Recommended Reading

While scanning the WoW headlines over at DailyRadar.com, I saw one that really caught my attention from World of Matticus. It was the second part in a two part series about MMO gaming addiction, particularly World of Warcraft. The post is entitled, “Online Gaming Addiction Part 2 – Signs and Symptoms”. The story was written by guest poster Professor Beej, who happens to actually be a College Professor.

Upon seeing the headline, I had immediately thought, “oh no… Matticus has gone BRK on us”. Although quitting WoW isn’t necessarily a bad thing, often times it is associated with a negative impact on a person’s real life. Thankfully, it appears Matticus is simply trying to enlighten his readers and possibly try to reach some of them before it adversely affects their personal lives. Essentially, that’s what my intention is by linking these posts.

I think everyone should take a few minutes out to read what ProfessorBeej has to say, even if you don’t think you are at all addicted to the game. What you read may be surprising. You just may be able to relate to some of the things he has to say.

Here’s a little bit of my own experience with gaming addiction (namely WoW addiction) that you may want to read as well…

I was most definitely addicted to this game early on, so I found ProfessorBeej’s personal accounts of WoW addiction to be very similar to some of the feelings and behavioral patterns I’d expressed early in my WoW “career” as it were. Although I wasn’t as addicted or attached to the World of Azeroth as other admitted WoW addicts, I was pretty addicted nonetheless.

I was never really a “gamer” prior to WoW. In fact, I’d never even played an MMO before. That, among other factors, may have been one of the things that sucked me in the most. Playing WoW for the first time was the most unimaginably cool gaming experience I’d ever known.

Before World of Warcraft, the only other PC games I had really played were the Diablo series. I had always sort of frowned upon computer gaming, and had viewed it as a tremendous waste of time. However, I’d always had an affinity for role-playing adventure games, which went all the way back to my days of playing Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Commodore 64. I just dated myself there didn’t I… ;)

Like most young people back in the 80s and 90s, I enjoyed playing NES, Gameboy, Sega and some of the other gaming consoles and handhelds of the day. It was totally healthy and I wasn’t the least bit addicted to any of them. Well, Tetris was pretty addicting at times. ;)

Anyhow, it was at the age of 29 that I first got into computer gaming. Diablo was on sale for around ten bucks at the local Costco, so I thought what the hell… I had a lot of free time back then and was looking for something fun to do in the evenings that didn’t involve going out and closing down the bars. Needless to say, I was hooked right away. After playing the game for a few weeks I learned that a sequel had come out (I started playing Diablo right as D2 was about to hit).

Playing D2 was a whole new level of awesome. I had thought the first Diablo was as good as gaming could get, but Diablo II blew it out of the water. I continued playing pretty regularly in the evenings and had an absolute blast playing in single-player mode.

Once I discovered Battle.net it was all over for me. I was all about it. Being able to group with, and play against other people from all over the country was a whole new dynamic I hadn’t yet experienced in a game. I relished being able to transfer my items between characters, allowing me to try out a variety of builds and classes. Playing online made it so much easier to level as well, so I found myself wanting to try out multiples of every class.

I played D2 for probably around 4 years. Even though I was really “into it”, I wasn’t really all that addicted. It certainly took a backseat to other activities and mainly just caused me to watch a little less television.

Things took a slight turn when I introduced my wife to the game. Back when her and I first started dating, she was playing this mind-numbingly dull game on her computer that involved feeding fish or some nonsense. At that point in time, I actually hadn’t been playing all that much, but I thought maybe I’d introduce the game to her since she shared my interest in fantasy and other dorky type stuff.

She got hooked right away, and we suddenly found ourselves spending almost entire Saturdays staring at our respective screens. Now although we’d do some power-gaming now and again, we were both also really busy back in those days. She had a job working over 50 hours per week, and I was not only working full time during the week, but also working as a musician 3 weekends per month. We had a busy life, so the occasional marathon Diablofest was more of a guilty pleasure.

When I started becoming more involved with graphic design and web development I dropped some huge coin on a super-duper powerhouse of a PC. While I didn’t really have any interest in playing any other games apart from D2, I was curious to see what else was out there, and what sort of insane graphics my new machine was capable of handling.

I had seen and heard a little bit about WoW, but my early impression of it was that it looked too juvenile for my tastes. The ridiculously disproportionate weapons and some of the other perceived silliness just didn’t strike my fancy when compared to the shockingly mature content in the Diablo series.

