Monday, May 04, 2009
What is your time worth?
I was a bit surprised by what I considered a disproportionate response to me having spend 100 bucks on Free Realms, and me having spent 4579 hours on World of Warcraft. Some people were surprised I was spending "so much money" on Free Realms, while me having spent the equivalent of a part time job on WoW was considered normal, and well under the threshold of addictive behavior. But time is money. Multiply 4579 hours with whatever the minimum wage is where you live, and you'll arrive at a staggering sum of money that makes 100 bucks look like peanuts. So why are we dismissing the value of time so easily?
I think the problem is that not every one of our hours has equal value. I couldn't earn twice as much money if I spent twice as much time at work. After 8+ hours at work, I'm getting definitely less focused and less productive. And in most people's days there is a point at which they have done everything productive they could possibly do, and still have some time left for entertainment. How many unproductive hours you have in your day depends on many things, like your age, your school / job hours, and your family situation. But it isn't as if you could spend every hour of your day on something productive.
When you were discussing what amount of time spent on WoW would be addictive and what not, I was thinking that putting a number to it is nonsense. What you need to consider is "If I weren't spending this time on WoW (or whatever other MMO), what would I be spending it on instead?". If the answer to that is something like "watching TV", then you aren't addicted, you're just making a totally valid choice between various forms of entertainment. If the answer is "I'd study for my exam" or "I'd work harder for that promotion" or "I'd renovate my house", then there is a problem. And it isn't just a problem of "addiction", it is also a financial problem. If you're not getting that good grade, that promotion, or your house renovated, you're losing something of financial value. And that financial value is far, far bigger than the cost of a MMORPG, even with microtransactions and RMT.
Personally, I never considered myself addicted, because there honestly isn't anything I missed out on due to me playing World of Warcraft. Actually I *did* get that promotion recently, payrise included, and there is nothing to suggest that I didn't work hard enough at work, or neglected my family (I get a lot of hours out of *not* having children). But the consequence of that is that I only spend hours on WoW that would otherwise have been unproductive anyway. Which in turn limits the focus and energy I can put into the game. Playing Free Realms, or soloing a quest in WoW, can be done for pure relaxation, with very little focus and energy, and is thus perfect for non-productive hours. But the real top-end raiding activity in World of Warcraft requires a lot more concentration, focus, and energy. It is not that I would be totally unable to do that, but I do notice it does reach the limits of what I can do spending only unproductive time on it. Remaining focused in a raid until midnight has a price, especially if you need to get up early and work the next day.
So maybe this train of thought leads us to a better definition of what "casual" is: A casual player is somebody who isn't willing to spend potentially productive time in the game, because he uses that productive time for something which is more important to him. That leads to casual players preferring content which can be done in unproductive time, without much focus or energy.