Addiction does not only occur in games. It’s in everything, everywhere and comes in various forms. For some, it’s TV but for others it’s sky diving and mountain climbing without safeties. While a sport is usually regarded as something healthy, hip and cool, if you were to play tennis for 3 days in a row without taking sufficient breaks, you would probably hurt yourself, collapse or die. If you go in a bar to drink a few beers and leave your baby in your car, he’ll probably suffer and could die. It doesn’t matter what you’re in too, if you neglect your own life, you’ll soon or later suffer the consequences.
Of course, physical effort can only go so far that you’ll probably be too exhausted to continue until you’re well rested. Drinking at a bar and leaving your baby in your car is likely going to attract odd attention. However, playing your favorite MMO doesn’t really require much more then your right and left hand plus a little bit of brain activity. It’s easy to wake up, open the computer, log in a game and then just slip through time until you’re tired. This is actually a very common behavior in most MMOs. People will stay that extra 2 hour late to finish a dungeon, some will skip a meal or a shower in order to maximize their time online. Others will simply take a day off on expansion day or take a special week off for their new MMO. Which in my book are all questionable behaviors but are they actually bad?
That depends of the life the person has. Maybe his week off is taken with his love one? I’m talking real physical love one, not an E-lover here. This means, the couple gets to spend time together while playing their favorite game. Maybe taking a day off on expansion day is also due to the fact that the person has been working insane hours for the past 3 months. A little break in virtual reality land is not a bad idea. So how do you know if you’re destroying your life or not?
It’s hard really because some don’t need more then 5 hours sleep… others are balanced individual that happens to love spending it’s free time on an MMO. However, not everyone is like that and sometimes without even knowing it, a few are slowly sinking.
“Wow that guy is asking a lot… taking care of another human being.. humm”
Well, I’m not a doctor or expert but here’s a few things that I learned through the years. I guess you could call them reflections. It’s a constant reminder that I give myself… So I’m sharing this story with you and I hope that for some, it will help.
I’m originally not an MMO player. I’m a competitive FPS player or at least I used to be and I a pretty good one as well. I’ve been part of the same clan and community since 1999. During a Quake III season, I was drafted to a team and since then, we all became close friends. Back then I was 17 years old and aside from high school, drugs, beer, music and gaming, life was smooth sailing in my little flat downtown. We used to play Quake III 3 times a week from 7pm to 11pm. That was usually enough time to prepare our strategies for our weekly match and iron out little details. At the time our team captain was my age today and every hour or so, he would simply say “Alright folks, take 5”. That 5 minutes usually meant 10 to 15 minutes but it was enough to take a leak, get some water, make a sandwich and close your computer screen for a while until people would start talking on Roger Wilco again. Since we would take a break between each scrim or practice session, I had the time to clean my 4 ½ flat, make dinner, laundry and other simply tasks. If you think about it, 15 minutes time 4 means, I had one hour of house work done everyday. That was enough to keep the place clean and healthy. Besides, no matter what people think, when you competively play an intense game like Quake, you need to take breaks once in a while. When our Quake days were over, we all started to play an MMO known as Mankind. Then around 2001, we started to lose a few members to Everquest. One by one had stopped to connect on Teamspeak. When we wanted to play a Quake game, they would refuse with a silly reason such as “na, I have a dungeon tonight”. Eventually, we lost touch with a few and never saw them again. The rest on Mankind and Quake were still together since both games could be played casually… Quake eventually became RTCW and Mankind soon became SWG.
SWG was a great game and we were good at it. Our clan, became a guild and within a few months in, we had hundreds of members, 2 cities and 12 faction HQ. Our FPS teamwork really shined during PVP sessions and our guildhall was decorated with some of the most amazing items in the game. Then for the first time, my girlfriend got mad for neglecting her 4 nights in a row. My garbage had a worm infestation (it was a hot week) and the dishes were pilling up. As the weeks went by, all I really wanted to do was to be online with my guild and do stuff with them. I started to lose track of time and some friends vanished except my friends online. That’s when our old team captain snapped and went on a long rant about how SWG was a big waste of time and that he missed competition and being famous for real skills over stupid levels and better gear. During that time, our 200+ guild was beginning to break apart in sub factions with all those wacky political wars. Eventually, I got tired of it and pulled the plug, closely followed by the core clan, we went from 200+ members and 2 cities to nothing within a few days. We closed our Ventral servers and re-opened our original one. For a while we went on WOW but when one of our member had a nervous breakdown due to the game, all decided to quit and go back to our old ways.
Since then, we’ve been happy again, my house and life found it’s right balance and I even made a band with a few friends. Our album is coming out soon and each month, we get more offers and more shows. My gaming time is slowly going under the 15 hours per week instead of 40+. I’m ten years older, I bought a house, many in my clan are now married with a few kids. Some of them even call me Uncle Nico when they see me. I’m still looking forward for the next big MMO but now our clan monitors each other. We encounrage each other to remain as casual as possible. We still have around 20 to 30 constant people online every night so it never really gets lonely. All in all, we’re one of the luckiest group of friends on the internet.
However, we did see some tragedies and we did lose some friends in the long run. For a while I went from mister popular with the awesome super hot GF to mister gaming hermit. One of my best friend left his wife because she was so addicted to her MMOs that she fell in love with a random sir and had several affairs with her guildies, not to mention that she was also neglecting her kids… As I mentioned earlier, WOW triggered a depression on one of my friend and she had to quit her job, quit playing games and take some medications for almost 6 months. We saw other issues but the main big ones are the ones that terrified us.
We don’t care about the loots, we don’t care about the 8 hour raids 5 times a week, we don’t care about being popular on our server and we definitely don’t care about playing 12 hours in a row. Trust me, we will have those occasional marathons…
Are we still gamers?
Is there a lot of hot chicks hanging out on our ventrilo?
Heck yeah and they pwn face on FPS games. Hey, it’s a highlight :P
Are we happy now? Yes we are!
Are we going to play another MMO?
Yep, of course but we will never fall like we did in the past, we will simply play for fun.
The past years will always be a reminder of how life, was once bad. During that time, it was simply an illusion, an illusion of accomplishing something epic. Sadly, that accomplishement is nothing more then a few cool images put together and a bunch of people cheering at you on a forum. It’s not me playing on a stage, sweating like a madman and making a crowd jump just by lifting a finger. It’s not my friends with their awesome family, playing hockey with their kids and planning out a picnic out. Doing a raid or drinking an awesome perfect chilled beer on a terrace with your friends… Effortless and yet so much fun with the right people at the right place. Your reward? Good time!
Be a gamer but remember, time doesn’t stop around you. So each second you spend on a virtual world is a second you don’t spend in your reality. I know it’s not always pretty but that’s how you’ll make it better; by not running away in a fantasy land and getting your act together. It’s hard but everyone can make it. If not, ask for help.
If you see someone slowly eating himself in an MMO, then perhap you should talk to him. Don’t let your love ones sink until it’s too late. You don’t have to directly tell them they have a problem, you can simply help them find other means of entertainement and escape. Of course, in the end it’s his or her decision but at least you tried. Us, we monitor each other but as I said earlier, our captain did and later on it was me and other leaders in our core group.