This post is by staff writer Honey Smith.

In my last post, I talked about picking hobbies strategically. There, I suggested that it might be a good idea to choose hobbies that fall into three main categories. Those three categories were:

  1. Hobby as side gig.

  2. Hobby as “something you have to do anyway so you might as well be good at it.” (I’m nothing if not pithy.)

  3. Free or super cheap hobbies.

I’d like to take that discussion one step further, because there’s a hobby I’m considering that doesn’t fall into any of these three categories. This makes it the fourth category of hobby, which I didn’t name in my original article, but which I think we can call “splurge hobbies.”

Is it okay to have a splurge hobby? Of course! Can every hobby be a splurge hobby? If you’re like most of us and have a job and only 24 hours in your day, probably not. As a result, I believe it’s important to choose your splurge hobbies strategically also. In my opinion, the big questions that need to be asked when considering a splurge hobby are:

  1. Can I afford this?

  2. Will I get my money’s worth out of this?

  3. What do I/will I enjoy about this, and can I get that some other way?

The hobby I am considering is a soon-to-be released massive-multi-player-online-role-playing game (MMORPG) called The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO). Yes, I am totally dorktastic. Yes, I am counting down the days until my regional ComiCon. Yes, I even do cosplay. (Last year I was River Song!)

Okay, let’s move on from the Big Question of how many people even understood that last paragraph. Instead, let’s see how my proposed hobby of TESO stacks up against my splurge hobby Big Questions, shall we?

1. Can I afford this?

In other words, can I participate in this hobby while still meeting my needs and making progress on my financial goals? The game is being released in April, so I have time to save up. Playing the game does require a computer with certain processing capabilities blah, blah, blah and an internet connection. However, I already have both of those things anyway, so they’re not added costs.

The game itself costs $59.99 for the standard edition and $79.99 for the special edition, which comes with a variety of bonuses that I will not outline here because I don’t want to gush like a fangirl. At first, then, it would seem that I can easily afford this expense. However, there is also an ongoing cost in the form of a monthly subscription fee of $14.99. And this is a big part of why I’m honestly torn. It also brings us smoothly to the second question…

2. Will I get my money’s worth out of this?

When you play an MMORPG, you are playing with other people in real time. This makes the experience interactive because you can chat with other players and form teams to battle other alliances. A game of this type that you are more likely to have heard of is World of Warcraft (WoW). The question is, will I play TESO enough to justify spending $15 a month? And do I want to add a monthly subscription to my life?

The cost of the monthly subscription is about the same as the cost of one dinner out. And while a dinner out might take an hour and a half, I’d certainly play more than that. In fact, that’s what worries me! There are all kinds of stories about people who get so into these games that they spend every free minute playing. I’ve heard stories about people losing their jobs or getting divorced because they’re so obsessed. Some people have even died after marathon gaming sessions because they don’t eat or drink for days!

Now, do I think that it’s likely I’ll game my way into an early grave? Not really. But do I see the potential the game has to suck up more of my free time than I’d like under the guise of getting my money’s worth? Yes, I do. Who knew it could cut both ways and a deal could be too good?

3. What do I/will I enjoy about this, and can I get that some other way?

The Elder Scrolls is a franchise that’s been around since the ’90s and I’ve played literally hundreds of hours in the last two titles, Oblivion and Skyrim. However, both of those titles were single-player RPG. That means that you buy the game once and can play on your console of choice (in my case, PS3) with no ongoing costs.

Additionally, single-player games can be played on your own schedule. When you start forming teams and playing in real time with other people, suddenly it’s not so simple. If you can’t make yourself available when your friends want to play, you’re missing out on a lot of the fun. And one of my friends who has indicated an interest in this is three time zones away and has three children. Realistically, when are we going to be online at the same time?

I have also never played an MMORPG before, and am not sure how much I will enjoy that aspect of it. There tend to be a lot more battles and violence in these games, since you’re fighting against other players to conquer and defend territory. But while there is another single-player title in the franchise under development, I would say that’s three to four years out. If I want to play a new Elder Scrolls game, this is my only option for the foreseeable future.

What would you do?

There are two aspects of this decision that make me hesitate. The first is the sunk-cost fallacy. What if I spend sixty bucks on the game (the first month of play is free) and then don’t think it’s worth the subscription? This is something, I think, that I need to just get over. While sixty dollars isn’t insignificant, it’s not going to have an irreparable negative impact on my finances.

The second issue I’m struggling with is the value of my time. What if I like the game too much? Will I have the strength to pull the plug if the game starts to infringe on other aspects of my life? And shouldn’t I be living up to my potential anyway?

Do you have any hobbies that are purely for entertainment, with little or no edifying qualities? How do you regulate them?