Wednesday, 20 January 2010

World of Waste

Via Lord of the Green Dragons, I came across this page while doing my pre-work session of killing time on the internet. It suddenly put that into perspective. Ordinarily I feel bad for wasting about an hour between 8.30 and 9.30 each morning checking emails and surfing forums. Suddenly I feel good about myself for not being a World of Warcraft addict.

It's easy to be dismissive about addiction to computer games. The natural reaction (at least, my natural reaction as somewhat of a cynic) is to say "Pull yourself together, for God's sake, you're acting as if you're a smack addict when all you're doing is spending too much time playing a game." But it undoubtedly has frightening and serious effects, and to be frank I think you'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for some of these people (if their accounts are true):

While I was playing WoW, I put on 40 lbs, became socially isolated from friends and family, and the only thing that mattered to me was getting back to my computer to play for 30 hours straight and tricking myself into thinking 'hey, you're accomplishing something...beat that raid boss, become a brutal gladiator' BUT in the end none of it mattered! I eventually failed out of my program of choice in university and developed a relatively severe form of agoraphobia. One day I was bored and wanted to check my /played, and to my amazement I had accrued 170 days (4080 hours) played on one character! At this point I took a step back (more of a waddle given my weight) and realized it was time to quit.

Since quitting WoW, I've lost 60 lbs and finally feel confident in myself once again - I'm not afraid to go outside or to socialize with people. I'm back in university and instead of having a semester filled with D's and F's, I have a 3.92 GPA and am living life to the fullest. While I still miss the game occasionally, I can always look back and see how my life had deteriorated solely due to pixels on a screen.

I'm, or should we say was?, a happy, bubbly teenager. I had the best friends anyone could have and had very close relationships built with them. I was an honour student, perhaps even the best in the cohort.
It all started with the 3 most deadly words I would hear at this time.
"World of Warcraft".
Without thinking twice, I bought the game and a game card. I was letting a monster install itself on my computer. It was my biggest mistake.
Within hours, I was in the world of Azeroth, making my own avatar. My second mistake.
That first night I played for 5 hours. It lured and captured me into its mythical world.
Soon it over-rided my grades, bringing them to an all time low. It caused me to stay inside and gain weight. Further more, it was my fault. When I should've been studying I always said the too-familiar to us words. "Just an hour more". An hour turned to two, two to three and before I knew it I was hooked.
In total, I haved wasted over 2 years of my life.
I lost 2 years. I lost my friends. I lost my neat figure and I lost important opportunities. Relationships came and went just as the seasons did. Instead of spending time with my then-partner, I excused myself as sick just to go home and spend a few hours in Azeroth.

I think the lessons for us as roleplayers are a) We have a social and creative hobby and should be thankful for that, and b) We should play up the differences between RPGs and computer games, not try to make RPGs as computer-gamey as possible, because those differences are a strength.


  1. " We should play up the differences between RPGs and computer games, not try to make RPGs as computer-gamey as possible, because those differences are a strength."

    Agreed! CRPGs are so limited and unimaginative, I can't see why anyone plays the damn things.

    The advancement of table top rpgs definitly is not served by crippling them with computer game sensibilities.

  2. I concur. I've said it since they announced 4th. Edition D&D at GenCon two years ago, they're missing the point. The real marketable hook for tabletop RPG's is the social aspect. Online play is fine and all, and I know a lot of folks for whom that's the best they can do, but still and all it's the face to face experience that really makes this hobby worthwhile.

  3. I agree with all of you!

    However, it always fascinated me, how people can get into WoW so much. I tried to play it once and, to me, it was utterly booooring.

  4. It's very interesting that you bring this up, because I've seen this happen with people I know. For me, it was bad enough when I was playing Morrowind; the sandbox character of that CRPG was such that I really got into it, playing the game for hours and hours - only to eventually realize that I was bumping up against the boundaries of the world, with no real social interaction as an added minus.

    World of Warcraft therefore seemed like Morrowind, only larger. The social interaction of guilds - such as it was - seemed stilted and designed to cater to power gamers. The fact that there was little if any interaction with the designers, aside from an endless series of scripted "adventures" sounded like I was supposed to enjoy a very elaborate "railroad" "adventure" - get me outta there!

    No, it is the social aspect of tabletop role-playing that makes it unique - and worthwhile. Something to enjoy with friends directly, and not just in an isolated CRT-lit basement.

  5. I've watched my nephew get sucked into WoW and not have much of a life. He's backed off, some... but I've also found that most people hit a natural saturation where they walk away.

    I know that I have the obsessive personality to get sucked into WoW, which is why I won't play it, or any other MMORPG.

  6. Great post. I used to play WoW a couple of years ago and I know exactly how addictive MMOs can be.
    I totally agree with making sure to play up the differences between tabletop RPGs and MMOs. I worry that kids that would have turned to DnD or other table top games in the 80s and 90s are now going to games like WoW instead.

  7. I don't know if I agree or not. There are some lessons we shouldn't be taking from CRPGs, but there are some that streamline the process a lot, something I value. If you'll excuse a weird metaphor, a rabbit that learns to store food by watching the squirrels is better at being a rabbit for having done so.