So when’s the last time you /played the game?

All MMO players and WoW players especially, know about the significance of the /played command in the game. In World of Warcraft it is often subject of running gags, guild mates teasing one another or daring each other to do a /played. Not rarely does it happen that a player will outright refuse to tell you his number and even those that do, usually cringe at least for one moment before going over to long justifications about the result, explaining how “this isn’t the net time played after all, a lot of it is also AFK” or “but I have no alts beside this” and so forth. Really, /played is a bit of a taboo in the game and it makes me a little sad because that shows us one thing: that most MMO players still feel a certain amount of shame or guilt regarding their hobby.

I’ve been reluctant to check my /played time in WoW myself in the past and really need to ask myself why – I’m most certainly not ashmed of being a gamer. I’ve been involved in video games all my life, briefly even professionally. I’m a self-proclaimed proud-to be gamer and geek. I run around wearing Leeroy Jenkins and “Green is the New Purple” T-Shirts (yes, outside my home) and there’s nobody in my family or wider circle of friends that doesn’t know about my hobbies. At my workplace I am happy to inform whomever likes to know too. There’s a shiny figureprint of Syl sat next to the monitor I’m writing this article on.

Yet and despite all of that, apparently something’s wrong with /played. I don’t know if it’s the ingame mocking à la “you addict!” that usually goes with it, even the friendly one, but somehow there’s a semi-conscious part of me deep down inside, that still believes the time I spend in WoW is outrageously too high “for a useless hobby like that” – huh? OH JUST SHUT UP!!!

The thing is, I don’t actually believe that’s true. For one, I probably have a very average playtime in WoW and the game has never created any form of issues or impacted negatively on things in real life for me – in fact quite the opposite. There’s times when I haven’t played WoW and times when I’ve played it lots. I don’t see how it’s different from enjoying any other hobbies or pastimes that aren’t directly “useful” but entertaining. I believe WoW is a great deal more social than some other activities the way I play it. You can also actually learn a lot in this game, if you chose to.

Many other WoW players will share these views with me. So why is there still this controversial, guilty feeling about the /played command among gamers? Have we simply heard the negative stereotypes for too long? After all the media are ever-eager to convince the world that online gaming equals drug addiction and causes babies to starve in Korea.

What’s the point of /played anyway?

Have you ever asked yourself what the use of the /played command in the game might be? I am wondering about this a bit. I know the feature can be found in other MMOs too and I can’t help but marvel at the idea behind this – why did Blizzard install it in the game? Why this focus on “time spent” in the online gaming branch especially?
You will struggle to find many other hobbies where measuring quantity is actually a concern; the guy that spends several nights a week in his football club, avidly plays the piano, is regularly hanging out with buddies in bars or watching TV in the evenings, wouldn’t do a /played or /drank or /TV every few months to double-check and question his favored activities. Even for most other games on PC or console there is no such data – at most you’ll find a time indication on your saves that counts net time. Nobody would ever bother to ask about it.

It almost feels as if the game you love to play is agreeing with those trying to tell you that you spend “sooooooo much time!” by storing this ever-increasing number as if it was important. I fail to see a dev’s reasoning here; in any case if they thought it would serve as player-epeen or decoration in WoW they have utterly missed their point.

Laughing in the face of /played

Anyhow, I do hereby protest against the tyranny and taboo of  /played in WoW and all other forms thereof in other MMOs! I refuse to feel guilty over a number that can never express the myriads of emotions and experiences I’ve had and made through this game, the countless adventures, moments of epic win, the endless fun and joy shared in the great company of friends over the past few years. If my time spent on the game is all that interests you about it, then GFY. ^^ I happen to enjoy this game. I’m having good times with it.

As for the number, writing about it actually got me intrigued and since we’re kinda at the doorstep of Cata, it feels like the perfect time to have a look –

*quickly logging into WoW*

–  253 days.
That’s since the EU launch in February 2005, counting my main character and also the sole lowbie alt I am rumored to have. Assuming that I’ve played the game for 68 months, that breaks down to 12% of that time or 20 hours a week. If a player’s active time in the game (=actually being ingame at the keyboard) is roughly 80% of the total number, that means I’ve spent an average of 16 hours of gaming and socializing in WoW per week.
I enjoyed every minute of it (ok, not so much that one exalted grind in Silithus) and I would never wanna miss that time in my life. Yeah, I could’ve learned a sixth language instead or restore world peace – I could also have done a lot of silly or stupid things instead, so make of that what you will. I’ll say 253 days of good fun – wohoo, YAY, /cheer!

If you ever want to know my playtime in WoW again at some point in the future, I’m happy to answer your question without cringing. I also dare you all to check your /played next time you log into the game and tell all your friends (feel free to add it in a comment too!), not because it matters but exactly because it does not!

P.S. It is highly probable, if not to say very likely, that I made a calculation error somewhere in that last bit, in which case I’m happy to be rectified. It is rather late here and I’ve never been much for maths – there be dragons.

Update: I need to thank all the trolls that have repeatedly tried to derail the comment thread to this topic, spamming me with wild accusations or threatening me (on my own blog) that I have “crossed the line” – you have all proven my point better than I ever could have. It is no wonder so few WoW gamers publicly admit to their hobby or time spent in the game. Further spam or trolling will be deleted – my blog, my rules, ya know.

He who judges does not define that which is judged, but only defines himself as someone who needs to judge.”


  1. I don’t honestly do /played. I don’t display my gaming the way you do, but I don’t regret putting a lot of time into it either. It has given me a lot. However, I’m happily unaware of the actual number.
    I think that what makes the numbers appear huge is when you compare them to sports. Playing WoW 20 hours a week isn’t anything strange, but if you’re an athlete training 20 hours a week, like for instance swimming, you’re not any ordinary person doing your excersise. You probably belong to the top of the top.
    And that’s when you start to wonder. What if I had been training all that time instead? Would I look like a top model?

