This week, I'm answering an email from Sylvanra:
How do I tell my friends about WoW? It isn't a common topic of conversation, but when it does come up I usually get a little negative attention for playing, then the conversation goes on. Because of this, I kind of play it down, but I answer questions about my hobby truthfully, I certainly don't want to jeopardize my real life relationships! But I would like to somehow let them know more about WoW and why I play, without getting the negative attention I have gotten in the past. I love my friends to death, but we certainly don't agree on how we spend our free time!
I'm very open about my WoW habit. I wore my Wrath of the Lich King t-shirt to Disneyland this past weekend, which got me accosted by a young kid outside of the Snow White ride who wanted to make a character on my server so he could chat with me more there. A Disney castmember even interrupted his safety spiel to shout out his love for the game when he saw what I was wearing. It's obvious that there are a lot of WoW-lovers out there who are dying to talk about it. But there are also a lot of WoW players who prefer to keep their hobby on the down-low, including one or two of my friends who thought that wearing a Blizzard t-shirt to Disney was just a bit too fangirl.
I don't know if Blizzard is paying for product placement or if shows are trying to reap South Park-like rewards for WoW-related episodes, but mainstream mentions of WoW help those of us with friends who give us grief for our hobby. Not that we should be embarrassed about spending our leisure time in Azeroth, but I agree with you that some friendships are worth keeping even if they don't understand your choice of recreation.
Until MMO-playing becomes as mainstream as following a television series, there will be awkward moments with our non-Azerothian friends. Humor is the best way to get through these moments. Here are a few suggestions to try not-too-seriously, though the last two have worked for me many times:
Resistance is futile
Explain that geeks are very quickly taking over and cite the mainstream mentions of WoW as an example. Promise your friend a good place in the new world order if he will just be tolerant of your gaming hobby now.
"That's right! I play WoW! It's fun! insert profanity here" I haven't tried this, but everyone seems to get along better after confrontations on Kitchen Nightmares. Of course, you may also have to redecorate your friend's living room to get the same result. (That's right! I have a crush on Gordon Ramsay. You got a problem with that? insert profanity here)
The best defense is a good offense
Ridicule your friend's favorite hobby in a similar fashion. When your friend counter-argues, use similar arguments to defend WoW.
Make them feel left out
Explain that you would go into more detail about how much fun you are having in WoW, but they just wouldn't understand. Name the friends who do understand and with whom you can discuss your pastime. Then pointedly change the subject to something very mundane like the weather.
It could be worse
Talk about a less socially acceptable hobby that you may or may not actually have. I find that people would rather talk about WoW than my yarn addiction most of the time. If you describe in detail the process of your new earthworm taxidermy pastime, your friends may be more than happy to hear about your new phat lewts instead.
Explain the fun you have in WoW. Give a foundation of what the game is about and what you like most about it. Tell two of your funniest stories from PUGs. Devote some real time to the topic, expressing your enthusiasm and ignoring any attempts to change the subject. When you're done, your friends will either
- Become open to exploring the game themselves or
- Avoid the subject in the future and never ridicule you again to avoid more WoW stories.
Beware: You may not be happy with the results. But the best way to get your friends to be more accepting of your WoW habit is to get them to play, too. You could start by showing them the game and then inviting them to try the 10 day trial with you. It may be a struggle with your non-gamer friends and it definitely isn't for everybody, but until they spend some time thumping Lazy Peons or fetching beer for Dwarves, they will have a hard time understanding why you spend your leisure time the way you do.
Teaching people tolerance of anything is always difficult and gaming gets enough bad press to make this especially challenging. Good friends, however, should be easier to convince that your adventures in Azeroth are at worst a harmless expenditure of your leisure time. Hopefully, you can teach your friends to be as tolerant of your fun as non-roleplayers should be of roleplayers, raiders should be of those who don't have time to raid and casuals should be of those who do.
I hope this helps, Sylvanra. And when things get tough, remember that there are 9 million people worldwide who are in the same boat as we are. Keep in touch.
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.