Posted tagged ‘gaming life’

Finding that Balance

October 1, 2010

I don’t talk about my health much beyond the occasional bitching and whining about how tired I am. Which is the entire reason I don’t talk about it much: there’s not a whole lot to add to the QQ. I’ve been more emo than usual on twitter and a few comments I’ve left on other blogs have been delightfully cringe worthy. I must say, you’ve all very kind in humoring me and I really appreciate it. Say what you will about WoW players, those of you I’ve had the honour of interacting with have almost always been far too nice to me.

Anyway, since I’m sore and tired and feel like chatting about it (Light help us all), I’ll talk a bit. I’ve had crappy health since I was 16. Before that I was super athletic (but I hated team sports, so I didn’t know I was athletic) and ran around and climbed walls all the time and stuff. Then, in early January, I woke up on the floor one morning after a party and noticed that whenever I moved my head, it felt like my legs were getting electrocuted. I could even hear the buzzing. Yep, I party that hard.

Actually it was just coincidence. After spending the rest of the year getting shipped from hospital to hospital and spending thousends of dollars on MRIs (I could have gotten them done for free, but the first neurologist I ended up with was a crazy bitch- I’m not exaggerating, even other doctors roll their eyes when they hear her name- who wouldn’t let me go through the public system so I had to go private), I ended up with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Unusual for a kid my age, but then again, I’ve never been one to abide to statistical rules. I’ll be that lady getting pregnant at 70.

Before you all go “oooo poor you“, I want to point out that the extreme shyness that has plagued me my entire life has cost me more friendships, more scholarships and more opportunities, caused more arguments and has made me miss more social events and classes at school than my physical limitations ever have.

Everyone feels for the girl who has trouble walking for a few months here and there. The shy girl, however, has many memories of being forgotten at random locations during school trips as a child. If I have a desperate fear of being left out or being left behind somewhere, it’s because it happened way, like way, too often. I’m sure that many of you reading this have had similar experiences. Us shy and/or introverted people tend to slide under the radar of even the most attentive individuals.

And before you all go “oooo poor you” this time, I want to point out that I actually live a pretty good life. School is a struggle and I hate it (I like what I’m studying, it’s the concept of classrooms and stuff that doesn’t work for me) but somehow I survived and after 10 years of college, I’m finally graduating this May, on condition that this constant feeling of tiredness doesn’t make me miss too much class. I’ve had fantastic jobs. I travel all the time, going to wherever my whims take me. When my body cooperates, I’m still fairly active, I walk at least an hour a day and I’ve done dancing, cheerleading, surfing, kayaking, rock climbing, canoe camping and the list goes on. As for being a quiet person, it’s taught me to listen and to be observant, two skills that have saved my arse countless times.

Escapism: A Friend or…?

Oh yes, this is a WoW blog, so I have to plug in WoW somewhere.

It’s no secret that escapism, and MMOs in particular, is used by many to cope with the limitations life has thrown at them.

Sometimes it’s a good thing. I’ve even had one of the therapists at school send me home with a prescription of emergency WoW time. (I must have looked pretty messy that day!) I’m no expert on the manner so don’t quote me on this, but rumor has it that gaming causes some dopamine (a brain chemical) release which triggers the brain’s reward pathways. An activated reward pathway is what you feel when you do something you’re proud of, when you have an orgasm, when you eat really good food or when you do drugs. That’s the main feeling behind psychological dependence, or addiction- the terms are more or less interchangeable. No, not all of these stroke the reward pathway as intensely as others. Obviously, it’s lot easier to become addicted to meth than it is to get addicted to spaghetti.

Anyway, I know firsthand that gaming can work as a painkiller (that’s actually what I do for that time of the month cramps when my prescription meds don’t work. WoW works better for me AND doesn’t put me at risk for stomach bleeds and kidney failure!) . For anyone, it’s a distraction from the tedium of every day life. For those who, for whatever reason, can’t leave the house as often as they’d like, MMOs serve as a gentle portal to the rest of the world.

