Friday, January 22, 2010

The Bubble

When I was a child I loved to dry my hair with a hairdryer after having a bath or a shower. Not that I bothered much about how my hair looked. It was all about bubbling.

Somehow the combination of the hot air and the soft, consistent humming provided me with a temporary protective shelter. For a few minutes I was brought to a place out of the normal world, excused and untouchable. No one could address me with anything through that noise – I wouldn’t hear a thing anyway. It was just me and the warm breeze and if I closed my eyes I could imagine that I was somewhere else, in a far distant world out of time and space, void of burdens, obligations or disappointments.

As a matter of fact I still like to bubble. I bubble into the hair-dryer (although I try not to do it every time – after all it’s as bad for my hair as for the environment). But I have another protective bubble too. It’s called Azeroth.

The protective bubble
I came to think of it as I read Tamarind's stunningly honest and beautiful post about the relation between his real life and his WoW playing, where WoW during a period became his shelter that helped him to cope with an unbearable life situation. A bubble where he could find something to catch his attention so his mind could get a necessary break from the pain.

And I ask myself how many of us players who in fact are bubbling in the moment when we log on. Judging from words slipping from people I’ve met, fragments of real life information I’ve read on blogs, I think I’m not alone.

So many people I’ve met online seemed to be running away from something. We’re running away from jobs that are wearing us down, from dysfunctional relationships, running away from financial worries, from loneliness, illness or from the plain existential question that we all will face at some point in our lives: “How am I going to live the rest of my life”?

Somehow this bubble function of WoW is a bit frowned upon. The anti-gaming movement love to preach about the dangers of using games as an escape from real life.

I don’t judge anyone. It’s not my business to tell anyone else how to live their lives. There are all sorts of bubbling – and WoW is definitely quite harmless if you compare to other shelters. People run into drugs, violence, gambling or dangerous eating habits. In WoW I don’t hurt anyone but digital monsters. And besides I’m a bubbler too, so how could I possibly have anything against it?

Dealing with the demons
Still I would be lying if I said that I don't worry a little bit about it. Never before have I had a hobby that takes so much of my time and energy as playing World of Warcraft. Never before have I had access to such an effective, powerful bubble. If I watch a movie, my thoughts can drift away. But when I’m handling the beast adds at Saurfang, there isn’t room for anything else. There is nothing but “here and now” and it works effectively as a kind of meditation. My mind is suddenly cleared, free from all the crap that normally fills it. I’m safe, happy in the moment.

To have such an effective escape and hideout available only a loginscreen away can be a very good thing, especially if it helps you to survive in a difficult real life situation.

But on the other hand I’m painfully aware of the demons won’t go away if I constantly bubble out of their attacks. At some point we all need to get out of the shelter – fighting, nuking, negotiating, taking decisions – do the things we have to do, because it’s a part of being a adult human being.

I love my bubble to death. But I also try to keep an eye on it, not letting it grow permanent. I can dry my hair until it’s warm and crispy – however at some point I must turn of the hairdryer. Even if it makes me freeze.


Spinks said...

Your talk of bubbling does remind me of a time when I was sharing a small flat with two other people. We didn't have a lot of room.

And I wasn't playing WoW at the time, but computer games were a way for me to get some space. They didn't take much physical space (just a desk and a computer) but when I was totally engrossed in Diablo or whatever, I stopped thinking about how there was no space in our flat. It was my bubble, when I got home and loaded it up, I had my personal space in there, somehow.

Klepsacovic said...

Boo, hair dryers! I was always too impatient, and they're bad for hair.

There's nothing wrong with bubbles. If we had no bubbles, we'd all die or go insane. They're important. They help us escape a terrible world and even more importantly, they show us that the world need not be terrible. It is the bubble of living in an industrialized culture that protects us from so many terrible things which are common in the rest of the world.

Or to put it another way; here are our own words from a year ago.
I stand by what we said.

Vorne said...

