When I was a young man, I had plenty of time, few responsibilities and I liked playing video games. I have fuzzy memories of playing Starcraft and Diablo from dawn ’till dusk, heedless of what class or meal I may have missed. I am no longer a young man, and while I still like playing video games, I now have more responsibilities than time.
Although my wife would disagree, I consider myself a “casual gamer.” I bring my hunter out of the shed about 5-7 hours during the week, running the daily heroic and finishing some daily quests for some cash. I get in a little more time during the weekend, so that’s when my guild usually does its raiding. I’m cheating a little bit here because I’m not including the time I spend on Elitistjerks or Femaledwarf trying to optimize my toon. I do that stuff while I’m at work, so technically I’m getting paid for it.
But finding steady, uninterrupted playing time is not as easy as it used to be.
Around the same time I started playing WoW, my wife started a new job. It was a major career change, and she has been taking a lot of work home with her to keep up. So that basically leaves me to keep the house in manageable shape and to tend to the needs of a very precocious 3 year old boy and two dogs who still refuse to learn to use the toilet.
About half the time, everything runs smoothly. My son sleeps soundly. I clean up around the house and take the dogs outside to do their business. I check with my wife/shop foreman to make sure that everything is up to code, and then finally… I enter Azeroth. The night passes without incident, and after collecting some badges & gold, and sharing some LOLs with the guildies, I log off. I then maybe read a book, watch TV or silently ponder the pain I’ve been feeling in my right elbow.
The other half of the time..?
That’s when I turn into a time burglar.
Sometimes it’s my son waking up from a bad dream or just wanting a drink. Sometimes it’s a choice between taking the dogs out again or having to deal with the “aftermath.” Sometimes it’s my dad on the phone desperately seeking help with the “Microsoft” on his computer. Sometimes it’s “Honey I need your help with something RIGHT NOW.”
Through intuition and hard-earned experience, I’ve learned that the line “I’d really love to help you and/or attend to our crying child, but I’m trying to kill Anub’arak right now – would you mind doing that yourself?”, will fail 100% of the time. Not only that, but the wife aggro that it builds can neither be misdirected or removed by feigning death (I’ve tried the latter.)
So I do what any responsible adult would do.
The time I’m gone ranges from a few minutes to forever, and all the while, my loyal guidies are left cooling their heels. They run around or dance, throw balls or pumpkins at each other, being ever so gracious and patient. If I’m lucky it only happens once, but there are nights when I am bombarded and it feels like I’m AFK after every fight. I’m then forced to choose between making my party wait some more or forcing them to look for someone to take my spot. Either way, it sucks for everybody.
Now I realize that this problem is not unique to me, and that some of the more weather beaten players go through this as well. The thing that gets me is the guilt. My colleagues’ time is just as valuable as mine, and I feel bad for wasting theirs. I’ve tried to stay out of groups because of this, to avoid inconveniencing them, but for some strange reason, they keep calling, and I keep joining.
Maybe that’s just the way of WoW. There’s no pause button, and life will constantly remind us that it’s still there. Most of the people who are in it know that, so hanging out for a few minutes waiting for me to switch the laundry might not be the worst thing in the world. Maybe that’s even a good thing. Who knows?
Now if you’ll excuse me, the dogs need to pee.