Right now, around the world, millions of people are actively infused in the recreational use of a powerfully addictive drug. They will spend hours tonight, staring off into space, make small repetitive movements with their hands, drawn into a fugue state. They will spend $180 a year to keep the access to this drug flowing, and it has not been unheard of for die hard addicts to spend thousands. They will spend hours without eating or sleeping, and when they are not actively engaged in using, they will spend their time thinking about using. The most serious users will not only spend hours a day using, but hours a day researching new and better ways to use. They gain absolutely no benefit from this drug, and though rare, the side effects of its use can be fatal.
What is this powerful drug, and how do I know so much about it? I was there. I was an addict. My drug of choice:
World of Warcraft
I am a World of Warcraft survivor. I played WoW, as we in the inner circles call it, for years. Always pushing myself a little bit harder in search of the next big fix. I had multiple toons (avatars in game), all of them at the highest levels possible. I had toons for tanking, toons for DPS, toons for PVP, and toons for making gold. The only thing I didn’t do was heal. There was an old joke about me an healing in my guild.
All told, I probably spent 50-60 hours a week playing WoW. I didn’t do much else. All of my free time was spent either playing WoW or researching better ways to play WoW. I would pour over its lore and stories when I could. I’ve skipped meals, and sleep to play WoW. Its not something I’m proud of.
Its been 2 months since the newest expansion has come out. [amazon_link id=”B002I0HKIU” target=”_blank” ]Cataclysm[/amazon_link] was intended to be a revitalization of WoW. It brought with it new content and a complete overhaul of the mechanics. It was designed for one reason, and one reason only, to pull burned out players like me back into the fold of full timers. I had not played actively for a couple of months, pulled aways for Azeroth and its stories by a mixture of a “been there, done that” attitude, and the sweet, intoxicating allure of blogging.
Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit that I gave up one addiction for another. I went from pushing keys to kill raid bosses to pushing keys to create something that I hope will lead to meaning for someone. The symptoms of my addiction are not dissimilar. I spend hours a night glued tightly to my computer. I still sometimes lack sleep, or skip a meal doing it. More often then not anytime I’m not actively focused on something else, I’m thinking about writing or what I want to write. I do research now by reading just about anything I can get my hands on.
So, I survived WoW. I went through a heavy stage of addiction and made it out on the other side clear and not entirely broke. It didn’t kill me at least. The temptation to go back and start playing is great. Sitting in my office right now, with my roommate logged in and talking about it pulls at me a lot. I’ve already stopped writing several times to look up little tidbits of information on his behalf. One glance at the lore started to pull me back in. Its a hard addiction to fight off, but I have a secret weapon. I can sit and write about how much it draws on me and lesson that pull.
Anyone who says that video games aren’t an addiction is either a dick, and addict, or misinformed. The human mind is needy. It likes stimulation, challenge and shiny lights it can focus on. A well made video game has all of those things. WoW is probably one of the best made games out there today, and the newest expansion just put more of that into it. Don’t get me wrong. I love video games, from MMOs all the way down to Angry Birds. I think we should just remember that video games, like anything else in life, is best with moderation.
Also, you shouldn’t play video games and drive. Trust me on this one.