    If you’re really honest with yourself you probably wouldn’t. You’d been more likely to be sitting in a coach in front of the TV or something equally productive and useful…

  2. I know many will say that 253 days isn’t much, they themselves play more and their friends even more, but…

    *253 days*

    Complete days, with nights. Two years of working hours! Wow!

    This number really speaks for itself.

    And what do you have to show for all this time? …Exactly. Nothing. “Better understanding of people”? “Thicker skin”? Meh. “ONLINE FRIENDS”? Yeah, right, like friends of drug users who only stay friends when you all are sitting together in the same dirty hole. “Peace of mind”? “Relaxation”? Yep, like from the booze. “I don’t have to show anything, I had fun, that’s enough”? Right. You know what my analogy would be. Besides, your body totally doesn’t need training, your brain totally doesn’t need more education, your family totally doesn’t need more attention, you are simply swimming in money, and so on. Your life is so absolutely perfect, you just decided you’d waste two years on a computer game.

    Stop wasting your time and making sacrifices in your life in favor of this nasty game. I know it is a problem and you know it is a problem and everyone around either knows or will soon know it is a problem. Don’t kid yourself it is not. Just stop.

    (Sorry a thousand times for being blunt, but this all is just too familiar. Delete my comment if you want, but please read it and try listening to someone who has been in your position. Good luck. Seriously.)

  3. I laugh in the face of /played. Then I hug it and pet it, and call it George.

    Actually, I just happen to see it a lot when I look at my RestFu listing.

    My first character had about 65 days played (from memory). He leveled to 60 in Vanilla, and I really didn’t put alot of effort into alts until TBC. Most of my 10 level 80 toon have about 3 to 4 days played, with a couple of the more favoured ones getting up to 20 days.

    But the thing that hits home for me is my Xfire hours, comparing hours spent in WoW with other PC games. I used to spend a bit of time playing Battlefield 1942 (or whatever it was called), but the 224 hours spent on that were blown out of the water pretty quickly by WoW.

    To date, I have 6060 hours played against WoW. Not sure if it’s something to be proud or ashamed of. It simply is what it is, and I consider myself to have a balanced lifestyle that includes a life partner, a house, tae kwon do and a full time job. Having said that, I haven’t raided for WotLK, but you can probably check out my blog for the ramblings about that.

  4. Hm, I had a look at my /played time now for the first time in a long time (Altoholic conveniently tallied it all up for me), and it’s over 400 days, not counting some alts I haven’t logged on to for ages. And I’ve only been playing the game since late 2006.

    I think you’re on to something though when you ask why we care about this at all. Usually when we do something we enjoy we don’t count the hours, we’re just happy to be doing it. Adding it all up like that and counting has negative connotations, as if you’re someone on a diet counting your calories each day because you’re worried about having too much.

    Also, talking about activities like playing a game in terms of days and even years simply feels kind of absurd because it doesn’t quite make sense – nobody actually plays that long non-stop and it just creates completely skewed impressions (as evidenced by your second commenter). To me that feels about as sensible as fretting about the fact that I’ve spent more than nine years of my life sleeping. I mean, OMG, years! I could have done so much more useful things in that time, right?

  5. Comparing the time spent playing WoW with the time spent sleeping… Hey, why not compare against breathing? That time will surely make any time “investments” into WoW look completely irrelevant.

    If only the two activities were equally important…

  6. Thanks for the answer. My reply below, sorry for the wall of text.

    “I agree it’s a lot of time if looked at it the way you just did, but I wonder what the point is in you telling me how many ‘work days’ those are – because I am not playing this game instead of work, I am a fully working academic with busy weekends and an intact social life.”

    You are deluding yourself. You are poisoned by playing WoW, and your vision is impaired.

    Ask a dope smoker whose body is not yet crumbling, whether or not he had to sacrifice anything in order to fuel his destructuve hobby. He will tell you that no, “contrary to popular opinion”, smoking dope is a great hobby, in line with playing golf. He will also add that people enjoy different things and it just turns out that he, in particular, enjoys dope, “just like everyone else enjoys all those other things, ya know”. When you turn away from him, he will hastily let you know that, just in case you are interested, he doesn’t feel sorry for the time and effort he spent smoking dope and would happily go that road again…

    That’s what happens here as well.

    “I could however write a long list about all the benefits of gaming, but that would need a post of its own.”

    Please do write this long list. In a post of its own. Please.

    You are not the first trying to justify playing WoW to yourself. You will note how hollow your list will be.

    “The only point I agree that gaming is a disadvantage, is the fact that it’s not a ‘healthy/fit’ hobby – but again, as an adult it’s your responsibility to look after your fitness and you can still take care of that besides being a gamer. a lot of people that don’t are also not gamers. you get the concept.”

    Right. In other words, it’s OK to be fat playing games since there are people who don’t play games and are still fat.

    Please don’t take the above paragraph as an offence, I am sure you aren’t fat and are healthy, I am just showing that your point is not only weak, it does not exist. No disagreement on responsibilities, except that if you think you have been somewhat irresponsible (again, I don’t imply that you have, that’s just an example angle) with respect to health due to WoW, that only enforces the argument that you should stop.

    “The questions you asked me all show me that you have strong bias not against people with just a regular hobby, but people that play games like WoW. and that’s exactly what I am talking about in my article.”

    That’s just an attempt to cloud the issue. You are trying to justify things to yourself and your mind readily provides you with lines that have been beaten many times over.

    At no point I was dividing hobbies into regular hobbies and playing games as you are alluding to above. That other people could be dividing hobbies in this way is beside the point.

    Why is it bad to play WoW but OK to play golf or waste your time on the couch in front of a TV? You know the answer. It is not OK to waste your time watching TV if that amounts to 12% of all your time. (For some perspective, the usual 40 hours of work a week is 24% of time, that is, only 2 times more.) You can do it, but people would call you a lazy TV potatoe, and they would be right. The only good thing from that would be that you’d more readily realize that you have to stop doing it. It would be the same for golf, if golf wouldn’t have been good for your health and sometimes for business, plus if you really played golf 20 hours a week, you’d be a professional, winning money and giving interviews.

