I’ve experienced both sides of this debate. I used to hate gaming, it seemed like a waste of time. I thought there shouldn’t be never-ending games, because they stole people away from their responsibilities. Then I started playing World of Warcraft (WoW), which is currently the largest Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in the world. Why the change of heart? I moved away from the city; I was bored.
I lived in a tiny town in a small state, with snow on the ground 7-8 months out of the year. If you weren’t into winter sports there was very little to do there, and everything closed early, except for the bars. Rather than getting drunk or doing drugs after work, like most people my age were doing, and then driving 45 minutes up the snowy mountain roads, I went home safe and sober to raid the night away. I paid $15 a month to play WoW instead of $20+ per night on drinks. WoW kept me out of trouble. However, when I say I played WoW, I mean I really played.
After 6 months of playing, I founded and built a guild from the ground up. I did all of the recruiting and invites, I paid for and ran the guild website and the guild Ventrilo, I maintained the entire guild bank, and I kept all of my guildies in check with a rank system that allowed only the trustworthy ones to have access to certain things. For those of you that don’t know all the gaming lingo, let’s just say I was hooked. However, I wasn’t hardcore. I was dedicated when I played, but I didn’t spend every waking moment playing. I maintained a real job and a real social life. I was single, with no husband or children wanting my time, so nobody was missing out on anything when I did play. I gave the guild to my raid leader a few years ago when I stopped playing. He kept it going, and Prisoners of Warcraft is now the oldest active raiding guild on the Andorhal server.
Though I didn’t play for long, I met friends that I still talk to even today. People tend to focus on how easy it is to be fake and lie about yourself online. They never focus on how, in the case of social video games, most people feel like they have nothing to hide. Of course you get the occasional jerk that likes to tell tall tales, or run their mouth while hiding behind their computer monitor. But for the most part, that isn’t the case. Since they will probably never meet the people they talk to, most gamers they tend to be more honest, and more themselves. After playing and communicating with the same people everyday, month after month, you begin to form real bonds. I actually met my husband through WoW. After we got married, we even had an in-game wedding ceremony for all of our guildie friends to enjoy as well. Dorks right? I know.
Shortly after getting married and moving to California, I stopped playing; my husband, however, didn’t. Some people, like myself, play games in their spare time. Other people, like my husband, schedule their entire life around the game. And it’s not that gaming is a bad thing, it can actually lead to better social skills and interactions. But spending almost all waking hours playing games causes people to miss out on a lot of opportunities in real life. I was okay with not being the first priority to my husband all the time, but I eventually got tired of always being his last. For him, gaming wasn’t a phase. He didn’t get bored with it, grow out of it or even cut back on it.
After 3 years of marriage, the very thing that brought us together drove us apart. Even though WoW was a big part of what led to my divorce, I have no regrets. I made some amazing friends, and found a man that I loved and gave 3 years of my life to. I moved to California to be where he was stationed so I got to experience a new place, with new people and opportunities. I enrolled in college and am now a journalist for the college news source. So in a sense, you’re reading this article because, once upon a time I played WoW.
The moral of the story is that everything is a choice. Games aren’t bad. Making the choice to ignore and forsake everything you have – because you can’t play a game in moderation, or find a way to balance it into your real life – is bad. Blame the player, not the game.