Gaming addiction, like being addicted to anything, is bad. I’m not talking about people saying they are ‘addicted’ to something they do now and again. I’m talking the kind of addiction that causes you to ignore family, friends, work and significant others.
My second dip into World of Warcraft almost conquered me. Looking after my garrison and finding all the non-combat pets after being away for a few years gave me a lot to do. Working from home didn’t help much either. I would log in during work hours to check my garrison, to send troops on adventures to get me more loot and to collect various things from the herb patch and the mines. It was the perfect excuse to check in several times a day across several characters. I was getting rich, getting gear and I had this massive stockpile of materials to outfit pretty much any of my toons.
Then, as luck would have it, I went on vacation. Armed with nothing but a book and my tablet, it was time to recharge and visit family. So, like any good tablet owner, I decided to try out Clash of Clans. This eventually led to me playing Boom Beach and Pirates! as well, all multiplayer, time-gated building games with combat and RPG elements.
I outfitted my warriors, I built defenses and I waited for things to build, to train, to finish discovering things in the world map. So while I waited, I started getting impatient, which is obviously what these games are aimed to do, so that you spend money. To avoid this, I ended up scrolling through the top free games on my tablet. I discovered something called Tap Titans, a game about tapping enemies to death to collect money to level up. Eventually you hire heroes to do passive damage, even when you are away from your game or while you sleep.
I became obsessed. Everywhere I looked there were little LEVEL UP! animations, screen shakes as I defeated large bosses and massive numbers filling my screen. It became not only the perfect thing to do, but the only thing to do. While talking to family, while watching movies, my fingers never stopped. It was mindless and I could concentrate on what I was doing, only looking down to level up and pop cooldown abilities.
The issue was that it was keeping me up at night and slowing me down in the morning. I had to check on my progress in four different games and set the ball rolling with training units and doing quests and levelling up. Somehow I had left World of Warcraft at home, but I had taken all the mechanics on holiday with me, still slaving to time-gates and the lustre of loot and levels.
It felt odd, realising that one of the new big things in World of Warcraft was something I could do in so many free-to-play games, without subscription costs or the like. Maybe I wasn’t addicted to WoW this time around, but instead addicted to those elements like levelling and collecting loot accrued over time, as odd as it sounds.
I eventually prestiged in Tap Titans 20 times before calling it quits. (or was it 50?) and eventually I gave up on the other games which devolved into waiting a week for any progress in your base / village / whatever.
Now someone just got me playing Clicker Heroes. Screw that guy. I’m off to pop cooldowns and level my heroes up.