    Playing computer games was not always such a destructive hobby it is now. Prior to MMOs, this was just another hobby. MMOs changed that.

    I hope I answered all your questions. As I said, I have been in the same position as you. The only reason I have written the above is empathy. I wish you well and please think about what has been said.

  7. @Larísa
    that’s the point really – why does WoW get compared to other hobbies like sports all the time, when you would never compare other hobbies like that? If someone plays chess or goes out drinking every night, he doesn’t get told he should rather be playing tennis. also the assumption that we would all be doing something ‘so much better’ if we didn’t play games, is totally wrong imo, we most likely would not.

    I also don’t get why a regular WoW player is automatically assumed to not do ‘all the other things he should be doing’ as well – my week has a lot of hours left for work, family, other hobbies etc. and i always worked part-time and studied besides raiding in vanilla WoW.
    so what are all those non-wow-gamers doing with their spare time instead? i don’t see them being more productive or having better social lives than myself. it’s just one stupid clichée, tired of it.

    I don’t delete comments as long as they respect the rules of common decency. 😉

    I agree it’s a lot of time if looked at it the way you just did, but I wonder what the point is in you telling me how many ‘work days’ those are – because I am not playing this game instead of work, I am a fully working academic with busy weekends and an intact social life. You can believe that or not, I really don’t care. I am also not making ‘sacrifices to play WoW’, I never have. I play WoW on my spare time because I enjoy it and I have about the same things “to show for it” as you said, than other people have from other pastimes. I don’t require forms of entertainment to be ‘productive’ or measurable like that.
    I could however write a long list about all the benefits of gaming, but that would need a post of its own. The only point I agree that gaming is a disadvantage, is the fact that it’s not a ‘healthy/fit’ hobby – but again, as an adult it’s your responsibility to look after your fitness and you can still take care of that besides being a gamer. a lot of people that don’t are also not gamers. you get the concept.

    The questions you asked me all show me that you have strong bias not against people with just a regular hobby, but people that play games like WoW – probably because like you said, you’ve failed to control yourself in the past. that’s okay and in that case it’s good that you stopped. but assuming everyone is impacted negatively by it like you were, is wild generalization. and that’s what my article is about really.

  8. @Pathak
    LOL@ George! 😉
    and like you said, it’s what it is – I chuckle a little at somebody that judges a number as if that knowledge tells him anything about you or what else you’re doing with your life. but that’s how stereotyping works and a lot of active wow players will always have to ‘suffer’ from a few negative examples being blown up. I don’t say WoW is always beneficial to everyone, if you’re prioritizing the wrong way in your life then by all means stop playing it. that doesn’t mean everyone else fails at it though.

    W00t for more players facing /played!!

    funny enough, I was actually thinking of a person’s feelings while dieting or buying new shinies while being broke, when I wrote this article.
    its weird how gaming is being measured by totally different standards than other activities that are all equally productive and would never be measured by looking at time spent over such long periods of time. tells you something about society.

    I haven’t deleted anything.

  9. @Cherokee: My comparison was not meant to be about importance, but about how language can be used to evoke strange and misleading images. I don’t know about you, but if someone said to me that they’ve slept for nine years, I would think that they were in a coma or something, because I don’t think of normal sleep in terms of years.

    In the same way I think that adding up playtime into chunks of days, months and years just because we can evokes images of sleepless addicts being glued to their computer screens 24/7, even if in reality their gaming is only part of a normal everyday lifestyle.

  10. @Syl:

    My answer to your “I didn’t delete anything” got deleted as well. It looks like one of your colleagues managing the blog is trying to “protect” you from my posts. If you are the only one managing the blog, well…

  11. @Syl: The posts from Anonymous do get deleted for some reason. I saw his lengthy reply (no flames, no nothing) with my own eyes and I can’t see it any more. As he says, if someone else has delete rights, please ask them what’s going on. Otherwise, yours saying that you don’t delete anything is a bit disingenuous.

  12. @anonymous
    I’ve been able to work this out – apparently your comments were auto-flagged as ‘spam’ by blogger because of their length but I’ve been able to retrieve them via the blog’s ingame menu. I have re-published that comment for you now.
    i don’t know why that’s being done and will have to look into the settings, maybe it has to do with you posting under anonymous (why not chose a name btw?).

    in any case you can rest assured I haven’t deleted anything myself or why would your first comment be showing otherwise.

  13. @Anonymous & Syl: if comments are disappearing it might have to do with the spam filter that Blogger installed recently. At least I have some troubles with it when ordinary comments get stuck in it from time to time. It stops a lot of spam as well, so I wouldn’t like to be without it, but it does cause a bit of trouble.

  14. @Larisa: Thanks.

    @Syl: Thanks and my apologies. I will post under a name from now on.

    My reply appears above the post I replied to, but that will do.

  15. @Syl:


    “its weird how gaming is being measured by totally different standards than other activities that are all equally productive and would never be measured by looking at time spent over such long periods of time.”

    It’s not. See my reply that you so kindly restored.

  16. @anonymous
    First off, I am not offended by your post, no worries. I do invite debate on my blog or I wouldn’t be blogging and you can be sure that I always think about what others have to say. I have also given this particular topic a lot of thought in the past and thats why I also have a right to disgree with you.

    You seem to de-value anything I can possibly say though, as if you knew me as a real person, simply because I play WoW and hence must be deluded like some ‘drug addict’. How exactly is smoking dope a hobby like wow btw? That’s a crazy comparison.
    There’s not much point in such a conversation because in your eyes I can only fail anyway. And you are wrong: your own negative experiences in the past are a BIG point here. you are very keen to convince everyone else how bad it is what they’re doing because now that you have „seen the light“ etc. you have found truth for yourself and surely everyone else that has not, is identical to your past self.