Nice post and how very true, although i have never thought of it as bubbling before, more
de-stressing :)
Would'nt it be nice though to have this ability in the real world, say in an office meeting getting bored or stressed and just flip your own personel bubble on and spend 5- 10 mins in an opaque heaven.... lol sounds nice:)

Meeeeee said...

I do that everyday
it is called meditation

G-Rebel said...

I was disabled two years ago and can't move around much. Sitting in a chair with pain meds coarsing through my veins is usually the most comfortable thing to do. I can't take my kids to the park or wrestle with them, but I can play computer games with them.

It's a wonderful bubble, I know others would say read a book or just talk to them...don't worry, I do A LOT of that too...but when we play games together it's a bubble I wouldn't let pop for anything.

Rem said...

And in addition to the bubble effect, well, there's this little movie quote...

We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact.

It's unpopular to admit it. Society trains us to pose as we've reached everything we ever aspired to. But no matter how many self-confidence advisers preach how everyone is such a special snowflake - few of us are where we dreamed to be when we were half as old. And it's not necessarily a bad thing - life can be pretty good without flying into space or being a pro athlete. Still, killing internet dragons sometimes helps to be more comfortable with the fact, that we are, in the end, not that much more outstanding than the guy next door.

Tam said...

This is also a very lovely post, Larisa.

I think escapism is always likely to be frowned upon - I think we're raised on the assumption (or at least I was) that whatever we're currently doing for pleasure was basically a waste of time and what we ought to be doing is manning up and Dealing With Real Life, whatever that means.

Nowadays some forms of "bubbling" have more social validity than others - I read-bubble an awful lot, and my Grandparents were always complaining that I should be doing something "useful" but since reading has a accepted cultural cache this is a rarely seen standpoint nowadays.

In short I truly believe there's nothing wrong with bubbles - whatever form they take. The time I spent hiding in WoW has not damaged my ability to cope with the rest of the world, it just gave me momentary respite.

I think there are dangers inherent in excess - and I suppose only the individual can judge waht 'excess' becomes.

SirFWALGMan said...

Very well written. I agree and concur and do the exact same things. Glad you wrote about the danger of not dealing with things though. It is important also.

Hirvox said...

As long as the bubble's isolation effect works both ways, I don't mind. If something bothers you out of game, I don't need to hear about it within the game. Conversely, don't snap at people just because something happened in the game. There is a difference between the player and the character, even if the character was designed as an idealized version of the player. Samuel L. Jackson is not Jules Winnfield.

Brian Inman said...

I see nothing wrong with Bubbles.

When my father passed away a few years ago it was my only escape to play DAOC to take my mind off losing my father so early.

Larísa said...

@Spinks: it's quite amazing how well you can be shielded. I play wow in the middle of the living room, my family watching tv 2 meters away. And I really hardly notice what they'r doing at all.

: hm... Am I repeting myself? But yeah, I don't apologize for bubbling. It's a matter of survival. But I still keep an eye on myself not to get stuck in it.

@Vorne & Meee: yeah, I guess meditation is a good way, although I've never got it to work for me. WoW fills that purpose for me.

@G-Rebel: Thank you for sharing. I know of other disabled people playing wow and knowing about their real life situation I'm really glad the bubble is there for them.

@Rem: I think you're nailing it there. The unrealistic expectations many people have on their lives these days bring a lot of unhappiness to them. And somehow the WoW bubble can help them coping with it.

@Tam: oh, yeas, the book-bubble! I think a good sign of that you're bubbling is that you start re-reading a book every time you've finished it. Like I did with Lotr... I've read those books more times than I can count. So really, entering an MMO isn't such a big difference. And yet it's frown upon.

@Hirvox: yeah, I try to keep my game as free from rl trouble as I can. That's why I don't run any charity things at PPI either. It's two different worlds and I try to keep them apart.

