What would you do if you didn't play WoW?
The answer is, for me at least, the same things I do now:
- Yardwork and housework (cleaning up after hubby and pets)
- Play with pets
- Volunteer Scout stuff (developing a short summer camp)
- Read fantasy/sci-fi and the occasional hiker/backpacker novel
- Watch TV
- Find games to play when I get (quickly) tired of the non-interactive TV, preferably ones I can play cooperatively with friends.
- Hang out with my equally quiet and domestic friends for movies, crafts, and RPGs.
What do people do if they don't game?
A lot of the media and political anti-gaming stances are basing their opinions on the idea that either a) games make people violent and dangerous, or b) games are a waste of time that result in unproductive citizens.
Let's look at some of the things I see non-gamers do with the same amounts of their time:
- Go to bars to get drunk and socialize, often not remembering all the details of their nights and sometimes endangering others on the road afterwards.
- Host parties (that likely involve alcohol): more for the extroverts. Usually involves drinking or gossiping, and usually both.
- Sunbath for hours on end. Greetings, skin cancer.
- Watch TV all evening.
- Get high on drugs for lack of anything else to do that they view as "cool."
- Join gangs and wage turf wars.
Let's look at two of the most common alternatives:
- Why is sitting on the couch watching TV viewed as less of a problem by media/politicals (who tend to control society's general viewpoints and information) than gaming? I don't know for 100%, but I have a few possible ideas along the vein of propaganda control and advertisement marketing for economic stimulation.
- Why is getting drunk at bars viewed as less of a problem by media/politicals? At least we aren't out making the roads unsafe. Again, I don't know for 100% certainty, but I tend to believe it's because they're out spending money and being "social"... coupled with the fact that rowdy drinking's been a part of society for at least a couple thousand years, and gaming (and TV for that matter) is the new "upstart."
As I just mentioned, there are things that are healthier or viewed as more productive uses of time:
- Sports or martial arts
- Volunteer time (scouts, cleanups, helping neighbors, etc)
- "Community involvement" (ie politics)
- Family time... assisting homework, board games, teaching, attending little league, etc.
- Doing anything that spends money: amusement parks, hotels, theaters, sports events, etc.
Answer's easy: because of the legacy stereotype of the shut-in basement gamer who leeches off his parents and does not have the socialization to fit into "polite" society, in addition to media hype that likes to highlight the occasional cases of psychopathic violence inflicted by someone who happens to game. Since such cases are alarming and unusual, of course they make the news... but many read into its highlight as if game-related-violence is more prevalent or more "wrong" than violence over alcohol (including DUIs), drugs, money, social disagreements (work, mating, "turf" be it gangs or religion or politics or even sports teams, etc), and the psychopaths who happen to not game. There are violent people out there, and that's regardless of whether they happen to play WoW or CounterStrike or any other game.
In addition, who's to say a gamer is not productive when they have a stable, legal, productive job that they do well? Or a volunteer, playing on computers at a firehouse or rescue-squad station while waiting for a call to go out, a game that they can play together and drop what they're doing immediately when the siren sounds? Or a student, still earning good grades but taking a mental breather from studying to destress with a game?
Just because you enjoy gaming doesn't mean you can't have a more "productive" life than someone who doesn't game. I know people who don't game that lead less productive lives than I do, and I blog and raid!
Gaming--especially in a game as social as an MMO--is an excellent way to spend time expanding your horizons beyond what you can experience at home in your safe suburb in a non-life-threatening way, has interaction far more than a TV can give, yet still allows time to keep up with life, studies, physical fitness, and whatever else you want to do...
It all just depends on moderation.
I'm in a 3-night raiding guild: that's only 12 hours per week of committed raiding time. I get on just about every day for at least an hour or two to run a quick daily and see if I can get Anzu to drop, maybe say hi to friends if they're around, help them with something, or just chat with them about their day. That's time that most people I know and grew up with would instead spend just changing channels on TV complaining there's nothing to watch.
As relatively little as I do watch TV, there are some shows that I enjoy watching. For this, I have PVR: my TV records the shows I like, and I can watch them when I feel like it, often during my lunch breaks, which I am lucky enough to be able to go home from work for (a rarity in American society, where work commutes are often 30 minutes to an hour). I can fast-forward through commercials to reduce time that I personally view as "wasted" by those advertisements, where a 1-hr show is reduced now to 40 minutes (fits well into a 1-hr lunch break when you consider food prep, cleanup, and a short commute).
Short of the Long:
The way I see it, in the middle-class American society that I've grown up with and know, most people spend their "at-home freetime" watching TV. I--and many others--replaced that time with the more interactive gaming. Anyone who does game can still take care of family/house, go out for weekly social events, do sports or other physical exercise, and volunteer for things: I know, I do it, and I've gamed with others who can manage it with kids (just having to play less to account for the time they devote to their children). It all depends on how you handle your playtime: moderation in favor of other responsibilities to family and self.
I think gaming is a better use of that chunk of time that many in my society otherwise devote to drinking and watching TV.