In one of the large Norwegian newspapers there was recently an article about game addiction, and how Norwegian hospitals are now treating young people who can't deal with their game addiction. They describe gaming and the feeling of mastery that you get from games as a high, comparable with using drugs or alcohol.
Yes, games are designed to give a feeling of control and mastery. We all like it. It's what drives research, athletes, artists. It's what gives us reliable, competent people in all kind of positions. It's not a bad thing.
The problem appears when a game is the only place where a human being can feel like they do anything good, where they have any kind of self-worth and are important to others.
Recently (but long before WoW) the performance of boys has dropped dramatically in schools not only in Norway, but all over the western world. Girls outperform them in many ways, mastering the education system, taking control of their futures. The educational systems have been adjusted to foster this, and it has been successful. Girls get better grades, girls continue for higher education. So far the professors are still men, but if nothing happens the gender gap will soon go the other way, as girls master the system of education, and boys fall by the side.
Education is the most important thing a person does from they are 6 years old until they are 25. If they can't perform well in this field, they are failures. Failures in the eyes of family, friends and the society in general. They know they will never get the job they want, they know a million little decisions are taken away from them.
I think this is very, very wrong.
People are individuals. Not all are cut out for 19 years of school, and they shouldn't be. There are so many other types of tasks, tasks which ask for other skills than the ability to control your physical and mental urges for hours and hours, while paying attention and processing information you are being fed. The society needs to change, to aknowledge the importance of all tasks which keeps the world moving towards a balanced and sustainable future. While we need a big stack of researchers and we need them NOW, that doesn't mean we don't need the other potential in a population. Knowing things are going down the drain isn't enough, if nobody can actually do the work to get us out of that sewer.
As for the boys? They shouldn't need to play WoW to feel appreciated. They shouldn't need to be a brilliant warlock in order to feel they have something they can actually be good at. Being young is hard, and society doesn't make it easier through rewarding only some types of expertize, while severely punishing the pursuit of many different interests. When I was in high-school, these boys skipped class to work the boats (work farms, do other types of unskilled seasonal labour which still existed and was still available to youngsters), trumping their lack of success at school with the thick wad of cash in their pockets. What is there for the 16 year old who needs to feel he does something that matters? Robots stole his job. Then we designed mobs to keep him occupied and off the streets.
The irony is overwhelming.