in FS Important, Geekiness, Introspection

Moderation in Nothing

Dad used to tell the following story about me, more as a means to demonstrate the nature of his character than to demonstrate the nature of mine.

When I was a boy, probably around Harrison’s age, I wanted a goldfish. I don’t know why I wanted a goldfish, but I wanted one. Instead of buying a goldfish and a bowl for me, Dad went out and bought a twenty-gallon tank and a pump and filters and scads of tropical fish. “What do you think of that, David?” he asked. I wasn’t very appreciative. I wanted a goldfish.

Dad laughed when he told this story. It illustrated one of his character flaws. Whatever he did, he did with enthusiasm. He didn’t want to just sail boats, he wanted to build his own, and so he did (or tried to, anyhow). He didn’t want to just use computer programs, he wanted to write his own, and so he did.

Many of you will have recognized some of the same tendency in me. It’s often been remarked how I obsess over something for a period of time, only to leave it behind and move on to something else. The list is long: astronomy, chess, computer programming, tropical fish, bicycling, photography, gardening, board games, soccer, Latin, etcetera, etcetera.

I am a dilettante. This is not a quality of which I’m proud.

The crux of the problem is that when I obsess with something, I do so at the expense of other aspects of my life. In reality, these obsessions are nothing more than a manifestation of a fundamental character flaw.

Why am I overweight? Why have I had money issues? Why does my library contain more books that I will ever possibly read? Why? Because I am, historically, unable to practice moderation.

Moderation in all things,” admonished the ancients (many of them). Aristotle argued that moderation was the course to a happy life. Perhaps that explains why I’ve been fundamentally unhappy lately.

My unhappiness runs deep. It pervades my soul, my spirit. It’s been my dominant mode for the past three months. I could write for a week on this subject alone, but I won’t. It’s something that I need to overcome. (And Kris is helping me to do so.)

Instead, I’d like to draw attention to one possible source of my unhappiness, a drastic lapse of moderation.

World of Warcraft was released November 23rd, 144 days ago. Since then, I’ve spent almost exactly fourteen days playing the game. Yes, that’s right: fourteen days. A full ten percent of my life has been spent in game since Thanksgiving.

This is immoderation at its worst.

What do I have to show for this time? A host of virtual identities:

7 days, 7 hours, and 40 minutes on Proudmoore:
Maturin, 35th level night elf hunter (6d 8h 4m)
Beytu, 7th level tauren warrior (2h 47m)
Judyth, 12th level human priest (17h 41m)
Aylyana, 2nd level troll rogue (13m)
Morted, 6th level undead warlock (1h 53m)
Zapf, 2nd level gnome mage (1h 2m)

1 hour and 30 minutes on Azjul-Nerob:
Muerta, 5th level undead warlock (1h 30m)

21 hours and 17 minutes on Windrunner:
Norrell, 13th level undead warlock (12h 25m)
Poak, 6th level gnome warrior (2h 9m)
Snapp, 8th level gnome mage (4h 43m)

5 days, 18 hours, and 5 minutes on Alleria:
Ocius, 25th level troll hunter (2d 10h 27m)
Chantica, 27th level tauren shaman (3d 2h 6m)
Beytu, 10th level tauren druid (5h 32m)

The really scary numbers in the above list are those for Alleria. I’ve been on Alleria for about six weeks, which means I’ve spent a full day each week playing there. Even scarier, I started Chantica two weeks ago today. So, in the 336 hours since she was created, I’ve played 74 hours with her. I’m afraid to even do that math.

I’ve played this game for 336 hours and 12 minutes since its release. That’s more time than I spent playing Starcraft (and my Starcraft time was spread out over a year). It’s nearly as much time as I spent playing Civilization II (and my Civ2 time was spread out over a decade).

What could I have done with those 336 hours and 12 minutes? I could have listened to thirty audio books. I could have read sixty physical books. I could have probably mastered the rudiments of Latin so that I’d be reading Virgil or Ovid in the original now. I could have taught myself woodworking, and maybe have even built a bookshelf or two. I could have fertilized the blueberries and the grapes. I could have pruned all the trees. I could have replied to e-mail, written to friends, devoted more time to this weblog. I could have made photographs. I could have done lots of things.

I’m not going to quit playing World of Warcraft. It’s fun. Too much fun. I enjoy the time I spend with Will and Joel and Andrew. And Scott S. recently purchased the game, too, and I look forward to playing with him. I am, however, going to practice some moderation, spending far less time online than I am now.

So: Will, Joel, Andrew, and Scott — e-mail or call if you’re going to be on-line and want to go adventuring together. I’ll join you with pleasure. Until then, however, I’m going to be studying Latin.

(Apparently Nate has a similar addiction.)


On 15 April 2005 (09:59 AM),
J.D. said:

Here’s an interesting sub-quality I possess: it seems that I can never have a completely balanced life. Some aspect (or perhaps more than one) must always be out of whack.

