MMOs and Financial and Personal Balance

Charlotte writes in:

I just wanted to suggest that you write about MMOs. My husband and I have been playing World of Warcraft since we were in college for about five years. We play about two hours each evening and maybe three or four hours on raid nights (two nights a week). We don’t have a television or cable or anything and we mostly read or go on walks when we’re not working or playing or sleeping and stuff. For us, it’s pretty cheap entertainment. It costs about $70 for the initial software and then $13 a month for the subscription. Considering the time spent and the deep enjoyment we get out of it, it’s a pretty nice bargain.

I’ve played World of Warcraft off and on myself since its release (for those who play, I have a level 80 hunter on Galakrond and a few other characters here and there). Much like Charlotte and her husband, when I’m actively playing, I’ll play a bit each day (to do daily quests) and then maybe one longer spell once a week (to participate in a large group raid).

Evaluating Massively MultiPlayer Online Gaming

It’s cost-effective/h3> I agree that, in terms of bang for the buck, World of Warcraft is a pretty dollar-effective hobby. Let’s say a person plays for an average of one hour a day. That means the cost per hour for software and for subscription fees over the course of, say, two years is about forty cents an hour. That’s a pretty cheap hobby, any way you slice it.

It’s an inherently social activity

In the past, World of Warcraft has enabled me to maintain friendships with people from college (one of my old friends has even called it “Facebook for fantasy geeks”) and helped me to build a few new friendships, too. A MMO like World of Warcraft is built on the idea of being social – there are lots of people playing at the same time and the players communicate with each other, often building amazingly complex social constructs.

It’s addictive

When the most recent expansion came out, I spent several hours a day playing it for a few weeks, often staying up until late into the night playing. That’s an extremely mild case of it.

I have had friends who literally do nothing else besides work, eat, sleep, and play World of Warcraft. They’ve played ten hours a day for month after month earning achievements, building up characters, and so forth. I know one person who has lost a job and a girlfriend because of his addiction to the game. (Here’s a long thread filled with World of Warcraft addiction stories).

Why is it addictive? I think the biggest thing is that it does a great job of doling out microgoals and microrewards for those goals. If you can complete some objective that takes an hour or two, you’re given some reward – a stronger character, a better horse to ride on in the game, and so on. Since the game is inherently social, there’s also a big “keeping up with the Joneses” element to it – you want to have a character with weapons and armor and a mount and achievements that top your friends. Not only that, such games offer up engaging storylines that keep you interested in the story.

In moderation…

The solution, thus, is in moderation. When played in reasonable amounts, MMOs like World of Warcraft can be a great way to relax and be social at a very inexpensive price. The problem comes in when this relaxing social activity begins to interfere with other aspects of your life – your personal relationships, your other activities and interests, your work, and so forth.

For me, I pretty strictly cap my World of Warcraft play time. I’ll go for months without playing at all (usually during the summer months when I’d rather be outside) and play more in the winter, but during those winter months I balance my gameplay with other activities. For me, the surest sign that things are out of balance is if I find myself making little progress in other areas of my life.

If you can’t keep things in balance, you have an addiction

If you find yourself spending the majority of your free time playing, you have an addiction. You are far better off just deleting the game from your computer and walking away from it than letting your life’s energy be sucked away into a computer game. Don’t let it happen. Check out WoW Detox, uninstall the game, and find something else to do with your life’s energy.

Right now, I’m looking outside at the nice weather and at the books on my bedside table. I think I’ll uninstall World of Warcraft for the summer while I finish up this post and re-install it again in the late fall, maybe when the next game expansion comes out. It’s an inexpensive, fun hobby, but it’s just that – one little element in a well-balanced life.

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  1. Shannon says:

    You recently said that the social aspects of an activity aren’t that important and can be skirted around (in the context of your post on canceling cabletv): “Yes, conversations have come up that I’m clueless about, but I’ve still been able to participate. How? I simply say, “I don’t watch that program, but…” and then I ask a question about it.”

    Strange then that you’re now touting the social aspects of an activity as a positive in suggesting it. Be careful of your own biases in making recommendations…

  2. Georgia says:

    Shannon-

    I’m not sure, but I think he’s using the social aspect in a different way. Not watching a TV program and having to bow out of a small part of a larger social activity and conversation is much different than the creation of an entirely new social network like in World of Warcraft. I think that’s what he’s getting at.

    Of course, I’m biased. I met my fiance (and, as a result, decided to move to Dallas to attend college instead of stay in CA, which turned out to be a fantastic financial decision!) on world of warcraft, so I can definitely vouch for the social aspect :)

  3. I think it’s funny you don’t compare WoW with purchase only MMOs like GuildWars.

  4. J says:

    “Add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.”

    Substitute “television watching” with “playing WoW”.

    To each their own with their leisure time activities.

  5. London student says:

    I think you’ve misread his comment here on social activity.

    He means it’s social whilst your actually playing it not afterwards discussing it with people.

    There’s not really much social interaction in the act of watching television and the discussions afterwards do not bother Trent.

    It’s more social aspects within an activity that I think he is getting at.

    If you think about it’s kind of like saying about discussions of tv programmes or indeed anything popular that he doesn’t mind not knowing. There’s nothing inherently social when watching a programme. (In a way I see it as not caring to Keep up with Jones’ by watching everything that everyone’s talking about)

    It wasn’t a bias so to speak. Don’t be too quick to judge.

  6. H says:

    Thank you for highlighting the addictive nature of MMOs, while giving a very fair and balanced presentation of it’s positive aspects too. I broke up a 5-year relationship when it became clear that I had become 2nd (and a fairly distant 2nd) priority to WoW. Sadly, that situation is pretty common.

  7. Joanna says:

    I have been playing WOW for years now, and have to disagree with your negative assessment of it. I spend hours a day playing, and raiding etc. However, I don’t feel that I have an unhealthy addiction to it, rather it is my preferred way to relax.

