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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gaming: The New Drug Culture?

Why am I instantly suspicious of this:

Marijuana and video games have been a popular combination for years, but more recently gamers relied on such energy drinks as Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster and then rapidly progressed to amphetamines and nootropics -- so-called "smart drugs" that boost cognitive abilities. The shift from recreational drugs and caffeinated stimulants to the more potent and effective narcotics does not surprise Dr. Maressa Orzack, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Services clinic at McLean Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts.

Orzack treats video game addiction and believes that frequent game playing can lead to many gamers trying illicit substances to enhance and prolong their play. "Amphetamines and methamphetamines are becoming popular and can certainly help you stay up for long hours and probably helps enhance the excitement," Orzack says. "A lot of gamers, particularly the addicted ones, try to find ways to avoid sleep and keep their concentration."

In an ongoing series of articles, TwitchGuru will explore gaming's new drug culture and examine how it will affect the social LAN parties as well as the future of professional gaming competitions. Filing the first report from gaming's frontlines, TwitchGuru's Aaron McKenna attends a LAN party where snorting Ritalin and consuming other stimulants is commonplace in the quest for ultimate endurance.
-- TwitchGuru Exposes Video Gaming's Dirty Secret: Narcotic Drug Use Among Players at Tournaments and LAN Parties on the Rise: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

You can catch the whole nine page expose if you so desire (I'll have to wait till I get home).

I guess first I'm a bit taken back by the "marijuana and video games have been a popular combination for years" line. I have never seen any evidence to any truth that in all my gaming years. And it's not that I haven't been around both elements - it's just that most stoned people I think find video games actually really annoying. Apathy and zero attention span don't really go well with interactive forms of entertainment, you know?

The suggestion that somehow Red Bull is a gateway drug to crack also sounds like pop psychology tailored for the "OMG YOUR KID DRINKS COKE??" kind of analysis.

Which leaves only the chewy center - do players who find themselves gaming in marathon sessions turn to anything heavy to keep playing? Again, I can't see this becoming a trend. Playing Quake on crack can't do much for your game except perhaps keep you completely tweaked for hours on end.

My guess is that this a kind of "the cork also rises" situation. The gaming demographic is broadening in just about every possible direction. Certainly, some people already into drugs will also get more involved in gaming. As LAN parties get more commonplace, you're going to see differences among them - drug use undoubtably being a variable.

But a "Timmy thought World of Warcraft was innocent enough ... UNTIL HE GOT ADDICTED TO THE HEROIN" type thing - I'm just not buying it.

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Troy Goodfellow said...

If you play Call of Duty 2 while high and Dark Side of the Moon is on in the background, the lyrics TOTALLY line up.

Josh said...


Thomas said...

Alan: A Video Junkie

Patrick said...

I'll tell you something, correlation does not imply causation and all, but if anything games are the LSD of the 21st century, though the kinds of games we have now are merely shmiggity reefer. I'm working on cooking up the interactive equivilant of psylocybin rubies, and I know we're just getting started on where we can have people go.

As for the realtionship between drugs and the psychology of play, I wrote a fairly extensive article on that about eight months ago:

Josh said...

Analogies aside though, most games simply don't go with most drug (imo). Even beer caps my gaming nights early (I am, of course, older than dirt with that statement). Maybe Rez might be fun with some pot ... maybe ... but it certainly wouldn't improve my performance with it (though you have a point that it might alter/improve my emotions with it).

But when I played at LAN parties - caffiene and the occasional beer was it. Anything else would have made the night pointless to even try and win.

So yeah - some drugs and some games might be partnered to some effect ... but the notion that LAN parties are the next generation of raves ... I'm not buying into that.

Patrick said...

Sure, thats media sensationalism. But drugs do bring out an under represented side of play with illinx, or vertigo, and this is true of all games.

Josh said...

Yeah, I can see that and completely agree. And it's a good point.

The questionable side here is, I think, not the psychological so much as the psychosocial. It's not the drugs impacting games so much as games seducing innocent children into morphine dens that I don't buy into so much ... and a lot of that is based on the "pro" (hardcore?) gamers I've known.

And it's sad, because some drug usage is down with teens. And violence is down with teens. And teen pregnancy is lower. Yet somehow I'm to believe that we're on the verge of a nationwide epidemic of teens killing each other while hopped up on crank in the hopes of nailing some broad simply because they played too much Grand Theft Auto.

Patrick said...

Yes, that is bullshit.

On the other hand, last saturday I smoked pot with my roomate and player Rachet and Clank multiplayer, and the lord said it was good. We're both college students with girlfriends, good grades and job prospects.

BTW, could you email me the code for a "recent comments" sidebar, and maybe a comments RSS dealie? I can't figure out how to work that junk, and it'd be invaluable to me.

Josh said...

Really? OK - well, tbh my pot scene and my gaming scene never fit any Venn Diagram. Some booze and smokes definatley - but not really pot.

For the comments sidebar, see here:

And email cathodemail if you've got any questions. I don't have a comments RSS. I'm hoping Google spends some stock options to bring Blogger back to the modern day.