ICD-11 video game addiction is being pushed without proper backing

Without a doubt certain percentage of people who play electronic games overdo their hobby. However, this is only for a small percentage of the overall enthusiasts and hobbyists. Furthermore, it would seem that problematic gaming, that is the consumption of electronic gaming that is detrimental to everyday life, itself grows itself thin in time and dissipates on its own. A longitudinal study showed this with 112 adolescents. I’ve already covered why the proposal for gaming disorder has no basis, but it would appear pushing for its suggestions into ICD-11 has merit to it. Merit that wouldn’t serve science, culture, markets or consumers.

Ferguson wrote that less than 1% of people experience video game addiction. His writing is a good read. Game addiction in itself is a very different nature from e.g. gambling. I’ve actually covered issues with pairing electronic gaming and gambling with each other previously, but to make short story even shorter, video game addiction is far more often a symptom of an underlying problem than the cause in itself. Ferguson’s own study supports this. Hell, there’s even a paper arguing against the very concept of video game addiction.

In a discussion between Ferguson and an administrator at the World Health Organisation acknowledged political pressure from countries, particularly from Asian ones, factoring in the inclusion of video game addiction into ICD-11. If countries are pushing its inclusion, that means scientific basis comes second at best and whatever political stance these nations have come in first. That is extremely dangerous, as adding video game addiction opens doors for other far more intrusive and harmful suggestions to be included under its umbrella. Considering video game addiction is extremely loosely defined and would require far more research than what it has, there’s no guarantee any of the future additions would have better research behind it.

You may be asking yourself what nations would have need or use for this sort of addition to the ICD-11. Some nations have reported more deaths from non-stop gaming than others, and mostly we hear these reports from either China or South Korea. In 2005 a 28-years old man died because his heart failed during a session of Starcraft, BBC reports. It is interesting to note from that article that despite Starcraft being a real-time strategy game, professor Mark Griffith only talks about MMORPGs, a very different genre of game. You have far less interaction with your opponent in Starcraft that you have in e.g. World of Warcraft.

South Korea has seen drastic changes in its electronic game landscape, and one of the more worrisome changes came around 2014, when some members of the government began to regard games as a detrimental pastime. South Korea has discussed to enact game addition bill to limit not only the amount of time people should be allowed to play, but also games themselves. However, when you have legislators directly comparing video games to tobacco and alcohol, there is something amiss. South Korean gaming culture is far different from any other, e.g. you can actually graduate to be an e-Sports player. However, much like any other person who has a career in “sports,” e-Sports players suffer from injuries as well. Seeing how the South Korean culture has almost twisted games and e-Sports into a national pastime, it’s no wonder a lot of young people are willing to give a chance to become a player worth millions of wons.

The thing is, South Korea does have a problem with gaming, but rather as we are lacking in evidence for gaming addiction (we have more researches saying against it as linked above), it is far more probable that the South Korean gaming problem is a symptom from an underlying social and cultural troubles. Putting legislation that equates games with drugs and alcohol won’t cure the problem, it will manifest itself some other way later down the line.

Passing a law based on game addiction is hard when you have nothing to base it on. However, if ICD-11 would recognize video game addiction as a valid illness, there would be no need for debating or researching the issue much further; after all, you can simply point out that it’s in the books. That would be injustice.

One of the gaming limiting laws has already passed. The Shutdown law was passed in 2011 and limits people aged under 16 from playing online games during the night between 00:00 and 06:00. While this would sound decent in principle, it is not the government’s job to do what parents should be doing. Furthermore, this law challenged in few occasions as unconstitutional. However, the law is still in effect, albeit nowadays parents can request the ban being lifted from their child.

China’s following this South Korean example with similar legislation that would ban gaming outright from people aged under 18 between 00:00 and 08:00, and would necessitate computers and smartphones to be fitted software that would track down law breakers. Both South Korea and China require their people to use their real IDs when accessing their gaming accounts. In case of South Korea, this is a necessity with many of their websites in general. However, in 2012 Real Name Rule was struck down and rejected by court. The law requiring the usage of users’ real names was introduced in 2007 to combat cyber-bullying. Again, this is treating the symptom, not the cause. Furthermore, as gaming is a million-dollar business, by accusing game industry creating addictive products, governments could push forwards for harsher taxations and other underhanded shenanigans to gain more from the revenues. This may sound like a foil-hat idea, but seeing how few years back we found game journalism colluding and attacking their consumers and recently CIA spying everyone everywhere, this isn’t far fetched.

