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WoW – The Widowmaker

March 31, 2009

BRK has posted today about his potential retirement from WoW-space and the Blogosphere. On the one hand I can see the wisdom in a decision to spend more time with family but a part of me still thinks that this could all be a very early April Fools. Call me cynical if you will!

I’ve quit WoW a few times since it was first released, once due to boredom and once due to the fact that it was starting to take over my life and yet here I am playing once more, with a second level 80 and spending time blogging about the damn thing too. What is it about WoW, and I suppose MMOs in general, that creates these situations where many of us end up in situations that cause disruption and damage to the relationships we have with our closest compatriots in real life?

I’ve been thinking about this and trying to come up with a proper reason for it. I believe that a part of it may actually be the social side of things. I couldn’t sit there and play Dawn of War 2 or Streetfighter 4 all day every day and, while my WoW time is much reduced from what it used to be, I can still spend a massive proportion of my free time running around Blizzard’s world. Not just Blizzard’s either, I remember being really into Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, I spent a massive amount of time playing that until the NGE kind of forced us out of it.

MMOs tend to be made by the people who you come into contact with, I have a number of people that I am in contact with that I met through the MMO scene, some of these online people are actually closer to me than people I meet regularly in the “real world”. I think that this gets a horrible wrap from those people who don’t play video games and try to perpetuate the stereotype that we are all anti-social nerds with milk bottle glasses living in our parents basements, unable to interact with any normal people. In fact, from personal experience I know very few people who cut themselves off from society, or find it difficult to interact with other people, as  a consequence of their online habits.

Perhaps the fact that these people exist in a virtual world with no real consequences to face for some of our actions is what leads people to invest too heavily of their time. We’re all guilty of wanting a bit of escapism and being able to actually see and walk around in a world as well as interacting with real people provides a unique experience. There really isn’t much to compete with the content of an MMO, I know I’ve certainly had a blast in the ones that I have been in, I’ve even gone into some of them purely because I’ve had friends from other games take a venture.

As well as the social aspect there is the whole levelling thing to do as well, with WoW’s 80 levels it takes a good deal of time (for those of us with full time jobs at least) to hit max level and then, depending on your tastes, there are a whole load of other things to do to involve yourself in the end game content. In a guild environment this can lead to people pressuring themselves to meet certain targets within a deadline, once this thinking takes root then obviously the person at the end of the monitor needs to choose priorities and it seems to be that the game is what wins a lot of the time. Whether this is down to the fact that our loved ones often stay silent about how they feel with regards to our adventuring, or just that from the players point of view other things are always there; from my point of view I suppose it’d be that my wife is always around even when the computer is turned off so perhaps there isn’t a level of neglect there due to the time we are around each other anyway. That’s not necessarily how things are in my case, I’m just trying to rationalise a point.

I know people who seriously do nothing else other than play WoW, I also know people who have jobs and then come home and purely spend their time in WoW. I hope that I spend enough time out of the game to not qualify as one of the people that is seriously damaging other relationships, after all, that’s pretty much the reason I left last year and I don’t think I’ve fallen into the same trap again (PC didn’t even get switched on last night). Although it is nice to see people take their life back.

I’ll admit to having some problems of my own, I’m sure that everyone that knows me is aware that I always have a crtuch, one thing in my life that seems to be the most predominant use of my time. At the moment that’s probably WoW but there are other things that come along and one of them will take over everything. It will continue to be WoW until something happens and I leave, then something else will take over. I don’t try and be this way and it isn’t really a conscious decision on my part, it just kind of happens like that, a quirk of my personality if you will. Whether those of us who enjoy such adventuring in MMO-space all have such a similar quirk may be worth investigation, we do seem to be able to get sucked in, maybe it’s a search for something more, beyond our regular humdrum, everyday lives that allows us to over-immerse ourselves in a fantasy world. After all, many of these worlds are very well built and bring an impressive level of immersion to their play.

I also believe that anyone that involves themselves in raiding is more likely to fall into the obsessive category of players, having other players almost “depend” on you to fulfill a group role certainly does make you want to be around more, after all, you don’t want to let anyone else down after they are giving up their free time to do these group events. I know this, it’s a feeling I had during raiding of TBC, others were waiting and I needed to be there. What started out as a casual two nights a week quickly became four nights a week with every other day spent farming stuff to prepare for the raids. I can certainly empathise much more with the casual crowd these days. I understand the hardcore people but they’ll probably look back on the time they spent and while having some good memories may well regret spending so much time to really get actually very little back. In 20 years time their kids aren’t going to care that they had the world first Arthas kill…

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