How Much is Too Much?

Bit of a special edition Coffee Grinds today as half of the article is written by `Brennil and the other half by Certis. It grew out of conversations we've been having recently about WoW, gaming in our lives, and how it affects our relationship. We've tried not to step on each other's toes too much in the editing of our respective halves - this here is a piece of real marriage communication! Aren't you privileged.

By the by - we're not asking you to take sides, or play moderator, or anything of that sort. It just seemed to us that this must be a common sort of issue in any relationship involving gamers. Please note, mommy and daddy aren't getting a divorce.

Fear and Loathing in Azeroth

I've been playing a lot of WoW recently, a fact that has come up in conversations with Shawn more than once. He's – not concerned so much as aware of the parallels between my enjoyment of this game and my past relationship with Everquest, or Evercrack, as it has been called in some circles. I usually play every day, usually for at least three hours, and I have, I admit, missed appointments because I had a really good group and we were just about to reach the end of the instance, and I had a quest that I really wanted to complete"…

Well. I'm sure that you know the drill.

So how much is too much? How do you know when it's too much? I still make it to work on time, I still see my friends, I enjoy my other hobbies, I kiss my husband when he comes in the door, I feed and bathe myself regularly. But I do play a lot. And admittedly it has cut into some of my other hobbies. And okay, I once blew off my mother when she called to talk and I was online, but that's hardly the game's fault – I'm just an ungrateful child.

I wonder if I play more WoW than Shawn plays his various video games. I've never timed us, exactly, but he does have his Tuesday night Rise of Nations with some of you guys, and he has ESPN Football and most recently Doom3. I think it's probably the contrast – before WoW I'd been in a gaming hiatus, playing nothing at all for months. Now I'm really into it, and to Shawn it must seem like quite a change.

I appreciate that he is – not concerned, but aware for me. I appreciate that it rises out of his desire to see me lead a full life, and not get obsessed with one thing, and to make sure that I'm happy and healthy and all that good stuff. But it also kind of grates on me that he doesn't trust my judgement and my sense of proportion. He plays computer and console games. A lot. It's pretty much his only hobby. I have always accepted and understood that about him, and never questioned when he chose to stay up til 2 AM playing Unreal Tournament. It feels really weird for him to be the one in this relationship making comments about me playing too much.

Or, maybe I'm addicted and I'm in so deep I can't even see it. Maybe he's planning an intervention even now, plotting to steal my video card and give it to Gaald so that I"…. Oh, wait, that already happened. Not that I'm bitter.

This kind of situation has had to have happened to some of you – significant others protesting for whatever reason that you are paying too much attention to pixels. Does it rise out of the same kind of mentality that caused people to blame violent video games for tragedies like Columbine and the like? A kind of perception of gaming as the retreat of the socially inept? How did you handle it? Has it caused you to re-examine your gaming habits? Do you resent your loved ones for attempting to come between you and your game?

Most likely, it wouldn't hurt me to play less WoW, and I feel like I should cut back just to make Shawn feel less – not concerned, but aware. Relationships are about communication and compromise, and obviously it's important to him. There's lots of other stuff I could do with my time, certainly, like working on my novel, biking more, etc etc.

But I'm so close to lvl 33, I can taste it!

- Brennil


Timing Is Everything

Games like World of Warcraft and Everquest do not invite you to spend time in them, they steal it. An hour here, an hour there and soon you're spending a majority of your personal time levelling up your character and letting other things fall to the wayside. To lend some perspective to her slightly mocking label of "not concerned, but aware" husband let me lay out some numbers. Since Karla started playing WoW around June 15th she has put in a total of 7 days, 17 hours and 31 minutes into her main character, not including any side characters she's created while learning the game. That's over 168 hours of gaming over the course of 55 days. If you worked full time, Monday to Friday, over the course of eight weeks (56 days) that would be 320 hours. This isn't a game, it's a part time job! In fact, Karla has a part time job so playing is obviously done when not working or hitting some family function.

