What leisure time I do have lately I seem to spend in World of Warcraft. A few hours after the family goes to bed, a few hours to claim as my own leisure time. Use Google Talk to chat with a friend as we play together, taking the internet for granted in the fact that I'm chatting real time with a buddy in Ohio for free while we play a game real time together from opposite ends of the continent. Really amazing if you stop and think about it, but something that we just don't even think about any more.
I can remember in college when I first had my taste of what the internet and computers would actually mean. A friend of mine had bought Doom, and a few of us were amazed by it but it wasn't necessarily anything mind blowing. Another friend bought it, lugged his computer over and they connected the computers with those old coaxial network cards. Suddenly this kind of fun game literally blew my mind. The fact that the guy running around on my screen was actually my buddy on the other side of the room astounded me. Within a few weeks everybody in our group of friends had bought a high end computer (hello, student loans!) and we were having a network party every couple of weeks. Doom led to Heretic (which led to Hexen) which led to Duke Nukem 3D, which led to Descent, which led to Warcraft, which led to Command and Conquer, which led to Rise of the Triad, etc. We were insatiable, I don't think I ever bought so many games in such a short period of time and every purchase was based on how many players the game supposedly supported (never mind that actually connecting via network in most of these games was complete hell at the time, we never complained about that part).
Anyway, enough of the tangent. Pre-expansion I was a "casual hardcore" Warcraft player. I was in a high end guild, I've seen more of the content than most WoW players but not as much as the truly hardcore. The guild I was in had 15-20 people who were truly hardcore, putting in massive hours and raiding the 25 man instances on nights when nothing was scheduled. I was showing up for all the scheduled raids, but that was 2-3 nights a week and for maybe 3 hours on those nights. 12 hours a week was about the most I put into the game which I was pretty comfortable with. The only thing I wasn't comfortable with was how regimented it felt. So as we got near the expansion I made the decision it was time to part ways with the game. My best friend had stopped playing, and while I intended to still play online games I needed to get away from the game that I was playing on a schedule.
Fast forward to now. My friend and I try a few other games and realize that the other games out there don't actually appeal to us all that much. He starts talking about the expansion. We make the decision to come back and force each other to be more casual (our personalities lend themselves to being hardcore even if our lives don't have the time/availability for it). 2 nights ago I hit 64, he hit 65 last night (He spends quite a bit more time than I do) but we're both having fun. I'm a little bit uncomfortable with even hitting 70 as I'm not sure how either of us will handle it when we run out of Outland quests and I'm already yearning to see the inside of instances. Sad, really.