Monday, November 22, 2010

The Catyclysm

I try and keep my personal stuff separate from what I write on here. However, given as there is a rather large overlap between video game culture and comic culture (read- two different species in the genus Nerd), I'd like to take a brief moment to talk about World of Warcraft.

WoW is the most successful MMORPG to date, with millions of subscribers who shell out 14.99 a month to play. It's built on the popular Warcraft series, which has a long established continuity and canon, as well as an enormous fan-base. This, of course, all belongs to Blizzard. This group of development geniuses has produced 3 huge titles, with the recent Starcraft 2 being a multimillion copy seller in days, and a professional sport in Korea (the good one in the south).

Not only do they have huge profits from incredible games but they also have an insanely loyal fanbase, to whom they sell comic books, action figures, trading card games, and even steins. STEINS. LET ME REITERATE: THERE IS A WORLD OF WARCRAFT STEIN. These are fanboys of the highest regard. I should know. I was one.

You see, way back in the days before I was this titan of awesome, I played a lot of WoW. I was no casual, to say the least. My main, a Gnome Rogue, was level 80, with around 35 days (840ish hours) of play time. This does not include tens of alts with a day or two on them, as well as my original hunter who had a good 5-7 days (120-168 hours). In short, I wasted a lot of time.

This is not to say it's not fun. It's a great game. Incredible, in fact, with a great world and so much lore you can be lost in it. It appeals to the base desire for progress we all have as well. Getting to the next level is like crack, and getting that bit of binary code that means your character has a new sword that does a whole 20 more fire damage is like winning the lottery. The game trains you subconsciously. It's powerfully addicting.

It also always seems like there are people having more fun that you, and the more you play the more fun you have. You'll see somebody zoom by on a flying mount and just NEED to have one. "That is the coolest thing I have ever seen", you'll say to yourself, and then grind for hours to get the gold to buy some gryphon or wyvern. You'll get it and it's great, and then you'll go back to the grind.

At a point the game stops feeling like a game and more like work. That's when the suck happens. You just grind and grind. Finally you get to the good content and it's all fun again. Then you hit the level cap.

This was the most fun and least fun of the time I played. I found myself stuck between trying to get into dungeons and raids, just waiting to find other people who wanted to kill the same guy as me. I spent more time waiting than playing, which takes a lot of fun out of the game. As a rogue, i was not in demand for raids. Everyone wanted tanks or healers, and I was neither. It was a lonely place for the stealth class.

So, in April of 2009 I quit. I have not regretted the decision to go cold turkey. I don't think that it was a coincidence that my life got a lot better after I stopped playing WoW, but that's another story. I haven't wanted to play at all, but when I'm on stumbleupon late at night and I find myself on a page about World of Warcraft, I find it hard not to care the slightest bit about a new raid or content. I was full on addicted for a while, I admit it, and being reminded about the game always makes me think of how much I enjoyed playing it.

All this new Cataclysm stuff now has gotten me thinking about it. I'm interested to see what they do, but at the same time I don't want to get sucked into that mess again. I know it sounds stupid, after all WoW is just a stupid game, but I got way too deep into that mess. I can still rattle off lore and stats in my head. I can remember lucky item drops or sweet kills. I can also remember being up until three in the morning because I was lonely and bored and angst-ridden.

Cataclysm is like the crappy boyfriend who you've broken up with more times than you can count because, lets be honest he ruined your life, coming back saying "baby, look, I've changed". I want to see if it's better, or if the Barrens looks cooler, or if there are new quests and maybe Gnomes have their city back (it's been YEARS). But, that said, I don't want to get hurt again. I don't want to relapse. I know it's trying to be a new game, but it's also the same old crap.

It was an addiction. It was an unhealthy way for me to avoid problems and pretend to be some lovable rogue hero when in reality I was kind of a jerk who needed therapy more than experience points. Facing that reality was the last thing I wanted to do, and so I found a virtual world to hide in. Some people have drugs, some people have booze, and I had a video game. It sounds so stupid now that I'm actually writing all this down, but back then I bought into that. Even though I had no job and now girlfriend, even though my grades sucked, even though I was not as awesome as I thought I was I had a level 80 rogue with some epic gear. I had slain dragons and saved worlds. So what if I was a C- student?

I look back on a lot of that with regret. I get the feeling I missed out on a lot because I was too busy sitting in front of my laptop playing with strangers. I wasn't even playing with real life friends, as most people do. I was alone. I might have been on a server with ten thousand people in chat, but I was by myself late at night, and that sucked.

It's nice to be a different person now. If this was anything, it was cathartic. I'm not anti-WoW, it's a good game but I'm not for it either, given my experience. I've sworn of MMOs, given as with my history I'd end up having to make a choice between real life and a virtual one. This sucks, as the DC Universe and Lego Universe MMOs look interesting, but I'd rather have a girlfriend than phat lootz any day of the week, month, or year.

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