But like anything, there’s got to be some sort of balance. While all of us here will swear on the Light that we’re not addicted, somewhere, out there, certain individuals lost that balance.

DENIAL is an acronym for Don’t Even kNow I Am Lying

When this fatigue wave first hit me, my thoughts immediately went to WoW. Am I playing too much? Is that why I’m exhausted?

I still don’t know for sure. I limit my gaming as much as possible to weekend evenings and raid times. I raid late at night: 10:30 pm to 1:30 am, but it’s only 3 nights a week and I nap 2 to 4 hours on most raid days. Yet, I usually (but not always) do feel better on the days after offnights. To which my reaction is OMG I COULDNT RAID ALL SUMMER I DONT WANT TO HAVE TO GIVE IT ALL UP AGAIN.

And what about the social?

There was an article in our school newspaper where the author spoke a bit about her internet addiction. Except she was addicted to news sites which is clearly more educational and socially acceptable than playing video games too much. Her criteria for addiction was “you’re late or no-showing to parties because of your online activity“. (Note, that has nothing to do with the real criteria for addiction/dependence)

Oh no! I thought in a panic. I no-show to parties more often than not! Then I consoled myself with the fact that I always show to parties held by people I genuinely enjoy spending time with. And when I do go to rare social-chore parties, I spend most of the evening hiding in the bathroom which is an embarrassing and relatively unpleasant experience, much, much less fun than playing video games.

I was feeling really relieved about that until I had my latest lecture (as in school lecture, not someone lecturing me) on addiction. The speaker, a former user in recovery, was explaining how, at the peak of her addiction, she didn’t care for a social life because the drugs did that for her. I asked my classmate if she thought that maybe WoW made me not like parties. She gave me a classic “how do you even come up with these things” looks.

A Caution about Judging Others

I don’t show many offline people my blog. And I go to great lengths to hide it from my mother. Not because I’m ashamed of my gaming, but because I love to stretch and abuse gamer stereotypes when talking about myself. Other WoW players recognize the exaggeration and distinct lack of seriousness. My mother, however, upon reading my blog, would panic and not sleep for about a week, then drag me by my ear to the nearest detox center.

I wouldn’t blame her for it: how I talk about the game just isn’t something that can be understood without some background.

But same goes for each other. Whenever a larger gaming site features an article about gamers who play a lot as a way to cope with mental or physical limitations, there’s always a debate between readers. Some say it’s great that MMOs can fill in the gaps caused by the player’s conditions, others say that such a huge amount of gaming would slow down or even prevent that person’s recovery.

Who’s right?

Either could be right, but there’s no way of knowing which. None of us know this person, none of us are this person and none of us have any idea of what they person is really experiencing. So none of us have any right to play doctor and pass judgment.

Yes, sometimes it’s a little hard. I’ll admit I once had a guildie I nicknamed Clara (from The Guild) because she played 20 hours a day and kept typing things like “my kids r so funny lol they thikn i no wat theyre saying wen they us babytak lol“. But still, not knowing her or what was going on behind the computer screen, it wasn’t right for me to make assumptions.

The Current Energy Budget

I wish I could pull off the 3 posts a week schedule I had last year. I wish I could play on the PTR and come back with armfuls of news. I wish I could play more hours outside of raid time. I was sure I’d be able to once I started school again because I finally have a lot of time to myself. Unfortunately, almost all of that time is spent asleep.

I’ve also picked up this annoying habit of being extremely long winded, so a single blog posts takes at least 4 hours to write. I have lots and lots and lots of post ideas, but I’m running low on ideas for posts that can be done in 1000 words or less. Yes, QQ moar.

Despite it all, though, I still want to blog and I still want to raid. I’m also determined to graduate this May no matter what. So I’m walking on that tightrope and I really hope that I keep my balance.


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