Recently I was reminded that gaming obsessions are not really new. I came across a D&D Dungeon Master, who reminded me of the days when teenage boys (mostly, rather than girls) were drawn into the sword and sorcery game. It was a big deal. I remember cringing when one group of boys carried on a game for days as we were hiking on the Bruce Trail. It was all they would talk about, and their colloquial references were all in the jargon of the game, giving rise to endless inside jokes that no one else understood.
I remember news stories claiming that the moral fiber of society was being eroded by these games, and that some teenage suicides were blamed on them, -much like the computer games of modern times.
It is part of the teenage psyche to search for an experience in which they can immerse themselves. It is part of a developmental need for belonging to a larger group, and of a need to feel in control. Today’s online gaming communities serve the same function, explaining the obsession that sometimes gives us concern.
Should we be concerned? The passing of the D&D phenomenon (except maybe for a small pocket of people in Tennessee 😉 ) should teach us that this too will pass. We are possibly in danger of taking things too seriously.
At the same time, each new wave of games designed to suck in the teenager gets better at its goal. As time goes on, designers learn from their mistakes and advance their craft of persuasion and engagement. With the new technologies, where teens can access their game anywhere and at any time, the “playing field” is qualitatively different, with the obsession reaching new heights. I’ve seen it over the past decade and I’ve commented on it before. The engagement in computer gaming these days is pervasive. Computer technology makes up over 50% of casual conversation (if not more), just like the old D&D banter, but prevalent among a much larger portion of the population.
Perhaps this too will pass, but you can’t ignore that, with the passing of time and the reinventing of the media, hooks sink deeper and deeper into the minds and lives of more and more players.