For example, my finances are completely under control now. (They’re in the best shape they’ve ever been, and only getting better!) I began to get control of them in the middle of November which, coincidentally, is about the time World of Warcraft was released.

Or try this: I’ve had a hell of a time with my weight lately. I was getting it under control last spring, had lost twenty pounds, and then we bought the house. I gained the twenty pounds back in six months. It’s my belief that if I were to focus on losing this weight again, some other aspect of my life would spring out of control.

At the core, all of these problems spring from a single fundamental flaw: I have no self-discipline. I have no strength of will. Perhaps I should work on that.

(It’s fortunate that I do seem to be able to exercise self-control when it comes to those things I perceive as potentially dangerous: alcohol and tobacco.)

On 15 April 2005 (02:33 PM),
Dave said:

Perhaps you overly perseverate your perseveration.

On 15 April 2005 (02:53 PM),
Amanda said:

Whoa. I would give serious reconsideration to dropping the gaming. What is it really adding to your life? Are there other activities that you can do with your gaming friends?

Perhaps I am unfairly biased. I don’t get these sort of games. On the other hand, I spend way more time watching TV than I should.

We all have our time-wasting vices.

On 15 April 2005 (03:05 PM),
J.D. said:

Yes, but for some people — such as Kris — that vice is knitting. sigh

This vice hasn’t just made me feel poorly physically, it’s also affected my output in this weblog. It’s difficult for me to write about all the fun little things that happen to me day-to-day when all that is happening is that Joel and I are killing Troggs and getting bright new shiny Sporkenators. Nobody cares. Not even me!

Moderation. Moderation. Moderation.

This ought to be my mantra.

On 15 April 2005 (06:07 PM),
Tammy said:

I dont think knitting can be placed in the same category as playing games on the computer. I believe it falls more along the lines of playing chess or reading. It’s constructive. There’s something tangible to show for your efforts.

IMO, getting lost on the computer is the worst feeling in the wolrd. It always leaves me feeling bad about myself. It’t unlike any of my other addictions. I’m happy to say that as of January I haven’t spent a lot of time on the computer; nothing like I used to. I’ve never played computer games. I know I would get addicted.

I dont do ebay either because of my addictive personality. If there’s something I want an ebay I email a link to my husband and he bids on it for me. He doesn’t seem to have addictions to anything. I wish I could be more like that.

On 15 April 2005 (07:37 PM),
nate said:

I do indeed have a similar addiction… though my roommate is even more invested in it than I am. I’m only level 41, but he hit 53 just today. For him, I think it’s pretty much, eat, sleep, play WoW, and maybe go to class.

(Oh, and while the link in your post has my new URL, the one on your sidebar doesn’t. Just FYI.)

On 15 April 2005 (11:10 PM),
dowingba said:

Whoa. I would give serious reconsideration to dropping the gaming. What is it really adding to your life?

I hate when people say things like this. Let me ask you this: how is it hurting you to play games? Do you enjoy it? Then do what you enjoy. Why does everything one does in life have to accomplish some material goal in order to be worthwhile? Can’t you just enjoy life once in a while?

I haven’t played WoW (or any other MMORPG), but from reading various snippets of this site, it sure sounds like it’s a pretty enjoyable game. Doing something you enjoy = good.

On 15 April 2005 (11:13 PM),
dowingba said:

And Tammy, explain to me how playing chess has more tangible results than playing computer games? Does this apply to computer chess as well?

On 16 April 2005 (09:19 AM),
Tammy said:

Ah dowingba, I haven’t heard from you in forever. The only reason I mentioned chess was because JD listed it among his obsessions. Upon review of the above entry I see that he didn’t necessarily rate it as a better pursuit than computer games, only as one of his addictions.

I originally read that to mean that he considered that list more worth while pursuits. And not being a computer game player I didn’t even think about it being played on the computer. But you’re right. It isan’t much more worthwhile than the games JD is playing, especially if it’s played on the computer.

On 16 April 2005 (11:33 AM),
Paul said:

NY Times faux depression quiz:

On 18 April 2005 (08:13 AM),
sennoma said:

Your Dad calls you David?

On 18 April 2005 (02:07 PM),
Amanda said:

Wow! It’s a red letter day! Tammy and I agree on something! Knitting is productive and yes, that makes a difference.

Now, dowingba, calm the fuck down. Seriously. Methinks thou dost protest too much. And to answer your hyperdefensive post, um, was JD not asking, at least by proxy, for some feedback and/or advice?

Man. Go take a Xanax or something.

Write a Comment


  1. hey so far i havent actualy managed to find a site/forum with someone saying they will play in moderation for wow. i havent started playing infact im downloading the 10 day trial. buttttt and this is a realy big but im doing A levels and need to concentrate on them aswell. so heres the main part of my question, is there anyway, apart from the initial excessive amount of playing of a new game, that i can play this game wiv moderation maxing 2-3 hours at the very most a weeknight. im also blessed with a great social life will wow take it from me?? cheeers