Well, if I'm going to purge my thoughts on my hobbies and where I am being led by them I might as well start with the big one - World of Warcraft.
The question, ladies and gentlemen, is - am I obsessed with WoW or am I obsessed with not being inactive?
I started playing WoW the day that it was given it's EU release. I was persuaded into it by a rather enthusiastic mate who had done the beta and said it was an awesome game. A number of us decided to take the MMORPG plunge that day and well...it has been like an infection. No, a parasite - not necessarily a bad one. Sometimes it's like those birds that clean a hippos teeth! Other times however, it has been like a very long tapeworm eating us from the inside.
We have a guild, the Dungeonners, and we play on the Silvermoon server. We have a regular 'instance' night on Fridays and we all have L60 characters. All sounds great doesn't it? Well, it is. Ish.
The positive sides of WoW have been many - we have had a new common ground to talk about. One of my friends has derived a very interesting PhD out of it. We have been introduced to a number of new friends in the area and indeed, around the world. Friday nights 'in' have become the new Lads Night Out - a testimony maybe to the impact of communications technology on our lives. We have had many many wonderful virtual adventures - laughing and crying together at our triumphs and misfortunes.
However, the negatives have also been many.
One friend has been made a virtual persona non grata by his attitude to the game. A more 'hardcore' player than most, his comments ruffled a number of feathers and we rarely see him. Moreover, it has given rise to almost clandestine suspicions about motive and reason - utterly without evidence.
Another friend has recently left both the guild and our circle of IRL friends because of an ingame promise that was made that, for a simple mistake, could not be kept. This person, whilst not central to our group of friends has been a constant presence for many years. I find that truly sad, especially amongst a group of grown men.
Our discussions about the game have began to push out every other aspect of adult life. Our regular meetings on Wednesdays in the pub used to involve playing cards whilst discussing sport, work, partners, wrestling and a myriad other topics. Now we just talk about WoW - which must be awful for the one person there that doesn't have the game!
Even within those willing participants in the Guild and the game, tensions seem to be rising. One player has radically different views on sharing resources. And I found myself raising my voice and losing my temper. This is the person I consider to be my best friend and I was getting angry with him. Thats just ludicrous!
Interpersonal stuff I can handle, with calm and composure - it's the time issues that are the real problem. WoW is easy. WoW is always there. WoW is rarely troubling or stressful. WoW is a wonderful retreat from a hard day at work. Every day. And therein, it would appear, lies the problem. There are many times that I have had a project to do at home and I will turn on the computer and as my mouse is hovering over the Dreamweaver icon, a voice in my head will say 'just check the AH' - it can't do any harm can it? Four hours later, it's bedtime and no project work has been done. How often does this happen? Often enough for it to be noticeable.
And my wife is convinced that I am addicted. She has a thing about addiction. She calls WoW my 'mistress'. Last weekend I was (not really) watching some sport on the TV and feeling a little down and she suggested that I should play some WoW. To perk myself up! I laughed, she pushed, I laughed and then I tried - and I did feel less shifty.
Now, the question is - was that because I was satisfying some urge to fulfil a chemical imbalance in my brain that WoW stimulates, in the same way as drug usage. Or was it just because I was mind-numbingly bored watching 10-pin bowling?
I HATE being bored. Boredom is my antithesis. Even when I was a kid, my catchphrase was 'I'm BORED!!!!!'. One thing that I have discovered recently is that the mass of TV is boring. I do not like watching TV for the sake of TV but that seems to be the fate of many an adult as they get older. Watching TV. God, thats not going to be my fate!
So, maybe WoW is just my way of escaping TV? That sounds much better than 'I am psychologically addicted to levelling and questing' doesn't it.
So where does that leave WoW in the pantheon of hobbies? Well, it's not going anywhere fast. It's something that I enjoy, that is cheap and that keeps me in the house. Moderation however, would appear to be the watchword and also keeping an eye on the tendency of the game to creep into real life and begin to erode other things.
Whoa to Warcraft, would be the message!