Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Can't I Stop? Confessions from A Restaurant City Junkie

Hi.  My name is Scooby and I am a Restaurant City addict. (Hi, Scooby)

I do not smoke or use drugs.  I do not drink--much.  I am reasonably good about not overeating.  I do not shop too much and indeed dislike ostentatious spending on "fashion".  (And my friends will let you know that fashionable I am not.)  I do not watch much TV or go to the movies.  I find that I am bored by most sports these days.

My vice is being on the internet and in particular I have become enamored of this particular online game, Restaurant City.  In the past week or so, it got a bit out of control.  I have 6 restaurants and I trade among them.  I  decided to buy with the virtual coins one earns through the game an Indian Buffet which wiped out my balances in two of my restaurants and seriously diminished the balances in three others. (I do not do much in the 6th which I set up to play with my grandson but he has moved onto his own video game addiction.  His parents are wisely trying to limit his game play through strict time controls). As a result of having such low balances, I went on a playing spree to boost my numbers.  The more you play, the more you earn.

The other way you can boost your numbers is to pay real cash for virtual cash.  I promised myself I would never do that but I succumbed a few months ago when I decided I needed to have the Coffee Bar completely stocked.  I actually spent $30 on it.  And now I am eying a Dark Chocolate Fountain and debating whether to buy another $10 of Playcash so I can get 4 of them.  Part of me thinks that it is justified because it is a cost of entertainment but another part of me wonders why I want that damn Dark Chocolate Fountain so much.  It is merely an image on my computer screen.

Today's NY Times addresses the use of the internet by teenagers whose minds are still developing and its affect on their ability to focus.  Will they be forever distracted because of their extensive smart phone and internet use, which allows instant gratification?  To me this distraction theory is at odds with the "addictiveness" of the internet for me to get information and unfortunately to play online games (except for MMOGs which I avoid because that would involve interacting with others and I like being in control of my own business). People spend hours playing these games.  I have spent hours playing online games.  I find myself anxious to get back to my computer when I am hanging out with the family as they watch TV.  Watching TV feels too passive for me.

The AMA and APA have so far declined to designate excessive online game playing as an addiction.  Some disagree.  Whether it is a true addiction is of little moment to me because I need to understand why it is so engaging.  Some have said it provides distraction from our work and other routine aspects of our lives.  Surely I cannot build a real business in weeks like I did my virtual restaurants on Facebook.  Farmville similarly appeals to people, anecdotally, because it reminds people of a so-called simpler time when you could grow your own food and manage your own family business.  I am certain universities will set up research institutes and governments will get involved as this phenomenon continues to grow, not only in the US but in other parts of the world such as UKChina and Korea.

So perhaps if I really am not "addicted",  I can indeed, as a companion NYT article recommends today, put myself on an internet diet, particularly limiting my game playing.  But the cravings are oh so great and the flesh is weak.  Maybe I will go eat a cookie or have a glass of wine instead.

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