It is no secret to anyone that I am a subscriber to World of Warcraft and frequently indulge in my monthly investment when bored or during specific allotted times for progression purposes, however it is as of late that I find myself no longer fulfilled with my time spent in the game which has yielded me hours of inexplicable enjoyment even just a week or two ago. A normal day off for me, on days I was destined to play World of Warcraft (from here on to be referred to simply as “WoW”), would have started out with making myself a small snack and grabbing a drink, turning on the television to my favorite ambient background channel and sitting down at the computer in preparation for my 8+ hour gaming marathon for the first time of the day. Logging into the game and seeing that much too familiar load-in screen, I adjust my chair for a long night.
Now, to any normal person 8 hours spent on a computer sounds like work and in no way do I plan to argue, however allow me to bring everyone up to speed. The main goal for many people who play WoW is to progress so their avatar/character is also given the chance to progress in terms of experience points, equipment and overall bragging rights over other players by traversing the imaginary world of Azeroth on a journey to reach the maximum level (currently 80). In many games, reaching the maximum level is synonymous with the completion of the game and this is where WoW differs… rather than completion, the player has just unlocked a new, more “job-like” aspect of the game.
At the maximum level attainable the game begins to split players up into two basic groups: PvE and PvP. PvP (Player vs. Player) gameplay is considered more casual, although competitive as players compete in gladiatorial arena scenarios and war-like battlegrounds to pertain equipment and reputation (usually in the form of “titles”) for their characters. PvE (Player vs. Environment) gameplay is what is generally considered by “end game” as it consists of the exploring and conquering of Azeroth’s most difficult dungeons and, in turn, defeating what are considered the game’s final bosses. The difficulty to accomplish goals in PvE gameplay is much higher as it takes between 9 – 24 people other than yourself, often of specific class make up, to form what is known as a “raid group” for successfully doing so. The harder the dungeon, the more players and their skill become the deciding factor between victory or failure and therefore many hours of practice and learning is required in order to weigh the scales in your favor.
It begins innocently enough, filling spare time with some WoW, working on a quest or two as a way to keep your brain busy until something more important comes up to do. Soon, you meet people who share similar interests and the game becomes little more than a fully interactive messaging program with a way to keep you occupied as you “shoot the shit” for a bit. Meeting more people brings a social aspect to the game as a comfort and a new sense of competition for bigger and better things. The strive to make your avatar better begins small, getting a “rare-quality” piece of equipment to replace what you are currently using and realizing you are now better than everyone in the game that was using any lesser pieces as you once were. As time goes on the quality of gear gets better and increases the new found god complex in receiving it, forcing the player into a spiral that sees them putting more and more time into getting the best possible equipment for their avatars. To raid in the higher difficulty dungeons, players are expected to have a regular supply of consumables that enhance their effectiveness in a variety of ways. Such items are generally procured by buying them for a decent price or physically going out and obtaining all the materials needed to create them and while neither is an incorrect way to get what is needed, both require time and effort makingthis where the game starts beginning to feel like a job.
Logging into the game world on my main character (thats right I have more than one I play), the first thing I notice is that my equipment is heavily damaged from the night earlier so I spend the needed gold (usually around 70-90) to fully repair everything and decide it is a good time to grab my consumables for the night. I head to the Auction House and buy out roughly 4 elixirs known as “flasks” for 25 gold each and 40 pieces of fish meat at around 120 gold to cook myself “buff food” as it is cheaper than buying the food already cooked. I also give notice that I am somewhat low on potions and thus buy 10 for about 40 gold. I am now down to about 100 gold starting from almost 450 when I log on and realize its time to get to work. An hour or two before raid time is designated to doing daily quests (as in, they reset daily) to cut my monetary losses in order to repair and buy any last minute needed items, so I teleport myself out to the main city and begin my flight out to do so. Since I play on a PvP server, I find myself looking around for enemy players to avoid or defend myself from as I attempt to quickly and efficiently knock out my quests and get my money and usually find myself in a fight I didn’t start or face down on the ground for no reason. I pick myself off, dust off and finish as fast as I can, taking anywhere up to a full hour until I am able to move on. Since I logged on, roughly an hour and a half has passed and I receive my invitation to my monotonous next 4 hours of the night.
Understandably, organizing 25 people will take its time so I wait in the group until we are ready to go and we meet up at our destination. As we head inside, get all player-enhancing skills and spells out (known as “buffs”) and use our consumables, we begin to clear our path through enemies to the first boss. We arrive at our first obstacle to overcome and in attempting to do so fail a total of 3 times, each time having to run our characters all the way back. We get it in the 4th encounter and all wait around as the treasures earned are properly distributed before moving on. This continues for the next 4 hours straight, with small breaks for bathroom taken here and there (although never over 5 minutes at most). The group disbands and I log off at close to 23:00, saying goodbye to my guildmates and secretly dreading the next day.
Never have I been one to particularly love change in my life, however what I just described is the epitome of a scheduled night and can literally describe almost every night spent playing that game. Once sucked in, time no longer has meaning and is judged not by a clock but rather by implied progress in a virtual world by pixels which somehow give the god complex players begin to crave to be able to sleep at night. A player is not done WoW in any amount of hours but rather a mind-set amount progress or failure achieved until they get to do it again the next day. Breaking out was relatively simple for how hard I had always felt it would be. I realized that there will always be someone better than me and that spending hours and hours on the computer could damage things I find important and already had started rotting away at things I used to like to do but put off because of WoW. With so many games put on the back-burner on the Playstation 3 and Xbox360, I had my motivation to move from one drug on to a weaker one and in turn have gained something World of Warcraft would never grace me with: a “Pause” and “Save” feature.