Monday, January 14, 2008

WoW Temptations: Questaholism

Most of what a character does in the game is solve quests. Each quest is pretty quick, taking five to twenty minutes to complete. In that way the game is actually quite convenient to play for only a few minutes during a break from work.

However, a character can be doing up to twenty-five quests at once, and usually these overlap.

For example, a man asks my character to retrieve his sentimental pocket watch from his farmhouse which bandits have taken over. Also, the local sheriff asks my character to slay a certain number of bandits and bring back their bandannas as proof. Also, the field in front of the farm house has been filled by goblin-made machines to scare the neighbors, but one neighbor is not frightened away and has asked my character to destroy a certain number of these machines.

Completing all three of the above to-do items now takes forty minutes, not twenty. Moreover, on the way back to return the pocket watch my character meets two people who will now offer me other questing opportunities. Then the sheriff, after thanking me for a job well done, has more work for my character also.

Thus a person who feels content in completing a single quest can play the game for 20 minutes (or less) and end such a game session with a feeling of accomplishment. But a person who is becomes focused on finishing every bit of work nearby will get caught up in a never-ending blur of to-do items. This might even appear to be more efficient: why not defeat the full quota of bandits and machines while at that farmhouse?

I've always been the kind of stereotypical male who goes shopping by going to the store, walking directly to the items on the shopping list, buying those, and coming home. At one time, a number of years ago, I even typed a shopping list with all the grocery store items I normally used arranged in columns that corresponded to the aisles in the grocery store, so I would never have to backtrack as I shopped.

At the same time I can understand how someone not as content with checking off a single to-do item would face a temptation to do quest after quest, never feeling content that the adventure was had reached a satisfying stopping point.

People are born knowing how to feel content an happy in a task well, even if it is a small task with more work to come (consider toddlers who applaud themselves after building the most trivial block tower). But a common vice is to lose this ability. Then people become vulnerable to the temptations that turn people into workaholics.

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