    I don’t watch television, I don’t go out to the bar, and it doesn’t cut into my work or schooling.

    In fact, I met my significant other in this game, and we have had a strong relationship going on 5 years since I moved to be closer to her. Now, we play together and spend our non-play time together too.

    Wow is not a drug, it’s a game.

  8. Kat says:

    I had to look up what MMO stands for…why did you assume this was a common abbr.?

    Agree that an article praising WoW right after an article complaining that TV takes up otherwise productive time is just biased, and makes it harder to relate to….

  9. Julie says:

    Start rant.

    My 18-year-old stepson just flunked out of his freshman year at Iowa State because of his WoW addiction. But his mom found a doctor in high school to say it was ADD that was making him unmotivated to go to school. (He dropped out in 9th grade and basically lived in his room for four years playing WoW.) This year, he found another doctor who says he has Asperger’s and that’s why he’s having so much trouble in school (again, he didn’t show up for class). He scored a 99 on his GED test and a 34 on the ACT. Without going to high school. Something doesn’t add up. There is something wrong when the socialness of a GAME removes a person from the reality of dealing with REAL people and having to function on a daily basis in the REAL world.

    I shake my head. I wish I had a solution. I’d be rich, a lot of parents would have their kids back, and a lot of husbands/wives would have their spouses back.

    Rant over.

  10. wanzman says:

    What does MMO stand for, I have no clue?

    I agree, TV is bad but video games are ok?

    Its pretty much – whatever Trent does/enjoys/spends money on is good and justifiable, to hell with what everyone else does/enjoys/spends money on.

  11. A says:

    I agree with what everyone else said. I do not understand why you were saying TV takes away from productive time, if you are saying that WoW isn’t.

    As J said above — to each his own with their leisure time activities. I just wish you would be consistent with your viewpoints.

  12. A says:

    Also, for what it’s worth —

    You said in your TV article that it would only save you $20 a month, but provide you with hours of more time to do other things in life, like spend time with your kids, etc. WoW is only $15 a month. Why say TV is bad, but WoW is good?

    I don’t understand.

  13. Joanna says:

    @Julie

    WoW doesn’t cause people to have addictive personalities, it just gives an outlet to channel that addiction into. Personally I’d rather combat my childs addiction to video games that drugs or alcohol.

  14. Joanna says:

    MMO stands for Massive Multiplayer Online. It’s usually listed as MMORPG, which is Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.

  15. Matt says:

    “spent several hours a day playing it for a few weeks, often staying up until late into the night playing.” Wow! That seems like a lot to me, a lot more than a mild addiction. This is especially surprising considering your recent post on TV.

  16. marta says:

    Pretty much, wanzman. It’s getting obvious by now — what clinched it for me was Trent claiming it was stupid to have bills on autopay (assuming we wouldn’t check the statements at all) on a post where he whined about bills being paid twice. Okay…

  17. Matt says:

    MMO stands for Massive Multiplayer Online, for those asking.

    I think Trent has a good perspective. MMOs are not inherently evil. Yes, World of Warcraft is addictive, but when used with self control, it can be a very good thing for the reasons listed. Most online social applications and services are addictive as well, such as Facebook and Twitter. The key is moderation and self-control.

    I dropped TV long ago because I simply cannot agree to not being in control of what I watch (or accidentally flip through, namely commercials). In addition, most shows are available online. While both MMOs and TV are related, as entertainment, it’s simply a choice of how one spends time. Neither is inherently evil.

    However, that said, I highly recommend being careful with entertainment. It can eat away at life, if you’re not careful.

  18. matt says:

    Gotta moderate the addiction, I was on evercrack in college, and I decided it was a better idea to stay in a raid group than go take my physics final. After that I decided to pull the plug on all gaming all together, I realized I would rather put effort into something that yields a true physical reward in this world (cooking, woodworking, craft making, book reading, learn a new skill) Instead of sinking time for ones and zeros.

  19. Mimi says:

    Why would you keep reading if you think Trent is contradicting himself? He has an opinion about one thing, and a different opinion about another. What’s the big deal? His post about television didn’t say “You must all cancel your cable”, it was just explaining how he’s going through the process of cancelling, and in the positives of cancelling.

  20. Susan says:

    W.O.W. is like a lot of adrenaline/endorphin invoking activities- some people can be involved in moderation, some people can’t play without becoming overly absorbed. Sometimes it’s the addictive personality factor, other times it’s the fact that it’s a friendly, rewarding atmosphere for people who for various reasons don’t get affirmation in their real daily lives (it could be lack of social skills, lack of feeling/being conventionally attractive, etc.).
    On a more evil note- in my single days, the “addictive” factor of online games like WOW were often used among my friends for discouraging relationships we didn’t approve of. BFF’s new boyfriend start hitting on you when her back’s turned, or just a general jerk? Not a problem. Just make sure that SOMEONE gives Jerk the software for his B-day or Xmas (along with a sweetly generous gift card for six months of play) and Hey! Presto! BFF would be back with the girls sooner than later. Yes, sometimes BFF would try this new hobby with Jerk..but Jerk would often end THAT by being caught in a cyber-affair with another player.

  21. Ellen says:

    Trent has just lost me. This blog is increasingly way off the topic of frugal living.

  22. Leah says:

    Those little microgoals really are the tiny devil in the game. Yes, it’s everyone’s choice to use their time as they see fit, and I’m not bashing people who choose to play Wow. However, I do want to point this out: I have noticed a lot of people who pursue fantasy-based realms (both in person and online) when their own life has difficulties or challenges they’d rather not deal with. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who manage a productive life and are able to carve out time to play WoW and not have it be a detriment. It’s all about balance. I’ll illustrate with another example:

    For several years, I was involved in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) — basically, a dress up and pretend group where people came in medieval costume and pursued medieval crafts. There were tons of people there who were in dead-end, low paying jobs. The SCA was where they got their glory, and you could tell. A lot of people spent lots of money on keeping up with the Joneses there. Again, on the other hand, there were some AMAZING people who did really cool stuff because they truly loved medieval history. I saw amazing craftsmanship and work by some people who chose to seriously pursue the activity.