After hearing a little more buzz about the game and then learning of Dave Chappelle’s endorsement of it (whom I respected very much as a comedian), I thought well… maybe it’s worth a look. I went ahead and put it on my Christmas wish list for 2005.

My wife bought me the game software, a strategy guide and a 2 month pre-paid game card. She’s a keeper I tell ya. I let the game sit for nearly eight weeks before I finally installed it. In the back of my mind I had this feeling that once I start this game, I’m going to have trouble backing away from the computer. I was right.

Initially, I was so overwhelmed by the content and character controls that I struggled for a little while just getting used to things. My wife was out of town on business when I first tried the game, but when she returned I gave her an introduction to it. Her first words after seeing Garwulf running around Teldrassil were, “give me the install discs”!

She installed the software, made a Dwarf Hunter, and set out on her own unique journey through the World of Azeroth. One of my most memorable in-game moments was when I finally reached the Eastern Kingdoms and ran all the way from Menethil Harbor to Ironforge so that we could “be together”. She and I both were truly in awe of this massive multiplayer game world.

After a few months of exploring this new world, my wife and I started to become incredibly consumed by it. We eventually got invited to a guild, where my wife instantly became a big hit. She was promoted to officer and banker within a week or two, and took the role very seriously. So seriously in fact, that eventually she paused for a moment to witness what had become of her life over the past few months and decided to immediately quit the game.

It was at that moment that I first realized I may be addicted to this game.

Her decision to leave Azeroth almost felt like a break up. I was really distraught for a few days afterward. This was exacerbated by the fact that my mother was gravely ill with cancer at the time. However, it was my mom’s illness that caused me to justify and validate my “need to play”. There is no question that my vulnerable condition and need for an escape from the real life horror of losing a loved one who was so dear to me, was ultimately the reason I was so sucked into the game.

After precisely two weeks of life without WoW, my wife decided to come back to Azeroth. She found that the time she’d normally spent playing WoW was now simply being filled by mindless TV programs. She decided she’d come back as a casual player, which is what she did. That was over three years ago, and although she beats herself up now and then because she feels like she wastes too much time playing the cursed game, she’s about as casual as it gets. And guess what…? She’s the banker as well as a high ranking officer for our guild. Ironic isn’t it..?

Her playtime now probably amounts to 6-8 hours per week at the very most, which includes organizing the guild bank and issuing DKP for bank donations. She’ll often go a week or more without logging in. A hardcore guild wouldn’t allow their banker to be so negligent, but that’s not how we roll. Our guild is very accommodating to casual players. At any rate, my wife has definitely exorcised her WoW demons.

WoW became more enjoyable than ever once my wife came back. Within about a month or so of her return to the game, we helped found our guild, Clan Destined, where we’ve remained ever since. Yet, just as the World of Warcraft was really starting to become incredibly fun for me once again, the real world was taking a turn for the worse.

My mom entered the hospital that summer and never went home after that. Her 10 year battle with cancer finally ended in the summer of ’06.

Along with family and friends, I spent nearly six weeks at her bedside, initially in the ER, then ultimately at Hospice. It was the most incredibly painful and horrifyingly surreal period of my entire life.

Once the dust settled from this earth shaking experience, and we returned to our regular lives and business as usual, I soon found myself drawn once again into the World of Azeroth. It’s such a fantastic stress outlet and escape from the troubles of real life. It’s really hard to avoid the compulsion to play when you’re going through periods of depression.

At this point in time I would say that I was moderately addicted. WoW hadn’t really adversely affected my life at this point, but it certainly hadn’t made it prosper any either. I viewed it as cheap therapy, and didn’t really see anything wrong with spending time in-game in order to cope with a lot of the stresses that I was dealing with in real life.

One morning I was sat at my computer playing WoW with a terrible hangover after having gone to some friends’ house the night before for a Halloween party. I remember sitting there thinking how shitty I felt and why on earth was I staring at a computer screen at 10am on a Sunday, when I probably should be out lying on the couch with my wife (and wrestling the remote from her clutches so that I could watch NFL). Needless to say, it wasn’t long after that thought when my wife walked in and made a joke about a WoW itnervention. Now granted she said it in jest, I knew she had some underlying feelings about my time spent playing WoW.

It was at this time that I thought, man… I am addicted to this game. I felt like total poop after having had too much fun the night before, yet I sat staring at a computer screen almost as if I felt like it was a duty. I woke up thinking, “well… I better get to leveling my Warrior”.

