Show me a the guy who has the best kept yard in the neighborhood and I’ll bet you’ll see a dad who is avoiding his family. Why? Because he can’t have the fancy criss-crossed mow patterns, the perfectly trimmed and pruned bushes and trees, the precisely measured weekly trimmed grass edging and those perfect little bowls around the sprinklers without spending a lot of time away his wife and kids, even though he’s just outside. You know the type, they’re the ones you see outside manually watering their perfectly verdant yards each morning even though they appear to have a fully functional sprinkler system. And they’re the guy you see each night, again, manually watering those “trouble areas” that look at least twice as lush and green as a mere mortal’s lawn. Who knows why he’s avoiding his family, but I think all the signs are there, and who the hell wouldn’t take manual watering over feeding a fussy baby or diaper changing? In the end the perfect yard guy is filling his time with yard work to limit his exposure to his family.
So what do compulsive yard workers have to do with MMOs and the people who play them? I think it simply comes down to this. You can be a great parent, or you can be a great MMO gamer, but you can’t be both. They are, in my opinion, mutually exclusive. The reason? It’s all about time and commitment. By great MMO gamer I mean a hard core raider who is in a guild that is actively working through end-game content for a game like WOW. This would in most cases include PVP achievers who are working towards a top level ranking in Battleground or Arena type PVP, not just putting in the 10 or so required matches per week to slowly grow their ranking. I’m not referring to casual gamers who are just leveling up or playing through one or two instances a week. I’m talking about the achiever types who are the greatest of gamers with the epic gear, mount, stories, etc.
Back when we were all younger and single we could devote huge, contiguous amounts of time to playing games, talking about games and thinking about games. That was great, it was wonderful and it was something that, to some extent, we have grow out of. I don’t mean “no more gaming for you” in the Soup Nazi accent here, I just mean that balance must be struck. And I think that when we undertake the daunting task of raising children the lion’s share had better go to the parenting side of things. I think for most of us this forces a transition from a hard core or power gamer to a casual one. To some though, this is a compromise that must be fought against with tooth and nail.
I’m astounded by some of the statistics being revealed about MMO playing patterns. From the Daedalus Project this matrix illustrates the amount of time average MMO players spend playing MMOs, compared to watching TV:
|Average MMORPG and TV Hours Per Week|
|Male MMORPG||Female MMORPG||Male TV||Female TV||Male N||Female N|
They compared this to the national average for TV viewing, which is around 28 hours per week. As you can see, gamers typically sacrifice their TV time to play games. This lines up with my personal experience of watching a lot less TV than my non-gamer friends, so I’m inclined to buy in to this analysis. It’s interesting that women over 35 tend to play as much as males in their teens and early 20s. I would imagine that these two demographics have drastically different lifestyles and rolls to fulfill in society.
For hard core gamers these averages indicate a lot of time dedicated to gaming, and I am sure that anyone who’s in a raiding guild is actually putting in significantly more time than this. I know instances in WOW, for example, are supposed to run around three hours but there’s the time getting the raid together, the time lost when wipes occur or due to other delays. I have experienced the entire process consuming around five hours at a time for an instance. As the instances get harder the five hour average is even more likely due to strategic blunders with tougher encounters. This accounts for a lot of time doing nothing but playing the game. It’s not like TV where the content is broken up into 30 minute to one hour segments. Typically, this is an all-out, solitary, all of your attention for the next several hours type commitment. You can’t take a time-out in the middle to help little Timmy with his homework. You’ve checked out, you’re gone, dead to the world, and lord help anyone who interrupts you!
Considering that most serious raiding guilds shoot for a five night per week schedule for working through end-game content, you’re looking at no less than 25 hours of time, per week, dedicated to gaming. This by no means takes into account all the other requisite activities such as funding armor repair bills, time at the auction house, guild activities, crafting, and similar repetitive tasks. I believe if you factor that all in you end up with something closer to 7 to 8 hours per gaming day to support the raiding requirements. If you consider that for most of us, an average day consists of 8 hours of work and 8 hours of sleep, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of free time anyway. Factoring in the realities of commuting, eating, and working out, you’re left with even less.
How then can any parent also be raiding, much less a member of a hard core raiding guild? I have no idea. I can’t imagine how you can do it unless you start sacrificing things like work, sleep, eating, exercise or family. Maybe people leverage their weekend time to the fullest to work around this dilemma. Even if you do still find the time to spend quality time with your children, what about quality time with your spouse? You know, the reason you even have the children in the first place? It would seem that the maintenance of a good relationship and a healthy sex life would require several hours per week as well. Even for stay-at-home moms and dads, there are no shortage of chores and time sinks in the day that certainly equates to an 8 hour work day. I still think I got the easy deal by being the one who goes to work each day compared to my wife who is a stay-at-home mom.
So come on hard core raider parents, make that final sacrifice for your children and at least plant one foot squarely back in reality. You can still escape this wearisome world of ours and be a great warrior, super hero, or cute gnome with a waxed mustache and a penchant for blowing stuff up. Just don’t spend quite so much time doing it, and with such lofty goals. Your in-game characters will always be there for you in the current or future MMOs but your family may not. Life is fleeting, love is fleeting. Take some time and enjoy these things because they are real and tangible and are easily damaged or lost. Strike a balance and for the love of god, don’t start doing more yard work!