    Like all pursuits in life, there’s a balance to be found. Even reading, gardening, photography, working out etc can be taken to an extreme. You can’t blame the game itself for this sort of excess; rather, look to the person and what truly is the issue when time spent on personal pursuits leads to an unbalanced life.

  23. ChrisD says:

    Cracked.com has a (very funny) article on this, see their article on 5 creepy ways video games are trying to get you addicted.

    “Now, I’m not saying this guy at Microsoft sees gamers as a bunch of rats in a Skinner box. I’m just saying that he illustrates his theory of game design using pictures of rats in a Skinner box.”

    Probably best to just say no.

  24. alilz says:

    @Julie you need to educate yourself about Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s are extremely intelligent, have developmental delays especially with social ares and often are “hyperfocused” and have interests that can be all consuming.

    I don’t find what you described at all surprising about someone with Asperger’s. His interest happened to be WoW but it could have been any interest. Also WoW probably does help him socially because he doesn’t have to deal with decoding facial expressions and (if he doesn’t use voice that often) trying to figure out humor or sarcasm.

    Your stepson is dealing with REAL people. He’s forming relationships with REAL people. REAL people play WoW.

    Here’s a good website to get some information http://www.aspies.org/

  25. Gretchen says:

    I, myself, like a nice balance including TV.

    And can be added to the “what’s an MMO?” group.

  26. Eric says:

    I once played WoW, for about 2 years, and can also vouch for its cost:time efficiency, but the reason it’s so efficient is because you don’t do ANYTHING but play that damn game.

    Think about it this way, a “level 80 hunter,” as Trent points out as having is the equivalent of wasting 5-7 DAYS of time. Not “a few hours a day,” no, 5-7 FULL DAYS OF YOUR LIFE, and that’s if you know what you’re doing. Someone just messing around can easily spend 2-3x that amount of time to reach the max level.

    The point is WoW is so cost efficient because it sucks your attention so much that you spend less on everything else. There’s a reason why WoW has been the number one MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) for years — it’s addictive, addictive, addictive.

  27. Ryan says:

    MMO stands for massively multiplayer online.

  28. friend says:

    Mother’s Morning Out. I thought it was going to be about having 3 kids.

  29. Andrew says:

    I’m really floored by the reflexive anti-videogame stance, and the attacks on Trent and this blog. I don’t know why people don’t just leave if they find the blog so terrible. Unsubscribe. You have nothing invested in this. It says between the box where you typed your complaints and the submit button negativity is not welcome.

    I’m also struck by how many people differentiate between what is on a computer and what is “real.” With so much of the work force spending their time online, putting out products that mostly just exist in computers, and dealing with people you may never see in “real” life I think “real” versus computer-mediated is a false and dated dichotomy.

    There is a huge difference between the active and social playing of a game, and the passive consumption of television. I resisted WoW until I moved to another country. Then I signed up, because it was a great way to stay in touch with many of my friends. It was the social activity that kept me going.

    But, like everything else, ABSOLUTELY everything else, it’s about balance. I unsubscribed when I had a month off of work so I wouldn’t be tempted to fritter that time away, and I haven’t resubscribed yet. You can try and tell me that other people couldn’t have filled that time up with television, or reading, or sex, or food; heck, even church or something, and I just won’t believe you.

  30. FinanceFreak says:

    Just think of the fortune missed out on by not devoting the time to land development within Second Life.

  31. frugalrandy says:

    Two things. One, for those who are trying to make a connection between television and MMOs you are flat-out wrong. There is zero similarity or connection between the two, other than the fact that both are viewed from a rectangular screen.

    Secondly to those folks who are admonishing Trent to “be careful of his biases,” I will remind you this is his PERSONAL BLOG and he can freely express every single bias he has about any subject he chooses. That’s what blogs are for.

  32. PK says:

    lol @ChrisD #11

    I actually didn’t notice the strange juxtaposition of “TV is bad, but highly addictive MMOs are good” posts til I read the comments. At first I thought, hey, these people have a point. Then I realized… no, not really. Yes, both can be time wasters, but Trent’s point is that MMOs are a cheap hobby. Sure the microrewards are small, but it has the added benefit of being social — sometimes as a way of keeping in touch to distant friends, or gaining new ones with obviously similar interests. With TV you don’t get that sense of socialness (unless you’re at a Superbowl party, etc.), and you don’t get much reward or feeling of satisfaction from watching. You may sometimes get entertained, but I think it’s safe to say that most of the time your attention is merely diverted and that’s all.

    I recently read “Eat, Pray, Love” and there was a great line in it I haven’t been able to shake: “Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one.” I can’t help thinking how true this is, how we seek more to be entertained than to be happy.

    Lastly, I’ve never played MMOs (but have been geeky enough to know people who not only do, but also play RPGs online and real life, going all the way back to MUDs and MUSHs etc.), but reading your description of the game… I couldn’t help but think of the game, Farmville. For those that don’t know, it’s the #1 game on Facebook. It’s basically a little imaginary farm you have and take care of, and you can have friends as neighbors with their little farms. It’s chock full of microrewards, and though an admittedly pointless game aside from the microrewards, I found it oddly addictive. And so have many other people. I managed to stop myself after a little over a month, but while I haven’t craved going back I’ll always think back on it with wonder, not being able to really pinpoint what it was that made it so compelling. Especially since I’m an avid gardener (though not farmer) in real life. But at least it was a fun winter-time activity when I couldn’t do my gardening.

    (And for those who think this post is off-topic, be reminded that a reader requested an article on this topic as a frugal hobby. And it is, when you divide the cost per hour. But unfortunately this is one of the few occasions Trent didn’t also factor the worth of his time; which unfortunately, such games can take a LOT of.)

