World of Warcraft

The Lonely Life of a Gamer Mum

I generally try to avoid posts that are far more personal in nature than they are game related, but I believe that in this case, the two go hand in hand. I am confident — or at least I need to believe in it for sanity’s sake — that I am not the only person who has experienced this, and so I am sharing my story in hopes that others can avoid my mistakes, or at least feel like they are not alone. If you’re not keen on kids, social interactions, bad language, or the possibility that excessive gaming is bad for you, then look away now. You have been warned!

When we moved to Central Australia two and a half years ago, I was shit scared. We were leaving behind an incredibly supportive network of friends and family to settle in a place where we knew not a single soul. Our son had just turned one at the time, and I gingerly left an introduction post in a Facebook Mother’s Group where an amazing lady took me under her wing. She showed us around town and our kids had a few play dates together, but we eventually drifted apart. Since then, I have struggled to find mothers that share something in common with me other than having both successfully spawned humans, and my social life has suffered greatly because of it. I am yet to meet another woman in this town who plays World of Warcraft at all, let alone ones that also have children! If they exist here — and I really hope they do! — perhaps they are just like me and they’ve given up on trying to find fellow gamer mums and they just stay home playing WoW all day too?

Forever alone.

Failure to Assimilate

In a vain effort to get to know people, I begrudgingly dragged my kid to a few play groups. To say that it was not my kind of scene is a massive understatement. Those who know me personally will know that I don’t identify well with the stereotypical “Stay At Home Mum” role; I continually struggle with feeling like I’m trapped or not contributing to society, or that I’m just another woman who has nothing to talk about besides how amazing my child is and/or how gross/painful/incredible the birthing process was. The kinds of conversations that happen at Play Group made me want to stab myself in the face with a fork. No, I won’t “change my mind” about settling with one child, I do not want to hear about how “Breast is Best” or whatever other morally superior technique is making the rounds at the time, and I certainly do not want to be involved in the, “My kid is better than your kid!” pissing contest that seems to break out when large groups of parents get together.

It’s not that I’m anti-parent (Although reading back on what I just wrote, it certainly sounds that way), it’s just I don’t really identify with that kind of behaviour, and I certainly don’t enjoy the atmosphere that comes with traditional meeting places for Mums. I would much rather hang out in someone’s backyard and have a few beers (Coffee or Diet Coke are also acceptable beverages, depending on the weather) while the kids play together, rather than being crammed into some room and forced to make kiddy small talk while nibbling on morning tea. I don’t mind the occasional parenting chat, but I would fucking love to casually drop into conversation that our raid team was short a healer for Mogu’shan Vaults last week and I drew the short straw, while the others nod sympathetically and share their own gaming stories, instead of just staring at me like I’m a nut job. There is more to me than my child, and I would dearly like to talk about something which actually interests me, as opposed to rehashing the same old potty training stories for the 50th time.

“Ahh, peace and quiet at last!”

Escapism or Addiction?

Since I am in a guild full of friends and family from back home, World of Warcraft began to fill up more and more of my time. In Azeroth it didn’t matter that I was socially awkward, because here I could choose what conversations I took part in and I had time to craft thoughtful responses where I mostly didn’t look like a babbling moron. My interactions with actual humans and not avatars were becoming more and more scarce, but I didn’t really notice because I felt like I was socialising.  I was playing so much and neglecting the “real world” enough that my husband attempted to stage an intervention earlier this year.

That chat certainly opened my eyes and I cut back. When I started playing properly again a few months later, I noticed that even my interactions in-game have changed over time. I used to be able to strike up a conversation with strangers; I was that person who always said ‘Hi!’ in pick up groups, hell, it’s hard to believe that there was actually a time where I participated in PuG’s at all! Nowadays I rarely run LFG and LFR without a guildie there to hold my hand, and there is no way I’ll ever participate in a public conversation, lest the trolls come out to play. However, it hasn’t been until recently — probably when Casadalla moved away — that I realised just how small and how very lonely my world has become. I have two friends here in town that I actually interact with face to face. Two. Friends. Friends that don’t even share the same interests as me. Friends who are more acquaintances through my husband rather than friendships on their own merit.

How fucking depressing.

😥

Getting Back in the Game

It would be wrong for me to lay the blame at the feet of World of Warcraft or even Alice Springs for turning me into a hermit. The problem is me and my painful shyness, my limited opportunities to get out of the house (It is ridiculously hard to get a placement in Day Care here and my Husband worked shift up until one week ago), plus my tendency to stick my head in the sand and pretend like everything is A-OK. The game certainly served as an outlet, and for a long time I’ve been able to function on what social interaction it provides. The issue here is that I turned it into my only outlet, and my social life has suffered greatly. I now need to work hard to break out of my comfort zone and try to expand my interests, all while putting on a brave face and throwing myself into situations that feel unnatural and awkward. I may never find that perfect friend who also likes sunshine, beer and World of Warcraft, but that does not mean that I should stop searching. Expanding my social circle can only mean good things for me and my family!

