There are times when a person needs to step back and analyze what they’re doing, where they’ve been, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. I’ve been pondering such things over the past few weeks. I’ve got a lot of soul searching to do, but I’ve come to two conclusions thus far.
First, while I’m mostly content with my life, I don’t know that I’m truly “happy”. I’m certainly not unhappy, but I know there is room for much improvement.
Second, I make poor use of my free time.
These two things are somewhat intertwined. I’ve let myself slip back into one of my extreme hermit phases again, where I’m not really keen on doing anything except sit in my little cave and do things that are easy and convenient. It becomes very easy to become isolated and to just coast by. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. It’s not a conscious choice, it just sort of happens.
One of the things that’s helped to make this latest hermit cycle longer and more drawn out has been a computer game – Eve Online. Its one of those Massively Multiplayer Online games, but it’s particularly devious and cunning because it’s set in space (awesome), has customizable space ships that can do any number of things (awesome), and is completely unscripted and player-driven (awesome). The latter point is the big problem though. Since there are no defined paths to follow, there’s no real way to “win” the game, and it never ends. There’s always something new to do, another thing to try, another place to take your character, another way to make (and lose) in-game money. While it’s very engrossing and entertaining, it’s also a huge time sink.
Over the four or so years I’ve been playing Eve, I’ve allowed myself to rack up no less than eight paid accounts. Some I started on my own, and others I acquired from friends who were walking away from the game. Having eight “main” characters allowed me to let each of them specialize in various in-game professions or roles, which also left me with a pretty much endless supply of things to do. Where a normal player with one character on one account might get bored doing the same things, I never had that problem, because I had enough diversity in my army of characters that I could do pretty much anything. If I got bored doing one thing, another was always a few clicks away.
When the financial cost of keeping 8 accounts running started catching up with me, I found ways to keep playing without spending money. Eve is somewhat unique in that you can trade in-game currency for playing time. Therefore, if you’re space-rich, or can make a lot of in-game cash quickly, you can play indefinitely without spending any real money. I started coming up with all kinds of schemes to keep my accounts subscribed without paying money, but they all involved one thing in abundance – time. At one point, I was doing a lot of the more tedious (and profitable) things to keep my characters busy, but it quickly started feeling like a second job. I got sick of that particular play style, and stopped. It wasn’t fun.
Over the past month or two, I’ve been having an ongoing debate with myself on whether I should just stop playing altogether. I’m half-convinced (okay, maybe more than half) that I suffer at least a mild addiction to the game, and I’m not really sure I can play like a normal human would. I’ve gone back and forth between various ideas on how I could keep my playing time constrained, and just wanting to give it up entirely. The thing that’s pushed me towards the latter isn’t necessarily how much time I spend playing, it’s how much I think about the game when I’m not playing, and how much internal deliberation I’ve gone through with figuring out how I would quit. In pondering the subject of quitting, I would often go off on side tangents about whether I should just stop playing immediately, give my assets to friends, do this, that, the other thing, or whatever. Just stopping altogether was pretty much unthinkable much of the time, which told me I was “in too deep.”
So in the end, I decided that outright quitting is what I had to do. Yesterday, I made the choice to just stop playing, for the foreseeable future at least. I sent off a mail to in-game friends letting them know what was up, and that was it. I’ve already slimmed down my gaming fortress (shown above in its most over-the-top stage) to two computers, and I’ll be shelving those in the next few days to avoid temptation. I’m not ruling out playing again in the future, but I want to give myself the opportunity to reset for a while, and not let it consume my time in the way it did.
So what will I do in place of Eve?
- Spend more time with my wife
- Rediscover old hobbies, like my long-neglected guitars
- Find some new hobbies
- Get my ass in shape (a process already started – 10 pounds down, 50 to go!)
- Get better with doing things around the house
- Knock out some of my long-standing geek and non-geek projects
So, there’s plenty of things to do, and now I should have a lot more time to do them.