I don't write about World of Warcraft very often. I was surprised to find that it has actually been mentioned (if sometimes only in passing) 14 times before now but, considering how much I play, it's quite an overlooked part of my life as far as the blog is concerned.
While we play as a family as a way of doing things together I also spend a significant amount of time playing alone. The world of Azeroth is like a second home, as familiar as the real one, maybe even more so, but infinitely more predictable.
This virtual world becomes somewhere to hide, to escape, to not have to think about things and avoid real world problems. Playing the game is a default fallback activity. My wife says that my solo play - grinding through the basics of the game, doing the same world quests day in day out - is like an autistic behaviour. She's probably right.
I won't deny, it is absolutely a coping mechanism, a little bit of consistency in an ever changing tumultuous world, bolstered by rewards for completing each little task slowly building towards something larger.
But I think there is another side to it: while playing the game can be an act of avoidance it is also a retreat to a safe space using the repetitive gameplay as a means to clear the mind, maybe even a form of meditation. I don't have to think about what I'm doing, just drop into an automatous state and let muscle memory (if you want to call it that) take over.
Some might see it as time wasted, perhaps it is considering the amount I play, but I would rather that and be able to spend half an hour away from my thoughts than constantly fretting over them.