What's Your Cataclysm?

Mark J. Kline | 17 Aug 2010 13:10
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It may help to define for yourself as explicitly as possible why you make such a huge investment in this MMO. What really means the most to you about your play experience? Is it the need to demonstrate competency, the need for community, the need to escape reality, or some other agenda? Gaming is so engrossing and so much about action and stimulation that many of us are able to avoid asking ourselves these basic questions. A crisis is a good time to do it, and, at least temporarily, you may be forced to pick between some of these priorities.


If it is most important for you to be the best-in-class on your server and most advanced in game content, you may have to sacrifice some community and connection. Or you may choose to compromise on progress in order to play with a small group of people you really enjoy spending time with. You might resist a big time investment to learn the new game fast, and accept the fact that you won't be a very good player for awhile, or you might spend hours playtesting the beta version so you can get a head start as soon as Cataclysm goes live.

It's all about trade-offs. People who play video games are doing it rather than doing something else, like reading a book, riding a bike, watching TV, or going to the movies. Most devoted WoW players have probably arrived at a set of trade-offs that make sense in the current environment and now those may get shaken up, which can create stress and tension.

It may help to take a step back. If a fantasy role-playing game is making you feel like hell, and you are paying for the privilege, maybe something is wrong. There are plenty of ways to feel crappy for free. If you slow it down and make the game less a priority you may gradually fall into a rhythm that works for you. A more laid back attitude may also create openness to new relationships and new connections. It's hard to tolerate social reshuffling, but sometimes good can come of it.

When you think about it, this isn't so different than real life. Every once in a while, for most of us, a dragon writhes around beneath the surface of our well-ordered lives and lifts a fire-breathing snout above the surface, raining mayhem on all we have tried to create. These real life developmental crises, be they losses, break-ups, moves, illnesses, or unemployment, force us to clarify what's really important, and we have to dig deep to tolerate pain and grow new adaptive capacities, whether we like it or not. If a game like WoW could help people get better at this, and translate that skill to real life, I could probably get a few more psychologists to recommend it!

Dr. Mark Kline currently dabbles in Starcraft II when not busy being a psychologist, parent, or writing The Escapist's AskDrMark column. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to Your identity will remain confidential.

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