Despite immense guilt feelings for engaging in an activity that has no use other than to be a source of entertainment, I started to play World of Warcraft earlier this year. It seemed wrong at first, to have so many hours gobbled up by a game and nothing to show for it, but the sheer joy of playing soon overcame any residue of guilt. Everybody should have a hobby. In the past, my hobbies have included playing the piano (not the best of choices if you have dislocating fingers), learning a new language, designing and maintaining a web site, photography, cycling, rambling, taking an adult education course, dancing, swimming, jogging. I derived a great sense of satisfaction from the sense of accomplishment these feats of strength provided.
I can recall with pride mingled with a healthy sense of the horror, all these accomplishments. I look at the piano with a sense of dread, compulsion, resentment, anger and longing. I want to play it well. I learned how to play when I was four. Music is escapism and as much as I enjoy the passivity of listening, I long for the involvement of creating it. I haven’t really been able to play for more than ten years, but I still twirl out the occasional sonata despite the inevitable crunch on snapping fingers mid-way through a piece.
Sports fill me with similar feelings. I liked jogging at the break of dawn despite the intense agony it generated with every pounding step. I adore swimming despite not being able to breathe in chlorinated pools and getting out minus a level of skin – strong chemicals have that effect on fragile skin. My husband is not so keen after having to relocate both a shoulder and patella at the deep end of the pool.
Educational pursuits is the road to bankruptcy if you can’t stay employed regardless of skill and qualifications.
The result is that we decided to try computer games. I’ve never been much of a gamer. I started with a copy of ‘Civilization’ and it’s various formats, but it’s a dreary and boring game once you’ve played it for hundreds of hours on end. Car boot sales yielded copies of various other PC based games – SimCity, The Sims, Hotelier, Quake, Doom and more. The combat games gave me migraines, but the building games weren’t too bad. If only The Sims didn’t have the sims and more complicated architectural options. If only SimCity actually allowed you to build a realistic city rather than requiring you to remain within very narrow parametres to progress. I played each for a few hours (except SimCity of which I have logged many hours on all versions) before throwing in the towel. It was frustrating to see the potential of what I could be doing and yet the designers insist that all people are idiots and should be treated as such with limited options and no complications. Spore is probably the best example of this kind of logic. Designed as entertainment for five year olds over one weekend.
My husband has always wanted to play Warcraft and after finally signing up, bought me the warchest a month in. I found it really hard going to begin with. The social aspects were daunting, the options seemed limitless and Azeroth was a whole wide world, not the claustrophobic cubicle other games were played in. I found the playing itself quite challenging, but useful. My eyes received more exercise than they ever had before and most gameplay were formulaic and there’s a routine one can fall into. The multi-player content was inaccessable, but I have never been the most sociable of people and didn’t mind playing around other people rather than with them.
I now play virtually every day. Some days, playing is simply logging in my auction toon and clicking on the auctioneer and other days its considerably more, but it’s not the amount of time spent playing that is important to me. It’s the access to a world where I can be almost just like everybody else. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.