Now it’s just a matter of taking that first, scary step back into reality.

Have you ever found yourself retreating into World of Warcraft or other hobbies at the expense of real life? Do you ever feel like you’re out of touch with what society considers normal, and had a hard time making friends because of it? Have you ever had the strength to break the cycle? Share your stories in the comments below. 

16 thoughts on “The Lonely Life of a Gamer Mum

  1. Neri, wow. I read this and I guess i was surprised because I had actually forgotten you were a parent, though I hadn’t forgotten you lived in Alice Springs. You have always seemed so out there, so exuberant on your blog and online, that sometimes I forget that our online personas reflect our real lives very poorly. I guess I’m surprised because the few times I’ve asked you to do something silly, you’re about to head out the door to do something! And I thought wow that Neri is so busy and popular. I guess I was wrong…

    I think being an at home mum is harder than working. I have found that staying at home all day was much harder than going to work – in fact I go to work to get that social interaction that it sounds like you are craving.

    But for me, I am not someone who craves social interaction in real life. I could happily be reading books, sewing, taking photos and watching my TV shows without anyone except my imagination. I find myself immersed in the game because I can sit there and not talk to anyone if I choose. And yet I thrive on the social interaction it does provide.

    I hope that step back into reality goes well for you. Which means, young lady, when when I come up to Alice Springs for a holiday, you’re going to join me for a drink and a bite to eat. You can’t back out of it because my feelings would be incredibly hurt and you wouldn’t want that on your conscience, right? 😀

    And you can bring your young one along with you. Coz I’ll probably be stuck with mine.

    • I guess I’m surprised because the few times I’ve asked you to do something silly, you’re about to head out the door to do something! And I thought wow that Neri is so busy and popular. I guess I was wrong…

      I wish I could say that those times I was ducking out was for some awesome girly time, but in reality it was just my husband and I squeezing in a lunch date while my son was at his one day a week of care and Mike’s roster gave him a Monday off. As of last week, even that luxury is gone now and I’m feeling it way more than I thought I would!

      I’m usually fine to just do my own thing, but I think I’m at the eleven month mark now without that sunshine + beer + gossip afternoon that apparently is so crucial to my sanity! I’ve gone from having a circle of close friends who hang out on occasion, whether it’s to share a beer and cheese platter watching the footy, knitting or even WoW LAN’s to having absolutely….nothing. It’s just me sitting in the same spot doing the same things that I do Every. Single. Day.

      Thank you for your kind words. I shall hold you to that drink and feed should you ever find yourself over this way ❤

  2. Not that it will be of any actual help to you, but you should know you’re not alone.

    After my second child was born I went through PND, and a great deal of what you’ve written strikes a chord in me. You don’t have to be isolated to feel alone, you can be surrounded by people and the same feelings apply. The trick has to be not to allow the game to take too much of your life, and you’re clearly aware of the problems that can cause. You’d be surprised how many mums have the same feelings as you.

    Using your Blog and other social outlets is never going to be a substitute for An Actual Life (TM) but they can help, as can making posts like this so that other people can understand your situation and try and help. Who knows, someone may be reading this locally even now and wondering if they can reach out to you…

    • Thank you for sharing your story with me. I really do appreciate knowing that I am not the only one who has felt this way, and I am happy to hear that it sounds like you made it through the other side of PND.

      This blog in particular has been a great way to keep myself busy and feeling like I’m being constructive or at least like I am contributing to the world in some little way. It always seems to be when I get slack in the writing department and spend all my time staring at my character that these feelings bubble to the surface.

      Writing this post in particular really did help far more than I thought it would, and kind words from people such as yourself have been a nice surprise. Thanks again 🙂

  3. I’ve long been out of touch with what society considers normal, but my WoW habit is just a symptom of that, not its cause. Though I don’t have children (or a significant other at present), I’m in a similar situation socially as I have moved frequently in the past few years. I’ve moved nearly a thousand miles away from all family and friends, and am only slowly coming out of a set of circumstances that rendered me a total, utter cynic where other people are concerned, so … the social life’s been a bit slow, shall we say. 😛

    I also have the “interest gap” as an issue. Part of this challenge stems from the fact that I’ve moved on from hobbies in which I previously found friends (and kinda sorta still have some in the Facebook sense), but the things I find interesting nowadays are considered esoteric at best. (I *almost* got a guy to go on a date where we’d walk around historic neighborhoods looking at architecture. *Almost.* Dude totally called out sick, that wimp.)