  33. J says:

    @frugalrandy — Both a MMO game and TV involve you sitting on your rear end for hours in front of a flickering screen. According to Trent’s post yesterday, entitled “The Realities of Dropping Cable”, the following are television’s evils:

    “Not only does television offer up …. Add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.”

    Well, in MMO land you spend you time on quests, looking for loot and leveling your character. This takes hours upon hours, which definitely drains your otherwise productive time. In the case of WoW, this entails literally a second full-time job for many players. Raids last hours, and people literally schedule their evenings around them … just like TV.

    “I have no interest in new cars. …… The absence of television leads to the near-absence of want.”

    Well, in WoW land you are always hunting for that next quest or ability … or someone to go raiding with … or some blue armor … or more gold.

    I might not be culturally “up to date” – but I really don’t care. …. How? I simply say, “I don’t watch that program, but…” and then I ask a question about it. The person I ask almost always is very happy to answer the question and enjoys being the expert on the topic. My ignorance is a conversation builder.”

    Well, with anyone who plays WoW, I can pretty much say “I don’t play WoW, but” and they will happily go on for hours about their character, their clan, their most recent raid, their views on gold farmers, their computer rig, and so on.

    Also, there is most definitely a social element to watching television. People at the office will chat about American Idol or Lost of the game that was on last night. I work with a lot of geeks so people chat about Mythbusters and The Big Bang Theory. There are blogs and other online forums where people discuss and debate what’s going on in their favorite show. Some shows (like Lost) even get their own version of Wikipedia!

    Won’t get me wrong — if plopping down in front of the teevee is what you want to do with your own time, go for it and be happy. If you want to stay up till the wee hours of the night playing WoW, then good for you, too. If you want to go out to the movies, catch the opera, work on a project car, play board games, or watch paint dry, that’s great if it’s what you want to do with your free time.

    But to come out and demonize one thing and then follow it up with the sanctification of another, there’s a whole heck of a lot of self-justification going on. Both television watching and video game playing are absolutely fine in moderation, just like pretty much everything else in life.

    FWIW I avoided WoW like the plague after devoting far too much time to Asheron’s Call, which I played from beta on into full production for some time. I knew the amount of time required to keep up and actively chose not to participate. Even before MMO’s existed, I saw many, many people lose their entire GPA to Civilization, Doom and other games that barely worked on a network. Computer games can be just as destructive as too much TV.

  34. Adam says:

    I’ll give my 2 cents here…or in Everquest speak, 2 copper pieces…(Everquest/Evercrack predates WoW in the Massively Multiplayer Online [MMO] dateline).

    I started playing Everquest in early 2000, shortly after it opened up. I was doing my Masters degree and studying for my Charted Accounting exams, and needed something to do during my downtime so I didn’t just think about passing or failing all the time.

    It worked…very well. If you had to pass the time waiting for results of a test, this game made time go buy in a flash! I spent night after night playing (to no detriment to my studies) and learning all the terminology. But by the time I got my designation and my Masters, I was hooked.

    Within 2 years I had a character that was leading raids, decked out in artifact level gear (one set per server only) and cared more about my character than my own life. I got my partner hooked on the game as well because otherwise I wouldn’t have had a relationship at all.

    I lost one job at Deloitte & Touche because I was so busy playing! I got another job, and lost that for the same reason. When I was unemployed it made me play more, and I started to put on weight and see less of my friends.

    Thankfully, I got a new job in the islands and didn’t have internet for a few months while I moved, shed the lost weight and the addiction, learned a new career outside of public accounting and everything worked out well for me (I hid the job losses from my friends and family by saying I had quit because I was unhappy, and had enough savings to make it through my 2 months unemployment).

    I think the risk of becoming addicted and losing something important such as friends or a relationship or a job is too high for people to consider this a cheap hobby. Sure its only $13/month, but if you get hooked it can ruin your life. Its high stakes.

    BTW, I never smoked, did drugs, gambled, or anything else one might associate with a “addictive” personality. Also, graduated with honors from my undergraduate, dean’s list Masters program and scholarship from my highschool for top 10 students. If it can happen to me, it can happen to just about any kid who likes video games.

  35. Matt C says:

    From a frugalness point of view I think it is a wash. 50 bucks for a cable subscription vs. 35 for DSL plus 15 per month subscription pretty much equals out. However, I think that the benefits of having the internet are much greater than having just TV as TV shows can be watched on the internet.

    From a games in moderation is better than TV in moderation standpoint, I would argue that although games have the social element, this does not override the fact that both are highly addictive. I was addicted to WOW and I know plenty of people who are addicted to TV.

    I don’t play WOW anymore (cpu games in general)it could have cost me my marriage to a wonderful woman. I know some people think that is ridiculous or crazy or not really possible, but the fact of the matter was that when I played my thoughts were preoccupied with WOW. Even when away from the computer I thought about it rather than my family. I would liken it to gambling, but rather than the huge rush of the win you get addicted to the small rush/sense of accomplishment. Finally, each MMO comes complete with its own cheerleading squad of other players that are themselves potentially addicts.

  36. Mike says:

    I enjoy watching webshows of people playing MMOs. It’s a frugal activity within itself!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/watchtheguild

  37. moink says:

    My husband plays about 25-30 hours a week (yes, a heck of a lot. He is otherwise a stay-at-home-parent and it is his only hobby/break from the kid) and I probably play about 10 hours a week. So this is a subject I know pretty intimately.

    It seems relatively cheap if you only count the cost of the subscription, but their are other costs to keep in mind. Every two years or so there is a new expansion to buy. My husband, for some unknown reason (ok, not unknown, I know he does it for social cred, because somebody has to and nobody else volunteered, and because he is a GL) volunteered to pay for the guild’s website and ventrilo hosting. Not everyone will do that, of course, but in a raiding guild both are essential and in my opinion all guild members should contribute. We have a more expensive internet connection than we otherwise would because reliability is extremely important to my husband (can’t have lag or a disconnect at the wrong moment!). And the most expensive aspect is hardware upgrades. If we weren’t WoW junkies, we wouldn’t need a high-end video card, the amount of memory we have, etc.