WoW has the ability to convince you that you need to constantly “work at it” to get anywhere. While there is some truth to that statement, the real truth is… why do you “need” to get anywhere within WoW..?

It is just a game.

Between dealing with the responsibilities of being a husband and a father, along with the gradual relief from my depression of losing a loved one, I ultimately saw WoW for what it was worth.

It is an incredibly fun usage of one’s time, but not something that should be heavily invested in.

There was a period of my life where I would get really irritable if I were unable to log on, or if I had some real life complications interfere with my playing time. All I can say is I am very fortunate that I shook that off. Like I said, I think a lot of that was due to my assumed need for an escape from my real life grief, but I’m grateful now that my feelings have changed.

Ironically, I was actually becoming a bit disenchanted with WoW just about the time I started HuntsmansLodge.com. I wasn’t searching for a way to get back into the game when I launched this site, I was merely trying to put a positive spin on all of my time spent in this virtual world. Since starting the site, I’ve played less and enjoyed the game more. Go figure.

Eventually WoW will be a thing of the past, and if you’re like my wife and I, hopefully you’ll look back on your time spent playing with pleasant thoughts and reflection. However, if you unwittingly made sacrifices in your real life in order to advance your life within the World of Azeroth, you’re going to be terribly sorry.

I shake my head at all of the regulars who hang out in Ironforge, dueling each other, spamming trade and flexing their epeens all day and night. While they may be godly in the World of Azeroth, what must their actual lives be like..? I don’t know, but it seems like you’re missing a lot of it if you’re spending 10-12 hours a day in front of a computer monitor. :(

Then again, I can often spend 10 hours per day in front of my computer screen. Wait a minute… I make money doing that. Nevermind. ;)

Holy shit… I just critted you guys with a massively crushing Garwulf wall of text!

Sheesh… I sure can ramble.

Anyway, this is why I don’t stress all of the number crunching and elitist bullshit that you get a lot of other sites. World of Warcraft is just a game and meant to be enjoyed. While part of my aim is to share advice and experience in order to enhance others’ level of play, I encourage fun more than anything.

I sometimes get laughed at for my rare pet obsession, but guess what… taming rare pets is the thing I enjoy most about this game. If you’re like me and would rather be lurking around Sholazar Basin hours on end looking for a Spirit Beast than wiping for three hours on a raid boss, then more power to you. It’s your fifteen bucks a month, so do what you enjoy.

Remember… being a noob isn’t necessarily a bad thing. ;)

Comments

  1. Prisonersix says

    My wife and I are totally addicted to WOW – and loving every minute of it :) It’s important that if you’re addicted to WOW – make sure your spouse or significant other is also. Barbeques? Bah! Road Trips? Bah! Battlegrounds? YES!

  2. Uchikoma says

    Following yet another iMac failure, I am left in the dark, unable to play WoW. Suffice to say I am getting withdrawl symptoms, and it is worrying. I nearly spent a couple of hundred pounds on a new laptop just to install WoW on for the week my computer will be away.

    Not a good sign.

  3. says

    @ Prisonersix

    Lol, I know what you mean. Honestly, I don’t know how couples do it when only one of them plays. Most of the men I know have wives or girlfriends that don’t understand, don’t support, or even detest WoW. I’ve seen quite a few of my online friends drop by the wayside over the years due to domestic problems as a result of WoW damaging the relationship.

    It’s nice that you can enjoy the game together, but don’t get too caught up with it. It’s easy to let WoW be the answer for your social life and a bulk of your interaction together. Try not to let it get to that point. Trust me.

    @ Uchikoma

    Yep. You’re definitely having WoW withdrawls. When I first started playing there were log on queues, and often times the log on process could take several minutes or even hours while they were working out technical difficulties. I used to get sooo angry at this. It was weird.

    When my wife found her WoW experience to be stifled by her shitty computer at the time, we ended up ordering her a brand new custom built PC that was on par with my own, solely for WoW. Granted she did need a PC upgrade anyway, the primary reason for it was just so that she could enjoy WoW. Waiting for the PC to arrive at our house seemed like an excruciatingly long time.

    Honestly, it’s good to take a week or so off now and then, either by going on a trip or just taking care of business or things around the house. Sometimes it can get to the point where you’re not really sure what to do with your time if you can’t play WoW. That is not good. Like ProfBeej states in his posts, try and remember what it was you used to enjoy doing or how you’d spend your time before WoW.

