Tim Mooney (played by Ansel Elgort) is a student riddled with troubles of divorced parents and the pressures of high school. He escapes his life by diving headfirst into a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) similar to World of Warcraft. We spoke to self-professed reformed video game addict Paul Verhoeven about the pull of playing games:
Why do you think you are addicted to video games and when did you start playing video games excessively?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m addicted anymore – relationships, work and so forth keep me busy. But I certainly still struggle! I think it’s partially because I wasn’t allowed access to games as a child, so when I did, I think my brain had this idiotic chemical compulsion to ‘make up for lost time’. But honestly, at this stage, I think the addiction stems from the fact that gaming ticks all my boxes; escapism, rich narratives, and the fiddly little OCD things, too. You know; achievements, completionism, being the best at something, heaps of backstory that I just NEED to fill in more than other people. I guess I started playing excessively in high school, though; Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight was a game I’d complete once every weekend. You know how you might re-read your favourite Harry Potter over and over? I’m like that with games.
What is your earliest video game memory?
It’s a dead heat between playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World on my childhood friend Anthony’s Sega in his lounge room, or sitting with him and his dad playing Kings Quest. Basically all of my early gaming experiences happened with Anthony. And then, later, he got me into World of Warcraft, which pretty much makes him a drug dealer.
To what extent do your family and friends know about your addiction, and what are their thoughts on it?
Well, I think my dad’s early opposition to it was totally valid, but it was also very aggressive; I think he got that I was spending too much time gaming, but he also wasn’t (and still isn’t) into nerdy pursuits; if I had a kid who was getting lost in a gaming hole, I’d probably shunt them towards books, movies, hell, live action role playing. But here’s the thing: even those around me who think I game too much get that it’s a massive industry, and they know that I review and write about games as part of my job. So I guess they get that I’ve turned something debilitating into something (mildly) profitable!
What’s better: online role-playing games or reality?
Both can be equally destructive if you don’t handle them correctly and with restraint. Actually, real life is abundantly worse; more violent, hostile and cruel at times, hence the appeal of video games. You think if real life had the wonders of video games people would be addicted to them? Of course not. This doesn’t just apply to gaming: nerd culture is, by and large, people seeking to immerse themselves in fiction. In a world where we have the morally abhorrent Abbott administration, Ebola outbreaks and wars in every corner of the globe, can you honestly blame people for retreating into worlds rife with heroes who actually have the power and agency to change things? The interplay between reality and games (fiction) is far more complex and intertwined than you might think.