    On the other hand we don’t have a TV (which here saves a license fee as well as cable costs, electricity, and the depreciation of the TV itself) and we go out to eat less often than I think we might without WoW. So it’s probably a wash in terms of the financial impact.

  38. gerry says:

    My opinion, don’t blame the game, blame the person who chooses to spend excessive hrs playing the game. Remember people, everyone has the power to choose.

    I believe Trent’s point on this post was about the cost per hour and the perceived value he gets for his money. He obviously enjoys video games over tv, so of course he is going to be biased. Dig a little deeper on the point of his article. The financial lesson is “perceived value”. Also this is his personal blog and he is free to be biased about anything he wants. Some of you people need to realize this, and maybe get over it and take away the positives of his articles,rather than trying to hang him at every chance you get.

  39. deRuiter says:

    “frugalrandy — Both a MMO game and TV involve you sitting on your rear end for hours in front of a flickering screen.” This nails it. People who don’t get ahead because they are too busy playing a “game” to work or study, have a self inflicted problem. I’d rather apply my problem solving skills to the real world: saving money, getting ahead on a job, developing a productive sideline, traveling, interacting with real people. But if you like it, go play a game.

  40. Jennifer says:

    I stopped playing WoW 6 months ago when I realized I hadn’t read a book in months because all my free time was spent playing. Sadly I still miss playing. Just yesterday something reminded me of playing & I actually felt sad & wanted to start playing again.

  41. Carey says:

    Trent wasn’t as negative about TV as the comments on that post were. I think the lesson to take away here is “to each his own”.

    I love all the “what’s an MMO” comments. YOU ARE ON THE INTERNET. Gee, if only someone would come up with a way to look stuff up on the internet like what an MMO is.

    I tried both Everquest and WoW, for 2-3 months each. I liked them both for about that long, but could never get addicted. In my case, I think it’s because I prefer to play games alone, and that’s about as long as you can play games like that without having to group up to keep advancing.

  42. reulte says:

    This is the reason that I am a bitter divorcee.

    And I could rant for hours about it but I will only say that a divorce is not cost effective entertainment.

  43. Kathleen says:

    MMO, Farmville, etc., IMO, all sound pretty boring. I don’t watch much TV, either. Give me a good book any time!

  44. Kathryn says:

    I’d really appreciate it if when you use an acronym of any kind, such as MMO, that you define it. I don’t play that type of game so I’m not familiar with MMO’s. I did find 7 possible meanings for MMO on wikipedia and figured out which one you meant.

  45. MattJ says:

    Secondly to those folks who are admonishing Trent to “be careful of his biases,” I will remind you this is his PERSONAL BLOG and he can freely express every single bias he has about any subject he chooses. That’s what blogs are for.

    also

    Also this is his personal blog and he is free to be biased about anything he wants. Some of you people need to realize this, and maybe get over it and take away the positives of his articles,rather than trying to hang him at every chance you get.

    If you like someone’s blog, you should call them out when you think they’re being a hypocrite or if you think they’re expressing an inconsistent set of beliefs. Of course he can say whatever he wants on his own blog, but I would remind you guys that he’s opened up a comments section specifically so he (and the rest of us) can learn what his readers think about what he writes.

    People get touchy when they’re criticized for the hobbies they have. People (rightly, I think) see criticism of the hobbies themselves as indirect (or direct) criticism of themselves as hobbyists. People want to defend their own hobby choices as ‘good’ choices. In light of the post about television, I think our host is going pretty easy on MMOs, but it’s understandable that he would want to, given that he chooses to spend his time on them.

    I’ve never taken up online gaming (I’m exactly the kind of person who could get sucked into that in a big way – I used to spend quite a bit of time console gaming before consoles could get online, and the LAST thing I need is a bunch of gaming buddies emailing me to encourage me to do more gaming with them) I think Trent gives us a clue as to how much control he has over his playing when he says he plans to uninstall the game over the summer. If he was in complete control here, he could just decide not to play. It’s only alcoholics who have to make sure there’s no alcohol in the house when they’re trying not to drink.

  46. Kat says:

    Sorry, I fail to see the “social element” as being a good reason to play video games. You are socializing with pixels, not people. It’s a justification to spend your time touching a mouse and keyboard and talking to pixels rather than shaking a friend’s hand or calling them on the phone. There is a reason that the stereotype of the video gamer is an unemployed hermit living in his mom’s basement. Yes, that is not true for the majority of people, but at least the evils of TV ads may make you motivated to at least get out of the house, go to work, and earn money for that new car. If you like playing video games because it is fun, say that, it’s a fine pastime or relaxer. But to say that TV is a time waster and video games aren’t—because YOU like video games and the last TV show you still regularly watch is on its last season, is being hypocritical.

    And Trent’s blog is not a personal “here’s what I did today!” type blog anymore. He is acting like an expert, though he keeps reminding us he’s not, why else would he tell people to email him questions and he’ll answer? He is losing credibility on this blog, which will be damaging to its profitability.

  47. WendyH says:

    It’s taken me years to see and understand all of the benefits to my husband’s gaming. I can’t stand any sort of video game, never have. He is still able to work, maintain our house, and our 20 year relationship is still going strong.

    My husband has played all of the popular MMO games over the years and has gone from game-to-game with a group of friends as well. It is as much of a social event as a video-game, and actually has better interaction and actual conversations than reading and posting comments to someone’s blog. Most of his group is set up with voice over IP (basically everyone can conference call together), I can’t have conversations with my books or TV, and we can’t entertain 4 nights a week to have a “more acceptable” form of social interaction, and he can’t stand watching 20+ minutes of commercials in an hour worth of TV.

    He plays with his nephew who lives 250 miles away, so they can keep in touch and enjoy time together. We have met people from across the country “in-game” that we have either visited or had visit us, like one driving from Florida to Minnesota and picking up another gamer in Kentucky on the way. It has also allowed him to keep in regular contact with friends that have moved out of town.