    To talk about 10 millions of people as if they were a homogeneous mass is a fallacy. WoW does not automatically impact negatively on people’s lives – like with anything, like you said yourself, it depends on how it’s handled. If you weren’t able to handle it yourself, it’s cool you stopped, but to generalize and judge people you don’t actually know over one number is wrong. And if you really had nothing to show for after years of playing wow, it makes me sad on your behalf. Like I said, I have benefited in many ways from gaming – just like i’ve also taken long breaks from online gaming whenever I felt I had no time for it. This is what I consider being in control, not „never play for it is the devil“ – that’s just an extreme that is based on a lot of fear imo. Basically you never actually got a grip on your issue, you just ran away from it.

    I did also not justify PC gaming on the grounds of there being other unfit people – what i said is that whether you play games or not, you can be fit or unfit and thats why you need to be responsible and take care of your health in both cases. But don’t blame games for it if you don’t.

    I can’t help but feel gaming and gamers are being treated by a lot of double standards in your comments, even if I can feel your genuine concern. But if you truly wanted to judge a person’s situation fairly, you’d not jump to conclusions based on one single information (a number) alone, but would need to ask a lot more questions about that person’s life first. you didn’t do that and obviously we can only trust each others statements as far as the internet goes.

    Since funny enough a fellow blogger has just written a post on the exact same subject today, and I cannot say it better myself, you might also wanna check this –

    it sums up most of what I would say to you too.

  17. @Shintar:

    And, since I am in the answering mode already, although I am not Cherokee:

    “My comparison was not meant to be about importance, but about how language can be used to evoke strange and misleading images. I don’t know about you, but if someone said to me that they’ve slept for nine years, I would think that they were in a coma or something, because I don’t think of normal sleep in terms of years.”

    The problem is not with absolute numbers, it is with relative numbers. Sleeping 9 years out of 30 is OK. Sleeping 9 years out of 10 is very out of the ordinary. Same with playing WoW. Spending 20 hours a week on a computer game only feels normal to those who play these computer games themselves.

    I know someone sooner or later is going to say “so, how much time to play per week is OK?” alluding that there’s no universal answer. Of course, there’s no universal answer. But you don’t have to be genius to realize that 20 hours a week on something as utterly trivial as playing a computer game (substitute: polishing nails, picking your nose) is wasteful.

    Imagine the dialog 20 years from now:

    “Grandpa, what did you do back in 2000s? That’s when they invented gizmomajigs and started thinking about interstellar travel for real, right?”

    “Uh-oh, Imma not sure, little boy, I was playing WoW…”

  18. @Anon

    hehe well based on your last reponse “20 hours a week on something as utterly trivial as playing a computer game” – you simply have an issue per se with anyone spending a lot of time on something you regard as useless.

    thats your right of course, in which case we’d just have to disagree. maybe its a privilege or even decadence to have so much free time to dedicate to pure entertainment, but it doesn’t mean that person does automatically neglect all the ‘really important’ things in life. you will never be able to make that connection for each case. things like work, family and friends, workout etc. (or whatever you consider more important, take your pick) only take up so much time depending on every individual’s situation.
    and in any case you should have free spaces left for yourself to do whatever you please. it’s not about numbers as much as it is about priorities.

  19. @Syl:

    “You seem to de-value anything I can possibly say though, as if you knew me as a real person, simply because I play WoW and hence must be deluded like some ‘drug addict’. … To talk about 10 millions of people as if they were a homogeneous mass is a fallacy.”

    I get what you are saying and there is a grain of truth in that, but I urge to look at it from the other side.

    You are saying that I am speaking from my own experience. This isn’t the case. My experience plays a role, but I am intelligent enough to realize that I can’t simply generalize it to everyone else. I am speaking from the experience of many people that I know, including a couple of my close friends. Some of these people never played WoW, a few did play but stopped, and many did play WoW and do continue to play. The trend lines are readily apparent. Those who play WoW suffer greatly.

    You are right that I haven’t interviewed 10 millions of people, but that’s again just cloud and mirrors. You don’t have to be Einstein to see that 20 hours a week is a helluva lot of time and it is a waste to throw it away like this. The “it’s your own problem mate, you couldn’t manage WoW, too bad, I can” line is right there with “why attack WoW and not TV”, which I touched on before. Both are just soundbites for those who want to convince themselves that things are all right and they can play WoW all they want. Nobody says that every single one of 10 million people can’t manage WoW. What I am saying is that from what my personal experience, the experience of my friends, and from what you and I can read on the forums and blogs, the number of people who can manage WoW might indeed be in the range of 1% or less. Everybody assumes that they are part of that 1%, but the absolute majority of them are mistaken. Food for thought? You decide.

    You keep talking about the numerous ways you benefited from gaming. I am really looking forward to your post on that. If you could outline it in advance, that would be very welcome. I seriously doubt you’ll come up with something tangible.

    I will read the post on righteousorbs, thanks.

    By the way, if someone is going to try the “you’ve spent so much time writing replies on this blog, this is no more productive than playing WoW” line, don’t bother. I stopped reading blogs related to WoW long ago, today was an exception. And I am going to go dark soon enough.

  20. I hve to say I am really warming up to what Anon is saying (thats not a joke). I have been thinking the same things lately, what do I have to show for years of vanilla, TBC and WOTLK, and what I could have been doing instead. I think this might have to deal with lull prior to Cata, but still. Thanks, Anon, your words resonate with me and helped clarify several of my own thoughts. Thanks also to you Syl, you have a wonderful blog.

  21. @Anon
    Ah but it was a good conversation, no? maybe you should reconsider your retreat into the shadows and allow yourself some leisure to comment on blogs every now and then. 🙂

    Otherwise I can’t say a lot more that I havent’ said already. in the end both of us can only do the same thing – talk from what we experience ourselves and in a wider circle. I don’t question the truth of your experiences, I only ask you to consider my different ones for the same reasons.
    you say “those who play WoW suffer greatly.” – the things is, in my case it’s the opposite. I only know very few people that suffered from WoW and a lot more that have seen the game enrich their lives in one way or another. so my viewpoint is naturally different from yours. I am also part of a guild with a rather high average age for wow, where many people are well-educated and hardworking, with intact families and breaks taken from the game regularly to do other things, while being regular raiders on normal weeknights. not saying everyone’s super well-off, but basically it’s a very average mix you can find anywhere. the really bad examples are those I read about in forums or newspapers more than anything.

