Time & MMO’s: How much is too much?

Sorry for not posting recently… had an issue with my network telling me to shove my internet connection up my ass. sideways. Fun times. But a bit of percussive maintenance and all is well. So, back to the business at hand.

When I sat down to write this article, I had one thought running through my head the past few days: How much time have I spent in front of my PC, playing MMO’s in some way/shape/form? Now considering I’m going all the way back to 1996, I’m looking at over 11 years of time as a base pool to pull from. In that time, I have played, to some degree or another, the following MMO’s:

1. MMO’s played for 1 year or more: Everquest, Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, EVE Online

 2. MMO’s played for 3-6 months: Saga of Ryzom, Dark Age of Camelot, YoHoHo! Puzzle Pirates, Final Fantasy XI, City of Heroes

3. MMO’s played for less than 3 months: RF Online, Horizons: Legends of Istaria, Guild Wars, several others that I can’t remember right this moment.

A not insignificant list. That being said, some of these games I have played over the course of years, and some I’ve played over the course of a couple of weeks, only to uninstall it, saying to myself “what the fuck was I thinking buying THIS?!?! There’s 40 bucks wasted!”

Now doing some rough math, I’m going to say over that period of time, I’ve probably spent over 1 year playing MMO’s. That’s one full year of my life, sitting in front of a PC, getting fatter, less healthy, being sedentary… playing MMO’s. Looking at it from that way, that’s pretty damn scary.

As a big header here, this is not a “oh why me, MMO’s are ebil!!!” post, this is more a reflection on that time spent, and what value, if any was derived from it. I’m going to break it down into a pros and cons list, to try and make more sense of it, but I think it is important that this be looked at. More and more people are getting into MMO’s, as well as spending more time on them. This will eventually have a huge impact on our society, so it’s better to look and understand now, rather than later.

Pros:

1) Typing speed increase. I know this sounds stupid, but playing EQ back in the day, and VOIP not being available, you learned to type pretty fucking fast, especially if you were pulling for your group. I’d say pre EQ I could probably type 15-20 words a minute doing the hunt-n-poke method. By the time I retired from EQ, I took a typing test and was typing 65 wpm with 95% accuracy. That has made a huge impact on my work; I’m more productive, am able to communicate quickly, and concisely with my peers. So chalk that one as a Pro.

2) Meeting New People. Over the course of 11 years, I have met many many people whom I could call “friend”. I’ve joked with them, raided with them, confided things with them that no one else knows. I’ve met them in person, dated them, fallen in love, gotten into fights, and met some true gems who I have transitioned into real life friends that I keep in touch with to this day. In a lot of ways, it feels like an very extended family, and it’s incredibly comforting to know that if you’re having a shitty day, odds are someone you know from the game is dealing with the same thing(s) you are, and is right there to console you… while you’re beating the shit out of some pixelated monsters in your own form of stress relief.

3) Saved Money. An often overlooked item. MMO’s in general are about one of the cheapest forms of entertainment around. $14.95/month is less than what a couple would pay for 2 movie tickets, and you’re getting a month’s worth of entertainment. Divide that by the # of hours you actually play, and odds are it breaks down to pennies on the dollar. Compared to going out to a bar and blowing $50.00 in drinks, it’s a cheap night of entertainment. I’d guesstimate that I have saved thousands of dollars in going out over the course of these 11 years.

Now for every pro, there is a con. It’s pretty surprising how some of these cons match up with the pros.

1) By meeting people in MMO’s, I have failed to meet new people in a non-virtual enviroment. This sounds somewhat paradoxical, but it’s true. All that time spent “meeting” people in MMOs was time not spending meeting people in “real life”, or out of game. Let’s face it, how many of these people are you likely to see in your daily life when you leave this game? 5? 10? For all these hundreds of people that you “know”, you really don’t know them. What you are seeing is a facet of someone, probably thousands of miles away, who you will in all likelyhood never meet in real life. Are those “friends” going to be there when you and your girlfriend split? Will they be able to help you if something happened and your internet is down and have no way to communicate with them? Are they likely to loan you money if you get into a jam? This trade-off of virtual for actual friends does come with a price: Spend too much time out of the real world, and you may not have an actual safety net to catch you when the shit does hit the fan.

2) MMO’s hurt relationships. Granted, they don’t hurt everyone’s, but there are far more out there that do suffer strains than those that don’t. You all hear about the MMO “Grieving Spouses”, or people who have become so absorbed in MMO’s that they truly do lose touch with reality. I’ve come across this in my life. My raiding in WoW hurt my relationship with my fiance, now wife. There were a couple of painful months where it almost felt as if we weren’t talking. Thank God she was a patient and loving partner, and we worked through it. But not everyone is so lucky. You see it in every guild, the couple that plays the game almost to the exclusion of everything else, then eventually falls apart when things aren’t so rosy in game anymore. Is the fun of an MMO worth the social toll it takes on one’s friends, loved ones and even partners?

3) MMO’s are hazardous to your health. Playing MMO’s aren’t good for you. honestly. You’re sitting there, letting your ass grow fatter, your gut get bigger, letting fat clog your arteries due to lack of exercise, killing your eyesight looking at a screen. I think the South Park “Make Love Not Warcraft” episode put that idea into comical, if not brutally honest relief. Now put that over the long term… months and months of inactivity do have a cumulative effect. I have yet to see any research that says “Playing 1 hour of a MMO takes 15 minutes off your life” as you will find with smoking studies… but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that ratio wasn’t higher than we all think.

MMO’s have both good and bad components in our lives. They are sources of entertainment, joy, laughter, tears, anger, frustration, and even despair. They do much to allow us to “meet” people from all over the world, and share in the universal experience of being in a social community. But that community is not the only community; our real lives do need some attention as well. So think about it. Try and make sure there is a balance there. Real life doesn’t have a respawn point; make sure you get out there and grab the epic loot that is “A Full Life +1”

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~ by trollonfire on October 20, 2007.

One Response to “Time & MMO’s: How much is too much?”

  1. I love what you mentioned about the “pros” of MMO gaming…in particular the part about saving money. I used to be the gamer who had to have every game as it came out, even if I never finished it. Since the MMO’s have taken the market, even my wife noticed how much we’ve saved by playing persistent games and only paying a monthly fee. Plus, for me, my ability to focus on one game is much higher when my friends are in it with me! 🙂 Kudos on a great article!

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