    It gives him benefits including the sense of accomplishment that he often doesn’t get from work and experience managing (or as he calls it, herding cats) when he is leading a raid. At a certain level MMO’s can teach the younger players social skills: how to follow leaders or listen to directions, and how to interact with a group to get a task completed.

    Trent is right in that it is an economical form of entertainment in comparison to other things. The key is moderation and self-discipline, and that can be different for everyone, just like it is for anything else.

  48. Jake says:

    Trent’s point is less TV = bad while MMOs = good. His point is that if we want to entertain ourselves, it’s fiscally smarter to do so in a way that is cost effective over a long period of time. Strong cases could be made for both TV and MMOs to be cost-effective, at least compared to some other activities.

    That being said, neither MMOs nor TV are inherently social. Yes, both have social aspects. When you play an MMO, you often do so with a headset on so you can verbally communicate with the other people in your group. Thus, you might be talking to 4 or 24 people at once for the hour or two that you play.

    TV could be considered social because you can discuss it with friends the next day at work.

    Are either truly social? Not really, and I personally believe that attacks on the social value of one while defending the social aspect of the other are shortsighted.

    Want a really social, low cost activity? Go play basketball on the park courts. Go to the library and join a book club. Go to the park and join up a game of Ultimate Frisby.

    My two cents.

  49. Adam says:

    “My opinion, don’t blame the game, blame the person who chooses to spend excessive hrs playing the game. Remember people, everyone has the power to choose. ”

    While this is definitely true, please read the aforementioned cracked.com article; these games are being designed to become addictive by tapping into base and primal urges of rewards/punishment, skinner boxes, and all kinds of things that are trying to get people to keep pushing that lever. Its not as simple as “oh this person is weak”; by the time the game has become a problem for the person they are addicted. And there’s no warning label on the box.

    It would be like everyone thinking smoking is normal and no side affects at all, the labels saying nothing is bad or gives you cancer about this, and all your friends are doing it, so go on smoke its fun! Then we’re you start you like it, keep smoking more and more, suddenly you’re smoking 3 packs a day and can’t quit. Then people come and say you’re weak because you can’t quit?

    And yes, psychologists are now coming around and saying these games are just as addictive as gambling, drugs, booze and cigarettes and video game addiction is a real thing.

  50. Nicole says:

    Liz Pulliam Weston has a question and answer blog now.

  51. Jon says:

    @Kat
    “And Trent’s blog is not a personal “here’s what I did today!” type blog anymore. He is acting like an expert, though he keeps reminding us he’s not, why else would he tell people to email him questions and he’ll answer? He is losing credibility on this blog, which will be damaging to its profitability.”

    You nailed it right there. Although he claims the site is for entertainment purposes only, it is far from that. Reader mailbag, published books; that is no longer entertainment. People have looked to him for sound financial advice. The ‘I am not an advisor’ excuse does not fly anymore. He may not be a Certified Financial Planner, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t giving out advice he thinks is right to people who desperately need some.
    The disclaimer at the bottom is a joke and everyone knows it.
    “no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.” Really? then stop giving people specific advice about how to solve their problems.

  52. frugalrandy says:

    @Kat (#27): “Sorry, I fail to see the “social element” as being a good reason to play video games. You are socializing with pixels, not people. It’s a justification to spend your time touching a mouse and keyboard and talking to pixels rather than shaking a friend’s hand or calling them on the phone.”

    Absolutely not true! The social element is THE reason to play MMO’s. You may not realize that MMO gamers are on headsets and microphones virtually the entire time we are online. I am in a video game guild with about 70 accounts, and on any given night there can be 20 to 30 of us from across the globe online together. Think of it as a big international Skype conference call. There is NO WAY we could get that variety of social exposure if we relied upon telephones and handshakes.

    During the week we generally divide up into groups of 6, but on weekends there will usually be 24 in the conference call together, which is when we conduct the large cooperative events for 2 to 3 hours at a time.

    Most of us have known each other literally for years, although we are always gaining and losing a couple of members here and there. We communicate a lot about the game, but we also keep up with each other’s lives, current events, movies we’ve seen, political issues, our jobs, our girlfriends, boyfriends and spouses, American Idol, anything you would chat about on bridge night, garden club meeting or chess club, or around the water cooler. Sorry, but it’s simply light years away from watching television.

    And as far as this stereotype gamer, NONE of the folks in my guild live in their parents’ basements. We range in age from 20’s to 60’s, we all have real jobs and real homes, children, retirement accounts, political views, typical people not unlike the ones that prefer to watch television every night.

  53. Anna says:

    I’ve been playing WoW since it came out, so it’s about 5.5 years now. In that time, I somehow managed to maintain a social life, graduate university, and find (and keep) a job. Honestly, video games aren’t the devil. Neither is TV.

    Saying “WoW [or any other game] is horrible because I couldn’t control my own involvement” is, in my opinion, shifting the blame onto the product from yourself.

    People who say you aren’t socializing with people in multiplayer games have just never made real-life long-lasting friendships through that medium. I have. You really get out of it what you put into it.

    I think perceived value is the important thing here. If you’d rather sit and watch TV, go for it. There are benefits to doing it and not doing it. Same with games. Same with books. After all, reading a book involves just sitting on your ass doing “nothing”.

  54. Nicole says:

    #30… Yes, I know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen “The Guild” on the internets.

  55. frugalrandy says:

    Oh and one more thing to Kat (#27) and Jon (#29): “And Trent’s blog is not a personal “here’s what I did today!” type blog anymore. He is acting like an expert, though he keeps reminding us he’s not, why else would he tell people to email him questions and he’ll answer? He is losing credibility on this blog, which will be damaging to its profitability.”

