Monday, January 14, 2008

WoW Temptations: Overly Social

The game is fun because it is a social environment for friends to do things together. The adventures a character has are usually repetitive and boring endeavors that few people would choose for recreation if they were playing the game alone.

The game provides many ways to keep track of and chat with your friends. This allows for a common temptation: once you have friends, you want to keep spending time with them.

For me this is the only addictive aspect of playing the game.

As a college math instructor I have coworkers but normally do not spend much time with them. I even carpool to work primarily just because it is nice to spend an extra fifteen minutes chatting with a coworker rather than be on the bus.

As a minister I participate in the local monthly pastor's prayer meeting, and know a large number of other local ministers. However, I spend little time with them. My (unfortunately uncommon) status as someone knowledgeable about the first-century roots of my faith means when I am spending time socially with other ministers it usually turns into a historical and theological discussion rather than simply being together as friends.

As a leader I spend a lot of time with my students and congregants, but I cannot have a "normal friends" relationship with these people. I must remain in a position to give encouragement, counsel, or correction. This limits how much I can be a normal friend.

The result is that I usually have very few normal friends and none I just relax around on a regular basis. I don't normally miss having normal friends. But when I am able to have them, I treasure it and see how they help me be relaxed and healthy. Last fall I even began grilling fish, largely as an excuse to invite congregants over and use the activity to relate to them as normal friends instead of as congregant and minister.

Furthermore, my friends from World of Warcraft were exempt from my wife's earlier secrecy about her pregnancy. Because of her gluten intolerance her risk of miscarriage was very high until the end of four months. She did not want to tell people happy news if it meant potentially having to later deal with telling each of them sad news or receiving their condolences. But my game friends were not in her social circle at all! I could talk with them about being the husband of a wife facing a difficult pregnancy when I had no one else to talk to about that huge part of my life for four months.

As with other game-related temptations, the game itself does not create the temptation which could become an addiction. I like to spend time doing fun things with friends because I've always enjoyed doing so! It's not that the game teaches me to feel that way.

As with other time-management issues the temptation has obvious solutions: to spend time with these game friends in ways that I really value and which bring me lasting enjoyment, and to schedule my time and keep aware of my mental state so I only spending potentially productive time as social time by intentional choice.

I could also be intentional about getting to know a few friends well and only playing the game when our characters travel together: not making other friends, and postponing game play if those friends are not currently playing. Once my ministry work becomes time consuming again I may need to do this as well.

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