Whenever I enter a new hobby that involves dealing with other people, I generally go in feeling like I just want to be a part of the group, not in charge of anything. I’m in charge of enough at work that for my free time activities, I’m happy to let someone lead the way. I will just be a little cog in the machine, I always tell myself… But if I’m associated with the hobby for some length of time, I inevitably end up in charge of something. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens every time.
About ten years ago (wow *creaks bones*), during my aspiring novelist phase, I was part of several online writing communities. A friend and I got an idea for a new kind of community and collaborated to get it going, and we ended up working as co-moderators of this writing group for something like four years. It was surprisingly successful, and my energy for it was seemingly limitless. I thought about it any spare moment I had, planning things for the group, and sneaking in computer time at my job to work on it during the day. We got a write-up in a popular ISP’s monthly publication for its users, and found ourselves inundated with hundreds of new writers within the first year. When the co-moderator and I finally decided to close the group down, we were more than 500 writers strong.
Part of the reason we decided to dissolve the group and retire was that all the administrative stuff left little time for us to do any writing ourselves. That was why we got into the hobby (and the group) in the first place: to write more. But, we didn’t. We wrote less and less until we were writing nothing. The extent of our participation in the group was to run in, do what was required of us for that particular day, douse any flames, make sure everyone was happy, and then go someplace else to relax. Somewhere in there, it had ceased to be a relaxing hobby. It was more like a job.
Same thing happened with my most recent hobby (that shall remain nameless, since I’m still casually involved with it and WoW is sort of my dirty little secret, the reason I’m absent from it so much — my escape!). I went into it thinking that I could just be part of it, but the longer I stayed, the more responsibilities I found myself with. At first it was great… there was enough to occupy me for hours and hours when I got home every night. It was a little like I was coming home to a second job that I didn’t get paid for, but it was a job that I loved even more than my real job. I constantly fantasized about making this hobby my real job.
Now I’m totally burnt out on it. I’m relieved I didn’t swerve off my path and make a big career change, because I’m ready to leave it all behind. It feels like a job in a stressful way now, and when I go visit the forums of the community, there’s a noticible spike in my blood pressure. Definitely not a relaxing way to spend my precious free time. Running around Azeroth and hitting things with a stick is much better for my soul. So far, anyway…
I read a lot of blogs by folks who’ve hit level 70 or have taken on a lot of guild responsibilities, and I see them burning out on WoW the same way I burned out on my last hobby. I don’t want this to happen for me, so I find myself actively avoiding in-game responsibilities. I would never want to run a guild, or even be an officer in one. That previous hobby still has so many tentacles on me, so many reasons I could never just quit if I wanted to, not without a lot of guilt, anyway. I want WoW to be a flexible hobby. If I am obsessed and feel like I have to log in and check my auctions once a day, that’s one thing. Ultimately, I’m in control of that, and there will be no repurcussions if I don’t do this. If I decide I want to quit tomorrow, I want to be able to quit tomorrow, and not feel like there are still a hundred things I need to take care of first or a hundred people depending on me to do things for them. I’m happy to help folks in my guild — I’m thrilled to help them — I just don’t want to be the single point of failure for any particular responsibility.
I’m sure it’s inevitable. It’s a cycle. One day, one way or another, I will find myself done with WoW. I will do (and not do) what I can to postpone that, however, and enjoy the game as long as I can. Now that I’m conscious of this habit of mine, of accepting lots of responsibilities, maybe I can avoid this particular reason for ultimately quitting.