Games of any kind, be it sports, card games or anything else, are addictive in their own way. For modern electronic games, it’s a whole mess to open why they could be addictive outside the usual action-reward scheme. This is because electronic games have more dimensions than gambling. After all, games are a tool to give leeway for people from their everyday life in an electronic way that supports social interaction through cultural landscape and aims to both challenge and please the players at the same time. They are not gambling, except Complete Gacha in Japan, as gambling quite literally requires wagering money or something else valuable under uncertain conditions for higher gains. Of course, games are designed to pull the player in and be enjoyable, but that is what every form of entertainment does.

If video game addiction would have something to be tied to, it would be escapism. Escapism is always tied to something else than the tool people escape through, and the question I must ask here; what are people escaping from if they are willing to kill and die because of video games?

More Steam consoles coming your way

Recently Valve Corp. put out news concerning a portable Steam machine. No, not a laptop, but a handheld console.

What a console is has been through a change as of late, and Steam isn’t the only one that’s to be credited with this. All the account systems we have now have effectively become the consoles themselves. While this is a change from physical to digital, the core function hasn’t changed.

To recount, a console is essentially physical DRM. Unlike some PC DRM that are highly invasive and might even destroy the users’ HDD. Consoles have pretty much always been about plug-n-play, thou we can argue about Pong consoles. That simple function of having the game in, either built-in or as a cartridge, and have it there the moment you turn the machine on. That is the core difference between a console and a PC. This dynamic has changed, for better or worse.

With the upcoming Nintendo NX, we have seen signs that there could be a unified account system across Nintendo platforms, akin to how PSN is shared between Vita, PSP, PS3 and PS4, or how Microsoft accounts can be shared across all MS machines. With the constant increase in digital nature of the games, the physical machine has lost most of its meaning, especially now that PS4 and XBone are very similar in design and build.

Valve’s Steam was a bit ahead of this all, providing this sort of digital game console before stepping in with the hardware business. It’s very strange to see Valve Corp. to push out multiple versions of their Steam machines. At the moment, their most expensive machine variant goes for $4 999,99 while the lowest goes for $449. That’s strange, very strange. If Valve wanted to hit the same consumer group that the Big Three are competing for, this sort of multiple machine approach feels very strange indeed. It’s understandable why to offer a digital game console on PCs, as it streamlines the usability but doesn’t magically make it PC gaming. The machine, with it being slowly but surely being turned into a mere notion, is irrelevant now. It wouldn’t be for PC gamers, who would want to modify and tweak their games to the absolute maximum possibilities and beyond, but with Steam even these so-called PC games have gone with the console route and made everything simple. It’s the plug-n-play mentality, and calling that PC gaming would be demeaning what it is.

Steam OS is another example of this change, as it quite literally turns your PC into a game console. You’ll be losing all the benefits PC gaming used to have with Steam, and with an OS the last remnants of PC gaming are almost completely lost. The only things that Steam allows the consumer to do that resembles PC gaming are options that are not found on consoles, eg. higher resolution and additional effects. These games are still tied down to the system, just like console games are.

PC gaming isn’t getting the same games as consoles and having them on better specs. Hardware race used to be a big part of PC gaming, but not anymore. There’s still those who masturbate over getting that extra frame per second over someone else, but that’s practically meaningless in comparison to actual PC gaming, where the hardware race was to actually get the game run properly. PC gaming wasn’t plug-n-play, it wasn’t necessarily easy. That’s an atmosphere that PC game is in the end. Whereas arcades were all about the reflexes and split second decisions, the PC was a thinking man’s realm. The main reason why UItima always sucked on consoles was because it’s a PC game series. It wasn’t just developed for PCs, it was designed and its core lays with the PC way of thinking. You find all the best Western RPGs on PCs, because they’re text heavy, adventures, designed to blazed through in a relatively slow pace. With consoles being in the middle between arcade and PC, they could’ve been a healthy balance between the two. The Legend of Zelda, the first properly popular Action RPG got that genre coined because it functioned like an RPG with its relatively slow overall pace but with the need to be able to manoeuvre properly in arcade like action. While most people think PC RPGs in terms of levels and numbers, these levels and numbers have been streamlined in Zelda to be simply represented with hearts, pieces of the Triforce and equipment.

In Japan this was represented in Visual Novels and their own adventure games and simulators, where the text and menu heavy games ran rampart. The occasional action game you saw was either clunky or horribly choppy to the point of almost impossible to play properly.

