Yesterday I laid to rest 2 digital manifestations of my psyche that were born, lived and died in an artificial reality.
Direct cost to live those lives: $14.99 a month.
Indirect cost of time lost in my real life: immeasurable.
Saluun and Sylamoon would have been 5 years old at the end of the month. There was simply no way for all three of us to live together any longer. We had different ideas about how we wanted the rest of our lives to play out, so we agreed to go our separate ways. I’m still here, they are not.
My alter-egos who found expression through this computer generated reality have now been “deleted”. So much for letting them go their own way. I shot them in the back as they turned and walked away.
I’ve been playing World of Warcraft ® (WoW) for the past 5 years. The MMORPG, in it’s current form, was initially released in November of 2004. I jumped on-board with the release of the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion in 2008. And now five years and over $1000 later ($15/month subscription, plus the cost of the game and other services), I decided to unplug from the digital world of Azeroth.
I had a blast playing WoW. I’m a tree-hugger who currently develops software to generate income, and from a programmer’s perspective, WoW is spectacular given current technologies. It is top notch in so many ways and it provided me an extraordinarily rich fantasy world to which I could escape, anytime, 24×7, except for those damn weekly maintenance windows! Servers must need their digital sleep.
As with all things labeled an “escape”, there is a cost. The cost is more and more time indulging the escape, and less and less time living the life I want and need to live. But if I wanted something else, to write, why did I give away so many hours to the game? In my case, plain and simple. Addiction.
I recognized my addiction to the digiverse when I was a kid (Atari), and when my own kids were young (Nintendo/Sega). The final hook was the 1994 PC version of Bethesda Softwork’s “The Elder Scrolls: Arena”. I could barely pull myself away from that game. The addict was fully awakened. It took many years to break the daily grind of experiencing the high, followed by the post-game crash and return to normal reality. Where was the adventure in the real world? Why can’t I harness the arcane and direct shadow energy at my coworkers using my pen as a wand? Where were the quests for fortune and glory? They didn’t exist, at least not in a way that felt as exhilarating or as worthy of my energies. By comparison, the real world was jejune.
I avoided contact with WoW in the beginning. My guard was down in 2004 and I thought, what the hell, I should give it a try. What was all the fuss about? It couldn’t be as good as the original Elder Scrolls, right?
At that moment, the digital opiates docked with their cognizant receptors in my brain. My soul was from that point forward forever hungry, forever incomplete. A hungry ghost had been born.
The addiction continued for 5 years. And just yesterday, something changed. A mysterious, providential tipping point had been reached. The fall was over. The velocity of my descent stirred a wind that tore away the gossamer that clouded my truth and I looked upon it.
Sitting quietly, I could now hear the small but powerful voice at my core. Its only message was that it cared about me.
I hit “Return” and my eyes opened. Really opened.
Image 2 source: http://bulk2.destructoid.com/ul/159482-wow.jpg