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Online Games cause Students to drop out of US Universities. Maybe.

In the best tradition of ignoring 100 years of the Scientific Method and the concept of a Control Group, the FCC Commissioner has been talking about American students dropping out because of computer games, MMOs especially.

Although *you* “might find it alarming” that people drop-out citing “online game addiction”, I’d be more interested in questioning what the base rate of drop-outs was pre-WoW (University Professors have been bemoaning it to me for more than *10 years*, which predates WoW by a long long way). I’m particularly suspicious because I remember similar hand-wringing in the mid 1990’s when MUD’s caused people to do badly at University (and what a storm in a teacup that turned out to be).

No. University causes people to do badly at University. For most children, more so now than ever before in history, it’s the first time they experience true “independence” and “full responsibility for their own stupid actions”. Developing addictions – any addiction – and succumbing to them for the first time is, from what I recall, pretty common as one of the learning experiences many go through.

IMHO, the FCC Commissioner really ought to be *celebrating* the fact that students today learn how to integrate addictive entertainments with their daily lives on something as benign and social as a computer game. MMO’s such as WoW have some great things to help people learn to understand and deal with addcition, such as the social support of in-built human social/friends networks (largely comprised of people who aren’t addicted, or who have found ways of getting a decent workable balance between their game-playing and their life).

Maybe the World Has Suddenly Changed, and the FCC Commissioner’s statements and scaremongering are both reasonable and an excellent warning. The balance of probability suggests that’s not the case, and that instead it was a foolish, ill-considered statement from someone in a position of public attention who really ought to know better.

Normally, I’d shrug and not care; there’s lots of public personalities who make silly statements every minute of every day (that then get leapt-on by news outlets eager to do some trouble-stirring). But in this case, she was using it to prop-up her argument in favour of forcing telecomms carriers to “adopt initiatives to provide curriculum and education regarding safe use of their products – including internet safety”. In the process of trying to promote something worthy, she stamped on the face of one of the most effective tools for doing precisely what she was aiming for. Sigh.

6 replies on “Online Games cause Students to drop out of US Universities. Maybe.”

I think these people forget that the academic system really needs restructuring. Students are entering college without a sturdy foundation and must rely much more on their own motivation and ambition to get through.

Those pains from a lack of that foundation is washed away when they can soil themselves in a virtual world. If they were not doing it in the virtual world, they would turn to alcohol or other drugs. I don’t know about these people who point fingers at the virtual worlds, but I rather their head be in a game rather than a head-on collision.

It’s actually sickening that, not only the FCC, but people in general look at MMOs as a bad thing. It’s getting to a point where you don’t want to tell somebody that you play a game like, World of Warcraft, because they immediately label you: procrastinator, lazy, addicted.


It’s just the usual scaremongering, as far as I’m concerned. It certainly does happen, but a bit of context would be nice. Like you said, what were the dropout rates in the old days?

Moreover, I’m more interested in the amount of dropouts caused by excessive alcohol and weed intake at university I know one person who dropped out because he was playing so much DAoC, but on the other hand, I know umpteen people who went out drinking / got stoned way too much and dropped out as a direct result of that. I have a feeling these numbers would absolutely dwarf any number of dropouts caused by games.

Furthermore, alcohol is dished out by student unions on university premises — it is positively encouraged by many clubs and associations. My point is, if you have little to no self control and go to university, there are officially-sanctioned things there (it used to be £1 to £1.20 a pint in my union — take that, liver!) that will do more harm to your chances of passing than playing an online computer game. However, little is said about this because it’s an accepted part of life in the US & UK. It’s viewed as part and parcel of university life and growing up. But those computer games? Oooh, that’s a different story!

As usual, it’s far easier to have a cheap pop at gaming because the only people who will say ,”hang on a moment”, are the gamers themselves.

It’s the usual routine of evolution. Old conformists struggle to understand new trends and media, and therefore will panic at the idea. It’s been there forever, used to be tabletop RPGs, TV, Radio, all sorts of new music waves (Charleston, Jazz, Rock’n’roll, techno, rap, you name it); all of these, at some point, have been the spawn of the devil and were corrupting the young generation, inducing violent and criminal behaviours and distracting them from the right path.
Of course, we will soon be those old farts :)


Indeed. But, as Richard Bartle pointed out, the “gamers themselves” now technically constitute the democratic majority, at least in the uk (in the USA as well?)

How much longer will we culturally accept such foolishness that flies in the face of what we know and understand as individuals?

I suspect “not much”.

And personally I’m not accepting it even now :)

Next up will be the assertion that WoW is causing people to become obese. As individuals it is without our immeasurable power to make whatever decision we want to make. Not that I don’t believe people could use some help making the right decision, but ultimately it falls on the individual. If people are choosing to play WoW instead of doing their homework, or going to the gym (guilty) then it is because, for whatever reason of a personal nature, they find the value they receive for doing so (based in reality or not) is greater than the value of doing studies or lifting weights.

While I’m encouraged by Obama representing a huge leap forward in understanding and utilizing technology, I’m hopeful that his pick for the FCC chair will add more common sense to these types of issues based upon his seemingly relevant background.

(Arstechinca Article)

(Company Genachowski’s was a co-founder of)

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