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!
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.