After nearly 5 years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve come to the decision today (after a few weeks of agonizing over the decision) to stop playing World of Warcraft. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and wanted to write about it as a large number of friends and coworkers know my interest in WoW. Following 21st century logic I immediately went to my blog and began enumerating my reasons.
I recently read a very angry, bitter tirade about an excellent PvPer (a player who combats and fights other players) who was in the top 1% of the player base. He alluded to a number of really nasty things and I don’t think I feel like him, though I do feel more disappointed more than anything else. When I left EvE Online in 2008 after having lost several hundred dollars (yes, real American dollars that I had spent in the game) I too was angry and upset. But maybe now that I’ve already left one MMORPG behind, it becomes easier to leave the next.
I started playing World of Warcraft at the tail-end of the first expansion, the Burning Crusade. I fought demons hell-bent on destroying all life on Azeroth. Dave and Kameron, two of my good friends, got me started and brought me to Karazhan, a demented wizard’s tower in the midst of a gray-washed desert. I was present for the entire Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was an epic tale of revenge, loss, heroism and defiance against an evil king who lorded over the undead. The latest expansion, Cataclysm, had me taking a day off and going to a midnight event to get my expansion immediately. I battled a vast black dragon on his back, tore off his armor and cast him into the sea–and when he tried to rise from it again, I utterly annihilated him. WoW is as epic (if not more an epic) a tale as Lord of the Rings.
And the game was so social. It brought Dave, Kameron and I incredibly close on a very arcane, specific topic. To this day we’ll still talk theorycrafting, bemoan raiding politics and talk about the good ol’ days, and even make grandiose plans to level new characters and try out a new guild. I met people on there who I likely will be friends with for years (I still talk to my EvE Online buddies), and for whom I primarily am writing this blog post. I feel the need to explain to others–just as if I were to stop playing soccer, or maybe leave my job, or move somewhere–why I am making such a serious decision.
I enjoyed nearly every minute of World of Warcraft–and what I’m about to say here is truly original–except those times where I had to grind. Leveling my weapon skills in those days took hours just for it to tick up one point, and I wasn’t really even that dedicated to grinding. I got too bored with it. When I grinded in EvE, I was at least able to do my homework in the background and get other stuff done. WoW demands a much higher level of attention (unless you’re willing to risk a macro machine to do the work for you) to be able to get ahead. And eventually, I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I have to exchange very long periods of time to really get exactly what I want out of the game.
There are other criticisms, though, too. Catalcysm was branded as the most epic WoW expansion yet–dark, foreboding, serious, with a villain who was a gigantic black dragon. How much more stereotypical fantasy can you get? And even though I expected the game to include its lighthearted moments, I feel like it simply wasn’t as epic as the game could have been. The troll expansion, and subsequent two months of having to repeat the same two dungeons over and over, drove me insane. The dramatic upwards curve of difficulty at the beginning for heroics, as well as the subsequent raiding, really put me off. Firelands was the only expansion that I thought looked cool; I didn’t think the Dragon Soul was well-conceived, executed, or remedied after it went live. All in all I think Cataclym was a kind of a “whump” of an expansion. I just didn’t enjoy it like I did Wrath of the Lich King. The marketing ultimately didn’t match the buy.
And the future content just doesn’t excite me. One of my major enjoyments of WoW was how I connected with the story. Fascinating, intricate, and full of both high and low fantasy, I thought the lore would never cease to amaze me. But I’m sorry–I am just not excited for Mists of Pandaria. Like, at all. Ever. (I did watch Kung Fu Panda for the first time recently, this may have played into it.) It just strikes me as an idea that was marketed internally to pander to a concept that became popular, with a story, artwork, and gameplay changes fleshed out all onto this concept. It feels tumorous, almost as though it’s being forcibly grafted onto World of Warcraft. The previous games all had a connection to the entire storyline, and while I understand the company’s desire to make new stories and new epics, I feel like this is almost like creating a new Stargate franchise. It may be Stargate, and follows the concepts of Stargate, but I’m sorry, oh dear, this isn’t Stargate at all.
With all the time involved in playing World of Warcraft, in my more lucid moments I have thought about all the other things I could be doing. I could be using my gym membership, which has more or less become a “fat tax” for me. I could finally sit down and teach myself a musical instrument, something I’ve wanted to do since childhood. I could write more, read more, learn to cook more. It’d be really great to spend more time in real life with Taften–we already have plenty of games for him and I to play online together, and games we can play separate too. Or, better yet, I could put time and effort into my house, which needs a major update in the attic as well as work done in the basement. My house is nearly 100 years old and needs love, who cares about pandas.
Taften has been playing WoW for longer than I have. But his maximum level character is 63 (talk about casual, you newb (love you!)). His perspective on the game has taught me a lot–that end-game raiding isn’t the be-all, end-all. That having a mixture of green, blue, and purple gear is OK. That taking it slow and enjoying the quests, reading the story behind them, can be just as fun (if not moreso) than rushing through the game to get to raiding. This is a very different way of looking at and playing the game, though it goes against my instincts to get to the highest level, get the best-in-slot gear, and work to gather gold to pay for raiding repairs. All in all, I’d estimate that at the height of raiding, I was spending maybe 20 hours a week raiding, doing daily quests to keep up with gold, and rarely playing the game for pure ‘enjoyment’ purposes. It may have lacked the more obvious warning signs that EvE Online had–but it’s been approaching bad chemistry for a while.
Is this a final decision? Nah. I may come back in the future when I miss the thrill of killing bosses and getting epic equipment. I might even come back and level my mage through Pandaira, albeit at a slower pace than my usual breakneck rate. In the meantime I’ll try to do all the things I want to in the meatime–and, of course, play Diablo 3.