Thursday, October 26, 2006

Addicted to the Internet (specifically MMORPGs)

Everyone has a particular area in which they tend towards obsession. For some it's cigarettes, for others food. Anime, girls, drugs, all of these can become the center of a person's world. And then for some, it's the internet.

I just finished watching the latest episode of NHK ni Youkoso!, in which Satou finds himself addicted to an online game loosely based on Final Fantasy XI (Red Mage, Vina Toole, the list of references goes on and on). This is actually a prevalent problem, as most of us who actually play games will know (who hasn't heard the story about the man in Korea who died from playing a game for too long?). Of course, like any other problem (crime for instance) it's not getting any better.

After checking around the net, I came upon the site, Online Gamers Anonymous, a "rehab site" of sorts for people addicted to online gaming, or gaming in general. While its religious basis may upset some people, it is a strong community of people dedicated to helping each other overcome what, for many of them, has become a problem. Reading through the site brought to mind conditions that affect a disproportionately large percentage of the population today. Too much time spent at the computer, too little time spent with friends and family, and way too little time applying him/herself to meaningful tasks.

It was interesting to see some statistics I found through a link to Ariadne at the Daedalus Project, an online repository of information concerning the MMORPG phenomenom. Nicholas Yee defines addiction as: "a recurring behavior that is unhealthy or self-destructive which the individual has difficulty ending." Out of a surveyed group of approximately 4000 people, 14.6% agreed or strongly agreed that they became "anxious, irritable or angry if unable to play." Luckily, of that 14.6%, only 2.9% strongly agreed (and thus fall into the danger zone for addiction).

The addiction that we see associated so often in the media with MMORPGs is not relegated just to that particular genre of games, as I expressed at the beginning of this post. Obsessive behaviour affects the most involved of the otaku ranks, as well as alcoholics, drug addicts, just to name a few of the more commonly known problem groups. Everyone suffers from obsession in one form or another, which hasn't yet been addressed in NHK ni Youkoso, which tends to portray the extreme problems of a minority group of people.

So far I've enjoyed NHK ni Youkoso! in a similar fashion to why I enjoyed Genshiken. It's indicative of the more extreme aspects of the NEET and hikikimori cultures respectively, and plays with them in a way that makes its characters endearing and human, rather than just the chopping block for the comedic executioner. Satou is not just a disgusting, perverted loser, but a man who fears failure and ridicule to such an extreme that he refuses to interact with people in general.

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch NHK, or like some felt that it didn't live up to the manga version, as someone who has both watched the anime and read the manga, I'd say that both bring separate visions to the table. The manga is decidedly darker, focusing on the more destructive aspects of the hikikimori lifestyle, as opposed to the anime with a slightly more upbeat tone (and as for television editing of the more racy portions of the manga). Overall, your choice of which is "better" will depend on your tastes - but give it a try, it's the best show of the last season.


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