I started playing World of Warcraft roughly 2 years ago with a 14 day trial version. I was instantly amazed with this virtual world. The design and feel of freedom to go anywhere and become anything you wanted was astounding. I encouraged a friend to start playing and together we set out on a journey into a new world.
It didn’t feel geeky to be playing a game that we found so exciting and in depth. We enjoyed our adventures and meeting new people, some we remain in contact with, others we don’t. The game was more than just completing quests and improving our characters, there are other factors to get your head around like politics, close knit groups of friends, organisation and heated debates.
I moved to max level (70 before the new expansion) and took part in end game raids, spending a lot of time sat in front of my pc laughing until I was sore and pulling my hair out over some of the stranger people I had met and the whole range of political time consuming bullshit that seemed entwined into the game like a boil that won’t burst or fade away.
There are events that happened in WoW that I won’t ever forget, as if these are just as important to my memory as those created in the real world. The time when I travelled to Wetlands with friends and sat on a hill top watching the sunrise through the mist across the landscape. Virtual but no less awe inspiring than any other sunrise. The time when I led a coup to uproot an entire guild (60+ players) and create my own guild with a fair rank system and fair policies where everyone was made to feel important. That was a night of 10,000 words spoken to hundreds of people, some in support and friendship, others in anger and disgust. The times when close friends leave the guild to pursue other interests, upsetting at first then the realisation that it really is just a game and you can still talk to friends even if they’re not in the same guild.
And then we come to the entire political mine field of the game, being a Guild Master. I have this to be both a joy and a burden. Helping people, leading and supporting guild members has been an exciting challenge. People expect me to know so much, and ask for advice and expect leadership. But when things go wrong you’re on your own and have to fight for what you think is right and just. But you can’t please everyone all of the time, and I found that you just have to let people make their own mistakes and let them continue thinking they are right because all the talk in the world will never change their opinions. I had come close to quitting, leaving my guild and moving to a new server to get away from constant hassle and abuse. But I knew that wasn’t right, the people you interest with in online games become part of a close knit social group. You don’t just talk about game issues, real life discussions take place and ppl genuinely care about others.
One of my guild members died last year. A well liked chap, quiet type yet friendly and got on well with everyone. I gathered the guild together and held a minutes silence. This may seem silly to do in a virtual world but it doesn’t escape the fact that people in them have an impact on others lives. It was a deeply emotional time. A few members made speeches at the end and I dare anyone to say they didn’t have a tear in their eye or lump in their throat by the end of it. That I will never forget.
Installing and playing in the new expansion and discovering a new world to explore, everyone chattering away at new places, new foes, new challenges. Exciting times. And reaching the new cap of level 80 and improving my characters further. I know you’re waiting for it and I reckon you’re wondering if it’s a “But…” or a “Yet…” so I won’t keep you waiting and say… Yet after all the adventures and enjoyment this amazing game has given me I have found my interest and enthusiasm for it waning more each day. It has now reached the point that I seldom play, I think the last time I logged in was almost 2 weeks ago, and the time before that was about the same. I feel kinda sad that my excitement for the game has dropped so quickly.
I firmly believe that many people play WoW out of habit and for no other reason. It may indeed be their hobby, but it is still a habit to login every evening and sit in front of their screens. At top level there are probably 3 main things to do; 1) play every night, raid and improve your character, without playing every night you lose touch and that momentum to keep up with everyone else at that level. 2) Go for PVP (player versus player) and battle against other people to improve rank, status and gear. This again requires dedication and long periods at the screen. 3) Start a new character, explore those possibilities. Again this takes time and can lead to despondency at having to go through the exact same process you have already done, over and over again.
The reason for my apathy lies in a few key areas, some mentioned above, but others revolve around the endless boring grind, killing monsters the same way, farming for materials to sell in the auction house to make gold for…what exactly? Once you have what you need there doesn’t seem to be much point in making gold. Running through the same dungeons over and over again, whilst this is exciting to be with 25 people and chatting away on voice chat, a good challenge. But it is still a grind, almost a chore.
So what did I do with my time before WoW? What am I doing now? Well if you have read any of my other posts you’ll see I used to do a lot of writing, which is something I have found exciting to return to. I spend time reading and watching movies sat gathering dust on the shelf. As the weather here in Blighty gets warmer I’ll be off on my bike exploring, something I’ve missed for quite some years. I had become accustomed to logging into WoW, and going through the motions to the point where I was just doing it out of habit.
People used to say to me: “Why do you play that silly game? Get outside and meet the real world.” I knew what they were saying yet they couldn’t see why I played WoW either. I’ll never be one to slate WoW, call it names etc as I know it really is a fantastic game, but I think people grow out of it, find other more important things to do with their time, and that is where I have arrived. I can’t say I won’t ever play it again but right now it simply isn’t important to me.
So where does that leave me? Right back where I was 2 years ago before I started playing? Not at all. I have learned so much about my time playing WoW. I learned that I have some leadership skills, that I can organise more than I thought possible, that I could be sociable and supportive with people from all over the world. I have been inspired by the sights and experiences. There are critics who say only bad things come from playing WoW, maybe that’s true for those 100% addicts, but for some like me I have only taken the positives from my time in that amazing world, and will look back fondly on every aspect of it.