    The fact is, he would lose credibility if he stopped speaking from his mind and heart and daily experience, and instead began crafting his thoughts to “be careful of his biases.” Both of you need to just think about that. He gave the pro’s and con’s of the subject in his blog post based upon his viewpoint. What else would you have him do?

  56. Pete says:

    One of the interesting things I noticed during my WoW days… The people I knew in real life that played and weren’t very good with money/finances were the same way in WoW. They never had any gold.

    I’ve always been good with money & saving and always had plenty of gold in WoW.

  57. Wraith says:

    Another word of advice, regarding MMOs and finances – don’t keep paying if you’re not playing the game. Often times, the amount of time you play may drop off drastically, due to lack of free time, lack of interest, or other factors.

    It’s easy to keep a subscription you’re not using, thinking “well, I’ll get back into it eventually,” or not even thinking about it. ~$15/mo may not break the bank, but it’s still paying for a service you’re not using. Better to unsubscribe, keep the game installed, and re-subscribe when you’ve got the time & interest to play.

    Some disincentives for unsubscribing are a.) losing time you’ve already paid for this month, and b.) losing your character(s). The latter varies, depending on the game. Some will keep your characters for a certain period of time, after your subscription ends. Some will charge you to restore characters when you resubscribe. Some will keep them indefinitely.

  58. I could add dozens of anecdotes to the various “we’re not all hermit geeks” and “it’s more social than you think” threads but I thought I’d mention something a little more on topic: WoW (and presumably other similar MMORPGs) can be used as a financial education teaching aid for teenagers and the otherwise financial illiterate.

    You start with no money, zilch. You get money for selling things you’ve collected on your travels or for completing quests (often, and particularly to start with, pitched as jobs/favours for people). Once you’re a few levels in, you can start learning professions – they cost money to learn but in turn, you can use your new skills to earn you money. You can also try speculating on the Auction House, which involves learning about the internal market and supply & demand on your particular server.

    While most players are generous in other ways, beggars – people asking for money – are frowned upon and unless you’re good friends/guildmates with some rich players, you’re unlikely to get loans. There is no credit. You have to earn your money, you have to work for it one way or another, you have to save up if you want to buy some cool threads or an expensive new ride, and risky ventures at the AH don’t always pay off.

    Sure, the money isn’t worth anything once you leave Azeroth but the lessons are more transferable to the real world than many people think.

  59. Dolphineus says:

    I enjoy WoW. For a long time I didn’t. I was obsessed. I had multiple characters at max level and was always trying to do something with one of them. Finally I realized I was failing at balancing my life with a simple video game, so I quit WoW.

    In the end, I took a break for about 9 months. I find that I am able to balance my playing now. I don’t bother with achievements. I don’t do daily quests. I don’t worry about being the best. I play because I enjoy it, but I don’t let it make decisions for me.

    In the past, I would schedule my life around WoW. Nope, can’t go do this or that because I had a raid. Now I put life first. Sure, I’d like to raid with you this week, but I would rather spend time with my family.

    For those of you who have never played, it is easy to dismiss the social aspects of an MMO like World of Warcraft. There was an article in Wired.com that nailed it: “A relatively straightforward game that, if you were just playing as a single player, would exhaust itself rapidly, takes on a hugely longer life when you add even relatively light social interaction.”

  60. Claudia says:

    #12 Gretchen—you are so right! A balance of everything! I occasionally play a video game, watch some TV and read books for relaxation. Spending hours doing any of those including reading is counter-productive to having a life. If one is not getting their work done, both “at work” and at home, then you need to reset your priorities.
    I do not see a correlation with on-line games and social interaction. How is interacting with people you don’t know and never will, social?

  61. Amanda says:

    I’m really glad you touched on the bang for the buck aspect of WoW. So often, my husband and I are looked down by his parents because they see it as a huge time and monetary expense. It’s funny they look at it that way though, when other family members spend thousands a year on basic entertainment and hobbies. I find WoW really keeps us on budget from month to month, because we won’t go out to movies or subscribe to cable tv. Not only that but friends that live far away can spend time with us online participating in an activity. We’ve also met many couples online that are now great real life and in game friends all while spending only $13/month. Of course we take long breaks throughout the summer, to get outdoors and keep variety in our lives. I’m sure glad it is around in the sluggish cold winter months though.

  62. J says:

    “How is interacting with people you don’t know and never will, social?”

    Why do we post comments on blogs?
    Why are Facebook and Twitter so wildly popular?
    Why do people join discussion boards for things that are of interest to them?

    MMO’s definitely have a strong social aspect to them, especially given their base origins in tabletop role-playing games, which are intensely social. I play tabetop RPG’s and have been introduced to many new people when one of the other people brings a friend into a campaign. MMO’s create an online place where you can go into a world where other people are basically looking for people to play with them. So while you are resting up between fights, there is an opportunity for small talk and so on. People can and do get to know each other very well. People have formed strong friendships, found spouses and grieved when they learned someone they had been playing with for years died or was diagnosed with a terminal disease.

    The same thing could happen in any online forum. For instance, my wife likes a particular site that is devoted to mothering. They have a discussion forum that has hundreds or thousands of women posting questions, sharing advice and so on. I used to actively participate in a car enthusiast board that had occasional local meetups. The forum my wife contributes to booked a cruise where people could meet up in person. Heck, even the love advice column in my local paper has spawned a community that has frequent in-person meetups. The same goes for MMO’s. A guild might have a meetup in some city or at some convention.

    Just because you meet people online doesn’t mean that you will never meet them in person. That’s making a huge assumption. In some respects, the MMO is just another online forum of like-minded people that are extremely common on the Internet.

  63. frugalrandy says:

    Wow, my hands are getting tired from all this explaining! #34 Claudia, I completely agree with you about moderation in all things, but you could not be more wrong about not knowing the online community.

