"It is far more rewarding to achieve your potential in real life."
January 31, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

IRL : "You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living until the escape becomes the habit." A short film by a recovering WoW addict.
posted by crunchland (35 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
That was affecting. At first I thought it was a bit flat, but on consideration I think it had just the right emotional tone.
posted by OmieWise at 3:25 PM on January 31, 2012

Lately I've been seeing ads to play the beginning levels of WoW for free, just like the caricature of a drug dealer our teachers warned us about.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:34 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a really great video. A lot of the talk about "gaming addiction" focuses on the idea of a particular game or class of game as a vector of vice and evil. This kid's video captured something different and a lot more nuanced. Great find.
posted by verb at 3:35 PM on January 31, 2012

Man, that game looks good. I played it on and off for a year or two, but I never got anywhere near his level.

He should totally get out in the world, have lovers, a career. Then, when he has children, he can go play WoW again because he won't be able to go out and have any fun. And he'll have a great character to play with. Win-win!

Lovely video, too. His flat delivery was really genuine and touching.
posted by alasdair at 3:42 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

At first I thought the idea was that irl was the game, and Sevrin was the real person. Which is a cool idea - the game character wondering what life is like outside the game. But, it turned out much more conventional than that. Still, I thought it was nicely done, and the guy is very likeable. (The accent doesn't hurt. Just sayin.)
posted by Glinn at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2012

Addiction isn't about the things we do but the things we do not do
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:13 PM on January 31, 2012 [13 favorites]

Nine months immersion for me. before I grew weary of it. I still have fond memories of roaming the world with my Level 70 Druid, though, back when that was maxed out. He was an awesome, awesome char.
posted by darkstar at 4:41 PM on January 31, 2012

Luckily for me, back in 2004, I was able to sell my beta account for $500 after a few months of nonstop playing. I know the game's changed a lot since then but I haven't experienced it because my relationship with WoW ended before the game was even properly released.

But I can still picture the night, in my dorm room, after going out on a first date with a girl, and with that girl in my bed. While she slept I took Adderall and played WoW.
posted by palidor at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was able to sell my beta account for $500 after a few months of nonstop playing.

2 months = 60 days
Let's say you're playing 8 hours a day.
480 hours.
500 dollars.

Not a great deal.
posted by entropone at 5:52 PM on January 31, 2012

Does no one else think this was dumb?

Why does anyone buy the line about having to choose between life or an mmo? It's a hobby. That's it. It's cheaper than some, or at least it can be. I have no idea (other than buying a spectral tiger) how the dude dumped that much money into the game.

You can go to the gym even though you have an active subscription! Crazy, huh?

You can read, write, DJ, go out and party, stay in and meditate, whatever.

Playing a game - even an MMO, even WoW - does not block you from achieving anything. If that happens, it's your fault.
posted by kavasa at 5:53 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

But it wasn't just a hobby for him. He said he would come up with excuses to play instead of doing other things. He was lying to his friends to avoid spending time living life in order to play his game.
posted by crunchland at 5:56 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

crunch, yesss..? I mean I watched it, I'm aware of all that.

My point is that he's blaming the game for all everything. He frames the entire thing as if that's the only possible way to play. He had to spend his entire day logged in while he was subbed. He couldn't go to the gym until after he'd unsubbed. That the only way to "achieve your potential IRL" is to not be playing wow. That's what he's saying, and it's specious.
posted by kavasa at 6:22 PM on January 31, 2012

I think playing the "personal responsibility!!!!" card is a little over the top. The guy obviously had a problem to the point that he was neglecting his life and overcame it. I could also say alcoholics should just quit drinking so much because it's easy to just not buy booze, but it's seldom that simple.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:43 PM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not a great deal.

Well it was a good deal inasmuch as I sold something I got for free for $500. The two level cap'd characters that came with the account were kind of inconsequential in the long run seeing as how they only lasted as long as the beta did (which was another couple months, I think). From my perspective, I had a few months of detached-from-the-world fun and got $500 for it.

It's a hobby. That's it.

Playing a game - even an MMO, even WoW - does not block you from achieving anything. If that happens, it's your fault.

If the video was about someone's relationship with heroin, detailing their life of waking dreams experienced while nodding off, would you see it in the same light? Because the subject of the video isn't WoW, it's addiction. Some people can play WoW occasionally and live full lives, just like some people can take some drugs on the weekends and live full lives. Other people are predisposed to addiction, and it can manifest in millions of different ways.

