But playing WoW is so UNPRODUCTIVE!

We’ve all known someone in our lives who thought gaming was an inexcusable waste of time – or at least, I suspect most of us have.

For some of us, that person might even be us – or at least part of us. Bravetank’s back today, and she’s doing what she does best – writing a tremendously brave, honest post exploring the psychological side of gaming. Today, she’s talking about something that I think will resonate with a lot of people – the guilt of playing rather than doing something ‘productive’

“I’ve been really enjoying WoW lately but with that comes all the old guilt again. I work really hard at my job but cannot escape the guilt I feel at coming home and, after having some food, going on WoW to relax. The more I enjoy it – the guiltier I feel. I think I was happier having all the bad runs and aggro (literally and metaphorically). Perhaps that made it seem more like a job! The more I’ve enjoyed playing and gaining achievement, mounts, levelling, seeing new dungeons (I’ve discovered I haven’t done half the Burning Crusade dungeons- went in Magister’s Terrace for the first time yesterday) then the more guilty I’ve become.

And I don’t want to be. This is something both my husband & I enjoy, but I also have time for family, reading, exercise, my dog etc. And as I’ve said I work very hard (see I must convince you of that fact or that’ll be another three hours of stress) and I’m totally committed to my job. So why am I guilty about something that gives me pleasure? Would I feel the same if this was a more “conventional” hobby? I don’t know. “

I’m reasonably sure, based on private conversations, that this issue affects a lot of people, and I’d like to commend Bravetank for being so open in talking about how it affects her. We’re conditioned as a society to feel guilt about not working “hard” enough, even when there’s solid science out there to show that optimal working hours are far less than most people think. And perhaps this is why many of us can turn MMORPGs into a job themselves, with dailies, schedules, grinding, and so on.

(Or perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular – because they can feel like a productivity simulator?)

At the same time, Brian “Psychochild” Green writes on the same topic today, and arguing that we desperately need to be ‘unproductive’ sometimes

“As much as it would be awesome if we could be 110% productive all the time, our brains don’t work like that. A lot of research into learning and memory shows that we need sleep in order to better form memories. Introverts (which make up a sizable portion of creative types and programmers) get re-energized when we’re off on our own; so, if you do something that requires a lot of interaction with others, you might need to get away for a bit.

Also, our brains don’t automatically shut off if we are doing something else; I’m sure many people here have had the experience of our minds solving a difficult problem when we’ve moved on to something else. Sometimes doing something else that simulates the mind gets you unconsciously thinking about a problem in a different way. Games like RPGs tend to encourage problem solving and exploration, so it can put us in the right frame of mind. “

This is a sensible, well-argued post, and one that’s very timely. Brian also goes into some ways to tell if you’re gaming too much, or if it’s not having a positive effect on your life, which are also valuable. I’d perhaps have liked to see a few links to the science he references (hint – read Slack and Peopleware), but nonetheless, it’s a damn good thing to have someone reminding us that taking time out to play games isn’t just OK, it’s actively good for us.

Do you ever feel guilty about playing MMORPGs?