With PC gaming almost completely lost due to consoles becoming dumbed down PCs and the games getting mixed, it’s not surprising to see a generation or two thinking that PC gaming is just playing games on PC, which is dumbing and tamping it down to lowest common extreme.

In a recent report we saw that the most played games on Steam are Valve based. This is very similar in where those who own Xbone mostly favour games close to Microsoft’s own brand, and similar fashion follows with Nintendo and SONY as well. As much as people would hate the idea, there’s four big console companies out there, Valve being included with the Big Three.

The Portable Steam machine is… a machine to play Valve games on the go without having to resort lugging your laptop with you, essentially. I’m not a fan of the preliminary design we’ve seen, but then again the whole idea of having to use a dual-stick controls is a turn off. That’s actually a good example of a way how PC was adapted to consoles. It’s an inferior method of control despite consoles allowing whatever type controller you wanted to buy and use. The NES was a bastion of controller selections and there’s a very good reason MadCatz has a negative rap to its name, despite producing high-end arcade sticks as of late

The change from having consoles gone to digital realm is something that consumers need to get used to. That is one reason PC gaming barely exists, and you can thank Valve’s Steam for that.

STEAM is a video game console

The most prevailing argument with digital form of games is that they’re the same game, just without the physical case or form. Then it’s up to you whether or not you like having five gigs of digital games on your HDD waiting for you. Personally, I like to hold the cases in my hand. Digital games tend to drown in my computer, because I tend to have a large library of various things from documents to images.

STEAM is not about PC gaming. It’s a digital gaming console. As such, if you’re a STEAM user, you’re more related to console gamers. The PC kiddies think otherwise, but let’s go a bit deeper.

Cartridge based consoles are basically computers that need to be completed with the said cartridge. Consoles needed carts to function, unless they had built-in games. As they became more dumbed down PCs, this link was more severed until we ended up with the machines like the HD twins, which are basically multimedia systems for everything, and gaming was not even the second choice.

cart PCB
After all, game carts are pieces of PCB that hold information that the console just executes

STEAM follows the original function rather well. You can’t really do anything with it unless you have games. Luckily there are games like Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Street Fighter IV, Phantasy Star and oh…
STEAM’s DRM also functions much like console’s own natural state of being the DRM itself, and many publishers won’t release their games without any DRM. As such, STEAM isn’t really just a programme, it’s a consoles emulator. That’s a bit tacky, so let’s go with a digital video games console.

I always thought that I disliked STEAM because it demanded me to stick with it, that I hated the idea of my games tied down to something. After a rather heated discussion with two of my friends, I came to a conclusion that why I disliked STEAM so much wasn’t because it was about PC gaming, but because it limited gaming overall. After all, don’t the consoles do the exact same thing? STEAM and Origin, and all similar services, are shadows of consoles. PC is a free environment where I can do whatever I want to it whenever I want. I can tweak games with mods, remove files here and there and basically have a drug party with its insides. STEAM doesn’t allow me to do any of these unless it approves. It’s like one of those evil aunties that take you for a weekend and force-feeds you her own strange foods that give you diarrhea.

Now that I think of it, it’s funny how all of my so-called hardcore computer gamer friends are nothing more that STEAM users.

There havebeen rumours for STEAM Box, a machine that would run a STEAM for your TV. Isn’t that a console that runs solely on digital games? The better question is, why the hell would VALVE would like to step away from this digital distribution business they’ve found so good? STEAM allows all generations to compete with each other on equal grounds, and the more I take look at what it offers, the more I see games that I’d like to play. The thing is, these games are older games and readily available on consoles. Why would I download a program that I don’t need for anything else than playing few measly digital games, when I can get the same game with a box, a physical manual and nice plastic casing around it? I did not buy my computer for games, I bought it for work. Gaming is a tertiary element here, but I bought these consoles for one thing only.

I do prefer physical consoles and physical games over digital ones, especially when the service provider has all the powerto screw me over at their will. SEGA can try to screw me over all they want when I’m playing Comix Zone.

The ownership of digital games is the second of the things that always putme off. As much as STEAM is a digital game console, all games that you have in your library are on an indefinite rent. If any of you readers wouldlike to sell some of your STEAMbased games, I’d like to buy them. They’re used of course, as you’ve been playing them. That should knock some 25% to 50% from the price, and as they’re common as hell because of digital distribution, that knocks other 25% from the price at least. So, I’d like to buy that 10€ game for 2.50€. I can always take my business- Oh you can’t sell?