    I almost think that in Western culture, what “play group” is to “mom,” “bar” is to “single woman without kids.” Because I’m still single, people keep telling me to go to bars to meet friends and dates. Buuuuut …

    1.) I don’t drink (except under hellish circumstances, such as my car dying in the middle of rural America)
    2.) People aren’t as interesting as they think they are when they’re falling down drunk
    3.) I’m partially deaf, so in the chaos of the bar setting I can’t hear a damn thing anybody’s saying anyway

    My solution has been to start taking a weekend class at a community center, because I like learning and I’ve also found that people warm up to me over time. (This latter bit is important, I’ve discovered, because I retain many musical theatre influences in manner of speech – instinctual jazz hands when making a point, for example. People think this is Weird as Hell, but they get used to it.) Spanish wasn’t that great because other students arrived, went through the exercises and left immediately, but artsy-fartsy classes like ceramics seem to be going better in terms of meeting people. It’s slow going – I’m an introvert, and I’m highly guarded with personal information while still talking too damn much somehow – but I am cautiously optimistic about the prospect of making a few friends.

    • Sounds like it was that wimpy dudes loss!

      Ugh, I never understood the “Bar” logic either. Whenever I went out when I was single, there was only one kind of person I would attract, and that was the kind of person that was looking for a quick and easy shag. Certainly not someone you’d want to spend the rest of your life with! Even when Casadella lived here, we tried the whole, “Going to the bar to make friends thing” and even then, we all were so drunk that we never remembered or spoke to those “friends” we made…assuming we even saw them again.

      I love the idea of a weekend class. Now that my husband no longer works shift, it’s assuring to know that I can start doing things like that now without having to miss a month of class because he is working over the weekend and there is no-one to look after my son. I suppose I have ran out of reasons why I shouldn’t start that knitting course I’ve been eyeing off. I’m such an old lady 😛

      I’m really glad to hear that people are warming to you! Jazz hands or no, I think you’d be a blast to hang out with!

      PS. You’re so right about quality over quantity. My friends back home aren’t many, but dear god they are beyond awesome and I miss them terribly. It’s just a matter of finding the Alice Springs equivalent now.

      Thanks for sharing your story with me 🙂

  4. I’ve just found this post.

    I started playing Warcraft a year after highschool. Nearly all of my friends had moved away, many hours or even days from reach, to go to school or for other jobs. I had chosen to stay and work for the family business and save money instead. Living in a remote location (literally on a farm in the middle of the forest) made access to other people difficult – along with being mildly socially awkward to begin with. The people who ARE my age here have a very different set of ideals than I do. It’s difficult to connect with this crowd of people who are non-stop partiers or people who just want to slack off.

    Instead of searching for people who I could talk to, I settled for talking to people on Warcraft. The huge variety of people on Warcraft is logistically impossible for my area of Canada. It’s always a rush to speak to someone across the world or even just across the country. So many different opinions and thoughts and personalities.

    I do have a few close friends here. They are still my close friends despite the time I spend on WoW – I try very hard to balance my time. It’s easy to get lost in Azeroth because the interaction with other people is addicting. When I find myself online too much (and I do, I feel it when I’ve spent too much time here. My head begins to feel fuzzy and I find myself irritable faster!) I cut back until I know I’m able to handle it.

    I wouldn’t give it up, though. The friends I’ve made online are real.

  5. Hi, Neri.

    I just want to wish you well and say, although our situations are different, we are in a similar search for balance. You were a significant inspiration to my first blog post in almost three months.

    Take care and I hope you continue to play games and blog in a way that you makes you happy!

  6. This post brought me to tears Neri. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that behind the pixels and text that there are real people, with real problems behind the keyboard.

    Almost three years ago I moved to England (UK) to live with my Fiance, since then I’ve had problems with anxiety and panic disorder making it really difficult for me to leave the house. I’m unable to travel back home to see friends without someone having to either drive five hours to collect me or travel with me by train. I’m on medication and I’ve been seeing a counselor but it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. I’ve been unable to find a job since I struggle with the idea of going out which means I haven’t made any friends either. I’m 27 and I don’t have any kids or real hobbies other than WoW I’m not even sure where I’d go to make friends!

    Since I quit raiding and moved off of the PvP server I was on, I’ve felt so alone. I’m in a guild on my own which is great for keeping track of mats and such and my own alts but it has made me realize that I’m actually really lonely now both in real life and in game.

    I truly wish you the best Neri, I want you to be happy. Keep us updated on how you’re getting on, if you’re able to break out of that cycle. You’re incredibly brave for posting such a personal post.

    x

  7. Gotta say, as a fellow gamer mom I feel much the same… my twins are too little to take anywhere and enjoy them, and we have no friends in this place. I live an hour away from my favorite people, and even they are relatively busy while I need someone to escape the drudgery of 3 kids (twins + big bro). Husband just isnt quite enough. I know how you feel, big time.

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