When I moved in with my father, part of it was a genuine interest in reconnecting with him, and part of it was a keen desire to help around the house and simply keep him company. My dad turns 83 this year, although you couldn't really tell that from looking at him or talking to him. He grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, worked for Dow Chemical for an extraordinary number of years, retired, and somewhere in between had two marriages and five children. (I'm one of the products of the second marriage.)
He has seen quite a lot in his life. He saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarves when it premiered in theaters in 1937. His first car was a Model-T that he dug out of a neighbor's manure pile and inexplicably got running again when he was 14. He served in the military as a paratrooper, worked with some of the first computers in existence, and can fix just about anything I bring to him, regardless of how technologically advanced the thing is. He hasn't grown old so much as he's watched the world get older around him and adapted to it as time goes on.
And yet I still have this terrible reticence about trying to explain to him exactly what it is I do on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, and what I do for a living.
A Sunnier Bear had an absolutely lovely post about this in which she talked about her own experiences explaining WoW to her family, who not only follow her progress but follow her on Twitter as well. While her family doesn't quite get all the nuances of playing the game, they know enough to ask her questions and they actively try to understand what she does with her free time. And that? That is a pretty cool thing to have, right there.
In contrast, I don't talk about my gaming with my family too much. They have a brief understanding of what I do, but I don't go into details all that much. I believe I coined the term Computer Thing for raiding with my Dad; when I moved in, I explained that I had things I did on certain nights, and when he asked for clarification, I said I was doing computer things with friends. As time went on, I explained a bit more about what I was doing, how it was a game, but a game with 24 other people all working together. He thought it was a neat idea but left it at that.
When I got the job here at WoW Insider, it required another explanation of sorts. This time, I explained that the computer things that I did three times a week with friends involved a game with a big old, huge story and a lot of books behind it, and I was going to be writing about that story. On the internet. For people to read. I don't know if he got it at the time, but he was delighted that I was writing and getting paychecks for doing so, as he used to write when he was younger (when he wasn't digging old cars out of manure piles).
My brother and my sister don't quite get what I do, either. They understand I write about video games, but neither of them play, really. My sister has a family of her own with four boys to take care of, so there's little time for video games. My brother works long hours at a job that pays relatively well, and he doesn't really feel the need to play games like WoW when he's done at work. Usually he just watches movies or something along those lines.
I think what makes it difficult has nothing to do with my Dad or my siblings -- honestly, it's just me. I think, in a world that talks about video game addiction and how games are terrible for you and how people waste their time on games, that I don't want to come across as one of those people with said video game addictions. It's not really an addiction; it's something to do for fun. Only now, it's also evolved into a job that I do -- which is weird enough for me to think about, much less explain to other people.
I do find myself wondering however, the same question that A Sunnier Bear asked: How do people explain WoW to non-WoW players? I can't quite figure out how to do it, myself -- not without coming across as slightly crazy. It's like trying to explain how to do electrical wiring to someone whose experience in the matter goes as far as flipping a light switch. So how do you do it, and make it sound ... sane?
My Dad came into my room one night while I was raiding, just in time to see my guild finish off heroic Halfus Wrymbreaker. I remember the look of intense curiosity on his face as he watched, while my guild was cheering happily in my ears via my headset. He absorbed the candy colors on the screen, the little elves, orcs, tauren and other assorted players scurrying around a glittering corpse, and asked, "So did you just kill that thing?" I said yes, and then he asked me about what I was making for dinner the following night, the technicolor celebration forgotten.
I asked him once what it was like to see Snow White in the theaters back in 1937. I mean, there he was, experiencing history, something that would begin a whole new genre of film, something that just boggled my mind. What was it like to experience that first hand? He said, "It was all right, for a cartoon."
I think, rather than going into explanations about the game or the impact it's made in its lifespan, I'll just stick to calling WoW that Computer Thing. It's probably for the best.