That being said I think the video was kind of dull in that it seemed to make light of what must have been a serious thing. He mentions six years of playing but doesn't go into that much depth about what he sacrificed during those six years. I suppose that's what longer, written pieces are for, and I know I've read a couple of articles detailing WoW addictions that talked about lost jobs, lost lovers, lost hygiene, etc.
posted by palidor at 6:49 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't understand that for some people, MMOs are an on switch that cranks on to a full-blown, must raid, must push, must play the game at the edge content... or off -that for some - there is no grey area, no casual game play possible... Let me introduce myself by stating that I stopped playing MMOs the day after we found out we were having our first child, because I know, at my core processors I was a hardcore enough gamer that I did not want to fuck up being a dad because I wanted to raid.

It was a feeling, an urge, that I couldn't satiate. Not pushing content, not seeing the end game - wasn't good enough for me. I ate. I walked my dog. I worked. And I raided. Hanging out at the bar a quarter mile from home with a buddy who was in my guild was an exercise in finger strumming... That's right - I preferred talking to a close friend through a headset, rather than over a beer...

And that's when you cheer for having a kid, and cheer for a strong enough excuse to quit.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:55 PM on January 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I kind of get what he's saying. I played casually for years, mainly in battlegrounds, but I quit when my son was born. I have no problem being a casual gamer -- I prefer it, in fact -- but each WoW expansion made it much more difficult to do that, at least when it came to PVP. The game became more and more of a gear grind, and I wasn't willing to do that while trying to raise a child. So I cancelled my subscription. I still miss it sometimes -- ye gods, fire mages can be fun in Arathi Basin -- but Blizzard just made the game too demanding to play, at least in terms of time commitment. I hope they balance things out better in this Project Titan thing they're working on.
posted by showmethecalvino at 7:00 PM on January 31, 2012

As for WoW itself, I'm kind of on the fence. I mean I'm definitely in the Johnathan Blow camp that says it's possible to design a game in an unethical manner. Like if you're making Farmville and you have psychologists on staff to help you manipulate people's dopamine systems, you're definitely not contributing anything valuable to the world. But games have been manipulating your dopamine system since Mario started grabbing mechanically useless coins and the first piece of loot dropped from a slime in Dragon Quest or whatever. Games by their very nature manipulate you. So it's hard for me to decide if something open-ended and potentially time-sucking like WoW is, well, a malicious force. We can talk about personal responsibility all day, and it's a valid point, but humans can be quite fragile creatures. And a design team dedicated to getting those sometimes-fragile humans to keep spending their time playing WoW probably isn't the most ethical group of people. Maybe, I don't know.
posted by palidor at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think more people just have fun with these games than get addicted or have it mess up their life. Most people never get hardcore into them, never raid, etc. So I think it can be overblown to think of them as unethical or anything.

(Just like I'd say people growing / selling pot are not unethical, since most users are just going to have fun and not screw up their lives)

That said, I had over 200 days playtime on FFXI, meaning once you take sleep into account I basically spent a solid waking year of my life playing. I played with friends, so it wasn't some soul-sucking lonely existance, but I wouldn't do it again either.

(I'm playing SWTOR now, but I limit myself to a couple sessions a week and thats it, perfectly possible to play these games that way)
posted by wildcrdj at 7:44 PM on January 31, 2012

(Just like I'd say people growing / selling pot are not unethical, since most users are just going to have fun and not screw up their lives)

But is someone unethical if they're selling dope to a dope fiend whose life has been ruined by their addiction to dope? And is it unethical if the dope is a video game and the dealer is a faceless corporation?

I guess all I can say is that it's a nuanced issue, and that it doesn't feel right to just say "it's all about personal responsibility" even if 95% of people play the game without any ill effects. Like, it's possible for someone to get addicted to playing Super Mario Bros. too, but that game doesn't draw out those addictive behaviors with the efficiency that a game like WoW does. I just worry how cynical things might become, what would happen if that efficiency rate got higher and higher. CYBER-DYSTOPIA!!!!
posted by palidor at 8:19 PM on January 31, 2012

I have outright lost friends to MMORPGs. I have been told that they won't talk to me unless I also play the game. WTF? I actually forbid one boyfriend from playing them--I hated to be such a stereotypical bitchy girlfriend about it, but the dude was already super-addicted to games in general without adding the ability to chat with the entire Internet while playing too, and I never would have seen him again. Those things ARE addictive. And since heck, our real life world sucks and has no dragons/orcs/raids, you kinda can't blame people for wanting to be elsewhere.

