How I kicked my WoW addiction. Or didn't.

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.  

 

 So much to do, so little time.
Bigger than Ragnaros towering over forty lowly denizens of Azeroth. And that was the first symptom of my addiction: from the moment I installed the game, I couldn't stop thinking about it. My character's stats, spells, and talent points became embossed onto the frontal lobes of my brain. I reveled in surfing Thottbot and Wowwiki, browsing the epic loot and absorbing dungeon lore (with WoW minimized, of course). Anyone who tells you that video games can't hold psychological power over you is lying. WoW never drove me to emulate the game in real life; I never pretended to summon 'void walkers' nor did I 'heroic strike' passersby. But it did skew my frame of mind rather significantly. No game has ever had the power to gut my self-restraint and strew it across the floor like WoW has. I suppose that was my initial flaw -- I blamed the game for my addiction.
 
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.
Nefarian, in all his glory.
 
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. 
 
Cataclysm will feature a heroic version of Deadmines boss Van Cleef. Awesome.
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.
17 Comments
18 Comments
Edited by JacobForrest

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.  

 

 So much to do, so little time.
Bigger than Ragnaros towering over forty lowly denizens of Azeroth. And that was the first symptom of my addiction: from the moment I installed the game, I couldn't stop thinking about it. My character's stats, spells, and talent points became embossed onto the frontal lobes of my brain. I reveled in surfing Thottbot and Wowwiki, browsing the epic loot and absorbing dungeon lore (with WoW minimized, of course). Anyone who tells you that video games can't hold psychological power over you is lying. WoW never drove me to emulate the game in real life; I never pretended to summon 'void walkers' nor did I 'heroic strike' passersby. But it did skew my frame of mind rather significantly. No game has ever had the power to gut my self-restraint and strew it across the floor like WoW has. I suppose that was my initial flaw -- I blamed the game for my addiction.
 
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.
Nefarian, in all his glory.
 
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. 
 
Cataclysm will feature a heroic version of Deadmines boss Van Cleef. Awesome.
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.
Posted by Spike94

Well...not much to add, but that was certainy an interesting read! Thanks for sharing. I have a cousin who got readdicted to it, but still somehow manages his social life, and as far as school goes, is doing rather well, as far as I know? Well for having a WoW addiction, I believe. I have no idea how he does it. Then again, he is probably not nearly as addicted as you were. But yeah. He enjoys it a lot.

Posted by JacobForrest

He sounds like he can balance it pretty well. That was my main problem. I didn't bother trying to find a middle ground; I just played and played. Thanks for reading.

Posted by Bigandtasty

Well in my experience it is possible to have an alright life with WoW, it's just that either your grades/work or your social life have to go with it. I knew a guy who played WoW and still managed good grades and getting in a good college but he wasn't much for socializing until he quit WoW. I however failed at having good grades and good social life at the same time with WoW, though to be fair I was already doing pretty bad before I picked it up.
 
But anyway, yeah, my experience runs pretty parallel to yours, except I started after Burning Crusade and quit completely before Lich King. Oh, and I resist the urge to look at WoW related sites, heh. Though I am still tempted to come back and that desire is stimulated by the announcement of Cataclysm.

Posted by Spike94
@JacobForrest said:
"He sounds like he can balance it pretty well. That was my main problem. I didn't bother trying to find a middle ground; I just played and played. Thanks for reading. "

Ahhh. Yes, balance is the key, I suppose. And ah, I see... 
And no problem! You are welcome.
Edited by Delta_Ass

Don't do it man. I'm just like you, on the wagon. Or is it off the wagon? Cause we're... both abstaining from playing. So we're not on the WoW wagon, right? We're off the wagon right now. But we could get back on at a moment's notice. But we shouldn't. It's bad.
 
Yep, keep strong brother.
 
Edit: Just found out we're both on the wagon. Guess it's an abstinence wagon we're both riding. Getting off the wagon would be playing WoW again. So we need to stay onboard.
 
It's bad to get on the bandwagon with everyone else, but good to stay on the abstinence wagon. That's a little mixed, but whatever.

Posted by natetodamax

I've never played WoW, and even if I did it's unlikely I'd really get into it. Just looking at that first picture made my brain hurt.

Edited by Delta_Ass
@natetodamax said:

" I've never played WoW, and even if I did it's unlikely I'd really get into it. Just looking at that first picture made my brain hurt. "

I know, it's so different from Halo's UI isn't it?
 
Differences are scary.
Posted by natetodamax
@Delta_Ass said:
" @natetodamax said:

" I've never played WoW, and even if I did it's unlikely I'd really get into it. Just looking at that first picture made my brain hurt. "

I know, it's so different from Halo's UI isn't it?  Differences are scary. "
Well, I really don't play Halo either
Edited by JacobForrest

Honestly, I didn't think I was going to get into it either. The whole concept of an MMOG was foreign to me. WoW is the most accessible of MMOGs, however, so it wasn't long before I learned the ropes and it clicked.
 
