While the rest of the world is playing Starcraft II and free MMORPGs, I've just returned to World of Warcraft. Not only my own account, but three others for my family. After a two year hiatus, why am I back?
For some time now I've not had a good activity for when I'm too fried for anything serious. We don't get broadcast TV here, and satellite isn't worth the price. 300+ channels and nothing really worth watching. Normal broadcast channels cost extra. Thanks to my Congress passing bills to "protect" me, I can't get national network feeds over satellite any more, as I did about 10 years ago. Then I could watch shows I wanted to watch on my schedule, rather than being beholden to the "local" stations (the satellite companies consider Sacramento local to me, even though I'm about midway between there and Reno.)
Listening to radio is something I usually do while working on something else, so it's not an activity that's engaging enough when I just want mindless entertainment.
DVD and VHS Overfamiliarity
If I hadn't already watched my favorite "watch them anytime" disks and tapes to death, I suppose I could do that. There's a lot of material in Connections I/II/III, Day the Universe Changed, The Learning Company's Astronomy course, and several others. But when I get to where I can lip sync with them, it's time to find something else to do.
WoW is more fun with a group. Pick up groups aren't fun, for me. So I looked at WoW's charges with an eye toward "how does this compare to satellite TV?" I came to the conclusion that it's reasonable to spring for four accounts for the family to get my own built-in group.
I got an account about the time WoW was generally released to the public. I had some "real life" friends to play with, as well as friends who'd moved over from Everquest for the Mac. My kids played on my account when I didn't. They'd hot-seat, or I'd give play time as a reward or inducement to do homework or chores or whatever.
The Kid's Accounts
Then, as the kids got older (teens), they wanted their own accounts. I gave the green light, provided they saved enough money for their own retail box and six months of service. They both did so, and they could keep playing so long as they paid for it. After some time, they both decided they'd rather spend the money on other things. We suspended their accounts, and they went back to playing on my account.
Meanwhile, my various friends either left WoW or I lost track of them in real life as well as in-game. I ended up on a new server in a small casual guild. But I was mostly playing solo, I was losing interest, and the guild was dissolving. The community on that server just never really gelled. I considered moving to another server, but various other things were keeping me from playing much, so I deactivated the account about 18 months ago.
Return to Azeroth
Now I'm back. I reactivated my account, and had my daughters reactivate theirs. This time it's on my dime, so long as they keep up with homework and housework. Plus I got a fourth account. It's for my wife, who never played before.
My wife was once a non-gamer. But over the last few years she's enjoyed joining games--due in large part to our daughters. She's played tabletop RPGs like Traveller and Pathfinder and enjoyed them. We also play a lot of board games like Cosmic Encounter, Quirks, and Settlers of Cataan. It's a big change. I couldn't get her to play games before the kids came along.
Now we've got her on WoW with us. We played for about 3 hours this last weekend and had a good time. It was challenging for my wife, she's not familiar with computer RPGs, but everyone was patient. We had her roll up a hunter since they're pretty easy to play and a forgiving class. She managed to learn the basic controls, get around most of the newbie zone without getting too terribly lost, and made level 8 in her first session. She professes to have had a really good time.
Meanwhile, I've got a fried-brain spare time activity. This afternoon my youngest got through her homework quickly and did several chores--unasked!--so that she could play and get a character to one of the special little seasonal activities in WoW before it goes away for another year. I'll still have time for my hobbies--WoW doesn't replace actual things like electronics and telescope making for me. But when I'm not up for those, I won't be casting around aimlessly as much.
We won't be able to coordinate family schedules well enough to play more than perhaps once a week all together, but that will be enough. We have other family activities we do as well, like reading, that take some of that time. Right now we're working our way through Watership Down. Only I have read it before. We read for about 45 minutes this weekend before we jumped on to WoW. If we manage as much as a couple of hours a week together on WoW, that' good enough for me to justify the accounts.