I think I'm just lucky my attention span is way too short for modern day gaming.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:31 PM on January 31, 2012

I am so grateful I got this out of my system via text-based CircleMUD, I cannot even begin to tell you.
posted by phaedon at 8:40 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worked in MMOs for years - not on WoW specifically, but on competing products. The question of addiction was on everybody's mind, all the time. How could it not be? Many of us were addicts too.

I was a community manager. I would often describe my job as "the person who gets to explain to the junkies why their next hit won't be as good, or why they can't get any for another four hours." Most people were not addicts. Most people barely noticed downtime, or were at worst mildly annoyed. But there was a core group of people - between 1 and 10%, I'd say - for whom the game was an absolute necessity. Changes terrified and angered them, and downtime was about the worst thing that could happen.

I played WoW for a couple years. I started because I needed to understand the competition. I didn't care for it all that much on its own, and it was a reasonably sane pastime, that I spent a reasonable amount of time on.

Then I joined a guild.

All of a sudden, you have the dopamine triggers of the game itself, plus instant social interaction, in-group status, enough drama to keep things interesting, and the constantly shifting entertainment produced by a bunch of seriously weird people who feel no particular need to filter their personalities. It was great. We weren't a hardcore raiding guild, but we were a small guild with mostly people who could devote really long hours to the game - housewives, techy types who worked from home, etc. We wrote fanfic (which was a fascinating exercise in itself,) flirted, got into fights, made up, developed collective pet peeves, had a really weird cult-y relationship with our guild leader, etc. There was no way I was missing out on any of this. I played all the time.

And I started to understand why people developed serious problems. Fortunately, I wasn't a terminal case - I was working from home and needed to see other humans, so I took up karate, and the in-person social interaction quickly became vastly more valuable than the online, and when the guild imploded I was content to let it go. I still play a lot of computer games, but I'm fairly burned out on MMOs and haven't touched on in many months. But I still sometimes miss the simplicity of being able to open a program, enter a password, and have an instant social circle and goal-driven activity. And I have a ton of sympathy for people who can't pull out of that situation without hitting some kind of bottom.

I don't work in MMOs any more. They're not all bad - the last game I worked on, we had a lot of disabled, low-income, and/or housebound folks for whom the game was a tremendously valuable resource that genuinely improved their lives for $12.99 a month. And I have some ongoing friendships with my old guildmates - awesome people I wouldn't have met any other way. But there's a very fine line being walked there (and I think that, say, Zynga is on the far side of it) and I'm just as happy to work for a company that provides a lot of the same benefit but gets their money in a way that feels cleaner.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:25 PM on January 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Managing a raiding guild ought to look good on a resume. It won't, because 95% of HR people do not so much think as process stereotypes, such as "games = childish", but it ought to.

Consider what is involved. The raid itself is a series of difficult, time-sensitive tasks, requiring coordination of 10 to 40 individuals, each of whom is unpaid and there purely because they want to be, with widely varying levels of skill, commitment, selfish/selflessness, and concern for improvement of their and the team's performance.

At the raiding guild level there are significant management responsibilities - performance management, conflict resolution, assessment of contributions and fair division of the rewards of the group's efforts. In larger guilds a lot of these duties will be delegated down one level, although from the sounds of it this guy's delegation skills were a bit lacking, if the guild fell apart instantly without him.

Someone who successfully managed a raiding guild should have a reasonable head start for the skills of leading a team of people whose duties are approximately the same as his/her own. I'd consider it a strong positive for a leading hand or sales team leader or similar "first among equals" position, so long as the KPIs are very clear.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:00 PM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm addicted to watching other people play Starcraft II. GSL, IPL, NASL, MLG... It's exhausting sometimes.
posted by j03 at 1:31 AM on February 1, 2012

I never got totally dependent on MMORPGs like this guy or others have, but I played WoW quite a lot. I swore off them a year ago, when I thought about the amount of time I devoted to them, and how the net-gain from playing them was essentially zero. I didn't want to be lying on my deathbed, thinking about all the time I wasted hacking and slashing at imaginary monsters.
posted by crunchland at 2:34 AM on February 1, 2012

And since heck, our real life world sucks and has no dragons/orcs/raids, you kinda can't blame people for wanting to be elsewhere.

