I used to play WoW every chance I got. Either at home, at work, or whether I had anything else to do that day or not. It just didn’t matter. I remember sitting and playing for huge stretches of time and not even noticing. 3pm came around, and I still hadn’t eaten breakfast. When I did recognize that I was playing way too much, it was something I got defensive about with anyone who brought it up.
For me, WoW was filling the void left behind by my daughter. It was a way to escape the pain of everyday life. It was a way to banish the tedium of responsibility that got lost in my depression-fueled haze. I’d rather stay inside and WoW, than to go outside and be reminded everywhere I turned that I no longer had a daughter. Seeing little children reminded me. Seeing parents reminded me. Looking at my rearview mirror and seeing an empty car seat reminded me.
A lot of my WoW playmates have stories similar to mine. They’ve lost a loved one or they’re unemployed or they’re unhappy with their life. They desperately want to fill a void and they’re using WoW to do it.
It can’t possibly be like that for everyone. We can’t all be running from something. For some, WoW is something they do to hang out with friends or to blow off a little steam. It’s not so much an escape as a way to enable greatness.
I can’t help but think that there’s a far more valid explanation for our playing habits, whether we’re addicted to the game or not. Because is gaming really an escape? There’s still loss in games. There’s still failure in games. There’s still responsibility and accountability in games and all of it feels just as real as it does in the real world.
I don’t know if games really allow us an opportunity to escape at all.
They allow us an opportunity to fix these crippling problems that we can’t fix in our out-of-game lives. There’s no fear of losing your job because there’s always something to kill for some extra gold, and since you’re a complete badass you can do it whether you’re sick or pregnant or you have a bad back. You may not have the best social or leadership skills in the real world, but you can master something in WoW and earn the admiration of tons of other people. And if you lose someone in game, all it takes is a quick rez to get them back on their feet. Or worst case, a couple minutes’ run back to their body where they are restored to fit and fighting shape.
WoW helps us conquer troubles we could only dream about solving in the real world. It makes us a better, more capable version of ourselves, and who wouldn’t want that?
Therein lies the problem, though. It’s not easy to stop running from something, but stopping and turning around to face our worries is a heck of a lot easier to accomplish than figuring out how we’re going to manage to deal with this, that, and the other without superhuman abilities.
The trick to beating it, I think, is in understanding that you do amazing things every day. Maybe losing your job was the catalyst you needed to take a leap and go back to school or be your own boss. Maybe in experiencing loss firsthand you can be the strong, sturdy shoulder for someone else in need.
I don’t think we’re all running from something. I think we’re just a little stuck on the path and looking for the best way up. The secret is taking what you learn from your climb in WoW and applying it to your everyday life. Set small, tangible goals and reward yourself when you reach them. With the right motivation you can be just as awesome in the real world as you are in WoW.
Over the past few years I’ve focused more on day to day achievements, rather than what I accomplish in game. Teaching my kids values that will stick with them their whole lives. Raising my boys to grow up to be men. Supporting my friends when they need a helping hand. Being that “strong woman behind every man.” Some of these achievements aren’t immediately tangible, but I know it will all pay off in the end. I keep focusing on the end result.
It works for me, but what do you think? Are you using WoW as an escape, or as a way to push past your problems? What are you great at in WoW that you wish you could carry over to the real world?