Kicking the Habit

Ever since the introduction of the first online role playing games, in recognition of how easy it is to spend too many hours playing, it has been a running joke for players to rename the games to reflect their addictive allure. Ultima Online became “Ecstasy Online” and EverQuest morphed into “EverCrack”. World of Warcraft, the most popular online role playing game to date, is not exempt from this tendency, prompting the satirical South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft” to ask the question ‘How do you kill that which has no life?’ Joking aside, the all consuming nature of these games creates, for some of us, very real problems.

Online game publishers maximize their revenues and profits by encouraging players to spend significant amounts of time playing. They do this primarily through the game design itself, incorporating a variety of well known “time sinks” such as character leveling (a process that requires the player to complete an endless number of in-game accomplishments in order to advance), special tasks called “quests” which offer attractive rewards upon completion, the opportunity to learn in-game professions such as crafting (requiring training and consuming yet even more play time), endless adventuring, as well as tantalizing virtual items (such as legendary fighting equipment) that can only be purchased with large quantities of gaming currency (in World of Warcraft it’s referred to as Wow gold) – all creating an infinite loop in which some players seem to get stuck.

Every adult knows that anything done to excess is unhealthy. So what can one do to maximize the fun in online gaming without neglecting other important aspects of life? Here are a few simple adjustments which can insure enjoyment in every aspect of life:

  1. Realize and accept that playing too many hours per week is a problem. Don’t kid yourself that your responsibilities can wait. Knowing that you have a problem is the first and most important step in overcoming it.

  2. Connect with friends and family. Go out for lunch, see a movie. Schedule real world activities with those you love, just as you would schedule a raid with your guild.

  3. Take up an outdoor activity. Shoot a few hoops with your neighborhood buddies or start a garden in your backyard. Think of these as your real-life quests. Not only do they keep you healthy, but you will also learn a thing or two.

  4. Find the right guild for you. Do not commit to hardcore raiding guilds that require you to play 5 hours a day, 4 nights a week. Play casually, enjoy the company of others and play at your own pace. WoW is just a game and you deserve to have fun the way you want.

  5. Schedule your play time. If you have school in the morning, play only a couple of hours after you study. Create a playing timetable and post it where you can always see it.

  6. Have a friend you trust monitor your online time and remind you of your commitment to breaking the habit. A helping hand is always a great way to get things done.

  7. Have someone help you get the in-game items that you want. Request help in power leveling, run the best dungeons, or buy gold to satisfy your urges. Once you’ve had a taste of the good life in-game, you won’t be as addicted as before.

Surprisingly, the ideas above are more effective than simply deleting your characters and uninstalling the game from your computer. Because education and knowledge are the only long term fixes for any issue. And nothing is more precious than the time you spend with friends, family, and on yourself. .

Remember – make a promise to yourself and your loved ones. Everything should be taken in moderation, even World of Warcraft! believes that gaming and being healthy should always be hand in hand. Work hard, play hard and have fun.

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