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.

 

About Yordie

I'm an avatar from Second Life and Xbox gamer. I wrote the sci-fi novel The Temporal Expeditions, and am working on book 2 of trilogy.
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