The Most Meaningful Waste of a Month


In December 2017, The World Health Organisation (WHO) is listing gaming addiction as a mental health condition in its 11th International Classification of Diseases report (read more here).  The condition "Gaming Disorder" describes a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior so severe that it takes "precedence over other life interests".  Many other scientists and researchers dealing with gaming addiction say this is premature especially when papers are recently being published that claim "...results provided no evidence directly linking Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) to health over time". (Weinstein, Przybylski, Murayama).  Regardless of opinion, Gaming has evolved from individual play to global collaborative play with 2.6 billion reported gamers worldwide, surpassing Facebook as most engaging form of Social Media (Internet Trends Report 2017). With an audience that large and the ability to engage users like no other medium, it may be premature to declare gaming addiction as a mental health condition, but it is most definitely worth further study, analysis and discussion. 

In my "research" into social support games, I started playing open world clan based survival games (Conan Exiles, Rust, ARK specifically).  I chose these games because of the rise of long term tribes/clans/guilds forming and being maintained over years in these games. Following the decline of the MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) like World of Warcraft, this new genre seems to be taking its place as a conduit for both extensive screen time and building of online friendships.  ARK, whose unique feature is survival in different lands that are home to a variety of dinosaurs and creatures, is essentially Minecraft becomes life partners with Jurassic Park and they have a baby with the Battlefield series.  Please watch this first video to observe how you begin your journey in these types of games (Let's Play: ARK Aberration) .  Ultimately you meet many new players or bring friends of your own and the huge appeal is that everything from the economy, to in game events is all player driven.  In this next clip you can see how far the game evolves and what some fun and creativity can bring (Most Intense Tek Raid in ARK!)

About a month ago while playing this game I experienced a great sensation of camaraderie and friendship with people I had just met online no more than 10 days prior, however my onscreen time nearly quadrupled during that time.  A war not unlike this (How the death of a dodo started a war & turned me into a dictator) broke out on my server and my new tribe was at the center of it.  Many of the main players had back history over a few years, but it all started when my new tribe hosted a peaceful Olympic event open to all tribes to just play and have fun.  We had jousting, boxing, paintball (except with tranquilizer darts), horse racing, and dilophosaurus fighting.  If any of you ever played an open PVP (Player vs Player) game before you know this is basically catnip to griefers, and sure enough two hours after the event started...BOOM!  C4 goes off and dinosaurs start dying.  Players start shooting each other in the chaos and needless to say the games were over.  The griefers were found, and it was discovered they were being supplied resources by a much larger tribe.  War was declared!    

A few hours a day building a base, taming and breeding the ultimate line of Dimorphodons and generally flying around having fun with a few online buddies turned into an all out war effort.  I found myself spending more than 4 hours at a time mining metal, obsidian, collecting pearls, making shotguns, C4, and Turret Towers, and if a raid was going down, cancel all my plans.  We were the line in the sand, the bulwark to defend smaller tribes from bullies and griefers, we were the good guys.  How can I not be online to help, my tribe NEEDS me!

....wait NEEDS?!  I just met these players 10 days ago!  But in those ten days the hours of play over Discord (a freeware VoIP app designed for voice chatting while gaming) allowed us the opportunity to get to know each other very well.  Personal discussions about family, life, relationships, Flaming Cheetos, anything was fair game, nothing was taboo.  This may not be the case in every tribe or discord channel and probably why anecdotal evidence like these are unreliable self reported experiences.   However, it was this experience that made me objectively look at gaming addiction, the more connected to my tribe I became, the more compelled I was to play.  I eventually burnt myself out but felt guilty for not being online to support my new friends in the war effort.  

Though not mutually exclusive, is the game addicting, or the emotional connections I made while playing the game?  What do you think created the perfect storm that was "The most meaningful waste of a month"?


Ken Koontz
Creative Director of GEMH Lab

GEEK, Game designer, artist, producer, anime and video game enthusiast, American football player, and as of recently a newb gardener. I'm pretty much always down for new ventures and experiences - O' ley do it!


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