This is the thing that keeps me from hating WoW and other games, despite the whole "profiting-at-an-addicts'-expense" thing: it's easy to for successful adults to criticize a game that tries to supply virtual community, virtual labor, virtual markets, and virtual self-governance, but in a world where many people are excluded from real communities, unable to find remuneration and meaning in real labor, priced out of real markets, and dominated in real governance, I can't help thinking the games supply something wonderful: an opportunity to participate and flourish in a world worth loving.

Plus: dragons. Everybody complains that we don't have jetpacks yet, but apparently we've had spectral tigers for years and nobody even celebrated.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:09 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

How is 'wasting your life' playing an MMO any different from 'wasting your life' watching TV? Or reading comic books? Or playing boardgames? Or any other thing I disapprove of?

I'd wager that far more hours are 'wasted' watching reality TV than playing online games...and at least those games are interactive, and social.
posted by jet_manifesto at 4:12 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that anyone who spends any amount of time playing MMOs is wasting their life. I was only speaking of how I felt about my level of involvement in the game, and that I thought I spent so much time playing them, and that I had nothing to show for it, that I decided it was time for me to stop.
posted by crunchland at 4:39 AM on February 1, 2012

My point is that he's blaming the game for all everything.

On the contrary. I didn't hear him blaming the game for anything -- he described his own actions and his own behaviors and seemed to treat the game as a neutral place where his own issues played out. That's what I thought was unique about this video, and made it very interesting.
posted by verb at 6:03 AM on February 1, 2012

Managing a raiding guild ought to look good on a resume. It won't, because 95% of HR people do not so much think as process stereotypes, such as "games = childish", but it ought to.

Running a raiding guild was the best hands-on leadership training I've ever had, and I've been a practicing lawyer in a large firm for almost a decade. Sadly I don't think firm management would see it the same way.

That said, I think the video and some of these comments, especially restless_nomad's, explain why a lot of people have trouble moderating their playtime. The fundamentally Skinnerian nature of the game, potentially combined with the reinforcement and social interaction provided by a guild, is pretty powerful.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:01 AM on February 1, 2012

real life manipulates your dopamine system in the same way, providing rewards for tasks

life itself is an addiction
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:00 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who has never played WoW (but have had friends and roommates sucked into it) and sidestepping the silly "I don't have an addictive personality so addictions to anything other than crack are worthy of my derision" derail, I say I enjoyed this film, not just for the message and the way the story was told, but the inspired use of the WoW footage.

I've seen a lot of videos that make use of WoW gameplay, and they all seem to be made by WoW players that don't realize that to people who don't play WoW, watching endless 3rd person footage of a character running doesn't mean anything to anyone aside from fellow WoW players. This is the first time footage from WoW has ever made me stop and go "That game looks AMAZING!" vs. "Why the hell are all my friends into this boring grindfest?"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:53 AM on February 1, 2012

And in six years will he make a video bemoaning the time and money he spent on D.J.-ing, or at University, at parties, on alcohol, gas, silly hats, YouTube videos, etc.? Everything has an opportunity cost. Everything can be looked back upon with regret. Everything is ultimately meaningless, or meaningful.

You played a game almost every waking moment for six years and then you finally got burned out? That must have been some game. Oh, and it got you compliments, and got you laid, and you went to Norway because of it? Yeah, sounds horrible, man.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

restless_nomad - thanks for your comment. Despite being a player on and off for a long time (and currently raid-leading for my friend's little guild), I have neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever understood what the "always online" people are doing with all that time. I do the minimum necessary to enable the fun stuff, i.e.: raiding.

Anyway, I still feel like the guy is blaming the game and avoiding taking any responsibility for it, which would annoy me with a drug dependency as well. The devil never made anyone do anything, basically, and from my lay perspective, it seems like actually kicking a habit probably has to include owning it as well.

Basically, I would like to see something like this that concentrated less on the game and more on the person. "Here are the things I gave up and the reasons I gave up on them. Here's why I decided I was incapable of just scaling back and had to unsub entirely, even though I still enjoyed the game." That sort of thing.

I guess I'm also suspicious or tired of people that can't just unsub and walk away and instead have to make A Deal out of it, but that's possibly my sort of Midwestern outlook.
posted by kavasa at 12:49 PM on February 1, 2012

kasava: I must be missing something. Could you point to the place in the video where he blames the game?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2012

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