As a gamer, I know how it goes with dropping a large amount of time into a game. I went through the Everquest beta and I probably spent more time playing over an eight week span than Karla has with WoW. While I was in the EQ beta I was also taking various computer courses to get my MCSE and other tech certificates. I was eighteen, fresh out of high school and to be perfectly honest, probably not ready to juggle a full time computer course and a MMORPG addiction. I could say EQ screwed me but it would be more accurate to say I screwed myself. I walked out of there with fewer certifications to my name than I wanted and I snapped up an easy tech job doing phone support for a corporation. Karla was right there with me through the EQ days, and playing even more heavily than me a year or so later so we both know how these things can go. I quit playing a few months after the game went retail.

We're older and wiser now of course. Although 168 hours seems like a lot of playing time Karla isn't lying when she says she still does most of the usual things she always has. Just more games and fewer sewing projects really. Normally this would be fine with me, I play plenty of games in my spare time and of course running GWJ takes more and more of my attention as it gets bigger. The only difference between my playing and Karla's is that I'm not in the middle of a transitional period and she is. Suffice it to say she's been talking about looking for a new job since she isn't going to school for her English masters this coming September.

Aside from looking for new work, she also wants to spend more time writing which is very important if she is going to become a famous author and support me like I've been planning all along. Find new job, do more writing. This has been the goal since the beginning of summer.

When I left my cooperate gig at nineteen years old and started my own business it took a long time to discipline myself to work during the day and not play games. When you're starting out you can be very poor and not have much to do, it's the perfect excuse to escape into anything. Instead, I forced myself to not play games during the day even when I had no contracts, thinking about things and picking away at projects is still more productive than levelling up my mage. It may sound funny coming from someone who runs a gaming site but in life games have to come second. If you're at a crossroads Everquest is not going to make getting on with things any easier. Change is hard, it's scary and many times contemplating it can be paralyzing. When it's time to take that next step you have to dramatically cut back your hobby time and spend more time moving towards your goal, even if that just means doing nothing more than thinking about it.

My wife is a brilliant and talented woman. I don't say this just because I don't want to sleep on the couch tonight, it's 100% true. This isn't devastating right now, it isn't dire – but sustained long enough it has the potential to be. We're only human after all. My general feeling is that the moment games serve as a diversion from getting on with life, you're not having fun anymore - you're just spinning your wheels.

- Certis

Comments

Maybe he's planning an intervention even now, plotting to steal my video card and give it to Gaald so that I"…. Oh, wait, that already happened. Not that I'm bitter.

Worry not fair Hoochie, for I have just finished Doom 3 and will be bringing back your treasured video card soon! Plan a Risk 2210 game and it will get there faster! Speaking of addictions.

In a way I really understand where you're coming from Certis.

Case in point, I really got into gaming when I was in college back in 1993 doing my A-Levels and I flunked my A's three times. Fortunately, it was in country so the costs were a bit bearable on my parents. So instead of one and a half years I spent a total of three years to get a decent result to enter university.

I finally got into La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia in 1996 to study my business degree and let's just say I did not learn from my lesson. Things got worse and worse as I got more into gaming until it suddenly hit me that I'm going nowhere at the same time spending my education fund like water flowing down a waterfall. This hurt bad financially especially at the currency exchange of 2 malaysian dollars for every australian dollar.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I finally made it after three and a half years in university with a hard paid, well learned lesson.

The morale of my morbid history is that, I think it really takes serious determination and discipline to ensure that one does not forsake one's goal due to disctractions such as gaming.

From what I've read, I am impressed that despite hoochie's current gaming addiction, she still has the discipline to ensure that she does other productive activities. I am sure that things will work out fine when she finds herself a new job.

Certis,

Lock Hoochie in a cupboard and force her to play WoW until she's sick. That'll teach her to raid your gaming humidor.

Hoochie,

Certis is going to try and lock you in a cupboard. Run!

At least you two share an addiction, my wife just mutters something about boys and toys and gives me a pitying look.

