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WoW Social Fallacy #A: Judging Crosses a Line
This is a theory, but I think I have a leg to stand on so bear with me.
- I doubt any of us can say we haven't experienced some level of "need" to indulge in the game more than we should.
- I believe that nobody can force gaming cutbacks on anyone else. You have to let it happen naturally, when the player is ready.
This shared experience bonds us together, but it also puts up walls. We protect each other from attacks on our choices, not just to spare our colleagues the discomfort (though that's part of it) but because we share something else -- a vague sense of collective guilt. Whenever someone attacks one of us, a small part of each player says "I've done that. I've been there."
So when we defend the choices others make in terms of the game, we in fact defend ourselves and the choices we've made. We go on the defensive simply because we've all put WoW ahead of things before. And if we don't defend our fellow players, we fail to defend ourselves.
It's a collective mindset, whereby condemning the play style of someone else means we have to face our own failures, or even the possibility of failure. I remember recoiling even from the idea that I played too much WoW. It didn't matter if it was true or not -- I didn't want to think about it because I liked playing as much as I did.
This mindset turns into a problem when we go so far as to deny clear evidence that something is wrong.
When we give in to this fallacy, we keep the real problems from being addressed. Because a player may have a good reason or even good excuses for their play time, we give them the benefit of the doubt that their relationship with the game is healthy. To disagree is a betrayal.
This mindset protects the real addicts along with the normal players, making it that much harder to identify and help those who actually need it, so that we end up enabling the people we're trying to protect. We end up calling their addiction a life choice, when addiction by definition takes away choice to become compulsion.
What can we do?
Be aware. Look out for the warning signs of addiction and don't be squeamish about discussing your concerns with caring friends and guildmates if you think someone has a problem. A kid spending his summers online isn't a red flag, but an adult with responsibilities should also have a gaming schedule that is interrupted by those responsibilities. When real life responsibilities seem to disappear in favor of gaming, you may be looking at someone with an addiction.
Is this everyone?
Personally, I think we've all been a little addicted to the game. It's powerful like that. But the majority of players have been able to balance it more or less comfortably with their own lives. So the question here isn't about our right to judge other player's lifestyles or choices but to present the radical idea that it's okay to make a judgment call if you think someone is hurting themselves. You could be wrong, sure. And it'll tick them off. But are we really so worried about offending people that we refuse to say anything if we think they're struggling?
I think we have, for a long time, said "It's not my problem if someone else has an addiction. In fact, the addicted players are the most useful. They have all the crafting recipes, the best dps, the most impressive achievements... what's not to love about a WoW addiction?"
Is that line of thinking worth it? I had a guildie two years back who played constantly while his girlfriend housed him. He made her physically feed him while he played, but he had an awesome in-game attitude, and another guildie mentioned getting him back in IVV once he found his own place (after his girlfriend kicked him out for being a mooch). I put my foot down that I didn't want someone who would treat his girlfriend like that in our guild, no matter how good of a guildie he was.
The following things, and maybe it's just me, should never be sacrificed for a hobby:
The question is whether or not it will make them happy. Sometimes the answer is yes. But if the answer is no, why do we enable it? Why do we say it's okay when it's not? Why do we call self-destruction "their decision" but refuse to even try to persuade them from it?
Part of me says it's because we're all a little addicted to the game, a mass community of addicts enabling each other. Another part says we just don't care. It's too much hassle, too much thought, too much emotion, and what's the point when we benefit from addiction? We want to get rid of the drama queens and psychos, but nobody ever talks about asking the guy who holds the guild together through hours upon hours of daily work if he wants to take a break and get his real world dreams on track.
I think people who need to pull back will do it when something changes for them. Losing a job, emo gquitting . . . or maybe a friend who gently asks if constant gaming is the life they want to live.
They might say yes, and you can drop it. But they might also surprise you and say no.
And because I think individual humans are worth trying to help, I believe we should ask. Even if it makes us uncomfortable or makes others angry, I think people matter enough to take the plunge, dare the drama, and ask the question.
"Do you need help?"
This isn't about telling people who play too much WoW that they have no life. It's not even about putting down gaming as a life choice. I said after husband and I canceled our accounts:
WoW became our only hobby. And while that's not in itself unhealthy, there are things you realize you miss if you take the time to think back.Being intense or even hardcore about the game isn't in itself bad. Making it a lifestyle isn't even bad. But signs of addiction shouldn't be written off due to culture or age or even personality, and that's the point I'm trying to make.