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MMO addiction: Should developers limit play time?

by Stephanie Duchenne (Panda McBearface)  Posted Thursday, August 08, 2013 11:00:00 AM

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Should Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games limit the amount of time gamers are allowed to spend playing them? This is something one wonders about for various reasons; specifically to do with gamers’ health. There are the problems of carpal tunnel and pathological gaming addiction. Sometimes there are even worse consequences to spending too much time attached to your PC – like death. Would it bring some of these issues to a resolution if the companies who run MMOs gave gamers a limited amount of time on the servers?

I should probably provide justification for my choice of MMOs as the culprit here before all the fanboys get riled up about it. Although all PC and/or console games have negative physical consequences if you spend too much time playing them, MMOs are notorious for being an enormous time consumer. Why? Because really, who wouldn’t become obsessive and play for 8 hours (and sometimes more) at a stretch when you have a million quests to complete? Levelling up and making a satisfactory build takes time, brah. I totally get that. However, consider the following:

Cameron Sandler, an Australian teenager addicted to World of Warcraft, sacrificed many hours to play “the never-ending computer game”. So many hours in fact, that he made the news:

In 2012, a Taiwanese gamer, identified as Chuang, died after playing Diablo III for 40 hours straight in his local internet café. He didn’t stop for sleep or food the entire time and was found draped over a desk after the mammoth session. He woke up briefly, stumbled a few steps and passed out. He never woke up again.

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A young Chinese girl nicknamed ‘Snowly’ died in 2005 after spending several days in a row playing World of Warcraft. In a sort of nice ending to the story, other players held a virtual funeral for her in the game and thousands attended to pay tribute to the teenager.

American Shaun Wooley played multiplayer online fantasy game, Everquest; right up until the moment that he shot himself to death in his apartment. His mother, Elizabeth Wooley, stated that

"It's like any other addiction. Either you die, go insane or you quit. My son died."

Obviously these are extreme cases, but I do feel that they make the point quite clear:

There is definitely such a thing as too much.

There is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat. Using this metaphor, we can thus determine that there are a few options as to how to stop gamers from spending excessive time playing MMOs aside from the one I have already discussed.

One desperate Chinese father, Mr Feng, aimed to end his son’s online RPG addiction by hiring a virtual hitman to murder his repeatedly murder his son’s character. He figured his son would get bored if his little guy kept dying.

The plan didn’t work.

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In 2007, the Chinese government instituted a timing system that was used in online Role-playing games (RPGs). Gamers who spend more than five hours playing have the abilities of their in-game characters severely limited and are forced to take a five hour break before they can return to their game. Although some might cry “nanny state” (myself included to be honest), it does seem *sort of* reasonable when we take into account the number of deaths attributed to excessive gaming in Asian countries.

So how would one institute such a system the world over?

One could, as with the Chinese government, place the time limit according to game account.

One could also block specific IP addresses after the set time limit has passed.

However, there are obviously ways to get around such systems, such as spoofing one’s MAC address or making another smurf account for the game in question. Clearly such measures would thus only work on gamers who are lazy like I am.

In all honesty, I find it highly doubtful that companies such as Blizzard and their ilk would consider it their personal responsibility to institute such things on their servers. Aside from the fact that it would mean less financial profit for them, there is also the fact that it isn’t their responsibility to do as such.

Gaming addiction is a real issue, but it is the responsibility of the gamer in question to realise when enough is enough. In the case of teenagers, parental advisory should be used (because let’s be honest, how many teenagers do you know that are capable of making rational decisions? I know I wasn’t).

Look after your health and don’t be silly:

Don’t play online games willy-nilly!

Stephanie's Twitter / MWEB Gamezone Twitter | Facebook

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 Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd



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