As much STEAM wishes for you to think that you own the games, as long as they have the say in whether or not you have the access to those games means that you’ve got no power over them. I can sell you vast majority of my games as I own them. The companies have nothing to say to that. STEAM isn’t just a console, it’s a console that takes all of your money without really giving the product you were promised. It’s crooked and dishonest, but the product itself seems to please all the PC kiddies nowadays, so it’s kind of expected to see it flourishing. After all, it’s a common misconception that only kids play consoles.

It’s also a really damn good question why would I like to download STEAM when services like DotEmu have packs like this. It even has goddamn UNDERCOVER COPS!

Developer delusions

I saw this post by Alex Norton, developer of the indie game Malevolence: The Sword of Akhranox.

I’d like to say that I laughed my ass off, but my reaction was more akin to drowning myself in booze.

I’m not trying to be spiteful or anything like that, but Norton is a pretty good example of a game dev that doesn’t realize his part in the cycle. In that way he is a very normal indie developer. Incidentally, this kind of developers are basically the reason I tend to avoid indie games like a plague.

I’m happy for Norton to realize that being a developer means that you’ll get a lot negative feedback and times will be hard. However, getting that real world is a bitch place to live in doesn’t amount realizing that we, the customers, are his bosses next to his actual boss in a company. He gives an example of this.

But one day the producer (who is computer illiterate and whose only gaming experience is with Bejewelled) would pop by and say “You know, my 10 year old niece is really into ponies right now. Change the game to be about ponies”. Because he is the money behind the masterpiece, I would now be forced to abandon all of my work and create ponies and handbags all day every day.

And doing ponies and handbags would be his job. At situations like this you should open a discussion with your boss about this sort of change, if possible. He might be computer illiterate and doesn’t know a lot about games, but he is clearly a businessman who sees that ponies are selling, and wishes to strike there where customers are. As a workforce it’s your job to do your damn job. And make sure it’s the best damn ponies and handbag artwork for the game as possible.

The fact that I was trying to do something new with my game was evidently a horrible crime to many people and I would get utterly horrible comments ranging from put-downs to persanal abuse that would get them arrested if said in person… 

There’s nothing wrong in doing something new as long as it sells. Space Engine is a procedural universe simulator. In that sense, procedural world is not new at this point. I don’t know if Malevolence was in development before Space Engine or vice versa, and I don’t care. Yes, there will be people who will always be against what you do unless it’s for the common good of everyone. [And even then, someone is sure to find a reason to oppose it.I’m sure his idea of open doors development was really good and tickled his inside artist, but we all know that open development is never a good idea. Mega Man Legends 3 suffered from too much transparency, to which I’m putting part of the blame why it was cancelled, and open doors development attracts more spiteful audience than you’d normally get. After all, he had an idea and wanted to go with it. Why ask what the audience would like to see?

 It doesn’t matter if other people like your game. What matters is whether YOU like your game. If you love it, other people are bound to as well. Just look at how much hate has been poured upon Minecraft over the years, but Mojang have sold millions and millions of copies regardless, and you can tell that they’re super proud of their creation!

Oh for God’s sake. No, it doesn’t matter if you like the game or not. What matters if your customers like it. Minecraft sold because it was an endless sandbox and building game that was missing. It was a simple idea that works because it hits the need of doing something in humans. Just saying that I like my chair design doesn’t mean that other people are bound to like it. No, most likely majority of them will dislike it, until I change the design so that people will like it. Naturally, if you’re not satisfied with your product, you’ll feel all kinds of worse feelings. Nobody wishes to do work with a project they don’t like, but that’s life. You also have an option of quitting, remember that. I’ve worked with projects that I never liked to begin with. They’re just stops between projects that I find more meaningful.

If you want to succeed, you’ll likely have to sell out. Just how MUCH you sell out is up to you.

I’m sorry, but this is just bullshit. If you want to succeed, you need to create product that your audience and customer base will want and preferably hitting the Blue Ocean. If your morals and ideas are against making the best possible product for the customers, then you’re an idiot.

I have no personal opinion on Norton and I had never before heard of him before I stumbled upon his post. This is not criticism just for him, but all these developers with similar mindsets.

What they call selling out is serving your customers and being successful. This is a side product of doing your damn job. This game is a trophy game. I’ve got no interest in it, nor will I give it any further look.