If she wants to embarass me in public she just mentions me playing computer games in front of the grown ups. *Sniff*

Seriously, it can be a challenge to balance all of your priorities, without a MMOG in the mix.
They are evil time stealers. I playes EQ myself for 2 years.

I make sure that games always come last in my life. Family first. I just accepted that I'll suck at games, but be good elsewhere. So when I play its after the wife and kid are in bed, or when they are off doing something else. Can't stay up to late because job>games. That got me off EQ 'cause I never had time to do any serious grouping or leveling. Its also prevents me from playing RoN with the cool kids- I have to get up at 6AM and go to work.

Just have to find whats works for you.

Lars

Certis wrote:

I forced myself to not play games during the day even when I had no contracts, thinking about things and picking away at projects is still more productive than levelling up my mage

+1 respect right there.

I've never played an MMORPG and reading articles like this continue to make me wary of moving within distance of their vice-like grip.

First off, I think you should consider youselves lucky that you can share gaming at all. My wife is completely uninterested in gaming, which is perfectly fine, but it would be fun to share now and then.

Other than that I would say if Hoochie is comfortable with things as they are, and the problems aren't more than abstract ideas of what we "should" do with our time, then there probably isn't a pressing problem. Or maybe she's a crackhead. It's a toss up.

Certis is going to try and lock you in a cupboard. Run!

It's been a while since something made me laugh so hard.

I understand exactly what you're saying, when I have something I know I really need to do but doesn't have a deadline I play games, watch TV, sleep, whatever. Maybe piddle with it a bit to fend off a guilty concience. I'm still in the lazy bachelor stage. School was always laughably easy, so I never really learned my lesson there. With my jobs, I'm getting paid to sit there and do them so it's not really the same thing. Plus, half the time I just don't care about my job, which makes it easier somehow. It's always with stuff like GWJ or WebVCR+ that it's hardest for me to sit down and actually do the work. This article has inspired me to actually go do something. You must be proud Certis, your article inspired me to want to do something besides punch you in the face. There's a first time for everything!

Certis,

Lock Hoochie in a cupboard and force her to play WoW until she's sick. That'll teach her to raid your gaming humidor.

Hoochie,

Certis is going to try and lock you in a cupboard. Run!

Totally agree with Pyro, this was dam funny!

You must be proud Certis, your article inspired me to want to do something besides punch you in the face. There's a first time for everything!

Again funny as hell.

If she wants to embarass me in public she just mentions me playing computer games in front of the grown ups. *Sniff*

Why let it embaress you? Screw everyone else. They could only wish they were as cool as us. The next time she tries to do this, don't play into her hands. Be proud of the fact you play video games and tell everyone how great it is!

Remember games are one of the major reasons personal computers are as fast as they are today, not many other people can say their hobby is on the cutting edge of technology!

Quote:

If she wants to embarass me in public she just mentions me playing computer games in front of the grown ups. *Sniff*

Why let it embaress you? Screw everyone else. They could only wish they were as cool as us. The next time she tries to do this, don't play into her hands. Be proud of the fact you play video games and tell everyone how great it is!

Not to mention the only reason she says that is because it embarrasses her and she wants you to share the misery, sub-conciously.

Next time, YOU bring it up, and do it in a really geeky manner. That'll teach her!

If she wants to embarass me in public she just mentions me playing computer games in front of the grown ups. *Sniff*

Whenever games come up around a certain friend of mine he says, "You're such a dork." Then I remind him of his obsession with collecting Boy Scout patches. Usually shuts him right up.

Remember games are one of the major reasons personal computers are as fast as they are today, not many other people can say their hobby is on the cutting edge of technology!

Reminds me of those old 3dfx commercials. "Hey! Let's use it to play games!"

I can see where Certis is coming from here. It seems not to be the action insomuch as what's falling by the wayside because of it. No disrespect intended, hoochie.

