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China The Internet

'Web Junkie': Harrowing Documentary On China's Internet Addiction Rehab Clinics 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-addicted-to-breathing dept.
cold fjord writes "The Daily Beast reports on Web Junkie, a documentary showing the unsettling efforts undertaken by the Internet Addiction Treatment Center in China to break teenagers of their internet habits. Quoting: 'China was one of the first countries to brand "Internet addiction" as a clinical disorder, and to claim it's the number one threat to its teenagers today. The Chinese government has erected 400 rehabilitation boot camps like this one ... a bizarre hybrid of military barracks and mental hospital. ... Every room in the facility is monitored by cameras. ... Teens spend a minimum of three months at Daxing. ... Wires and nodes will be hooked to their head ... they're administered daily medication (without being told what it is), they have to keep their rooms spotless, partake in individual and group therapy sessions with their parents, and do boot camp-style exercise ... One kid in the film claims to have played World of Warcraft for 300 hours straight, taking only tiny naps in between. ... "Some kids are so hooked on these games they think going to the bathroom will affect their performance. So they wear a diaper. These are the same as heroin addicts. ... That's why we call it electronic heroin."' Wired has further details and a clip from the documentary."
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'Web Junkie': Harrowing Documentary On China's Internet Addiction Rehab Clinics

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  • by RogueyWon (735973) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:04PM (#46030403) Journal

    I've played MMORPGs on and off since 2003. If anything, the trend these days in MMOs in the West is very much against needing the kind of time commitment that was common in the early days of the genre.

    In the days before WoW, MMOs generally required a very, very serious investment of time if you really wanted to get much out of them. In Final Fantasy XI, which was (by the most reliable metrics) the most successful pre-WoW MMORPG, simply reaching maximum level would require many months of playtime, most of which was spent grinding (killing enemies over and over again in a repetitive cycle). The end-game content would require many, many consecutive hours spent waiting for rare monsters to spawn. I was working a job with more or less 9-to-5 hours when I played it, which meant I could never get to the top ranks. But for the 18 months or so I played it seriously, it was by far my most time consuming leisure activity (probably peaking at around 30 hours a week).

    Part of the reason behind WoW's success was that, by design, it eliminated much of the timesink component that had previously been associated with the genre. The level-up process was pretty fast; weeks rather than months for an average gamer (and probably only days when measured in time actually spent in-game). The days of camping timed monster spawns were largely gone, replaced by "instanced" end-game content that guilds could schedule at will. In theory, the time commitment required fell a lot with WoW - and almost every other global MMORPG since has followed WoW in this streamlining.

    Of course, WoW certainly didn't end the "MMOs ate my life" stories. In fact, by opening the genre to a wider audience, it increased their frequency. WoW touched off a very competitive streak in a lot of people; and to be one of the most successful guilds in progress terms, you needed to put in a fairly serious schedule of raids (the instanced end-game dungeons). An average guild schedule would have 4 raids per week of 4 hours each, with a 75% attendance requirement for players. On top of this, most players would need to spend at least a couple more hours making in-game money to finance their raiding activities. And many players would have more than one character. So the time required to play at the high levels was still fairly severe. But at least players had the option of more casual play schedules, while still getting some measure of enjoyment out of the game.

    And over the years, Blizzard (and their competitors) have actually worked to blunt the edges of the most punishing raid schedules and have, in essence, throttled access to end-game content so that there's much less point in sinking your whole life into the game. There are generally limits (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) on how much progress players can make in a week. You won't be locked out of the game after a certain period (outside of China, or unless parental controls are enabled), but you will rapidly run into diminishing returns. This holds true across most current MMOs; WoW, Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, Final Fantasy 14 and so on. The only possible exception (and I don't play it so I can't say for sure) is Eve Online.

    So basically, if you are playing a modern "global" MMORPG and you are pumping your whole life into the game, you are playing it wrong. Of course, some people do still play it this way and some Asian MMORPGs are still designed around older mechanics that make a near-whole-life commitment essential. But the people who pumping their whole life into WoW, or who choose to play those Asian MMOs despite their many shortcomings compared to superior "global" offerings are almost certainly doing so because of other issues in their life rather than the game mechanics.

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