Addiction – The First Step

I was chatting to a friend for the first time in a few months, on MSN today. He is a dear friend I originally met through WoW (World of Warcraft) gaming, and whom I am in contact with irl (in real life).Image of WoW Character

We chatted for a bit, then he asked me the ‘big question’ – “Are you still playing?” I admitted, yes – that I was but that I was more aware of when I chose to play these days. He has been cold-turkey for quite a while now, so he sent me a link, and mentioned that it may inspire me to write a blog post. The site is www.wowdetox.com, and whilst I realised it was a link aimed to help people overcome their WoW addiction, I didn’t really expect it to have a lot of immediate relevance to me.

Paul and I have mentioned WoW on podcasts and blog posts from time to time – which is why I felt this dedicated post was appropriate. And for the record, I’d like to state that whilst I talk openly about my own gaming experience, in NO circumstances would I recommend WoW to anyone. In fact, I’d say ‘avoid it if you want to have any life’.

To give a bit of history, I’ve been playing WoW since it first came out ~ Feb/Mar 2005. Sure, I’ve had a few blocks of between 1-6 months of quitting it, but at its peak – I was playing >8hrs per day… this was on top of working 8-9hrs in my day-job, and commuting another 1-2hrs a day as well. You can imagine, that didn’t leave a lot of time for sleeping, socialising or anything much else! I jokingly referred to it as my 2nd fulltime role. After all, I was a high ranking ‘officer’ in a successful guild (invite-only community) – and my sense of obligation and duty to lead by example was a stunning display of commitment. I even used to boast about the fact that I had been in every raid organised by our guild minus only a couple, and only my dear friend Mem had a better attendance record than me!

With hindsight, I felt totally unfulfilled in my corporate role, and incredibly under-appreciated. WoW, and more so the community I felt I belonged to, fed my need for achievement and appreciation. It was only a very personal falling-out with the leader of the guild (another friend) that drew me out of that ever-worsening cycle. I took a 6 month break.

Still, I returned. And still I do.

Today, spending only a few minutes reading a couple of posts by fellow WoW-addicts on the Detox site, and watching the short video on there had me in tears.

I confess, I am a WoW addict. I may play a lot less hours per week now, and I’ve avoided getting caught up in any organised raiding anymore. But there is a pull that brings me ever back.

After 4+ years, I’ve developed some strong and wonderful relationships with people I’ve met through WoW. A lot have left the game & moved on; many, like myself, have had time-out but ultimately returned. The creators of the game did what real life has failed to do for many of us. They have created an environment wherein for the most part, you can put in time & effort, and you are guaranteed a reward or result.

Leaving University, I was totally disparaged in my first year of ‘the real world’ – because I learnt the hard way that in ‘Corporate’, the time & effort you put in very rarely equate to the reward and recognition you receive. Having been very academically gifted (where applied studiousness guarantees high results), that was an unpleasant shock!

But WoW delivers in this way that real-life largely fails to. And they charge us for this ‘pleasure’!

There are a myriad other reasons why WoW has been so popularly successful across the world – social sense of belonging, being judged by a face you choose to show (avatar) rather than the one you were born with, a fresh start where people don’t know your background or mistakes, not wanting to miss out on something new or fun, and I could go on. And to be fair, there is a lot about the game itself that I actually do enjoy!

The cost, however, is much MUCH higher than the monthly subscription fee I’ve been paying for over 4 years now and the initial game purchase price.

I always knew it was a form of escapism for me, and thought this was ok because my life after all was quite stressful! But today, I was reminded that WoW is a serious addiction for many people – and in some cases, a life-destroying one.

The Detox video asks you to consider if you are ready to cut back your game-time, or quit. And it reminds you that it is ok if you aren’t ready for that yet. The most important message they deliver is simply awareness.

I am not ready yet.

I really value the friendships I’ve built with certain people over time; and I know that the important ones will persist post-game if they’re meant to. But until I can replace WoW’s achievement-fulfilling ability with my own internal structure of reward and recognition – I’m still going to be drawn back. Even as a Coach, I’ve long recognised that I tend to miss out on the acknowledging of my progress and celebrating it (ideally with occasional rewards). This is something I easily help my clients with though and I see the amazing impact it has – so I’m having to be more conscious in applying it to my own life! It’s not just high-achievers who often overlook this.

So. Action: I’m going to talk to some of my gaming friends, and explain to them that if they need me for something, they can send me a text. If I’m available, I’ll log on. This way, I’ll start addressing the false sense of obligation I have to log in and play – ‘just in case one of them needs my help’.

And perhaps there’s a podcast in the wings here, where Paul and I can explore the nature of addiction and the importance of awareness – and choice.

Not all addictions are as debilitating as alcohol or as sinister as drugs. Food, sex, smoking, crises, WoW – whatever it is… the first step on the path to freedom is acknowledging your addiction (being honest with yourself), and to start noticing that is not serving you as well as you’d thought – and is likely doing you great disservice.

I don’t want to simply quit WoW, and end up replacing it with another addiction because I didn’t address the underlying cause.

Wow! (Pun intended) I didn’t realise how hard it would be to write this, or publish it.
I hope it helps someone as much as it’s helped me. I’d love you to share your comment if it has.