At the same time, the general public (including non-gamer significant others and parents) may not buy into the media hype that video games are the root of all evil, but the best they believe about gaming is that it is a juvenile waste of time.
So the non-gaming majority and some sympathizing WoW Insider readers (who presumably play WoW themselves) are working together to try to make us feel guilty about any time we spend playing our current favorite MMO.
Who really cares what strangers think about our leisure time? The problem comes when the people we know get in on the act.
Should we feel bad about playing WoW?
No, absolutely not.
Regardless of the exaggerated claims of "experts", most of the 9 million WoW players do not exhibit signs of addiction. WoW is just a hobby for the majority of us. Sometimes we spend too much time on our hobby, but we are still feeding ourselves and our loved ones and we're too busy ganking lowbies to be training with sniper rifles. Time spent playing video games is not viewed the same as time spent tinkering in the garage or shopping at yard sales, however. So is our hobby less worthy than other hobbies?
Again, absolutely not.
WoW is certainly not as productive as many craft hobbies, like knitting, sewing or crochet. You can make clothing with these hobbies which is extremely useful. Of course, you can also make some not so useful, disturbing things -- though you still have something tangible to show for it at the end whereas you don't even own the characters and items you spend so much time acquiring in WoW. Happily, you can also do some crafts during WoW downtime, so hobbies are not mutually exclusive.
Participating in sports is another kind of activity that can be considered more worthy than WoW in that you are keeping healthier and getting some fresh air as opposed to spreading in a chair, filling up with cheezy poofs and soda (or pizza and beer depending on your age and income level). But it is definitely possible to play hockey once a week, for example, while still playing WoW regularly.
Being in a raiding guild or on an active arena team is very much like belonging to a Pool or Bowling league. You have similar commitments and are expected to practice and bring your own quality gear. Playing WoW is much cheaper and you don't use as much fossil fuels.
Collecting things like stamps, coins, bottle caps, etc. might be a good investment or just clutter up your house. You could end up on Antiques Roadshow as one of the lucky people who have to raise their insurance or you could end up with valueless fakes. Regardless, you have to protect your collection from the elements and (shudder) real life vermin. Collecting non-combat pets won't increase your premiums or your pest control bills.
WoW is more a more social activity than fixing up clunkers in your garage and infinitely better for your mental acuity than watching TV for 3 to 5 hours a night. The startup cost for playing WoW (assuming you already have a computer) is less than buying a pool cue and the monthly fee is much cheaper than the beer and bar food consumed on a weekly basis when playing in a pool league.
So why is our hobby rated so low by the non-gamers who love us? It isn't just the bad press. They know you better than to think you are about to give Jack Thompson more ammo. And if you are the violent type, you have other issues that quitting WoW is not going to solve. But you may be unintentionally giving people good reasons to dislike your hobby. It is easy to fall into a play schedule that was convenient one week, but doesn't work over a long period of time. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how you are spending all of your time and some solutions to try:
Are you spending enough time with your significant other?
Even if you are both in the same room, if you are doing separate things and not interacting, you are not spending time together. While you are entitled to your hobby, you still need to nourish your relationship. Schedule as much together-time as you do playtime -- though the best solution is to play WoW together.
Are you an active member of your family?
This is obvious, but your familial responsibilities take priority over any leisure time. Even if your wife is a stay at home or part-time working mom, for example, she still needs some adult time and some time not being the primary caregiver. Don't just assume that being the breadwinner means you get to do nothing but play when you are home. You are a parent and spouse/partner 100% of the time and you need to make sure that your family are thriving and not just surviving. Save your play time for after little ones go to bed and take turns being the primary caregiver when they are awake. If you are a child in your family, make sure that you tell your parents about all of the schoolwork and chores you are getting done (and you should be getting them done). This communication will help dispel the perception that all you do is play WoW.
Have you dropped other interests that used to be important to you?
If your boyfriend fell in love with you for your artistic talent and now you spend all your creative energy roleplaying your Night Elf Druid, you can see why he might resent this particular hobby. If you've got half of a model train city in your attic and it has been collecting dust while you work on your faction, you may be alienating friends and family who were working on it with you or those that covet the space. And the guys will usually understand if you don't attend poker night for a date, but they won't be so forgiving when they discover you just lost track of time getting revenge with your level 70 in STV. If you split your time between all of your hobbies, the people around you will feel better about the time you spend playing WoW. And, seriously, it's time to finish the last Harry Potter book so that your friends can finally talk about it with you.
How much time are you spending with your non-gamer friends?
The guildie with the cool accent who helped you deal with those Drama Queen incidents may be a great guy, but he wasn't there for you when you needed all those rides after your car broke down and he doesn't need your help moving next weekend. Make sure that you keep in touch with and are there for your real life friends on a regular basis.
Is WoW encroaching on your work time?
Your boss and coworkers are not going to respect you for sleeping in because of late raids or for taking longer breaks because Auctioneer is taking too long to scan the AH. And you're not going to win any points with your team if you show up late to a meeting because you were too busy showing the tech support guy your new weapon. You can't afford your WoW habit if you don't bring home the bacon. There are a few things to do here:
- Don't play WoW at work. Ever.
- To make sure you get up in the morning after late nights, put your alarm clock across the bedroom on the loudest buzzer possible -- making sure it is set correctly before you start your raid.
- Take a walk during your work breaks. The exercise will make you more alert and it's a lot better for you than eating a donut while you read the Trade channel. (If the weather is not good enough for a walk, try eating an apple while reading WoW Insider.)
Are you saying things like "LAWL" in public?
ROFLCOPTERS! Save the lingo for your fellow gamers -- though they may not respect you for it either.
It's all about balance. You may be intentionally escaping into WoW to avoid less pleasant duties or you may have accidentally mismanaged your time so that your hobby is adversely affecting others. Balancing your playtime with your other activities will show the non-gaming world you live in that WoW is just another harmless hobby like scrapbooking and not as dangerous as model crimescene building. If you have all of your responsibilities taken care of and nourish your relationships, you have every right to spend your leisure time as you see fit.
Robin Torres juggles one level 70 Tauren Druid, multiple alts across multiple servers, two cats, one toddler, one loot-addicted husband and a yarn dependency. After years of attempting to balance MMOs with real life, Robin lightheartedly shares the wisdom gleaned from her experiences. If you would like to ask Robin's advice or if you have a story you wish to share, please email Robin.Torres AT weblogsinc DOT com for a possible future column.