Some days I wish my wife showed an interest in video games and other days I'm thankful she doesn't. I'd have to get another computer and who'd cook dinner if she got addicted to an MMORPG? Recently we joined Netflix and she's hooked on the buffy series, so on days I want to play I make sure she has a DVD lined up. We're both happy as clams. Her only other hobby is shopping, which she cannot presently do, so thank god for Netflix!

I know about gaming addiction and missed opportunities. It happened to me while in college (for both degrees.) I managed to get through my classes with good grades, but my thoughts were always on the game. It's scary when I think about how I was more concerned about clan issues or leveling my mage, than I was about real life priorities. They really can suck you in. This isn't to say you should be real worried about hoochie. People sometimes need make moves when they feel the time is right and maybe it's just not that time yet.

hoochie wrote:

I feed and bathe myself regularly.

You've officially passed the Dr. Reaper patented Diagnostic Criterion for Addiction Verification test. If you're not a stinky-stink, you're not addicted to anything! One may ask, 'Well, can't you be addicted to personal hygiene?' The answer is, 'No. Because then you're obsessive compulsive.'

school was always laughably easy, so I never really learned my lesson there.

So true. This really messed me up when work requires me to actually do projects and such. In college I would do my homework and studying after class and then go home and game to my hearts delight. Now when I have a deadline to meet or some real work to do my gaming addiction gets the best of me. I will work on my project for about 30 minutes then 'take a RoN' break. So next thing I know its 2am and I have something to turn in 6 hours and I barely even started it.

I have questioned this so much that I'm sick of my own internal dialogue kicking in.

I have always wondered when it is that something is too much, and why something is too much. Of course playing so much that you start to fail at a job, fail with family, etc. is a problem. However, is it wrong to have the 2 or 3 hours a night, and 7-8 hours per weekend day that most people classify as "free time" go primarily into one hobby?

Of course with games, there is always the socialization problem; sitting in front of the computer does not make new friends. Sometimes I question the value of even this; is a choice to live a solitary life (ok, relatively solitary), less valid for some quantifiable reason as long as the person making the choice is happy? Regardless, is it for some reason clearly better to split hobby time? Am I clearly better off if I force myself to spend 1.5 hours playing WoW and 1.5 hours on a woodworking hobby, then if I just spend the 3 hours on the game or the woodworking hobby?

I have gone through phases in the past where I have done single activity hobbies more. I have also been in phases where I have attempted to be more "diverse." The problem with being more diverse is often that you feel like you have limited time in life, and by forcing yourself to diversify and do things other than that which you would immediately like to do, you basically are spending precious life doing things you do not enjoy as much as other things. We all have to do this in life (see, e.g. work/job/breadwinner), but it seems painful when we are doing it with the time that is supposed to be available for relaxation and enjoyment.

I think there is a meta-pressure along these same lines with games in general. Regardless of what you personally gravitate to and enjoy, some hobbies are "good" while others are "bad." Spend 5 hours on a Saturday at a LAN party with 3 friends, well, even though you had fun, you didn't get out, get fresh air, enjoy the sun, get exercise, blah blah blah. Go play golf for 5 hours with 3 friends (a game I am trying to pick up, but it tasks me, it tasks me), and everything is great, even though it's not really a great form of exercise, it's expensive, golf courses damage the environment, etc.

I can't help but have cognitive dissonance over the fact that while doing the things I thing I truly enjoy at my core, my rational mind is telling me that I shouldn't be enjoying them, that I should enjoy other things. I always wonder if I should be trying to change what I enjoy to be a better person, why I would somehow be a better person if I did change it (society telling me it is a better thing to do?), and why I can't just shut down the dialogue and live life.

Hmm...I'm trying to dig through the niceties on both sides of the issue and get to the underlying dirt. Oh, yes, there's always some dirt.

Here's the synopsis as I see it.... Hoochie's WOW gaming (3 hours a day) represents a shift in the marital dynamic. It's a change that Certis is not necessarily happy with and he's concerned that it's going to take presedence over career goals.