@Brian Inman: my father died at the age of 56 9 years ago and that was way too early. Even if wow wasn't on my radar at that time I sometimes think that my bubbling now partly has to do with my not-dealt-with mourning of my father. So yeah, I know what you mean.

Carra said...

There was a time where I used WoW as the bubble to escape from reality.

It's a great way to forget all your problems... But your problems don't go away if you just ignore them, they only get worse.

It can be harmful if you use the time you should use to do something useful to just play WoW.

Carra said...

Just found this quote from Tolkien and I think it's fitting:

"Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"

Jaedia said...

Such a thought provoking and true post.

I don't have much else to say, but I felt it necessary to leave a comment saying something.

Dariush said...

I've heard much talk about the bubble as a temporary escape from the stresses and dangers of life, but as any dedicated paladin will tell you, a bubble is only a false hope; a temporary shelter before reality crashes down onto you again. Unless of course you can hearth back to safety. The true purpose of the biubble is simply to provide a moment of safety while you hearth away smiling as danger gnashes its teeth at you in frustration.

So if wow is your bubble, what's your hearth?

Larísa said...

@Carra: what a well found quote! And yeah, I guess there will be one day in the future when I'm ready to leave all the bubbles. Maybe. But not quite yet.

@Jaedia: Thank you! It's written right from my heart so I'm glad I came through.

@Dariush: This question is very relevant and equally disturbing. I'm afraid I'm still looking for the answer. I could answer: my family, but I'm not entirely certin it's the whole truth. You're spot on my friend.

Dariush said...

Larisa>> It's a difficult question to answer really, even if it was asked tongue-in-cheek. And if I was ever really able to answer it, I probably wouldn't need wow, or forums, or anything of that sort. But that's life; filled with uncertainty and gusting winds of change. We can find respite from the storm for awhile but the gale will catch up with you the second you stick your head out the door.

gnomeaggedon said...

Game bubbles are great, whether to take a mental holiday, or to build a personal space in the middle of an occupied room.

Unfortunately they are no different to holidays.

You work your butt off leading up to a holiday.
Enjoy a period of guilt free relaxation where there is no née to even think of the RL issues.
Then you come home, possibly to a bigger pile than when you left and within a short period of time you are dreaming of the next holiday fix.

Your hairdryer however, is a form of meditation. You cease to be effected by the outside world, it fades away.

What is left is just you.

You may take this time to dream of far away places, or plan the coming week, or maybe to make sense of the things that trouble you.

The problem with holiday-bubbles is you return to an unchanged world. Your mind, while being diverted is now more tired. You have been ripped from paradise and returned to the usual banal existence.

This is why counselllors often recommend meditation, walking, running etc. During these periods your mind isn't occupied (apart from avoiding the next pothole), is free to wander, free to unconciously untangle lifes riddles, and most importantly, give your brain a rest so you can tackle the days issues with a refeshed body and mind.

I too use WoW as my bubble, but get reminded of the power of complete bubbles occasionally. I am dogsitting my mates dog. I have to walk it, thus I have to walk me.

This is time I would usually use for my WoW holiday, I begin to think that 1/2 hour a day of dog walking (with or without the dog) is really the best bubble for me.

You never know, it might reduce my ingame lag as well

Hatfield said...

I'd just like to suggest an add-on to your intriguing analogy. The situation is right, you're enjoying life and everything is working (warm shower) when suddenly you are stripped naked. Shivering, your basic instinct is to retrieve back that immediate warmth, say with the hairdryer. But I'd just like to point out you can't leave the house naked with a blow-dryer. You need to dress yourself which feels cold at first but slowly you warm up your clothes. It's the harder option but it allows you to get back out there again. I understand there isn't anything wrong with 'bubbling' but how do you know when to turn it off if it feels so good?

Larísa said...

: Oh yeah. It is hard to turn that warmth off and step out of the bubble. I'm the first one to admit it. But there's a lot in life that is like that. Even going up from bed every morning takes a bit of effort. This doesn't mean that beds are evil. And not bubbles either.