By JacobForrest 17 Comments
With the prospect of a new World of Warcraft expansion cemented by the announcement of Cataclysm at BlizzCon today, I was awash with a soup of feelings. Nostalgia, excitement, and despair, to name a few. Out of the millions of players who have played or still play WoW, a great many of them have fallen into what for all intents and purposes I'll call "an addiction." To the media, it's a buzzword. To many gamers, it tends to be a running joke in reaction to the media. To those who've experienced it first-hand, it's an unpleasant affair, and albeit my "addiction" hasn't been nearly as ruinous as other real-life addictions (drugs, alcohol) can be, it led me down an undesirable path all the same.
If there has ever been a dark side over the course of my life spent gaming, it's World of Warcraft. I remember first purchasing it in middle school, thinking it was going to be an innocent time sink for the winter holiday. Not so -- it bolstered into something bigger than that.
Yet, it didn't seem like an addiction at that time. There was one crucial element to the game that justified the heaps of time I put into it: the fact that other people were playing it too. I made some friends who I communicated with through in-game 'whispers' regularly. At level 60, I was invited by one of these friends to check out a raiding guild who classified themselves as the "serious-but-not-too-serious" niche. Beforehand, raiding seemed like an unattainable prospect for me because, well, I was convinced that I was a rather poor player. My friend assured me that if I followed the loot rules and did my job I would be fine. So I went to the guild's website, filled out an entry application, was taken on a trial run (for those unfamiliar with MMOGs, a dungeon run to see if I had the skills to contribute to the guild) and promptly received an invite from the guild master.
If you've ever experienced WoW's end-game, or the end-game of any MMOG for that matter, you'll know that raiding can turn the game into a full-fledged responsibility, or as the joke runs, a second job. I had to commit to three raids per week -- each of which lasted four hours -- but as a new recruit I was put on rotate. This meant that, in the result of an excess of raiders, I was put on-deck to take the place of any raider who had to leave. In many cases I spent hours idly waiting for a spot, and for what? The chance that I would get to see a huge dragon or fire-spitting giant or, if we were good enough, an even huger dragon. Plus, there was the miniscule chance that I would get a purple-coded piece of equipment, or an "epic," that would boost my stats marginally. To me, it was a big deal.
Months passed, grades deteriorated, and I snuggled into the position of guild officer and class leader. Suffice it to say I was draped in full epic garb. By then my guild had waged war inside the toughest dungeons to the point that nothing was tough anymore. We gloried on our thrones with nothing left to conquer. So the next chapter in this story probably isn't too surprising, and typical to many raiding guilds. Members stopped showing up for raids, bitterness was exchanged, and the guild leader decided to disband. Soon enough, some of the officers opted for a fresh start by forming a new guild, but that's when I realized I had my WoW fill. I felt pangs of despair whenever I logged in -- I had no guild, my in-game friends slowly departed, and I felt no motivation to continue playing. Poor me. I cancelled my subscription and, more or less, resumed my real life.
If there's a moral to this story it's that the addiction will, at least once, return to envelop you. An expansion pack, The Burning Crusade, was released a year and some months after I had quit. I was enjoying the next generation of gaming with my Xbox 360, so my penchant for console games convinced me that the two new races, level cap increase, new zone, flying mounts, new professions, and more on offer didn't matter to me. Nope, I didn't want the expansion at all. Nuh-uh. Then one blistery winter evening, when I was doing some Christmas shopping at Future Shop, I stood powerless in the presence of an elaborate display showcasing Burning Crusade copies. Row upon row, they were like treasure ripe for plunder. I caved. I bought the game and convinced myself I would only play it only for the free month, just to check out the new content and quit right after.
Well, the rest is history. An identical sequence of events followed: I met some people, leveled up, joined a guild, raided, the guild disbanded, and I quit. And during that duration of about one year, my grades suffered, my social life hinged on total replete, and I generally became disconnected from my surroundings. Incidentally, I also missed out on a lot of other games.
There came a glimmer of hope when the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, released about seven months after I had quit Burning Crusade. I approached the thing more realistically this time around. I planned on quitting after I leveled a Death Knight to 80, and, well, I only made it to level 72 before the regimental aspect of questing kicked in and I got bored. I wasn't even two weeks into the game and my interest had fleeted. Why did my lust to stay in this obscure, enticing world suddenly die? I didn't know, and to this day I do not know. But I am certainly glad for it.
However, WoW has not completely escaped my thoughts. Every so often I'll browse the official forums, see what guilds are trumping in my past realm, and even take a peek at thottbot to see what purple loot current addicts are craving. What's scarier, I can still cite most of my main character's gear and talents without thinking much about it, even though I haven't played it for at least nine months.
So you can see why the announcement of a new expansion has such a looming effect over me. I'm still not sure whether I'm going to purchase it or not, because if I do, one of two things can happen: I'll either shrug it off like I did with WOTLK, or it'll produce volatile results and I'll be dragged into the same dark hallway as with the first WoW and TBC.
Gaming in general has brought great enjoyment to my life. I am confident that it has enhanced it. The only problem is that there can be no perfect hobby, as shown by my wrestle with WoW. It's a bleak corner of my gaming history that, whether in the form of the actual game or just in the cobwebs of my memory, is here to stay.