    Aside from the responsibilities of RL kicking me in the ass, a few realizations that really caused me to devalue the time I spent playing WoW…

    It’s a virtual world that will someday cease to exist, yet the world “we live in” continues to go on. I used to enjoy playing D2 quite a bit. I spent 4+ years having a blast with that game. After about two months of playing WoW I logged into D2 and quickly realized all of my beloved characters had expired. Poof! All gone. All that time I’d spent leveling them and gearing them, and now they were history.

    It wasn’t a huge deal, since I had no time for D2 anymore even if I did want to play. But the fact was, that gaming experience ended for me in the blink of an eye, much as WoW will eventually end one day. Then it occurred to me… I don’t want to sit here a few years from now thinking I lost a chunk of my life during that time.

    WoW is incredibly fun to play, but unfortunately the grindfest nature of the game causes an addiction. You have to invest so much time in order to advance your character(s) that eventually it becomes like a job. You start feeling like you “have so much to do”. This is when it becomes time to step back and think about things.

    Three years ago I would come home from work, log on and start queueing Alterac Valleys for hours on end. I’d do that for weeks. I felt I had to obtain at least rank 10 before I’d be happy. Eventually I did get there, but I was literally exhausted by the end and pretty burned out to tell you the truth. At that point the game had stopped being fun for me and became more of a compulsion.

    A common symptom of addiction is when you feel like you’re really missing out on something if you are unable to play. I dealt with those feelings for a few years. My wife would want me to watch TV with her or something, and I would sit there frustrated because I was asked to watch the idiot box instead of being able to do something “meaningful” in the World of Warcraft. Although, watching TV isn’t necessarily a good alternative to playing WoW, spending actual real life time with your significant other is.

    I’m not sure if you raid or not, but being part of an active raiding group is a sure fire way to get you in trouble. When you have to start regularly scheduling life around WoW you definitely have a problem. Hardcore raiders are like drug addicts. Either their lives become damaged by the effects of the addiction, they eventually realize what they’re doing and quit, or both. I know that when I disassociated myself from regularly scheduled activities, it made things so much easier for me. I still raid on occasion, but only when it’s convenient for me.

    The truth of the matter is you’re not missing anything by not being able to log on. However, there can be a lot that you are missing out on in real life if you’re not careful. The best example of this I can give is BigRedKitty. I saw the writing on the wall months before he quit.

    My advice is to use this time off from WoW wisely and reset how you feel about the game. Set small goals for yourself when you do log on and simply log off when they’re complete. When you find yourself dilly dallying around in Dalaran wondering, “well… let’s see… what do I need to do now?”, that’s when it’s time to log off. Remember… too much of a good thing isn’t usually healthy. If you’re more disciplined about your play time and are ensuring that your real life is in balance, then your time in WoW will be much more rewarding.

  4. Uchikoma says

    Well thats the thing, before WoW I used to just drink heavily and watch hours of anime. My partner plays WoW, and we quest/boost together all the time, so it’s doubly hard that she is sat upstairs romping all over Azeroth and I am nursing a bottle of Merlot while watching DearS.

  5. Roarbeard says

    Thanks for the post gar. After reading this my wow time is definitely gonna take a hit. I have noticed not hanging with my family as much so I had already decided that when my family was home in the evenings I would absolutely not play wow until they went to bed. Now, I think I’m gonna pick up my guitar again and maybe study some Greek. Good post. :)

  6. says

    @ Roarbeard

    That’s pretty much what I started doing. Unless my wife logs in during the evenings, I usually just wait until after she’s gone to bed before I get on. I relax with her and my kid before he goes off to sleep, then afterward it gives us a little quiet time in the evenings.

    Once you can sit down, look forward to, and feel good about being able to play WoW, the better off you’ll be. A lot of us get in the habit of just logging in every spare moment we have – that’s when it’s a problem. WoW’s a an extremely fun and pretty economic form of entertainment as long as you don’t let it interfere with your life.

    GL w/ the Greek. ;)

  7. says

    Thanks for the link, first of all. And second, I think it’s fantastic that you were able to share this story about you and your wife. Many people try to hide being too involved in the game because of the stigma it holds.

    You’re right in that fun is the most important aspect of gameplay. If the game has become so stressful and expanded past where it impacts one’s life without returning that fun, it’s time to reprioritize.

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