Wow: Addiction or Lifestyle?

October 3, 2008

There has been a lot of news in the media recently about gaming addiction, particularly related to World of Warcraft. While I recognize gaming addiction is a real problem, I believe a lot of people mistake a lifestyle choice for an addiction.

For example:

One week consists of 168 hours. During a typical week I spend:

  • 40 hours at work
  • 56 hours sleeping
  • 12 hours eating
  • I still have 60 hours left. I typically:

  • Work out at the gym three nights a week
  • Go walking on nights I don’t go to the gym
  • Prepare healthy, well balanced meals for hubby and me
  • Take classes from the local community college
  • Get together with family every weekend.
  • After all these things are done how much time do I spend in WoW?

    Approximately 40 hours per week.

    If most people knew that I spend 40 hours each week inside a virtual world playing a video game they would be horrified. I would be hustled off to the nearest addiction clinic and heralded as a danger to myself and society.

    But why?

    Clearly, I maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. I am a hard working, responsible member of society. I am committed to continuing my education. I have regular social interaction with family and friends. Given all that, what does it matter how I choose to spend the rest of my free time?

    I have friends who devote just as much time to scrapbooking, sports, music or watching television. Oddly enough, I have never yet heard someone express concern for these people.

    But, Aleathea, those people have something to show for the time they invest in their hobbies. You don’t. Eventually the game will end and you will look back with regret at the years you wasted on this addiction.

    Nothing to show for my time? Years wasted? Future regret? I challenge these common assumptions and offer the following for consideration:

    What I have gained from World of Warcraft:

  • Leadership Training.
  • Having acted as co-GM of a raiding guild for almost two years, I can tell you that dealing with interpersonal conflict, motivating and training, communication and problem solving, working with a team – these are real challenges and the experience gained from dealing with these situations is every bit as real as any experience gained outside the game.

  • Insight into other cultures, world views and perspectives.
  • In World of Warcraft you have the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life across mutliple continents. How often do you get an opportunity like that in real life? Most of us in real life deal with the same circle of friends who live in the same geographic location and look at the world in much the same way. How much do we really learn when we interact with the same people day in and day out? In World of Warcraft I encounter individuals from diverse cultures who challenged my opinions, my beliefs, my perspective on life. Through their eyes I see the world in a new light and gain exposure to fresh insights that challenge and enrich me.

  • Honed skills and creative expression.
  • I am thinking specifically of this blog – something that has grown out of my in-game experience. Through the support and shared knowledge of the blogging community, I have learned how to build a blog, how to develop my writing style, and how to communicate more effectively. I have found a challenging and rewarding venue in which to develop my skills and a creative outlet in which to share my passion for writing. These skills translate directly into my real life and help me on the job and in my interactions with friends and family. Just today my boss called me over with a question about HTML – something I only learned about because of my blog.

  • Techie Knowledge.
  • Early on it became apparent that a guild website would be an asset to the guild. I had absolutely no experience with computers, but I wanted a website that would be high-quality. I went with a guild hosting company that provided the framework, but I had to set up a lot from the backend. I bought books on HTML, BBC, CCS, Web Hosting, Web Design … you name it. I learned everything I could and I used the knowledge to create a website the guild could be proud of. I gained confidence through the experience as I saw myself learning to do things I never would have imagined possible.

  • Real Friendships.
  • Wait, Aleathea, you aren’t going to say those on-line people you play with are real friends are you?

    Yes, yes I am. I’ve written previously about the subject of on-line friendship, so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say, if there were no other benefits, no other lessons learned, nothing else I gained from my time in WoW, the friendships alone would be more than enough.

    If you want to call me a WoW addict, I won’t argue with you. It’s true I spend the majority of my free time in WoW. It’s true I have no plans to stop and would suffer emotional effects if I did. It’s true I devote much of my thoughts and energies in real life to WoW. But I don’t call it an addiction – I call it a lifestyle.

    Is this lifestyle for everyone? No.

    Is this lifestyle for me? Absolutely.


    P.S. If you are interested in this subject, I recommend reading WoW is a Social Operating System by Leafshine and listening to Alachia’s WowCast podcast.



    1. You put my exact feelings into words 🙂

      A great post as always, Aleathea. And I think you struck upon something very important there at the end: WoW is a lifestyle, though not one for everyone. When people don’t relate to (or understand) something they often dismiss it as bad.

      Though having a family and being a “hockey-mom” is considered a good lifestyle, being single, career-oriented and content is considered damaging and would not be seen as a lifestyle (or at least not as a good one).

      I’m having a bit of a hard time expressing what I mean, but to keep it short, my point was: you hit the nail on the head – not everyone will agree with or understand your life choices, but the bottom line is that they are still yours to make 🙂

      Again, great read. Keep up the good work!


    2. The time I put into the game is the same time other people put into things like TV, as I like to say. Really my biggest regret will probably be that I neglected other video games during my WoW phase! =P

      I have actually written about this before, a while back. I was a total Neopets junkie for a couple years, before WoW. I spent a whole year saving up enough Neopoints for the rarest Neopet in the game. I don’t play Neopets anymore but I don’t regret what I did. It was a big accomplishment and I met some great people. Same with WoW.

      Not to mention, WoW has introduced me to this wonderful blogging community we have! Speaking of which, I do want to compliment you on your excellent writing. Looking very forward to seeing more stuff from you 🙂

    3. Fantastic post. I’ve said the exact same things to people for years. My parents, friends, extended family…they don’t get it. “You spend so much time on this stupid game.” Well, it’s my time to spend, and if I weren’t gaining something from it, I certainly wouldn’t be spending it there.

      The qualities you’ve written, I’ve experienced as well and for the same reasons. Not to mention a million others – I’ve actually seen better short-term memory, increased focus, better reaction time, hand-eye coordination/motor-skill improvment (which is huge as an artist)…you name it, I found it on WoW. Those who don’t play can’t possibly understand the effect the game can have on your life. There are people who are immersed so fully that they neglect their health, and that is a problem. But for those of us who understand the need for balance, the game is a fantastic outlet and inlet for a million little things (and big things, too).

      And yes, the friendships we create here are very, very real. What makes a friendship real? Certainly not “hanging out”. Certainly not going for drinks or shopping or those other little get-togethers that, while pleasant, don’t create the substance of a friendship. A friendship is a relationship with another human soul who gains from you as much as you gain from them EMOTIONALLY and SPIRITUALLY, not necessarily physically. Anyone who calls my relationships with members of my guild “fake” or “insubstantial” doesn’t understand what a relationship is.

      Props to you. I think I’ll add you to my blogroll. Thanks for the intimate and honest blog. Much <3,


    4. Aendi, Pike & Narissa, thank you for the feedback.

      It is reassuring to know there are others who share my beliefs regarding the validity of on-line friendship and the rewards of a WoW lifestyle.

      Your kind words are also much appreciated. It is a pleasure to interact with my neighbors in this great blogging community. Thanks for stopping by!

    5. Don’t forget, you’ve also learned another language, leet speak! Now if someone comes up to you and says “Uber leet! Pwn some noobs!” You’ll know what they’re really saying is “My, you’re an exceptional person! Why don’t you go beat the living tar out of that person who isn’t as magnificent as you”.

    6. […] might not even raise any eyebrows amongst the gaming community anymore. Better authors than I have expounded at length on the subject. But the perception in the public eye is a different story. I’m […]

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