So here's the real question(s), is the gaming time actually cutting into important activities like looking for a new job, writing, etc? Are you staying home to game when normally you'd be going out and frolicking with each other in the grass? (and these questions apply to both C & H)

If the answer is yes to those questions, then maybe a shift in time allocation should be considered. Do a little test, cut your gaming time down to 2 hours a day and keep track of how you use those extra hours in a week.

Mike and I don't compete for gaming time but we do compete for computer time. One of the ways I've chosen to control my gaming time is to only have one computer in the house. If I didn't have to share it, I'd never get a damn thing done. It's been a good way to limit myself to no more than 2 or 3 hours of gaming or internet time at a stretch.

I personally don't think you guys have anything to worry about. The fact that you talk about it is what will keep gaming habits in perspective for both of you.

Trying to game with a wife, job, and four children (all boys) can certainly be a challenge.

I recently got City of Heroes and am it enjoying a lot. My kids, at least the oldest three, are playing it as well. While the kids play it during the day with time limits imposed by my wife, I TRY to get 1-2 hours in the evening, after dinner, chores, playing with the kids, giving the 1-year old his bath, bedtimes, cub scouts, etc. are done with.

I'll probably keep playing CoH at least until the free month is up or I get tied of it, whichever comes first. Then will come another game that we have but I haven't gotten a chance to play like KOTOR, Sim City 4, Morrowind, etc.

All things in moderation, that's our golden rule.

I think a number of us have "been there" at one point or another. My first relationship while playing an MMORPG ended when my wife met some dwarven male online and moved to Nevada to marry HIM! Or maybe he was a halfling..all I know is his name was Mike and he played a Paladin.

My next relationship I thought it would be great (what was I thinking!?!) to spend time together playing EQ..we'd come home from work, play together until all hours of the night and do it again the next day..heck, the game wasn't fun unless we were playing together. Then I lost interest, she didn't..and I became "aware" of the differences between us namely that she still wanted to spend every waking hour on the computer and I wanted to do real life things. This led to our breaking up in a more mutually friendly way. Last I heard she too had met a man on the EQ dating circuit and is moving to San Francisco next month to get married.

Along the same lines as Certis "getting screwed by EQ" I can blame my lack of a high school education, inability to hold a job for more than year and lack of social skills all on online, multiplayer gaming (eg. my addication). It's been 13 years now since I first started back on my 2400bps modem on a local BBS. I haven't been able to find an MMORPG to hold my interest beyond the 7-day trial since Star Wars Galaxies. I look forward to WoW as much as the next guy, but fear what changes it might bring to my current relationship too. As soon as I read through this post, I called my girl up and had her read it too with a warning, "This may be on the horizon for us..please understand."

So thanks Certis and Hoochie for reminding us all that communication with your loved one is key, and that real life comes before gaming..it's a lesson I wish I had learned an easier way, at an earlier age.

After reading Gotham's post, let me retract my previous statement and say, Thank God my wife isn't a gamer!!

Two thoughts:

1. By the original post, Certis is screaming "Paradigm shift -- agggh!" Hoochie would've giggled in response, but she was too busy playing to pay attention to Certis.

2. Gotham has just illuminated a whole new sub-culture that I never knew existed. Thank God I never took a hit of Evercrack. I think I'll stick to the single player games on my system (Doom 3, Far Cry, etc).

Everyone knows they don't have no cupboards. They drink from bottles, and eat straight from cans and take-out containers, sometimes using plastic plates and utensils for when Gaald cashes in his paycheck and occasions a visit with pizza and two sixpacks.

In all seriousness me and my girlfriend had an issue about a month ago. I picked up CoH and played with it a bit, she started playing and loved it. The next couple of weeks she would stay up until 3-4 AM even after telling me she'd be "just a minute" when I went to bed. She started being a bit sneaky about playing, and I found out she was getting friendly with another player, and even though it was for the most part harmless flirting, it was driving a wedge in our relationship and was crossing the line a bit. She would spend her day off playing all day, and really excited to tell me that she made it to the next level, and meanwhile the house was a mess. (We both share the responsibilities of cleaning) We had a few big fights and I ended up deleting the game, closing the accounts, and delegating it to the shelf to collect dust.