    I am therefore also not sure that the 1% you speak of is an accurate number – based on my experiences it would be a lot more. so are they really all exceptional? I think not. I also think wow bloggers are not necessarily the best place to look for the bad cases to be honest, wow bloggers are actually a minority inside WoW and that part of the player base that is constantly questioning themselves and the game and being rather busy and inspired to creative writing of their own.

    To me thats one positive example of what a game can do and I’ll definitely look into writing a lengthier post on the benefits of gaming in the future. I’ve touched on the topic in many of my older posts already. 🙂

  22. I have something that pops up and tells me every time I log in just how long my entire /played is and how much time has been put into the character I am actually logging on to. It’s probably altohoic doing that. I think my total is fairly close to yours, actually.

    And I am not sure if that accounts for the several high level characters I’ve deleted along the way.

    Between your post and Tam’s post (Fear and (Self-)Loathing, that is), it is strange to see how gamers will give other gamers such a hard time over enjoying the exact same pastime. I am glad not to see much of that attitude in my own guild. If anything, we harass people who aren’t around as much!

  23. I admire your calm demeanor, grace, and intelligence in response to Anon.
    He makes me want to nerd-rage smash something.

    Love your blog – keep doin what you’re doin!

  24. @Syl:

    “maybe you should reconsider your retreat into the shadows and allow yourself some leisure to comment on blogs every now and then. :)”

    Maybe, although I think that it is WoW players who lurk in shadows, compared to non-playing people who live and breath the air for real. Then again, I tried and found that my posts either get filtered by Blogger as on your blog or vanish into the ether for some other reason like on RighteousOrbs. RighteousOrbs runs on WordPress instead of Blogger, so the reason is likely different, but whatever it is, it sure is difficult to talk when your posts just disappear yet posts from others, made half an hour after, and incidentally enough sporting the usual “it’s OK to play, things are fiiiiine” point of view, get through.

    Here is what I tried to post on RighteousOrbs, word for word (I wisely typed this first in Notepad), so you can see how much of a troll I am…


    “This brings us to the wider issue: why is playing computer games so shameful that even the people who play them believe they are only played by colossal losers.”

    I agree the media might overplay it every now and then – they routinely overplay most things, after all – but there is a reason for this image.

    MMOs and social sites (cough, Facebook, cough) did recently spiral out of control in terms of the amount of time people waste on them. 20 years ago, virtually noone was sitting in front of the monitor pressing buttons playing a game for 8 hours straight. 10 years ago, it started happening. Nowadays, go on a random day into a random dorm in a random Uni, and you are bound to see more than a couple of guys doing that. Blame the Internet and the game producers.

    MMOs are especially bad in that they tie people to themselves like no tomorrow. You have to play tonight OR YOU WILL SKIP ON A DAILY and lose that JC token! You have to play for 4 hours late at night BECAUSE THE GUILD EXPECTS YOU TO! And so on. This backfires. You spend so much time playing, you start skipping on your other duties. You feel somewhat guilty, but you try to look hip and joyful to others. You waste valuable energy justifying your behavior to yourself. This blog post is a good example, no offense.

    Sure, some people can combine playing with real life. Everyone thinks they can, for sure. You surely think you can, right (a hypothetic “you”)? Well, tell me what’s on your /played and when did you start playing. If you are averaging a day a week (24 hours), which is nothing to write home about nowadays, many average significantly more than that, I have bad news for you…

    No wonder people treat gaming like a disease. It is a disease.


    I can’t help but think that some bloggers are just too fond of echo chambers.

    And now I am officially going dark. Take care, everyone. I mean it.

  25. Sort of ahead of the topic, Syl, I don’t mean to step on any toes and apologize in advance. I read through all the comments, including the very interesting converstation with Anonymous. Here’s a couple great things WoW has done for me:

    *Playing wow inspired me to start writing about it(blogging).
    *Writing about Wow inspired me to write other things (two novels deep in progress)
    *Writing books has helped to inspire me into writing music and singing again like I did years ago (the arts uplift communities, homes and individuals)
    *Having these creative outlets has served to help me through incredible difficulties in life, including a debilitating handicap and nearly losing my wife.

    To say that nothing good can come from WoW is false…at least for me. I will check my /played tonight, because I’m curious.

    I think one of the most important things you said was:

    “…it’s not about numbers as much as it is about priorities.”

    There is the answer for me. I know what my priorities are, but having priorities does not mean that I’m not entitled to include “fun” in that list – which I do by playing games, WoW among those.

  26. @Alas
    Yeah it’s one of the things that has always saddened me greatly, even among gamers you will always find those that give others a hard time over their hobby – I’ve written about it some while ago here:

    Thanks a lot, that’s great to hear! =)

    And I do my best though I might not always succeed either hehe, but I knew this was gonna be one of those controversial topics so I was ready for some negative replies. I don’t like taboos, I have the uncanny habit to tackle them because I believe there should be nothing mature human beings cannot discuss in calm and constructive ways.
    I don’t debate with trolls, but in this case it was a fruitful exchange I believe – even if we won’t reach agreement, we can at least stay civil and exchange food for thought.

    It does leave me a little unfulfilled every time though, you end up sounding as if you were justifying yourself when trying to make someone see your point. I don’t actually like some of the analogies and ‘silly examples’ I have to make but usually that’s the only way to show somebody he’s a little blindsided. Oh well.

    I don’t know why your post wouldn’t show over at RO, but I highly doubt it’s been censored – you’re a little too quick to assume this of bloggers it seems. You could make it easier for yourself and just post with an actual account, rather than as guest. that would make it possible to contact you as well.

