In a world where we are bombarded relentlessly with audio and visual stimulation from the moment we wake to the point we pass out drunk on the sofa with a half-eaten kebab in our hands, moments of clarity are rare.
I had one just now while reading a Guardian article that compared World of Warcraft to a cathedral: "it is the Chartres of the video-game world...a supreme work of art that is, on a brick-by-brick basis, the creation of hundreds of artisans and craftsmen, many of whom will be long gone by the time it comes to completion."
Plausible perhaps, if a little far-fetched. But I play a priest so religious metaphors are quite appealing.
The journalist, Sam Leith, thinks questing is like praying — a repetitive and ritualistic observance that elevates the status of the environment and pays homage to the symbol of our faith. And, as with churches, he thinks the lasting appeal of WoW lies in its social nature: "The people who stay in WoW join guilds, make friends online, go questing in groups and spend hours (with only a bit of giant-slaying) talking in the chat channels. It's as much a social networking site as a videogame. You log on and gossip in its pews."
Which got me wondering what it is about WoW that keeps me coming back? I've always thought of myself as a fundamentally antisocial person — surely I don't spend hours of my life and a considerable chunk of my income to engage in frivolous chatter?
It was in this thoughtful frame of mind that I scrolled through the comments and stumbled upon the words of one perennial dissenter: "Ah this old nonsense again...Imagine yourself in twenty or thirty years time. Are you going to say 'My God, my healthy years were well spent playing World Of Warcraft', or 'I cannot believe I wasted so many hours of my life on such a trivial diversion'."
There it is: the moment of clarity.
Silence. Then... what am I doing?
It almost came to me, the answer to life, the reason I am obsessed with this unhealthy occupation, a glimpse of a future filled with enriching activities, exercise, skinny-fit jeans. My god, he's right! It's a computer game! I could be writing a novel, running a marathon, curing cancer! If I could only...
And then, without warning, Jimmy Buffet sang to me. I don't even like Jimmy Buffet, but this one line has been going round and round my head for days. So instead of discovering the meaning of my existence, I heard a crooning country dropout confess to eating the last mango in Paris, something about Saigon, and then moaning that there's still so much to be done. (Yes, he rhymed Saigon with done.)
From one waster to another, that's it. Goodbye moment of clarity. If there ever was an answer, it's gone now, probably never to return. All that's left is a bad pun in a country music song (which I'm still humming by the way).
No wonder I spend so much time hiding in Azeroth.
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