Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Undivided Attention

We all play WoW too much. I feel pretty confident saying that. You might feel differently about your own personal situation, so go ahead, try to change my mind. Good Luck! You're reading a blog about WoW, and a relatively obscure one at that, which means you've probably got lots of others on your reading list. Unless you aren't into WoW at all, you just love my style and unbelievable witty commentary. You play a lot of WoW.

Relax. I'm not judging. I love playing also.

I'm the type of person who latches onto a hobby or interest. Becomes hugely involved, borderline obsessive, tries to learn everything possible, master it to great depth. Then at some point, my interest sorta floats on by and finds something else.

WoW is no different. Flavor of the month. Well, flavor of a couple years typically, but whatever.

But, WoW is different. Different than any hobby, passtime, or passing interest that I've ever had.

Its the undivided attention that WoW requires.

Whether it be 40, 25, 15, 10, or 5 people in a large raid, small raid, battle ground, instance group, -or- just you and one other person moving through some quests. There's an inherent social burden that requires undivided attention.

Undivided attention. In quantities unlike any other hobby I can think of. So I set off on a mental safari to find any other hobbies I've had over the course of my life, and see if any others required this much undivided attention.

To begin, I'll need you to stipulate that WoW is not your real life. Unless you're some rich oil tycoon's kid who really has nothing to do ever in life besides pass the time, you've got a job, or go to school, or care for a household, or something else Real Life-ish that I haven't thought of. Although we might be passionate about WoW and value the friendships and experiences in the game, its still not RL. If you're not able to stipulate this one basic assumption, well, you'll probably be more bored than the rest of the readers.

So I was trying to think of any other non-RL activity in my life that came close to the amount of undivided attention that WoW requires.

The first thing I came up with was Jr. High and High School sports. Well, scholastic extra-curricular activities are arguably a fundamental part of RL, but the basic requirement for being roughly age 14-18 in the US is that you go to school, and then you get to choose if you want to engage in sports above and beyond the minimum requirements, so I'm including it in my little thought experiement here. For your average sport, you practice 4 or 5 days a week, for about 2-2.5 hours each. Then you add in raids games or meets or matches once or twice a week for an additional 3 hours or so each. During either practices or games, you were generally considered to be unavailable for any other activities.

I was a volunteer fire fighter for 8 years. The department I was in was very busy and maintaining the minimum level of participation generally required 25 hours per week. Again, it can be argued that being a fire fighter is not a hobby, but it wasn't something I did to put food on my table, it was something I did for self-actualization, thus I'll include it. Most of the time spent was unscheduled, and you'd respond to the radio scanner calling you to action. Depending upon the nature of the call, you might be gone for 30 minutes to an hour, with the occasional big boy that took several hours. There were also monthly meetings for a couple hours, and one night a week that was 3 hours of training. During either live calls or training drills you were generally considered to be unavailable for any other activities.

While mentally exploring, I thought up several other hobbies I've had over the years that come close to rivaling WoW, HS Sports, and Fire Fighting in terms of time spent per week. But these three are the only ones that shared the concept of very large blocks of undivided attention, where the rest of the world gets pushed aside and you become engrossed in the activity.

The difference is that all of those activities were interruptable. Either a pause button that'll stop those relentless blocks from falling down in a game of Tetris, or a book that you can put a bookmark in and set down, or a soldering iron that will heat up again should you need to turn it off and take care of something else. No doubt, any hobby worth pouring passion into will have times where you don't want distractions. But WoW takes it to a new level.

A recent interaction on my Horde Druid brought this concept to the foreground. She's the only "main" toon being levelled in her guild. Everyone else is 70, with a levelling alt or two, but they're played rarely. Nice thing is that the 70's are all offering lots and lots of help to assist with my levelling. Sometimes I take it, such as some boosting runs through RFC. But most of the time, I stick with solo levelling, to avoid the feeling of wanting to be totally in-game and uninterruptable.

The other day, a friend from RL who plays one of the 70's asked if I needed any help. I passed because I watching my kid at the time, which means that she's playing with her toys next to me on the table or playing in her little tent behind me, and I'm AFK half the time playing with her or just watching her play independently. He said he was just sitting in Orgrimmar farting around, so would be no different for him to be helping me out in Ashenvale while I went afk regularly.

I still passed on the offer. Its not like he was being imposing in any way. In fact, I know the guy and he's totally patient and fun and would really have no problem with down time while I was coming and going.

But the problem lies with me. Regardless of how much he didn't mind my afk-ism, I would be feeling a burden. A burden to not waste his time. If I took up his offer, I'd end up neglecting the dishes, the laundry, the dog, the kid. The important stuff. And I'd end up hating the game. I said as much over guild chat where this conversation was occurring. The response was a resounding agreement. Seems the general consensus is that WoW comes with lots of social burden that can cause stress.

So what do you think? What other hobbies, interests, pursuits do you have that require the vast amounts of undivided attention that WoW does?

And if you're that oil tycoon's kid, tell daddy to stop charging me $4.15 a gallon.

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