    I also don’t see the usefulness of posting your reply to someone else’s blog post on my thread, but I will leave it here just this once.

    p.s. If anyone else has anything to say about Tam’s post, go and leave your comments there please, not here. I will delete trolling of such kind.

  27. @Gronthe
    There is absolutely no reason for you to apologize about anything. =) and indeed, wow’s a very inspirational hobby like that, I love that about it. funny enough I’ve actually got a post about that ready for tomorrow!

  28. I guess I just think of my downtime as my downtime. I spend most of my workdays working, in classes, or prepping. But when the evening or the weekend arrives and I’m on my own, I choose how to spend that time. My primary motivator in choosing? Doing something that makes me happy.
    When I’m on WoW with my guildmates, laughing and smiling for a few hours while we run a raid, I know I’ve made a good choice. When I go into the city and meet up with my friends for a movie, or a walk around stores for new gadgets, the smile on my face reminds me that I made a good choice.
    Conversely, the very few times I’ve let friends drag me to alcohol-loaded parties, my tired expression reinforces just how bad a choice I made in going along.
    So I know which choices make me feel good, and which make me feel bad. I also know which choices will have lasting negative effects (hello, stimulants and depressants), and which will not. But as soon as you ask “what do I gain from my pastime,” I get a little confused. It’s a way to pass time, right? It’s a way to keep my personal morale up, to reward myself for getting through tiring workdays and difficult assignments. The most important thing I gain is happiness. Isn’t that enough?

    If not, I do agree that Syl could argue various points about the benefits of playing an MMO. To list a few candidates (explanations omitted for length):
    -Faster typing skills.
    -Exposure to application and interview processes, for anyone who actively pursues high-end raiding content.
    -Insight into human dynamics on the internet.
    -Problem solving.

    The last one’s really the crux for me, and it’s the crux that any educator can fall back on to motivate his class. When I hear “What’s the point of playing a game?” it sounds so very much like my classmates saying, “Why do I have to learn about ?” If you’re absolutely sure you’ll never need the knowledge directly, then you can at least acknowledge the benefits of generalization that the subject offers: the methods of approach taught there may well apply to other problems you face in life.

    Quick example: Biology. I work with computers, so I don’t care about how cells interact. But Biology is one of the fields that focuses heavily on the Scientific Method, a plan-test-observe-retest cycle that provides a structured framework for experiments. That same framework can be applied to complex computer systems, and is a method I’ve used to great success in debugging in the past. Of course, Computer scientists don’t talk about the scientific method, so it’s a problem solving strategy that I gained from Biology.
    WoW can be seen the same way. Of course, the biggest, most obvious example problems are Raid encounters, but those are just the start. What tools in your toolbox do you use to handle each type of enemy you encounter while soloing? How do you adapt when additional enemies attack? When it’s a player attacking, what do you do? Both PvP and PvE are, in some sense, a series of progressively harder problems. Knowing which tools in your toolbox will correctly solve said problems is crucial to success. And when you get into that mindset of “which tool do I have that I can use to handle this situation,” you’ll find that the respond-observe-adjust mechanic becomes a natural response to many problems experienced outside the game. Sure, you can learn these things from a textbook, or from a class on problem-solving. But then, are those things as fun as killing dragons with friends?
    These education benefits, coupled with the great deal of fun I have while playing this game, convinces me that I don’t need to worry about playing this game as much as I do. I understand the potential risks of letting the game take over my livelihood, but I’m no stranger to taking responsibility for myself. I also recognize the many things I’ve gained from playing the game, even when I didn’t expect them.

    -Malicave of Turalyon-US
    About 180 days /played since 1/1/2008.

  29. 20 hours a week sounds pretty normal for a hobby to me. I don’t know why that would raise eyebrows at all! (40 hours at work, 20 at play, 56 at sleep, and 52 everything else.)

    To compare WoW to sports, you have to compare it to a leisure sport, like trail hiking. Considering the travel, prep time, the cleanup, and the occasional overnighter, it’s probably not hard to average 20 hours a week.

    It’s a lot easier to fit in an hour of WoW at the end of a busy day than a trail hike, though!

  30. I think Larisa is spot on. I mean If you spend 20 hours a week in a gym over the course of 3-4 years you will have results to show . Serious results

    Thats what makes me cringe too regardless of how fun that hobby might have been its not comparable to any RL activity in terms of the results. (well I dont consider watching TV real life activity 🙂

    I kinda get around it by not playing MMO anymore and play games here and there (usually 1-2 months and then its shelved). Who knows they all might add up to 300+ days. But i will never know :)-power of self deception. Albeit now I look at my steam stats and I see I clocked already 60 hours on civ5 ! the horror!

    Anyways the question of whether mmos are addiction is a real one . Imho they are addiction. I would speculate they make one less productive person ( for example you clearly intelligent guy, going as far as maintaining blog, imagine all that was directed to something like day trading !)

  31. It is honestly baffling to me that anyone could spend 20+ hours a week playing a single game for months or years at a time. It’s just not a mindset that I identify with. 20 hours of play in a week, sure, but spending that all on one game (or any other single activity) just isn’t something I do.

    Neither do I identify with joggers, marathon runners, TV watchers, alcoholics, barflies, druggies, golfers, audiophiles or politicians. And y’know… I’m OK with that. They don’t need my approval or disapproval.

    What a marvelous thing it is that there’s variety in the world, and that individuals have agency to choose what to do with it.

    Back to the game design implications of including such a function, though… I’m really not sure what they were thinking. Maybe it’s yet another way to gauge success in a number-heavy game? I doubt it was a hard function to program, so it’s not like it would have needed a lot of justification, but it is a curious choice for inclusion at all. Maybe it’s a selling point? Offline RPGs tend to wear their play time on their sleeves; “40 hour epic” is a selling point for the latest “Final Dragon Warrior Fantasy” (or whatever) sequel.

