Updated Wed, Dec 15, 2010 by Saia
Last week, as I was vox popping the assembled crowds in Leicester Square, London before the UK's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launch, the British Broadcasting Corporation (aka the BBC or just the Beeb) aired a film on its topical Monday night current affairs programme Panorama called "Addicted to Gaming".
This half an hour look into gaming culture focused on a number of MMOs but the chief culprits - and the programme took a very negative, almost sensationalist stance on the subject of gaming addiction - were Blizzard Entertainment's StarCraft II and, of course, World of Warcraft. The programme had, of course, been timed to coincide with the launch of Cataclysm and the BBC was well aware of the launch, having run numerous articles in the preceding week while the film itself included footage from July's London StarCraft II launch at GAME in Regent's Street.
The film left me with the overall impression that it was there as a warning, almost as public service to parents and family, that games - especially WoW - are addicting and, while mainstream, should be treated in the same way as one would alcohol for an alcoholic or drugs with a user, as suspicious and potentially dangerous. It also highlighted the fact that the teenagers in the film had no self control and their parents did little to limit their game time.
Now I've been playing WoW for four years and there have been points where I can honestly say I've been addicted but, when you make your living as a journalist specializing in games, particularly MMOs, then that's to be expected. Adding to that, I suffered brain damage as a child and have OCD. This means I have a predisposition to find almost anything addictive yet because I'm aware of it, I'm able to control these impulses and channel them into a constructive career. Most of the time at least.
But it has allowed me to watch as people raced to level 85 this week. Within three days half my guild had hit the magic number, having mysteriously become ill on Tuesday morning with a condition I like to call Skiveitus in order to play. It happens a couple of times a year, whenever the next must-play game comes out. I have no doubt that many folks on my server are addicted, it's amazing who you run into at three in the morning while mining in Vashj'ir but that doesn't mean that everyone is the same. You can't tar the entire 12 million souls who adventure in Azeroth with the same brush as a small selection of people.