I probably should have also mentioned my attempts at others MMOGs, such as Warhammer Online and Age of Conan, both of which lasted a month at most. There was something about WoW in particular that grabbed me.

Posted by Vision

A good read thanks for posting. :) 
 
I have never really had the problem with WoW i have always been able to balance it
but i was hella addicted to Dark Age of Camelot and these days i work on private servers for it but i can control it. 
 
Right now my account is closed (i am simply too lazy to open it up) and the only thing that makes the new expansion tempting is vanilla WoW being changed.

Posted by Alphawolfy

This was a nice read, especially since I've played WoW before.
 
I think the most important thing is to find a balance between the "real" world and the World of Warcraft. Playing it for half a year after BC came out, I guess what kept me away from a full addiction was the fact that the WoW experience was never perfect for me. I live in Taiwan, so you can imagine the quality of my connection to the US servers. BAD. Somehow, I managed to get used to playing with 300-600 MS latency (or a "yellow" connection I guess).  Still, I managed to even out my time with WoW and with my social and school life. Eventually, however, a few months before WOTLK came out, my connection further worsened for reasons I still don't know. Basically, it was unplayable. So, I quit.  
   
Now, with the announcement of Cataclysm, I'm tempted to go back and play WoW again. The updates seem very cool, and the new races are interesting too (I love werewolves!).  
Too bad (or maybe its a good thing) my connection sucks!

Posted by Bigandtasty
@Alphawolfy: Aren't there separate TW WoW servers? Or did they only start after you started playing?
Posted by Psyx2

I played WoW for close to I think 2 years, but thankfully never got too addicted to it. I'd sometimes spent up to 6-8 hours in a day, but it was usually on a weekend and I had nothing else to do anyways. And I was always relieved when we were done in the dungeon or whatever we were doing, because I got bored after such a long time playing it.
 
Towards the end of my WoW-playing phase I ended up joining a big guild, but was kind of overwhelmed. Went on a couple of dungeons with them, but after that everyone was doing raids. The idea of trying to stay organized with 20+ people I don't even know that well intimidated me, so I never joined a raid. I got bored and ended up quitting. I never even made it to level 70 (I think my rogue was 66 the time I quit).
 
The new expansions don't do much to excite me either. They just add a new area, new quests, and a couple of new races; the new quests are still mostly the same grind I grew used to, although there were some cool ones here and there (the quest where you bomb enemies from a griffon in TBC) and there wasn't much to the new races. I'd rather have new classes than new races, and besides the death knight, I haven't seen it.
 
That was my thought train for most of my time playing WoW. Great game, but luckily I never got addicted.

Posted by Alphawolfy

Yes, there are. However, the language is all Chinese for the TW servers. I can read, speak, and write Chinese pretty well, but I'm very slow at typing it. Also, the players use a lot of Chinese slang that I don't understand. 
 
And to clear up how I speak both English and Chinese well in Taiwan, I am an Asian American (both my parents are Taiwanese, though I was born in the US). I moved back to Taiwan when I was in second grade.

Posted by Log

I played WoW all the way from 2 months after the game came out till about 3 months ago now. I rarely got really into it other than right before I quit. I was really heavy into the Ulduar content but suddenly I just got bored with it. None of my friends quit or anything but I just said " fuck it" and quit. I must admit im really tempted to go back and play with Cataclysm coming out but I played Ally my whole career and loved PvP which isnt really a good match unless you get in a lucky battlegroup where the Ally actually win. I may go back but its been so long now that I really dont care anymore

Posted by Ken420

3 years ago, I made fun of my friend all the time for playing WoW hours on end.  As an act of revenge, he bought me the game + 2 months of gametime.   Cut to now... I have a 70 destro warlock 70 prot warrior & an 80 raiding combat rogue (horde of course!).... I don't even want to take a look at my /played. 
 
Over the course of the 3 years I've "quit" 3 times.  Currently I haven't played for about 4 months but I still check MMO-champion daily for WoW news, study patch notes, still watch youtube boss fights / arena pvp / world firsts, still read wow forums &  I admittedly purchased the Blizzcon feed+grunty pet for an inactive account in anticipation of reactivating in november.   So all this time away from WoW and still, it lingers. 

Posted by guiseppe

I've played WoW on and off since the summer of 05. And I recently bought another 2 months of playtime because of that pesky Cataclysm announcement. Then again I have been feeling like going back to it after almost a year without it, so I guess it wasn't just Cataclysm's fault. Anyway, it was a good read and I have to say that I strongly recognize the feelings you're describing for the game :P.