  32. @Max (and moreso our anonymous guest): the point here is that no-one has the right to pass judgement on what another person chooses to do with their own free time. You might believe it to have no value for you, but until you are in a person’s shoes and have their values and thoughts, it’s ignorant to criticise. What a person values and enjoys is a deeply personal thing and absolutely no-one has the right to tell you that what you choose has no value (so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else).

    Specifically at the Anonymous guy, you seem to be taking everything to extreme points of view and using rhetorical tautology as the basis for your arguments. While your opinions might be valid, they are absolutely NOT facts and to represent them as such devalues your point of view and merely antagonises those with an alternative viewpoint.
    Even if we or another blog were(I don’t believe either are) deleting your posts, essentially they/we would merely have been mirroring your actions. Your comments come across as very absolute and give no credance at all for anyone elses state of mind or values. The feeling you get when you believe someone is removing your opinion is exactly the same as others get when you make out that their viewpoint is invalid and holds no value.

    Some food for thought maybe.

  33. Ask a dope smoker whose body is not yet crumbling, whether or not he had to sacrifice anything in order to fuel his destructuve hobby. He will tell you that no, “contrary to popular opinion”, smoking dope is a great hobby, in line with playing golf.

    There is a big difference there. There is no physical addiction, only psychological. You can quit playing wow immediately and not play it for 1-2 months (go on vacation for example) and there wont be any withdrawal symptoms

    It also doesn’t destroy your body or such (not anymore that sedentary lifestyle does)

    So unfair comparison there.

    But consider that 10k hours is enough to become expert in some field. 200 days is half that. You could have become master in medicine, computers, foreign language, musical instrument – whatever in that time

  34. @Theladas
    I think self-responsibility is the key to all things. maybe it’s different for some of the younger WoW players, but I’m old enough to know what’s important to me in life and have a certain amount of self-control about my pastimes – I have bills to pay and a life to maintain besides playing WoW. I do also not know a lot of 30+ WoW gamers that struggle with being addicted to the game, maybe it’s just a question of age and maturity too.
    And np about the triple-posting. 😉

    Something that’s being done a lot is not automatically an addiction. you can spend time on a hobby like that simply because you can and like to. time spent is no indicator for addiction, that requires quite a lot of other factors to be present. I’ve always cut down on my WoW time or taken total breaks when I was too busy for it (the per week number is an average), but I see no reason not to play it when time allows me to.

    I also find the ‘what do you have to show for it’-question totally off the point, sorry. its not about the ‘worth’ of something, its about what somebody enjoys doing in his free time. Like Stumps said, it is not for anyone to judge the right or wrong of that.
    and I’m not into ‘day trading’ lol, I don’t play WoW during days actually and already have a daytime job. 😉 also, writing is a great way to spend time, a lot of people wish they had more creative talents like that.

    It is pretty average too. the baffling thing is that it would be ok if it wasn’t gaming.

    Hehe I can see what you mean – I think in WoW’s case it also has to do with what Asbel said, WoW is so easily accessible if you got some spare time to spend, and it all adds up after such long a period.
    I find some of the harsher reactions funny too, because my /played time is probably one of the more ‘casual’ ones among wow raiders, I know what numbers some of my guildmates have.
    and I am not surprised so many won’t talk about this, having read some of the biased comments to my post.

    as for your speculation about the selling point, maybe – but then I’ve never seen blizzard advertise for WoW via gametime(?)

  35. “I’ve never seen blizzard advertise for WoW via gametime”

    Me neither, it’s more of an industry/gamer expectation thing.

  36. have to wonder how this anonymous person is actually “over wow” the way he says…judging from his emotional repsonse he clearly isnt. if you are over the game then you’d be indifferent towards others playing it still or not, not going on a lengthy crusade trying to ruin what they enjoy.
    face it, the fact that you had to retreat from wow so utterly means you’re not in control, you’re like an ex-alcoholic and wow was clearly a drug to you so its good you left. but guess what, there’s people out there that can drink some wine and beer on a regular base without the same issues as you and they’re actually the majority. your problem, not theirs.

    judging people by playtime is really offensive and also ignorant and stupid, it’s like someone judging a great book by the number of its pages. if you think games are a waste of time and you should be doing productive things all the time, even in your damn freetime, good for you – but that’s your opinion, those are your values. not ours.
    now go save the planet already so I can play some more wow.

    p.s. sorry Syl but somebody had to say it!

  37. “But consider that 10k hours is enough to become expert in some field. 200 days is half that. You could have become master in medicine, computers, foreign language, musical instrument – whatever in that time “
    Is “you could have done something better in the time you spend to entertain yourself” an official fallacy yet?

    Sometimes I buy and eat candy. I could instead give that money to charity. Does that make candy terrible? Of course not. Or maybe it does and therefore all of the world is evil because we are all, at some time, using our lives and money in sub-optimal ways, as defined by someone else.

  38. @Fitz


    Is “you could have done something better in the time you spend to entertain yourself” an official fallacy yet?

    hehe and not just that, apparently the fact that you spend a lot of time in WoW automatically means that you cannot also be an academic, skilled at the PC, learn foreign languages or play a musical instrument. do we all have to start comparing our other ‘epic skills’ now? then I don’t like some people’s chances.
    but that’s seriously not worth my time (not to mention silly), I’ve tried that road in the past and even if you were Einstein himself, that would be no help against ignorance. it’s impossible by definition, I tend to forget that duh..

    I also start asking myself how some people are organizing their spare time, if they can’t imagine playing WoW while managing other stuff perfectly well too – does my week just have more hours than theirs or something? this is still planet earth, right?

    Or wait…I got it now! it’s the church on a secret mission, trying to convince us once more that productivity is man’s way to heaven and leisure is the work of the devil – ora and labora and all that?!

  39. The spamfilter tells me I missed something, but I had no time to read it all lol, starts sounding like a broken record to me. it’s the mark of trolls that they keep coming back, no matter how often they already took their “rly srs goodbye” – life must be very boring for these individuals.

