“It’s only a game.” Many a discussion (and blogpost) has started with this phrase. While this is essentially true, it’s not “only” a game for everyone. The difference lies in priorities.
Samsara has always held on to the phrase “Real life goes before WoW”. It reflects in every aspect of what we do as a guild: from questing to instances, from social get-togethers to raiding. This is mainly because of our player demographic, consisting of a lot of parents who need to keep an eye on their children, or people who may get urgent calls for whatever other reason. These people can’t put their life on hold during a raid, so if the kids wake up crying while mommy is smacking Razuvious around the room, then Razuvious will have to wait.
Yes, it can be disappointing if you have to stop a raid this way. Because someone has to drop out in this way and there’s no replacement available. Does it matter? No, not so much. Everyone in Samsara knows that this can happen, and has accepted it as a fact. More hardcore guilds might argue that such behavior is detrimental to the overall progress of a guild. They might be right, and I fully understand their point of view, but they are clearly a different type of guild with different values. They put World of Warcraft on a higher priority than Samsara, obviously. And that’s fine, because last time I checked everyone was still free to play the game however they want to.
Is there a place where we have to draw the line though?
One of the longest lasting debates in video game history ever is the question whether or not they are addicting, and how to “control” that. I’ve always been of opinion that the video game itself is never to blame, but the person in question. Addiction is a “state of mind”, crudely worded. The video games are merely the medium, and if you’d take that medium away another would take its place. And because most people who jump on the “OMG video games are bad” bandwagon are scared and uninformed, you get silly things like video game bans and lawsuits against developer companies.
However, putting the bad solutions aside, it can’t be denied that there are people who take it too far. And perhaps you know someone in your environment that you think plays a bit too much. Is this merely because you have different views of how to play the game, or can you really call it an addiction?
In my group of friends, World of Warcraft has developed a bad name. It started with one of my friends, who was completely dragged into the game. Before long, we never saw him again. He stopped showing up at our weekly Magic night, and turned down almost every invitation for a social event that came his way. This lasted for about a year or so, until he “came back to us”. He stopped playing, and got back into the social scene with his friends and family.
Then, a while later, another friend of mine became hooked as well. This was different however. He didn’t go into seclusion, but did show up a lot less. Whenever he was around, WoW would be his main subject, even though no one else played. He’d turn down social events because he was raiding, and in one case he even invited us over to watch a movie, but went into SSC himself, leaving us alone with the movie while he was on his way to Vashj. The ending to this story is the same as the first, thankfully, but does leave you thinking.
It’s up to you to decide which of these two stories you think is worse. For me, a lot of the details regarding their current affairs, situations and feelings became clear some time after the events, and has led me to believe that the first was unavoidable, whereas the second was not. Had WoW not come along, the person in the first story would have gone into seclusion anyway, but with something else. Person two mostly just got his priorities mixed up.
Defining these priorities is very hard, however. If you want to draw a line, you’ll find it becomes more of a grey zone. Will you turn down an impulsive invitation for a drink at the pub for a raid that’s been confirmed for five days? Real life goes before WoW, doesn’t it?
My group of friends has a lot of impulsive get-togethers. Movie here, grabbing a drink there, there’s always something going on and you never know until a few hours in advance. For me, if there’s a raid planned and I’m attending, I’ll kindly turn down the invitation and tell them I have other plans. I only raid 2-3 days a week (assuming I’m picked every single week and/or decide to sign up), which leaves plenty of opportunities for something fun in the real world. Also, I’ve designated Friday as my official WoW-night off, as that’s our weekly Magic night (the only day we actually plan on getting together). Nothing, not even an Ulduar25 progression raid will make me give that up. And should anything urgent come up, I’ll kindly explain to the raid leader that I won’t be able to attend/continue the raid, quickly find a replacement if time permits, and be off. These are the boundaries I’ve created for myself, the priorities I’ve set.
As with everything, there is no single correct answer. People tend to think in extremes, thinking it’s either one or the other. It’s not. Every situation is different, and it’s up to you to make the right decision.
As long as you stay in touch with what’s important, you will.