Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quitting the World of Warcraft

Since November of 2006 I was a World of Warcraft player. Shortly after being admitted to the Beta for the Cataclysm expansion I simply quit playing.

I've had a lot of time to think about the reason(s) why, if any. It wasn't conscious. It was not something I had planned to do. I recall logging out one night. Then I never logged back in. A few weeks later, I removed my credit card information from my account.

World of Warcraft is an extraordinary experience, in general. Specifically, over time, it became a Groundhog Day-like nightmare. So in that spirit (e.g., the specific), here are some of the things I've discovered about why I quit playing World of Warcraft:

1. I was tired of feeling obligated. More so than in real life, WOW had ultimately become a series of endless obligations. For the uninitiated, that could include leveling up your character. Bound within that task are the quests. The professions. The battlegrounds. The auction house. The holiday events. Once you reach level cap (85), you'll be doing daily quests for gold or honor. You'll be raiding on a regular schedule. You'll be doing daily dungeon runs. If you don't do one or more of these things on any given day, its akin to traditional video gaming's "losing a life" event. You have a feeling of falling behind everyone else in the game world.

2. I was tired of feeling overwhelmed by needing to be somewhere that wasn't real, while in my home.

3. I was tired of the People (note the case). It wasn't a person or group that was the problem; I really did like all the people in my guild. I found myself internally grumbling about the fact that this video game required legions of other People to function properly. I've been playing video games since the Atari 2600 days. In fact, I'm old enough to recall when there were no video games. I'm part of the First Generation of Video Gamers - the ones who can recall going into some local pizza shop or convenience store and seeing a monolith-like black object called Pong had replaced an aging pinball machine. I guess what I'm saying is that I grew up with AI-based friends and enemies, and they are far more interesting to me than... People.

4. I was tired of raiding, and specifically, the absolute insanity that Blizzard decided constituted "fun" in this regard. It seems so insidious, on the surface, that to be the best you can be in WOW requires such insane levels of hand-eye coordination, coupled with the idea that to succeed, the 10 individuals in the raid had to become a single organism. One mistake by any one of the individuals usually resulted in disaster against a raid boss. The learning grind and chaos of reaching the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel was not rewarded, in the end. I was part of my guild's first 10-man group kill of the Lich King, and it was a profound anti-climax. The loot that Arthas dropped was instantly disenchanted. It was unusable. All we gained was the "Kingslayer" title to parade around with, yet the three months of work it took to complete the task was monumental in comparison. This left a very sour taste in my mouth. It was the single greatest disappointment I'd experienced in WOW.

Some part of me misses the daily fix of it all. But that's the craving one feels when one plays a decidedly good game. Forgive me the use of terms usually dropped in relation to addiction. I do not believe video games are addictive. Good games are replayable. Great games are compelling. World of Warcraft is a great game. For a while, anyway.

In the end, I have only a generalization to throw out there (one which no currently-immersed WOW player will agree with): happy people don't play WOW every day. I say that primarily because I discovered, a few weeks after quitting, that I was happier not playing WOW than when I was. In other words, I was unhappy while playing WOW, so I quit. Why did it take me so long to realize I was a gamer who was not enjoying the game?

So today is the day. The Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft is released. Is anyone really happy about that? That's a pretty big question, when you think about it. But unlike most World of Warcraft players, I know what I'll be missing by not playing: four more years of the same old crap.

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