Consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses and how WoW is sometimes a great escape
I got a new toy to play with the other day - a Google Nexus 7 - and I was having a fiddle with it and it had a reading widget with some of my google books and some magazines. I don't subscribe to any magazines, and I saw it had magazines I would probably pick up and read while waiting at the doctor's (but not anything I would pay money for) - things like last month's Vogue, GQ and IT Life. I decided to flick through Vogue and started looking at trendy fashions that were outrageously expensive (nor would they look good on my post-baby, non fit frame) and then I came across an article which was not only fascinating to me, but it was interesting that it seemed to be yet another symptom of the direction society is heading that can be seen even within World of Warcraft.
The article was titled "The Poor Rich", and it described how those with high incomes are struggling to make ends meet.
Meet the poor rich. They have all the urban bells and whistles, but not a moment's financial peace or a cent saved... The expectations for "getting a life" - a seemingly decent, urban life - are high: overseas trips, higher education, a mortgage, a car less than five years old, privately educated children.
How we are seen in society is really important to many people. As the article said, "Keeping up with the Joneses" used to be about looking at your neighbour, but now, it's looking at everyone else on the internet, not just your neighbours, but around the country, in other countries even, trying to ensure you're doing as good, if not better, than everyone else.
I think this article really grabbed me, because it relates to a lot of the pressures surrounding me. Not that I succumb to those pressures, but I see it all around, I hear it every day, from my colleagues and peers. I live in a modest, working class suburb. My colleagues all live in "nice suburbs" full of working professionals - and in Sydney, houses in those are crazy expensive. Most of their houses are in excess of 1.5 million. A few of them have houses which cost 4-5 million. The cost staggers me, and the mortgage repayments they must be making boggles me. Even the fact that I haven't sent my children to the "best schools in the city" is enough to have my colleagues constantly haranguing me - because I'm living in a lower class suburb, I should be moving to the millionaire's mansions, why do I want to live with all the working class? And why am I driving that crappy car when I should be driving a Mercedes, Audi or BMW?
In the article, one of the people interviewed said:
Sometimes I can't make the school fees. We have a life that requires two incomes but I can't work as the girls are still young and my husband works 16 hours a day. We could have bought in a cheaper suburb, but I told my husband "Nobody would visit us!"
It reminded me of my sister. She moved back to Australia from England to start a family and wanted to be close to me. She couldn't afford to buy or rent in our suburb so she was a few km away in a quiet suburb that was regarded as even lower class than my own. Her house is nice - double brick, ducted air, brand new, 4 bedrooms - but all of her friends and her husband's friends live in the affluent lower north shore. Her rent is less than theirs, and they live in 15-20 year old 2 bedroom apartments. They all asked her why she lives there, isn't she scared? Where is that suburb, never heard of it? And she says that people don't like to come visit her because it's "too far", and they're scared to visit her. I thought it was hilarious. My sister is a charted accountant, and her husband is in construction - both earn 6 figures and are happy and comfortable, and are living well within their means. They probably could afford to live in a more affluent area - but my sister, like me, does not like the idea of financial stress. The feeling that if we even stopped working for one week, or one month, you would be behind in mortgage payments.
Consumerism is so entrenched in our modern consciousness. Everyone has to have everything - even I am not immune to this (see above - I just bought a Nexus 7 and I already have 2 iPads, why do I need one of those?). Everyone wants the newest and the latest and the shiniest - in WoW look at things like loots, and rewards and dailies. People want things and don't want to work that hard for them and complain about it. Doing the dailies for Golden Lotus/Shado-pan/August Celestials was a classic example. The moans and groans about the grinds for the items was heard far and wide. People hated dailies. Dailes became a chore. But, you don't ACTUALLY have to do those dailies, you don't actually HAVE to get that gear. So it's the newest and the best and the shiniest - do you really need it? Some may argue that yes, you do because it will give you the edge in raiding - then why are you complaining about having to work for it if you need it? I don't understand why people complaining about having to work hard for a reward. Blizz even said themselves that they didn't design those dailies and rewards to be a bottleneck to raiding - you can still raid with heroic gear and valour rewards. I had a funny thought though - can you imagine what it would be like if what we had a "credit" system like we do in real life? Like a valour points credit card that you pay back at a later stage? Everyone would be buying stuff and putting themselves into valour points debt, because it's easy and it allows us all to have what we want now. Paying back would be a bitch - how do you ensure people pay it back? It would have to be something like... deducting a day off your subscription unless you make your valour points payment per week. But can you see what I'm saying? The concept of working for the reward is so abhorrent now, that people would rather get into debt to get what they want than have to save and work for it.
But I digress - the article doesn't talk about those people. It's talking about the people who are reaching for the high end comfortable life, and being able to afford everything you want, but working crazy hard for it. Another of the interviewed people said:
I work my arse off for my 150 including super. It's 16 hours a day with no fun to be had, but I'm in too deep.
One thing I really like about WoW is meeting people and hanging around with people whose lives are so different to my own. People who come from all walks of life and aren't whinging "poor me poor me I can't afford to buy the new Mercedes". Constantly being around medical people, and the peer pressure they apply to make me feel bad about where I live, where I send my kids to school and what car I drive, is so tiring. I play WoW with struggling university students on budgets, with single parents with a few children, people who don't aim for this crazy rich life and stretching your budget to as far as it can go till there's no room to move. I can talk to school teachers and gardeners, tradies and IT nerds, who don't moan and groan to me about working 6 days a week doing 15 hour days or longer just so they can have their mansions and their Maserati and BMW M4 turbos. None of these WoW players are spending their whole time working, trying to make money to buy things they can only just afford just to keep up with the Joneses. None of this stress about not being able to afford to fly business class on their next trip to Europe.
I can imagine, that people reading this, would think it's just crazy. Crazy, that people earning so much money want bigger, better, shinier, flashier. Listening to it, is exhausting. My colleagues all look 10 years older than me and tired from working so hard! I can't imagine living like that. I really enjoy my less extravagant life (I am fortunate that I can afford to live comfortably), which leaves me more cash to do all those crazy things in WoW that I like doing. I really wish people would live within their means, and not be ashamed of where they live or what they own or wear. But it isn't easy - and I know that people just long to fit in with the others. Which is why WoW is so awesome because it really doesn't matter where I live or what I drive. People only care about how I play and you don't have to earn 7 figures to be a good player. And you know who your real friends are - they will come to visit you no matter where you live.