Sunday January 13, 2013
BIG SMILE NO TEETH
By JASON GODFREY
Something funny is going on when people start hiring assassins to off characters in online games. Especially when itís a father doing the dirty.
In the news this week was a piece about a father hiring a hitman to whack his son. The but in this case Ė and you knew there was a but Ė is that the job was completely virtual.
The father had become concerned about his sonís increasing preoccupation with video games, in the case a MMORGP (massively multiplayer online role playing game), and decided to hire two other players to kill off his sonís online character.
To which I immediately thought, how can I become a virtual hitman because that sounds like six degrees of wicked.
When my fantasy of answering clandestine emails while wearing sunglasses in a dark room bathed in the bluish glow of a computer screen cleared, I had a couple other thoughts. Firstly, video game addiction is definitely a problem and is most likely a symptom of other deeper issues in the home, issues that this father has clearly illustrated through contracting an assassin to murder his sonís avatar as a way to cure his sonís gaming behaviour.
Communication and reasoning are definitely overrated when you can simply have a problem erased via hitman. Thatís some good fathering.
Secondly, in an age where gaming can be found everywhere from homes to smartphones it demonstrates a shocking lack of video game literacy on the fatherís part. Honestly? Killing your kidís character? Characters in MMORPGís get offed all the time. Ever heard of ressurection? Even the old school reload?
Permanently killing an individualís character in a MMORPG is like permanently killing off a comic-book superhero, itís just not going to happen.
Apparently the alleged game addicted kid eventually simply asked the hitmen Ė er, I mean other players Ė why they kept targetting him, as they had killed his character repeatedly, and the truth came out. Which really flushed my fantasies of being a virtual assassin down the toilet.
Not quite so cool to have to murder someone online multiple times and eventually have to have a conversation with the target where you sheepishly admit you were hired because daddy thinks you spend too much time online. That would make me take my sunglasses off, spit the tooth pick from my mouth, and wallow in the fresh realisation of my own nerdiness.
Though I poke fun at the father in question, I do acknowledge that video game addiction is a legit problem, even entrapping such notables as writer Alex Garland who, after releasing his books The Beach and The Tesseract, was absent for a prolonged period before returning with a novella that was almost one-third pictures and light on text called Coma.
Garland cited his absence from writing to video game addiction. Maybe if his father had taken a hit out on his online character, Coma wouldínt have needed pictures to pad the page count.
A notable pschological study found that rats given a choice between a lever that gave them food or a lever that sent an electronic pulse to stimulate the pleasure centre in their brains would choose the pleasure lever until they eventually starved to death. The rats would hit the pleasure lever until they died, completely ignoring the lever that would actually sustain them. And though I like to think Iím a little more clever than a rat, I noticed similar behaviour in myself during frosh week in university (orientation) where without fail my friends and I would get some network gaming going on and meals would be skipped and eventually Iíd realise I had lost 10 pounds.
And yes, with that statement Iím newly shrouded in the blanked realisation of my own nerdiness.
In this case, I had no deeper issues and the only explanation I have for my behaviour was that I was having fun, and just like that rat tapping the pleasure lever until it collapsed, I too was tapping the pleasure lever and ignoring meals; fortunately for me, gaming is easily done next to a bag of potato chips.
As PC processing power and internet speeds have increased gaming is only now really hitting itís stride and as a proponent of gaming, I believe itís only time before the best games are valued as valid artistic expressions, but I can also see how addictive this world can be for someone looking to escape the harder issues of real life.
For myself, I think Iíll always love gaming as a form of escape and entertainment but Iíve learned that gaming is best after Iíve completed my other tasks and obligations and terrible when Iím ignoring them or playing for 12 hours at a time. Yes, Iím feeling the blanket of nerdiness envelope me again.
And as a gamer and moderately responsible human being who pays his rent on time but never fails to hand in his submission to this column late, I say do not hire virtual assassins to murder your childís online character as a solution for what you feel is a serious gaming addiction. But do hire a virtual assassin to murder your childís online character just for fun.
Seriously, thinking about pulling off that kind of caper has got me calculating Ė if I had a kid tomorrow, when would be the soonest I could hire a virtual killer? Then when my kid comes complaining to me about constantly getting offed in World of Warcraft 5, Iíll sit at the breakfast table wearing black sunglasses, chewing on a toothpick, and feign sympathy until he leaves the room, then Iíll rear back and laugh maniacally.
Wait. Maybe the father in that article was right.