19 February 2009

Woes of Warcraft

I read somewhere today that World of Warcraft is the largest MMORPG in the world with over 12million monthly subscribers, but don't count me.

No sir.

I'm clean.

I won't touch it.

Dirty habit.

But it wasn't always so........

For those who have never played it, don't, for those that do - you can quit. I've been there, and it was hard, but it can be done.

I stumbled upon WOW a few years ago after reading an article on BBC online, and the inner geek in me that used to paint Games Workshop figurines thought 'Yeah, that looks sort of fun. If I'm at a loose end of an evening I could probably immerse myself in that.'

But I didn't so much immerse myself as strap on a scuba tank, drysuit, as many lead weights as I could attach to my body, and allow myself to be dragged to the bottomless fathoms of the sea that separates the mighty continents of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms.

I've never been the type of gamer that seeks the adrenaline of racing or sports sims - far too much concentration involved, but here was a game where I could just pootle about, and it didn't matter if my Avatar just sat on his arse for 10 minutes while I smoked a tab, or went searching in the kitchen for more wine.

I started as an Orc (always the bad guys for me), and as I got familiar with the geography, and the easiest ways to level up, started again with a few different characters. Each had different trades, and before long I had my own little cottage industry with avatars making and sending bits of kit to each other to further each other in the game.

But all this was starting to take it's toll on my ability to function as a human being. If mrsslippy was on a night shift, I could start playing as she left, but still finishing off that last piece of a quest, or the last few k of XP to level up at 4 in the morning, with my own shift starting at 7am. I was in trouble, but neither knew nor care.

Who among you has ever really wasted a day....... and I mean really wasted.

And of your own volition?

A day sleeping is not wasted - for you probably needed it, and have recharged your batteries. A day watching shite on telly is not a waste, for you may have found some simple pleasure or entertainment in your viewing choice.

But have you ever spent 6 solid hours wandering around a virtual field (just outside Booty Bay for those of a curious disposition) killing virtual countless gorillas so you can;
  • skin them for virtual leather to make a nice virtual jacket to give to your virtual alter ego
  • sell the rest of the virtual leather for virtual gold to buy a nice virtual sword for yourself
  • Level yourself up from 40-41
I thought not.

I mean, don't get me wrong, Staanglethorn Vale in general is a great place for a skinner, so it's virtual quids in, but levelling from 40-45 is a grind, and that's exactly what it's called. Grinding.

Those who are familiar with the excellent South Park parody will have seen the boys grinding boars in Tirisfal Glades so they could level up enough to beat the guy who was killing everybody. It can't be done, you'd need to move to a new location every few levels where the beasts gave you a slight challenge, but in principle it's spot on. You don't sleep, you don't see anyone, you eat crap, and eventually you're tough enough to do the quest in hand....until the next one.

But you needn't do it alone! That's the whole fun of it surely? With all those other players you can find like minded souls to assist you in your quests so you wouldn't have to grind! I did con one friend into buying it (sorry Bellus- you're probably Level 80 now), but mostly I played alone.

'What's the point of a multiplayer game that you play alone?' I hear you cry. Well I'll tell you, everyone else that plays WOW, and I mean everyone, is a cock. They have nothing better to do with their lives than to play online dressing up. Not me though. I was still very much living in the real world.

Maybe cock is a bit harsh, but players tend to fall into two camps;
  1. Those who are experienced who 't1p3 n teh l337', and generally shout at you for aggroing/not aggroing, using wrong attacks etc
  2. Those who are not experienced who act as magnets to any prowling mob (monster/enemy), and who pick fights with everyone assuming you will save them.
So that's it. Everyone is either better than you, or worse than you, and neither are fun to play with, ergo they are all cocks.

I can cope with a dressing down at work if I know I've done something that has let people down, and the consequences are severe, but to be ripped apart by a 13 year old from Sweden because you healed yourself rather than him (if I'd died they'd have summoned me back, but without him, no summon for anyone etc....) is a bit lame. And you can guarantee that before you get to the bit of the Dungeon with the Quest you need, he's got what he came for, and his mum makes him log off to do his homework.

But I was hooked. And it's the worst addiction in the world. You know there's no physical dependency, but when you get in, the first thing you want to do is log in and get questing. Ten more minutes turn into 5 more hours, and you're days off turn into a Lost Weekend in neither Manhattan nor Amsterdam. Empty wine bottles and crisp packets on the coffee table and overflowing ashtrays. Scattered crumbs and ash making the laptop keys crunchy and unresponsive.......

My lucky break came just over a year ago when my laptop and Credit Card died at roughly the same time. After a day of reloading software onto a new laptop, I decided to leave the WOW discs on the shelf, and have a few days off.

When the Credit Card expired later that month, I had still not loaded the game, and was suddenly aware (following an email from Blizzard) that my DD subscription was no longer going through.

'Perfect' thought I. 'It truly is a sign I should stop'.

And stop I did.

For 6 months.

Another email from Blizzard informed me that as I had not used my account for 6 months my characters would be deleted!

Oh noes!

All that virtual gold and virtual treasure in my virtual Bank! All those hours played will have been wasted and wiped away. There was only one thing for it - I would have to load the software, pay for a months subscription and play for a few minutes, just to keep my virtual characters virtually alive!

So that's what I did. I'd broken the habit, and been sucked back in with an 'it will all have been for nothing' suggestion.

Now at the moment I'm trying, and succeeding at giving up smoking. If I had one now I know how dirty and disappointed with myself I would be, and that's exactly how I felt.

I unloaded the software, and vowed never to reload it. Those hours were already wasted. Nothing could bring them back, and shelling out for another months subscription would not be honouring their memory, it would be shitting on it.

Another 6 months down the line, and another email from Blizzard. The discs are still in their box.

So please be upstanding and raise your glasses to the memories of Garomero, Muftak, Porkins, Markkymoo, Maxi et al. Brave soldiers who stole over 1,500 hours of my adult life. Taken from their virtual lives, to virtual death.

Slippymark has not played World of Warcraft for 7 months. He has not had a cigarette for 8 weeks.


  1. Mark,

    I find myself really enjoying your blogs, you have a certain style and subject matter that I can relate to.. I to was a sad D&D / Warcraft geek with my citadel paints and lead figurines.. and like you became addicted to a computer game that stretched for almost 2 years (Asherons Call).. and like you I would waltz about the lesser level areas regaling in my high level quest robes, showing off to my 10 year old fellow gamers across the globe. Anyway I came to my senses and have vowed never to allow my addictive nature near such a roleplay game again resigning myself to the pickup, play and put down again shootem up style.

    I also feel your pain when you talk about your back and remind you again that Pilates has done wonders for my back and apart from the odd twinge and warning shot if I do something stupid I am relatively pain free.

    Keep up the blogs

    John Barker

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