    On the contrary, guild members know each other extremely well! We know each other’s names, addresses, phone numbers, occupations, children’s names, birthdays, religious affiliations, what kind of cars we drive, likes and dislikes. We all know when one of us or our family members is sick or gets a promotion or graduates or goes on vacation. A number of our members are either married or boyfriend/girlfriend. Members visit each other in “real life” quite often, certainly more than some families see each other. Just a couple of weeks ago, one member shipped another one a container of their homemade kielbasa and eggplant casserole clear across the country! When one of us is having technical or money troubles, another will send them a spare monitor or video board.

    We have one couple that met in the game last year, realized they live in the same town, and are well on their way to being engaged to be married. We have another beautiful young couple, a school teacher and an accountant, from two different countries who met in the game. Over the course of two years this young man has obtained a visa and moved to the U.S. to her town. They just celebrated their beach wedding a couple of weeks ago (the anniversary date of when they met online) and we have plenty of new photographs on the guild website to share. All of us have encouraged and laughed and grumbled over these experiences right along with them each step along the way as they made their plans, visited each other every few months, fought the bureaucracy and red tape of obtaining American citizenship, and finally settled down together.

    Don’t tell me we don’t know each other and never will. You really have no idea. We are more like a family than many families I know. I’m sorry to derail so much, but I prefer to see folks gently enlightened when it’s clear they are very much in the dark.

  64. J says:

    To add one more thought to my above comment: I had to quit visiting the car discussion board because it was consuming too much of my life. I am close to having to do the same with this type of activity, as well. It’s also the reason that I don’t play MMO’s — I don’t have the time, I know their addictive nature and I know other aspects of my life would suffer as a result. Moderation, moderation, moderation.

  65. Technophile says:

    My roommate dropped out of college because he failed his classes. He was playing way too much WoW. At least he quit now and is going to a community college but damn, that was a lot of money wasted.

  66. alilz says:

    I do not see a correlation with on-line games and social interaction. How is interacting with people you don’t know and never will, social.

    Of course it’s social it’s people talking and communicating and doing things together.

    Some people think — it’s not real because you haven’t met in person. How can you know hwat you are being told is true.

    But the same thing can be said for people who meet in real life. Say, there’s a gardening club you belong to you. You socialize.You start off talking gardening but then it changes to jobs or spouses or kids. Or your other hobbies./ Maybe someone says “hey let’s go have lunch sometime” or “let’s go see that new movie” and you do and friendships develop.

    Guess what — it’s the SAME as online communites. I know it can be hard to wrap your head around. Especially with the whole — you haven’t seen the person! What if they are lying, but the same thing can be said for the gardening club, sure you’ve seen them but how can you be sure they work where they say they do, or have parents that live out of the country. You just learn about people and trust them.

    I’m part of an online community that came together because of a tv show. A TV show, that’s right. And we talked and analyzed and socialized.

    That was — 10 years ago for some of us. No wait for some it was closer to 12 years ago.

    We talked about the tv show and also about our lives we grew as a community the way all communities do. Sometimes it was bumpy sometiems smooth, we have new people, old people fell away — old people came back.

    There have been 3 marriages out of this community and lots of kids, we’ve been there for each other during death, divorce, pregnancies, childhoods, natural disasters. for the past 8 years (I think maybe longer) we’ve gotten together yearly. Not everyone but as many as we can. We’ve helped each other out financialy, we have a secret santa exchange. We even have our own slang and customs.

    We’re family a big extended messy family and it’s great. It’s wonderful.

    We know each other and are there for each other.

    I met my current boy friend and the man I plan on marrying through an online game (Not WoW), one of the community members that fell away, she met her current husband (and father of her child) through the same game — even though I had no idea she played it. And now she’s come back to the original community , well at least the way she can.

    Just becuase you dont’ understand it doesn’t make it less valid or less real.

  67. J says:

    @Technophile – when I was in school in the 90’s, people threw away their educations on video games (Civilization was the worst), booze, drugs, the opposite sex, partying and just plain laziness. The temptations may change but people will always find a way to screw things up!

  68. T says:

    I am seeing a lot of people not angry that he gave a positive view to MMO’s, but angry that he gave a negative view to TV. The justification for the negativity towards Trent is that “he is a hypocrit” for liking a computer game, but not thinking TV is important. It seems that if there was no post about the TV then there wouldn’t be too many people upset, just people warning about the addictions they have gone through or seen themselves. Which he himself talked about and even gave links to for help.
    What this means is that a few people here are trying to self-justify their TV habits. He must have hit a chord when he suggested saving money by shutting the TV down. This probably caused a lot of cognitive dissonance between people who believe they are being frugal and still want to watch tv. And to resolve this dissonance you are attacking Trent’s morals and credibility. By doing this you are justifying in your mind that keeping the TV is fine, because “Trent doesn’t even know what he is writing about, that hypocrit”.

  69. Georgia says:

    Is the community forming on the internet any different that having a pen pal? We all communicate in different ways. Sometimes we meet, sometimes we don’t, but we have touched another person in this world.

  70. Lise says:

    I don’t vilify playing MMOs, or watching TV, or any other way that people want to amuse themselves. Ultimately you have to do your own math and figure out what works for your lifestyle and your finances. I’ve got a friend who’s done the math and is convinced that leasing a car is the most cost-effective route for him. I believe he’s made the right choice – for him. There is no one path to frugality.

    That said, I know that addiction is a real danger. I played WoW for about five years, most of that addictively. I ruined friendships, I jeopardized my job, and I basically stopped growing as a human being during that time. It was a net loss for me. I have been “clean” for about a year and I feel I am still recovering from the shambles my life fell into during that time.

    For anyone who thinks they may have a problem with addiction, WoW Detox is a good resource, as Trent suggested. I’m also a member of olganon.org, Online Gamers Anonymous, which is more like a community for addicts. It’s a tremendously supportive group and I credit this with a great deal of my success in recovery. I’m just throwing that at there in case anyone might benefit from the information.

    Personally I think Trent has covered this topic with fairness, although it’s clear he values some hobbies more than others. Fair enough. I don’t intend to start watching American Idol so I can discuss it with my coworkers, either.

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