We all know that Real Life takes priority over WoW and if you don't, you need to hang out with Captain Obvious more often. Even if you have all of your obligations taken care of before sitting down to play, however, sometimes a Spontaneous Real Life Interruption (SRLI) can occur and you find it hard to break away from WoW to resolve it. Maybe you're in a raid or getting revenge on that ganker or fighting the quest boss -- the SRLI doesn't get the attention it deserves. Subsequently, the most responsible, attentive people can have responsiveness issues when faced with an ill-timed SRLI.
Of course, not all SRLIs require immediate attention, but you are not always able to ascertain that without taking at least some attention away from your WoW activities.
So, remember this basic rule when faced with an SRLI: It's OK to AFK.
Why is it OK? Because death in WoW has a very minor penalty. It really is only a penalty of convenience and the ramifications for ignoring SRLIs are usually far, far worse. It's OK to AFK because WoW death is EZ mode MMO death.
Disagree with me? Well, when I was your age, I had to walk through the snow two miles each way to get to school. Seriously. Deaths in WoW are cake compared to most of its predecessors. In CoH, you acquire debt that you have to work off. In Asheron's Call, you got Vitae that affected your stats until you worked it off and your corpse could rot after a while, making your gear lootable by others. But the worst I experienced was the original EverQuest.
I don't know how death works now in EQ. I played until the Luclin expansion. But for the years I played, death in EQ was a severe penalty. First of all, you lost experience. You could even lose experience at a beginning of a level that made you drop down to the last level. There were also these lovely things called Hell Levels -- I believe they were 39 and 49, though I'm not sure. In Hell Levels, the experience you had to gain to get to the next level was many times more than normal levels through some weird EQ math freakiness. So losing a level and going back to a hell level could take several days just to make up for one death. They also didn't have graveyards. When you died, you showed up naked at the last town that you got bound at (a fun process that involved paying people to bind you since NPCs couldn't do it). Then, if you couldn't get a res, you had to run back to your body -- wherever it was -- even if it was a world away. If you managed to forget where your body was, you needed to hire someone like a Bard to find it for you and possibly drag your corpse to where you were. If you logged off in frustration and took a couple of days to get back on, your body could rot and you would lose all of your gear.
In WoW, if you can't self-resurrect and there's no one to raise your lifeless body, the worst that can happen is that you will have to run back to your corpse and pay a minor repair bill. Can't get to your corpse? Well then, you can just take a relatively short period of res sickness and a higher repair bill. There is no experience loss. There is no chance of other players looting your stuff. You lose a little bit of time, some cash (that is easy to replace) and maybe the respect of that player you were trying to kill.
Let's recap: Real Life takes priority over WoW, but death is only an inconvenience, so it is OK to AFK when SRLIs occur.
Still, you want your WoW playtime to be as continuous as possible. After all, most of us only have so much time to devote to our hobby. Also, if you are grouping with others, it is extremely inconsiderate to go AFK a lot during a play session. Here are some tips for minimizing the occurrence of Spontaneous Real Life Interruptions:
Schedule your play time: I know. I say this all the time. But it just makes everything easier. Make a play time schedule and post it so that everyone can see it. If you live alone, let the people who may call or visit you know that you are busy during that time.
Make sure your schedule is convenient and/or acceptable to those you live with: If you live with your parents, they need to OK your schedule. If you live with your significant other, schedule together time in equal amounts with solo play time and make sure there are no schedule conflicts. This is particularly important for parents. You must make sure there is a Primary Caregiver designated for each time that you are unavailable due to WoW. And make sure that person gets equal amounts of playtime in his or her preferred form.
Don't play outside your scheduled playtime: If you live alone and aren't seeing someone, this isn't so very important. But, unless you make specific arrangements with your family or significant other, unscheduled playtime will be viewed as neglect and shirking responsibilities. Your time will not be respected and, in fact, Premeditated Real Life Interruptions are bound to occur.
Get chores done before your playtime: The last thing you want is to have your mom make you take out the garbage right when your group is relying on you to do something important. As a parent, scheduling playtime after your children are fed, bathed and in bed is really the best way to prevent the most common SRLIs. Even if you live alone, make sure that everything is ready for going to work or school before playing. If you can, eat before you play as well. Though, making sure the pizza is delivered and the beer is cold is probably good enough.
Take advantage of all downtime: When there's a break in the WoW action or someone in your group goes AFK, get away from your keyboard for biobreaks, drink refills, etc. Chat with your significant other in between battles, when possible. Get little real life tasks done while traveling on birds. Making good use of other people's AFKs in a group will make them much more patient when an SRLI hits you.
Of course, even with all the preparation in the world, Real Life Interruptions are still going to Spontaneously occur. Here is a guide to common SRLIs and their urgency:
Minor Cat Emergency: Cat barfs on the carpet. Cat knocks something over. Cat is meowing loudly about some unknown issue. The MCE can usually wait until the battle is over. But then you need to announce your intention to AFK (if in a group) and get to a safe place as soon as possible. I assume there are dog owners out there too, so apply this to all MDEs as well.
Expected visitor/delivery at the door: Pizza! Girlfriend! Whatever it is, this SRLI needs your immediate attention. But before the expected visitor shows up, make sure your group knows that the AFK is forthcoming.
Unexpected visitor at the door: Use your own discretion. I am not too keen on being at the beck and call of whatever solicitor wants my attention. But you know your situation better than I do.
Expected phone call: Unless this person cannot be reached otherwise, you can always call him or her back after the battle. But, again, make sure that your group knows the phone call is impending. Often, you can play and talk at the same time, though it is rather rude to the caller.
Unexpected phone call: That's what answering machines are for.
Fire, Earthquake, etc: Captain Obvious to the rescue! Don't even bother to type AFK. You can explain later. Just gather your family, stuff your pets in their cages and pick up the easily accessible box with the handle that you keep your important documents in (thanks Nancy!). Then get to a safe spot immediately. Remember that the documents box and even the pets are lower priority than getting your family to safety.
Medical Emergency: Again with Captain Obvious. Type AFK only if you absolutely have time, otherwise take care of the emergency immediately -- no matter how minor it turns out to be.
Significant Other or family member calls urgently for your help: Type AFK very quickly then run to help. Do not wait until the end of battle. Even if it turns out to be something that you really weren't needed for, it is better to be safe than sorry. Your Significant Other in particular will help keep the SRLIs from occurring if you are responsive and understanding about the ones that do happen.
Significant Other or family member requests your attention: It is in your best interest to treat these unscheduled intrusions kindly. Ask if he or she can wait until the battle is over and then go AFK at the next opportunity. A couple minutes of attention when requested politely will prevent your loved ones from resorting to more extreme measures.
Planning ahead will eliminate most unnecessary Spontaneous Real Life Interruptions. Warning groups about RLIs you know about ahead of time will minimize the affect of them when they happen. The perception of your family that you are responsive to their needs or your responsibilities, even when you are playing, is much more valuable to you than the inconvenience of your character dying in-game. The more SRLIs you respond to appropriately, the less they will occur.
If you get up to deal with a SRLI and return to find that your untimely absence wiped the raid on the endboss, it's regrettable, but it's still OK. To assuage your guilt, feel free to pony up for the repair bills, but wipes happen for all kinds of reasons -- it's not that big of a deal. Again, no one lost levels and the wipe cleanup doesn't take very long. It really is OK to AFK.
Disagree with me? I'll tell you all about wiping on the Plane of Hate in EQ. And I'll make sure the description takes as long as it took to get my corpse back. Got a few hours?
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.