I generally try to avoid posts that are far more personal in nature than they are game related, but I believe that in this case, the two go hand in hand. I am confident — or at least I need to believe in it for sanity’s sake — that I am not the only person who has experienced this, and so I am sharing my story in hopes that others can avoid my mistakes, or at least feel like they are not alone. If you’re not keen on kids, social interactions, bad language, or the possibility that excessive gaming is bad for you, then look away now. You have been warned!
When we moved to Central Australia two and a half years ago, I was shit scared. We were leaving behind an incredibly supportive network of friends and family to settle in a place where we knew not a single soul. Our son had just turned one at the time, and I gingerly left an introduction post in a Facebook Mother’s Group where an amazing lady took me under her wing. She showed us around town and our kids had a few play dates together, but we eventually drifted apart. Since then, I have struggled to find mothers that share something in common with me other than having both successfully spawned humans, and my social life has suffered greatly because of it. I am yet to meet another woman in this town who plays World of Warcraft at all, let alone ones that also have children! If they exist here — and I really hope they do! — perhaps they are just like me and they’ve given up on trying to find fellow gamer mums and they just stay home playing WoW all day too?
Failure to Assimilate
In a vain effort to get to know people, I begrudgingly dragged my kid to a few play groups. To say that it was not my kind of scene is a massive understatement. Those who know me personally will know that I don’t identify well with the stereotypical “Stay At Home Mum” role; I continually struggle with feeling like I’m trapped or not contributing to society, or that I’m just another woman who has nothing to talk about besides how amazing my child is and/or how gross/painful/incredible the birthing process was. The kinds of conversations that happen at Play Group made me want to stab myself in the face with a fork. No, I won’t “change my mind” about settling with one child, I do not want to hear about how “Breast is Best” or whatever other morally superior technique is making the rounds at the time, and I certainly do not want to be involved in the, “My kid is better than your kid!” pissing contest that seems to break out when large groups of parents get together.
It’s not that I’m anti-parent (Although reading back on what I just wrote, it certainly sounds that way), it’s just I don’t really identify with that kind of behaviour, and I certainly don’t enjoy the atmosphere that comes with traditional meeting places for Mums. I would much rather hang out in someone’s backyard and have a few beers (Coffee or Diet Coke are also acceptable beverages, depending on the weather) while the kids play together, rather than being crammed into some room and forced to make kiddy small talk while nibbling on morning tea. I don’t mind the occasional parenting chat, but I would fucking love to casually drop into conversation that our raid team was short a healer for Mogu’shan Vaults last week and I drew the short straw, while the others nod sympathetically and share their own gaming stories, instead of just staring at me like I’m a nut job. There is more to me than my child, and I would dearly like to talk about something which actually interests me, as opposed to rehashing the same old potty training stories for the 50th time.
Escapism or Addiction?
Since I am in a guild full of friends and family from back home, World of Warcraft began to fill up more and more of my time. In Azeroth it didn’t matter that I was socially awkward, because here I could choose what conversations I took part in and I had time to craft thoughtful responses where I mostly didn’t look like a babbling moron. My interactions with actual humans and not avatars were becoming more and more scarce, but I didn’t really notice because I felt like I was socialising. I was playing so much and neglecting the “real world” enough that my husband attempted to stage an intervention earlier this year.
That chat certainly opened my eyes and I cut back. When I started playing properly again a few months later, I noticed that even my interactions in-game have changed over time. I used to be able to strike up a conversation with strangers; I was that person who always said ‘Hi!’ in pick up groups, hell, it’s hard to believe that there was actually a time where I participated in PuG’s at all! Nowadays I rarely run LFG and LFR without a guildie there to hold my hand, and there is no way I’ll ever participate in a public conversation, lest the trolls come out to play. However, it hasn’t been until recently — probably when Casadalla moved away — that I realised just how small and how very lonely my world has become. I have two friends here in town that I actually interact with face to face. Two. Friends. Friends that don’t even share the same interests as me. Friends who are more acquaintances through my husband rather than friendships on their own merit.
How fucking depressing.
Getting Back in the Game
It would be wrong for me to lay the blame at the feet of World of Warcraft or even Alice Springs for turning me into a hermit. The problem is me and my painful shyness, my limited opportunities to get out of the house (It is ridiculously hard to get a placement in Day Care here and my Husband worked shift up until one week ago), plus my tendency to stick my head in the sand and pretend like everything is A-OK. The game certainly served as an outlet, and for a long time I’ve been able to function on what social interaction it provides. The issue here is that I turned it into my only outlet, and my social life has suffered greatly. I now need to work hard to break out of my comfort zone and try to expand my interests, all while putting on a brave face and throwing myself into situations that feel unnatural and awkward. I may never find that perfect friend who also likes sunshine, beer and World of Warcraft, but that does not mean that I should stop searching. Expanding my social circle can only mean good things for me and my family!
Now it’s just a matter of taking that first, scary step back into reality.
Have you ever found yourself retreating into World of Warcraft or other hobbies at the expense of real life? Do you ever feel like you’re out of touch with what society considers normal, and had a hard time making friends because of it? Have you ever had the strength to break the cycle? Share your stories in the comments below.