Sunday, August 08, 2010

Online and Time

As part of the periodic nostalgia to which I seem prone from time to time, I decided to try my hand at one of the Online Role Playing Games. I've always been fascinated by the concept since it came out but never wanted to do so; now, with some opportunities for free play available, I thought it would be interesting to try.

It was extremely cool, the very thing that my imagination was longing for all those years. To visually see a world other than this, to visually immerse myself in an adventure, to see the characters and things that had wandered my imagination for years, was a treat indeed.

But as I continued to play, I realized that there was one significant problem: time.

Playing online, like everything else, takes time. And in role playing games, sometimes you lose. The nice thing is that you are never really "gone"; you just come back and have to start over.

But one thing doesn't come back: the time. The time spent playing these games is lost, passing in the breeze. And if you're not careful, you'll find 3 hours have slipped away and you have done nothing but have to go back to the beginning and redo the whole thing.

It's a game. I understand that completely. At the same time, this is a game that I played (in old fashioned paper and imagination!) many years ago, a concept of game that many people continue to play now - so even if the medium is different, the lesson is the same.

The lesson is simply that if for no other reasons, these things teach terrible lessons about time and the way life works.

They teach that that there is a dichotomy that exists between reality and fantasy, that one's actions can be undone and you can go back to the beginning - no harm, no foul. They also teach that time is essentially a thing which doesn't matter so much, at least as long as you're enjoying yourself.

The harsh reality - the reality of mid-forties me looking back - is that time is the thing which matters most. Yes, there's nothing wrong with enjoying one's self, but I cannot pretend that spending time on something means that there is no impact on other things in my life. Other things - critical things, meaningful things - will get pushed aside, goals will not be achieved, relationships will with and die. And unlike online games, one does not get to go back to the beginning - you have to continue forward where you are.

Will I play again? I'm not sure. Ironically, I seem unable to swallow the loss of time (for myself, dare I call it a waste?) based on all the other things I need to do and the time frames I have to do them; this world we call reality has far more to do in it than I can ever get done. It will, however, encourage me to continue to try to teach my children about the importance of time and how, once gone, it never returns. Even the memories of how we enjoyed ourselves doing these things never returns a second of the time we used to do them.

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