Joe Rogan was kind of right about video game addiction

Joe Rogan, UFC commentator, podcaster, and DMT aficionado, has said that video games are a “real problem.” In a clip taken from a recent episode of his The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, he discusses how games are “f***ing fun” and that means that they cause an issue for those who play them. A whole bunch of people are angry about this searing hot take, but why?

People who play games often find themselves getting weirdly defensive over the games that they play. As such, the reaction to someone such as Rogan criticizing the medium leads to a panicked reaction, as though this sentient bicep has tried to burst it into our homes and take our PS4s from us.

Rogan said he had a “real problem” with games due to how fun they are, comparing playing them excessively to pursuing Jiu-Jitsu professionally. The UFC host said that those who chose to take up the martial art could form their own school, become “an elite Jiu-Jitsu athlete,” and that they could be “doing something exciting and fun,” or they “could just be playing f**king video games.” He added: “Three years later you could just be that same kid, just playing video games, waiting for the next whatever the f**k game is, next Xbox game to come out, and you’re gonna waste your time.”

He then discussed people making a living from playing video games, saying that players needed to be “adaptable” and “play a lot of video games” due to how certain games will drop from the spotlight relatively quickly, with him agreeing with guest Joe De Sena that players would need to spend 5-10 hours per day playing in order to maintain their competitive edge.

The discussion can be viewed below, from 45:30:

Now, opinions on Joe Rogan aside — some see him as a gateway to far-right politics, while others see him as a slab of talking meat that asks guests if they’ve ever eaten elk — his take on video games is from a place many can relate to. Plenty of video games are designed from the ground up to be addictive. We’ve collectively become frustrated with microtransactions and loot boxes, created to hook players in and make them spend money on superfluous in-game items. We’re witnessing publishers place an increased emphasis on live service games, which are intended to make you invest countless hours into one particular game.

By Rogan’s own admission, he’s been “addicted” to Quake in the past, and has seemingly dived back into it recently. After setting up a game room in his studio in 2019, Rogan posted that playing Quake Champions “might as well be sugar-coated heroin mixed with cocaine and meth.” He’s also said that during the ’90s, he spent $10,000 per month in order to set up a high-speed internet connection in order to improve his internet speeds to play Quake.

“When you’re completely addicted to playing Quake for 8-10 hours a day, and you go, ‘there’s a solution? What is this solution? A T1 line? Let’s do that,'” he said back in a 2016 episode of his podcast.

There are many of us who can detach ourselves from the video games we play so they don’t interfere with our lives, but then there are others who struggle to do so. Rogan seems to fall in the latter camp and is speaking from the place of someone who has clearly prioritized playing Quake to an extent that he considers a problem.

Rogan clearly hasn’t got the full scope of the gaming industry. He doesn’t know the extent of how people earn money from games, that there are plenty of games with a vibrant competitive scene, and how even casual players can earn a lucrative living by way of playing games on Twitch, YouTube, et al. It’s also problematic to insist that people should only pursue hobbies that can ultimately earn them a career — people can enjoy things without using them to make money.

However, Rogan’s also speaking from the position of someone who has played far too much of one particular video game. As such, he falls within the camp of examples we use to argue against obscene in-game purchases and microtransactions. If Quake was as big a deal now as it was back in the ’90s, and like Valorant it let you pay $100 for the privilege of some ludicrously overpriced weapon skins, Rogan would likely be the Moby Dick of whales.

Say what you will about Joe Rogan, but the guy has clearly played video games too much. While the majority of those who love video games probably weren’t ever in danger of becoming an elite Jiu-Jitsu athlete as the alternative to our chosen hobby, we still repeatedly complain that a significant portion of this industry is purpose-built to suck us in and repeatedly take our money. Video games at large may not be a “f***ing problem,” but you can see how those not in-tune with the entirety of the medium perceive it to be that way.