TGW: I think that the people most likely to get trapped into an MMO to the degree that it takes over their life are the sort of people that are unlikely to be at the forefront of the new anyway - I think those people tend to be more self-driven and demanding than the sort of person that can be satisfied with virtual acheivements to virtual accolades in a virtual world. Still, I do think that plenty of otherwise smart and productive people who would have been firmly in the middle or upper-middle of their career fields have wasted their time, energy, and talents in MMOs.
BCS: I think that all people have equal potential to be great and to become the leaders of a new future - they just have to work hard for it, and the desire to work hard to feel successful and good and as though you've accomplished things becomes lesser when you can just win at the Internets (I've even been guilty of this). MMOs make it easier to be satisfied with the successes because they never end - games like Dragon Age and Portal and Halo all have an ending - and that's what I think makes the difference.
If a game never ends, you just keep having to work to beat it - and that is your goal, and winning at life takes the backburner.
I do think plenty of people who are already in careers have become stagnant from it though - even Felicia Day talked about how it damaged her acting career and how breaking away from it helped her to start working on The Guild, and she still games a lot. I think more than anything, lack of awareness of how it's damaging a person's life is the major problem, and family and friends not having the balls to tell someone that it's a problem makes the family and friends more the issue than the game.
TGW:Now that you put it like that, I am more fully convinced. I hadn't thought about the greater potential for time and attention drain based on the open-endedness, and my own personal experience with one person in that addicted position colored my perception of all such individuals in a negative way.
BCS: I've spoken to you before about why I don't play MMOs (aside from, on occasion, games like TF2 and L4D) - I can't bear the amount of time it takes for victory. If I am going for digital successes, I want them to be rapidly achieved and then know that if I play again, it will take a similar amount of time. Dragon Age drew a ton of my time, and don't get me wrong, I love the game and I intend to play it again, but there are minor acheivements throughout and then once it's done, it's over, and you don't have to keep playing. That is what has really started the gears turning in my mind about this.
There are a lot of benefits to the games for many people, but I see a lot of drawbacks too, and I'm concerned that people aren't seeing them. I know it took me a long time to figure out why they bothered me so much!
TGW: L4D and TF2, while certainly multiplayer and better for it, aren't MMOs for a variety of reasons (no "massive" in their multiplayer online, and there is a definite end to any given activity - the survivors escape or one team wins the round).
Some of those things are certainly also problems, but they haven't gone away. The MMO thing can be added into those rather than replacing any one of them. Plenty of people are still obsessed with D&D or other tabletop games, or comic books (one guy in my unit has, by his count, over 10k comics), or even chess, but some of them are now also addicted to MMOs.1
BCS: TF2 for me is very similar to an MMO - particularly in the custom type stages - and I think it suffers from the same "no end" issue, because does it ever really? The stories keep on going, the bad guys are never really dead. L4D does have definite endings, but with that, I just know the constantly-trying-to-get-achievements thing is still an issue.
Any game can be an addiction, though.
I agree, and for me, it's the fact that there are obsessions and addictions - I mean, I know people who basically get addicted to stuff like reading sites like TV Tropes or watching television shows (watching multiple seasons of multiple shows in succession to the point that they aren't sleeping) - and these obsessions and addictions are not being recognised by family and friends or even by the people themselves as something that is unhealthy.
As opposed as I am to much of Chinese goverment and I disagree with how they're handling game and internet addiction, I find that the fact that they even recognise it surprising and wish that they had chosen better methods to address it.
It's no different than being addicted to sex or drugs or stealing - it's a high, even though it's not caused by external chemicals and only by internal chemicals. The euphoria when you beat a game can be amazing, even I know that, but obsession is bad.