We worked it through and I can honestly say I'll never play a MMO again. I had avoided them all these years for a good reason, but I thought CoH might be fun. (IT WAS!) but just like every other MMO, it is a lot more demanding than a normal game. Unlike regular games, there's a certain level of attachment to your created character, an online extension of yourself (for lack of a better term). Plus you tend to bond very fast, and feel you have an obligation to the other online players.

My girlfriend was not a gamer before we met, but she started enjoying my hobby more and more, and for the most part it's awesome. Other than the CoH incident, we've had a lot of fun playing together (think Zelda 4 Swords, etc) and with friends when they visit. It's become a welcome past-time that we enjoy together, or separately. But the key is not to neglect other activities together, like going out for walks, hanging out with friends, and other "couple stuff" that is healthy.

No matter how well rounded of an individual you are, MMO's are a demanding temptress, and no matter how good your intentions are they can be an interferance. And I know you can compare it to "mindless" TV watching etc, but MMO's do have a distinct quality that is extremely hard to describe, which makes it much more compulsive than any other leisure activity.

Just remember to game in moderation. No online friendship should be a substitute, or interfere with the wonderful relationship you have with your flesh and blood partner. Who is just a touch away

We had a few big fights and I ended up deleting the game, closing the accounts, and delegating it to the shelf to collect dust.

Wow, that must have gotten you in all kinds of fun!

slambie wrote:

you'd be going out and frolicking with each other in the grass?

I did so misread that.

Mommmm, daaaaad! Gross!

Certis, you don't know the half of it. It was actually the biggest fight we ever had, and over a game none the less. OH THE IRONY! (I can almost hear my dead grandmother chanting from her grave: "Don't sit to close to the Nintendo you'll go blind!")

We've been pretty active lately and I've put all my gaming on the backburner, so I can enjoy some outside stuff before I get the 51" Toshiba next month, in preparation for the Winter Hibernation aka Halo 2.

I wonder if a higher percentage of Canucks are gamers, due to the simple fact that 6 months out of the year is nut-freezing cold?

And I know you can compare it to "mindless" TV watching etc, but MMO's do have a distinct quality that is extremely hard to describe, which makes it much more compulsive than any other leisure activity.

Personally I think it's the sense of community. You make friends on there, suddenly your social activities and your hobby are all funneled through the same MMO. It's addictive.

All this makes me want to say, in the words of Lo Wang, "holy pieces of cow".

Myself, I long since found that developing my own (as in "real life") character doesn't leave me any damn time to play games at all, MMORPG or otherwise. Projects and chores around the house, two great kids, each with its own needs and unique attention demands, and my wonderful wife. When I actually do have time, leveling up my character stats in Taekwondo, reading, and language studies is still somehow more rewarding than even an idea of trying CoH or some pR0N of Nations.

In Doom 3, I am still on that level where the invasion begins and you need to get from Comm center back to Marine HQ in Mars City. And I had it for a week already.

buzzvang wrote:

I wonder if a higher percentage of Canucks are gamers, due to the simple fact that 6 months out of the year is nut-freezing cold?

Since they vehemently oppose the ideas of personal hygiene evangelized by Sanjuro, I can't see how nut-freezing cold can be of any concern to them.

All this makes me want to say, in the words of Lo Wang, "holy pieces of cow".

Myself, I long since found that developing my own (as in "real life") character doesn't leave me any damn time to play games at all, MMORPG or otherwise. Projects and chores around the house, two great kids, each with its own needs and unique attention demands, and my wonderful wife. When I actually do have time, leveling up my character stats in Taekwondo, reading, and language studies is still somehow more rewarding than even an idea of trying CoH or some pR0N of Nations.

In Doom 3, I am still on that level where the invasion begins and you need to get from Comm center back to Marine HQ in Mars City. And I had it for a week already.

So why are you reading this or any other gaming site?