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Reality, In Small Doses

August 16, 2012

This is going to come out a bit rambly – there’s a lot of things all jarring around inside my head, and I haven’t found a clean pattern to it yet. But, there’s definitely a few things I want to get out as a result of a lot of Twitter conversations I’ve seen, or recent blog posts I’ve looked at.

Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few blog posts about what difficult circumstances the writer faces, and how they took to MMORPGs as a way of dealing with things. Some of the posts have been earth-shatteringly moving, horribly similar to my own situations, or outright sad. The feeling that I’m getting from all of this is that we’ve faced a lot. All of us.

I’ve got similar stories, and I’ll probably get around to telling them sometime. I’ll admit that during Ambermist’s Meme I was certainly considering sharing, but I had simply too much going on in real life to come out and cope with this material as well. Things are almost nearly done being shaken up in my real life, and it looks like I’m making it through.

But, as Hestiah pointed out, the negativity is getting difficult. I want to look at things a little differently. I want to ask why gaming is giving us a place to relax, connect, and enjoy our time even if our lives, or our histories, seem to imply that we shouldn’t. So, I guess I’ll share at least a little bit about why it seems to work for me.

I prefer to deal with reality in small doses. I don’t seem to want to face everything all at once. I want to glance at it, walk away, come back later, check on it, procrastinate about it, and eventually go own up to it and get it over with. Without that “warming up to it” period, I generally feel overwhelmed and try to find some avoidance mechanism. I get highly annoyed when my day is so tightly scheduled that I don’t have a break (like running errands all day, or a day full of meetings). I actually need those momentary pauses to just… disconnect. I need to temporarily let go of everything I’m trying to carry around, and just calm down for a minute.

I know that my mind works a little differently than most people. My wife isn’t calm until she’s completed the list of tasks for the day. I feel calm when I get to concentrate. If I can become so engrossed in what I’m doing, my perception of my immediate environs vanishes and I feel overwhelmingly calm. This happens the best when I’m writing. Other choices that work are reading (blogs even work, please keep sending links!), writing code (yes, I’m a programmer), or playing music. MMO gaming, however, is just a little bit different. It provides that calming mechanism, but it also provides something else.

That “other thing” it provides, is company. I’m not alone. Now, to be clear, I don’t game with a lot of people. My guild, if you’d call it that, is a few real life friends and we run dungeons together, or go do our own independent thing – there’s not enough of us for a raid group, and with SW:TOR in the mix, lately people have been playing different games entirely and only chatting back and forth on Teamspeak (Dark ages, I know, but it’s not my server and it works well enough).

But, I do get to chat with people. I do get to interact with my friends. That imaginary bubble that holds the real world back for a while actually let some other people in, and I’m not all alone. That’s phenomenally huge. MMO Gaming allows for a communal escape. “Your life sucks?” “Yeah, mine too, let’s go kill some ogres and enjoy ourselves anyway.”

I get an opportunity to push a giant PAUSE button on reality, but it doesn’t freeze my friends. That’s pretty cool. Growing up, I’d never have imagined being able to have friends tag along into a well-crafted book at the same time as me. I could lend a book out, we could talk about it afterward, but we couldn’t ever enjoy it at the same time. Our temporary escapes were solitary. Watching a movie was probably the closest we could get, but you’re just sitting there, not participating. That’s not quite the same either.

The ability to communicate, to share the event, or to interact with actual people really made a huge difference. Suddenly, console games seemed incredibly lonely. I noticed something else about myself, though. I tend to seek out these like-minded virtual communities, and have done so since before MMORPGs existed.

I went to a college called RPI, where students developed a computer-mediated communication system called lily. This system was so fascinating to me in the fact that I was communicating with basically strangers, but they had similar backgrounds and interests as me, and it wasn’t the fractured populace just wildly yammering at each other. Knowledge of the system was predicated on either being associated with the college, or knowing someone on the system. This environment gave a similar feeling, the ability to provide a side-commentary on reality, without the immediate participation in reality. I could PAUSE things while I have a brief conversation with someone.

My recent foray into the world of blogging has been similar. The gaming blogosphere isn’t like the official Blizzard forums – people certainly come across as caring, genuine, intelligent, and interesting. Twitter allows those interactions to become conversations. This has been really fun. When it feels like a chore, or a duty, or… I dunno, a Molten Front daily, then I’ll probably take a pause from it.

(To hold a bubble like my daughter is doing, just get your hand wet first).


From → Parent/Gamer, SWTOR, WoW

  1. This is such a weird balance, when what you use to escape the real world starts to be the place that you need to escape from. I always end up feeling like I should be doing something, but I’m not sure what. Or flailing a little bit until I can find a little bit of balance. It’s tough, though, some days. Twitter can be frustrating. People can be frustrating. WoW can be frustrating. School can annoy me. Work can be frustrating.

    The good thing is that there are options. Thank you for the shout out. Much appreciated!

    • Totally agree that things can get universally frustrating. I don’t recommend what I just did – leave a job of over 11 years to go solo, but I felt like I had to change some stuff up. I can tell ya I definitely think things will be different.

      For me, when it gets too much in any direction, is usually when I back off and go solo for a while. I’m still logging hours on that iOS Lego Harry Potter because it’s a chance to just not deal with anyone or anything (plus, it’s a silly good game!).

      I have a lot of respect for your openness, approachability, and honesty.

  2. I relate to the ‘dealing with reality in doses’. When I have a challenge that’s simply not getting resolved, I’ll shelve it in my brain and log in. I’m still noodling on it in the back of my mind, but I’ve freed up my attention on a quick quest or instance or battleground. When I’m done, I’ve found that the majority of the time I’m able to then make progress on the RL challenge.

    You also hit on what I’ve been trying to express – gaming in WoW is more than playing a game; it’s interacting with people who are also playing the game. The two are so interwoven that they become part of the same experience, but I don’t know that one could exist without the other.

  3. battlechicken permalink

    Oh, the pause button analogy is perfect. And your statement about “the warming up to it period” is spot on. When I get an email, a blog comment, sometimes a Twitter or Tumblr message, I often read it several hours to a day before I reply unless it’s very, very urgent. I need time to think about it. I don’t always understand why, it just is that way. It’s nice to know there are others who prefer small doses.

    I find online communication to be much easier to handle in every fashion. I have time to think about what’s being said and respond well. If I can’t take being in the middle of things anymore, I can log off and walk away for a bit. I wish there were more opportunities to do that IRL!

    Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  4. I also like the analogy of the pause button, because that is what it’s like for me too. I enjoy the online interactions and it bugs me sometimes when people say that I pretend that they are real, because they ARE real. There are real people on the other sides of the keyboards. Sometimes the people around me IRL are just so … irritating that I can get away from them on the computer, and if the computer people become irritating I just get up and go back to RL. Somehow I find solace in the computer interactions because not everyone there is pushed for time, wanting you to hurry, whinging about making money or what car you drive or why I choose to send my kids to school in this area, or why I live in a dump of a suburb when I could live someplace more upmarket. I feel at least the people online have a common connection – we have a hobby, and it’s called world of warcraft and we also like to write. And it makes me feel like I’m not the only one out there who isn’t focussing on making money or trying to wrangle their way up in the world. Whoops ranty! I’ll stop now 😀

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