameplay and story, and I found the landscape vast and interesting. It’s old school tech (runs in Xbox 360 Mode), but will has enough elements to make it very playable, even now.

That’s me in my clunky outfit at the fortified Boulder Dam.

Like Fallout 3, I’ve kind of run as far as I want to go with this game. I could come back if I get interested in the lore again, but I’ll prolly just let Oxhorn walk me though his unique lore series. Also, I’m aware that there’s a new release coming: Fallout New Vegas 2. And I’ll definitely give that a try, although I haven’t dug into the status yet.

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Fallout New Vegas: Seeking Lore

I’ve kind of run out of interest in Fallout 3; it’s been fun and has filled in a lot of the history of the game for me. The reason I lost interest is more related to the old tech; lets face it, a lot of graphics and gameplay technology has advance since FO3 was first released. Also, I got very weary of the dismal, colorless landscapes; yeah, FO4 is pretty dismal also but not as dismal. So, yeah, Fallout 3 is still playable and I enjoyed my excursion, but I prolly won’t be returning.

I’ve also been poking around Fallout 76, getting back in the groove a bit, but I’m not ready to return. And this led me to open up Fallout New Vegas, not just because it’s there, but because I’m interested in the Fallout history and lore. I’ve heard some players contend that FONV is the best game Bethesda ever made; so, I was more than curious. You see, I’d fiddled around in FONV in the past and it was interesting but I didn’t see anything that really inspired me.

I started play FONV last week and have advanced through the Goodsprings quests, including taking on the Powder Gang. I’ve also been over to Primm and other nearby places and outposts.

I’ve read about a Fallout: New Vegas 2 in the que for release later this year, so I plan to play current FONV for a while then hang it up and wait for FONV2. Regardless, I’m enjoying the game as it is so far.

Here’s a pic I managed to snap of myself in Goodsprings. I’m not sure how I got the frontal view because I tried several shots that didn’t work. So this may be the one and only pic I’ll have from FONV.

Yordie Sands is a blogger, writer and gamer.
Yordie at the Prospector Saloon in Goodsprings.

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Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Oh my! I’ve been waiting for a game like this since seeing the movie Avatar. And it looks like I’ll have to wait another year, until 2022, but I’m on fire with enthusiasm. For one thing, I sort of got my gaming legs playing the Lara Croft games, produced by Ubisoft, and this gives me confidence that they’ll do a good job on Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. Checkout the trailer, released yesterday. I think it will thrill you also.

Following the release of the film in 2009, several of Second Life’s creative people setup some fun sims and groups, and I eagerly joined in. I had a lot of fun but SL role play can lead to a lot of different interpretations of what should and shouldn’t be done. There were also, of course, plenty of griefers. Nonetheless, I have great memories of my life as a Na’vi in Second Life. Below are some photos.

That’s Yordie Na’Vi on her dragon flying across Pandora’s Moon in Second Life.

The game will be available on Xbox Series X, and there’s no plan for backward compatibility. So, if you’ve been putting off buy a new Xbox, like I have (I mean, I own an Xbox One X and S already), you will have a lot of incentive to buy next year. And I will. Can’t wait!

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