I’ve been thinking a lot about compulsive self-destructive behaviours lately; about how even though I might consider some of these compulsions to be admirable traits and categorise others as addictions, they’re often just different responses to depression. In what is probably my favourite essay ever, Vicky Osterweil uses the game 'DOTA 2’ to illustrate how addiction can be a response to - and/or a reproduction of - a neoliberal subjectivity. By looking at what we regard as some of the symptoms of addiction (mental health.net defines it as, "the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable”), she starts to interrogate just what exactly are the differences between a productive neoliberal subject and an addicted one - if any. If addiction is the time-consuming, repeated participation in an act at the expense of one’s mental, physical and emotional health in search of a state of contentment/happiness, then how, in any way, is that different from ambition? Every promotion a checkpoint, and every written warning a ‘life’. We ostracize ‘addicts’ on the basis that their behaviour doesn’t meaningfully contribute to society, but how often do our ambitions leave the world in a better state than how we found it? Blurring those lines can make it hard to tell how many of us are actually just playing games.
The following are all direct quotes and stats pulled from actual DOTA 2 user reviews. It was interesting to see how many of the testimonials mirrored a lot of the self-deprecating ways we talk about - not only our own addictions - but also our jobs.
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