Sunday, December 27, 2009

My name is Koreen Olbrish and I am addicted to immersive environments

I'm going to admit something here, on my blog, that maybe only 1 or 2 people in my life actually know. I am addicted to immersive environments and games. Not tic-tac-toe or football, but role-playing games, the kind that immerse you in the storyline and engage you with your character in completing an objective, scoring points, and ultimately, winning.

It probably started when I was a little girl, when I was obsessed with fantasy stories like Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I read all of those books, read all of the Wizard of Oz series...anything that I could find that could transport me to another world. My mom used to take my books away from me in the summer and make me go out to play. In college, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons; I would spend whole weekends playing around the clock. I was finishing grad school when I worked at a camp for a summer and spent my days on the porch of the computer lab playing Magic the Gathering. And then, two years ago, I discovered Second Life.

No, its not a game. But I spent months and months in world, and now, in retrospect, I can see how it affected me and the people I love. I was working, yes, because I work in virtual worlds, but it went beyond that. I was truly immersed and it was impacting the rest of my life. After about 4 months, I started to ween myself out of my Second Life and re-engage with my real life. Its been a long process, and truly, the lure of games and immersive environments is still a constant pull (just this week I have been obsessed with Epic Pet Wars on my iPhone). But I've been managing to put down the laptop more and more.

And then last night. I got a 2 month subscription to World of Warcraft for Christmas. I was SO excited. I've been wanting to play WoW for a long time, and this was finally it! But...after spending two hours debating what race and class I would choose, I realized...I can't do this. I can't casually play RPGs and engage in immersive environments--they are an addictive lure to me. It also made more clear the reality behind the argument that a lot of people have against the use of virtual worlds: I don't have time. If I were to start playing WoW, I would want to really play. And that would require hours. Hours that I wouldn't be spending with my kids, hours that I wouldn't be working on my still relatively new business. I can't afford the time.

This is not to say that I don't want to play, or that I think there is anything wrong with people who choose to immerse themselves in MMOGs or virtual worlds. But I know what the trade offs are for me and so, I choose to battle my business competitors instead of Blood Elves and dance with my kids instead of Gnomes. But my pet sheep, BaadMaamaJaama, is level 16 in Epic Pet Wars. Just sayin' ;)

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