I’m sitting on a bench outside my local MMA gym. My brother just knocked me out in sparring then drove off and now I need my mom to come pick me up. I’m pretty sure all I need now is Michelle DeStefanis – my eighth grade crush – to show up and declare that I’m a loser and I’ll have a new lifetime low.
After twenty minutes, my mom rolls up in her minivan and honks the horn at me, drawing even more attention. I can’t wait until I’m a parent, so I too can have the ability to make an awkward situation even more embarrassing for my child. I don’t turn around to check, but I’m sure the entire gym is now watching as I get in.
After the jump, why I (sorta) deserved to get beat up
“Hi,” I mumble to my mom, then begin reclining the seat so I can lay back.
“Hi yourself,” she says. “Do I need to take you to the Medimerge?”
“No. Nelson is a registered nurse, he said that it didn’t seem like anything serious.”
“Good,” she says. “So… your little brother beat you up?”
“I got caught,” I tell her. “Just had my hands down for a little and he got in a lucky shot.”
“That’s not what he said.”
“You talked to him?”
“Yeah, I did it on the… the thing,” she says, pointing at the dashboard. “The built-in thing.”
“The onboard phone?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Well… what did he say?”
“He says you have a problem.”
“I have a problem? He just beat me up for no reason!”
“No, he beat you up because of the problem,” she says. “You have a problem with that game you’re playing.”
“I play a lot of games,” I tell her.
“The Star Wars one that’s like, uh, World of Warcraft.”
“Since when do you know what World of Warcraft is?” I ask.
“We never told you this. After you went off to college, your brother became obsessed with that World of Warcraft. His grades at school started slipping and he was staying up late, almost every night. Your father took the game off the computer, but he put it back on.”
“Why didn’t you just cancel his subscription?”
“We did, but later found out that a man in Georgia paid for him because he was very good at the game. We took away his computer too, but he just started playing it at a friend’s house.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, very serious. It was very serious. We practically locked him in his room for the second part of his junior year of high school. We eventually took him to a games psychologist to discuss why he needed to play it so much.”
“They sure do.”
“No, it wasn’t,” she says, sternly. “You think it was ridiculous? Imagine how I felt. I haven’t understood why you two like those games since you were playing with your Teenage Mutant Ninja Tigers.”
“Turtles, Mom,” I say. “They’re ninja turtles.”
“Whatever. But it’s pretty clear to me that one of my sons had an issue that affected his grasp of reality and what should be his priorities in life.”
“How did he get better?”
“I don’t know. The psychologist helped him put his life into focus, I guess,” she shrugs. “I’m not a doctor. But now he tells me he’s seeing some of that obsessiveness in you and it upset him. Not sure that I agree with how he chose to, ah, ‘help’ you. Definitely cheaper, though.”
“That’s silly. I don’t have a problem.”
“What have you done for the last four nights this week?”
Huh. Had I played every night? I didn’t even realize it.
“What are you planning on doing when you get back home?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do. Rudy, from what I’ve read, these games are designed to make you keep coming back by giving you stuff.”
“I like stuff.”
“I like stuff, too. But you have to be able to realize when you are spending too much time trying to win stuff and not enough time with your friends, or your family, or just outside! Especially when you can’t even show your stuff off except in a video game.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t play it anymore?”
“No! If you want to relax and unwind by playing your games, go for it. But you need to identify when you’re crossing the line from want to play to have to play. Alex is able to do that – you, apparently, can’t.”
“I think I get it now,” I say, rubbing the back of my (sore) head.
As I laid in bed that night, I remembered all the things Alex did to discourage people from getting too into playing SWTOR. He made me emphasize that we were a casual guild in all recruiting attempts; he wouldn’t allow anyone – besides me – to do more raiding than the scheduled two nights a week; I even heard him suggest to someone that they “take a break” after an extended leveling session.
And, the truth is, he’s totally right to be doing these things. There’s definitely a certain group of people who start playing MMOs and get completely sucked in. It’s become a bit of a punchline in the gaming community, but every year it seems like someone dies from playing an MMO too much in some cyber cafe. Obviously that’s the most extreme case, but a quick google search can bring up plenty of examples of marriages, friendships, and jobs lost as a result of WoW or EQ addiction. It should be every guild leader’s responsibility to step in with a friendly “hey, maybe you should slow down” if they think someone is playing too much. Whether they take it to a further level is their prerogative, but GMs should absolutely be investing some interest in their guild members’ social health outside the game. Guilds are communities, and GMs are the mayors of those communities; you have to make sure your citizens are all doing well.
The next day, I find a bottle of Advil and a bowl of cereal outside my door. The cereal is past soggy; it’s basically a bowl of mush at this point. I guess that’s Alex’s form of an apology.
I find him on his computer, playing SWTOR. I hand him back the bowl of cereamush.
“I understand why you did that. There’s no need to apologize. Thank you.”
“Okay,” he says.
“Can I keep playing and raiding?”
“Yes, but I won’t hesitate to beat you up again if I think you need it.”
“Believe me, I will never be at the physical point where you can beat me up again.”
“We’ll see,” he says.
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. You can read past Farming Vader articles here. You can also find more of his writing (and occasional acting) at Cows Come Home.