    Luckily, commenting on blogs is a courtesy, not a right! =D

    Keep it coming college-boy, it seems you have a lot of time to waste on useless things after all. the spamfilter is happy to remove any further verbal diarrhea from this thread – especially from anonymous posters who do not even have the balls to say who they are.

    p.s. you can keep trying to comment under different names, blogger can check IPs you numbwit.

  40. I have 234 days played in WoW since I started in May 2006, which averages out to about 25 hours per week.

    It was more likely 75 hours per week during those months when I was ill and had a lot of time to pass on my own.

    This summer when it was lovely weather it was 5 hours per week or none at all.

    Before I started playing WoW I could easily spend 25 hours per week reading, oblivious to the world, and although reading is about as physically inactive and rather more unsocial than gaming nobody accused me of having a problem or wasting my time or neglecting my family or my work.

    I don’t see why gaming should be any different.

  41. W00t Tessy, nice to see you commenting! =)

    And yes, my gameplay has actually had its peak in vanilla, so the average back then must have been a lot higher for it being what it is now – seems we have almost the same curriculum hehe!

  42. But consider that 10k hours is enough to become expert in some field. 200 days is half that. You could have become master in medicine, computers, foreign language, musical instrument – whatever in that time

    Which explains why everybody who doesn’t play Warcraft is a multilingual musical savant with multiple degree level qualifications?

    Time isn’t fungible. You can’t take the time you spend logged into WoW, add it all together, and pretend that it all took the form of full, productive days which you could have spent doing other things. It’s at best mistaken and at worst disingenuous.

  43. That and one other fact that is often ignored – many of us have been playing games all our lives. we’re not just playing WoW now regularly because the game is the antichrist, we’ve been playing games for years before that and will be playing games after WoW. so no, if we didn’t play wow, we would not go and save the world during that free time, we would simply play other games we enjoy.
    wow is no more a ‘phase’ than it is an addiction or any such rubbish.

  44. 509 Days /played….I’ll find myself a bridge to jump off =p

    “I’m Stumps and I’m a gameaholic”

    Random trolls, feel free to berate me with disingenuous feelings of pity and suggestions on how I can improve my life to fit your ideals…if you’d like to hold your breath until I can bring myself to care, that would be wonderful =D

  45. I’ve only got 101 days played. I started shortly before the release of the lich king expansion so I guess I’m a bit behind compared to people who’ve been playing the same char since Vanilla. I feel like I’ve played a lot more than what I have to show for it though!

  46. On my main I’m at 163 days, I started about 2 to 3 months after TBC launched. I’m not including current alts and alts that I deleted after getting bored around level 40. I still manage to play football for a saturday league team and for my works 5 a side team. Yes I play WoW alot but meh it’s something to pass the time between rl events. Most people are able to prioritise and not let a game take over their life, to me sounds like anon was not one of these people.

  47. I think, last I checked (which was some months ago), I had around 300 days played, on my main alone. I had around 50 or 60 on my other alt. And this was racked up since about June of ’06.

    To comment on the anonymous posts: If someone has all of their affairs in order, their family, their career, their finances, etc. (and a good majority of these people do), what does it matter how the rest of the time is spent? Sure, you could spend it learning a trade or some other skill or doing something else, but to what end? In the end, we all succumb to the grave. Even if doing these other activities could really “get you something” (as opposed to the “nothing” WoW gets you), what good does that do you? You can’t take any of these things with you, and odds are they won’t make you remembered anymore than not having them would be. I assume it gets you more enjoyment out of life. If WoW gets you that, how is it any different?

  48. Wow, reading through these comments is nuts.

    A couple posters hit the name on the head perfectly…Klepp for example.

    I could absolutely do something else, other than WoW, for 30 hours a week and holy crap, it could be something like building an Ark or a bridge to the South Pole.

    And man wouldn’t that be great ? But guess what, I could care less about an Ark, why don’t you build an Ark? or a bridge? Why am I required to build an Ark, or donate money to charity (rather than buy a donut), why me?

    How about you do that? Stop telling me what I need to be doing, I’m having the absolute best time of my life at all times, and gaming is a part of that.

    Give me a hobby of yours, and i’ll tell you something that you should be doing instead that I feel is more productive.
    Like building trains? Well screw that, building robots is more important, so you are wasting your time. Like enjoying ice cream after a great dinner, well stop wasting your time and money, and go to the library and read Philosophy.

    There’s a billion things in the world that need to be done, or done more than something else, why is that my responsibility?

  49. I don’t type /played – I feel absolutely no need to justify (or even consider) how many hours I have played a game. I’ve enjoyed playing it and that is all that matters to me. It kills a few hours on a night time, has led me to have FRIENDS (‘but online friends don’t count’…ummmm yeah they do, and because of the friendship we built up in game we all met in real life and guess what… WE’RE ALL STILL FRIENDS).

    I’m proud to be a WoW player; my various WoW mugs sit proudly on my desk. I have two loving and adorable children and a non gamer wife without whom I would be very miserable. I’m well adjusted, I earn a shit load of cash at work, I’m one of the top professionals in my field and I was considered as a potential candidate for parliament (although I didn’t get selected, I did beat over 10,000 people just to make the assessment slot). I do all this and still manage to find time to make wow machinima and play 4-5 hours a night. I really don’t think I’m missing much in my life, do you?

    How do you like them apples Mr Holier Than Thou?

    Whilst ‘game addiction’ is real it affects a very small proportion of gamers – gaming addiction is also not measured by how often you play it’s actually measured against the effect playing has against your personal and professional relationships. As such very few suffer ill effects from ‘excessive gaming’. There are parliamentary reports available in Hansard if you would like to check them out.

    Syl, I love this post and support your views 100% (apologies my response is two months late rofl).

  50. No worries, I do check back on older posts every now and then. 🙂
    You’ve summed up nicely what I’ve tried to say in my post, it’s another confirmation for me that most of us wow players are very much in charge of ourselves.

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