For The Horde!

A look at the world in World of Warcraft, from then to now.  

I begin this article asking aloud, “Why haven’t I written this sooner?”  The answer is complicated in its simplicity; the words describing my time in World of Warcraft (WoW) are too easy to come by.  Meaning, once I started writing, I am not sure I would stop before the article turned into a novel.  Many hours were spent in this realm of gaming, and it changed my life.  Unfortunately this game has a bad rap for being an addictive cesspool of fat, lazy, loner, gross dudes doing everything they can to troll other fat, lazy, loner, gross dudes.  I am here to do my best to show you how that isn’t true.

Now don’t get me wrong, those types of people do exist, and in higher numbers than they should, but it doesn’t account for the majority of players.  It will be one or two out of ten that fit previous description, where the rest are just normal people looking for a fun challenging time, one to be had with one to many of their friends.  That leaves the unappealing WoW players to play with themselves, or their own kind.  There are guilds made up of just unappealing people, and mostly get ignored, due to their inherent troll like tendencies.

My initial impression of WoW came well before I ever tried the game.  I was in my early twenties, and had my small circle of friends I liked hanging out with.  One particular friend started playing WoW shortly after it was released.  Not long after, he started cancelling plans to play the game, or even better, when I would go to his house to visit, he would spend all his time playing the game.  During those times he would do all he could to peak my interest in the game, and get me to start playing it with him.  Seeing what it did to him, and how it killed his real life social, I had no intention on actually playing it.  It wasn’t long before I just stopped trying to see him, and just moved on with my life, but it left a very bad taste in my mouth for that game.

A couple years passed, and my groups of friends changed.  I found a person who shared similar interests in computers, gaming, and just being a nerd like me, but knew a lot more about it.  He taught me a great deal about system building, and the like.  He did admit playing WoW for a while, but while I knew him, he didn’t play.  He never spoke ill of the game, however, he would in fact tell me all these great things about it.  We ended up moving in together, since we got along so well, shared interests, and needed to make things cheaper.  In that time he did take up the reins of WoW once more, and would keep trying to get me to play it with him.

It took several weeks, and my being very drunk, to actually give in, and agree to play.  He sent me an in game invite to play the game, and I installed it.  I knew it was mostly the alcohol that was making me do it, and the little voice in the back of my head told me there was no way I would stick with it.  Off we went, leveling characters together.  I started a Paladin, and we took to dual Paladin leveling.  I found the controls of the game pretty easy to pick up, and the quests, and other tasks, were easy enough to follow along with.  I did find it a bit repetitive right off, “walk here, stab that, walk there, stab another that”, but the story progressed well, and kept my interest.

The next day came, and I didn’t wake up mad at myself for playing it, I wanted to get back on, and keep going.  So his evil plan worked, get me drunk and I will do anything apparently.  This is how I was introduced into the World of massive multiplayer online role playing games.  I tried it, I was interested, and I continued.

It wasn’t long before I was spending my entire free time outside of work playing this game.  Level grinding my way to the top.  One thing that my experience with Diablo II gave me was an eternal patience and drive to level quickly and efficiently.  Since I entered in to the heart of the most recent expansion’s popularity, just a month or so before the newest expansion hit the shelves, I was gunning for 70.  I wanted to get there fast, because everyone else in the guild I had become a part of was already there, raiding and such.

Leveling came a bit easier for me, because of the “refer-a-friend” program that I fell under, having been referred by my roommate.  We were able to talk advantage of specific advancement bonuses.  When he and I were playing together, our experience for everything tripled, and for every certain amount of levels gained, I could grant new levels to his alternate characters, as long as their level did not exceed my own.  The other benefits of the program were strictly for the referrer, so they aren’t relevant to this tale.

It didn’t take long for us to reach the cap of the benefits, and have to grind the hard way.  It also didn’t take long for my roommate to get tired of trying to keep up with me.  That would end up being a theme overall, but for now, it was just this first incident. I trudged off on my own for the most part, trying to hit that cap, occasionally grinding with my roommate again, but mostly on my own.  Naturally, the “race to 70” was won by me, which isn’t much of a surprise, just because I was so very good at it.

Now that 70 was within my grasp, I started throwing myself in on dungeon groups, and whatever raid group would have me.  However, it ended all for mostly naught in the end, because the newest expansion was literally right around the corner by the time I became geared enough to really raid.  After some time, I was able to get my hands on the newest expansion, and start the level grind all over again.  I knew better than to think I would hit the new level cap (80) before the rest of the server, but I did set a goal to get there before as many of my guild mates as possible.  So, without stopping to check out the scenery, I went straight to it.

I would admire the changes along the way, but my mission was clear, if I want to ever read into the meaning of the lands and quests, I can come back with another character later.  I spent every waking available moment level grinding.  I did in fact end up one of the first in the guild to 80, and then spent my time helping the others catch up.

We’ll step back a moment now, because this has reached a key moment in the WoW experience for me.  During this time, I was in a relationship with a woman, who was the mother of our child, whom during the majority of this, hadn’t reached her first birthday yet.  The time I spent playing this game, is time I could have spent with the baby, or more importantly, helping in the parenting duties.  We both worked, which made the whole thing a lot harder, but it was made worse by the fact that I was glued to a computer, instead of helping take care of my child.  My obsession with this game reached a peak point, and it ruined that relationship.  We split up, I spent a few weeks living out of my car, and went from seeing my child all the time and not spending time with her, to wanting to see her all the time, and barely getting to.

Once my homelessness was remedied, in such a way that my parents gave me no choice but to live with them while I got my shit together, I went right back into playing.  The game, at this time, felt like a release from the depression that ensued after my failed relationship.  It turned out to just be another mistake, and a distraction from the world around me that was falling apart.  It was when my mother kicked me out of the house that I started turning my sights on the game.  Not in the way that I wanted to continue, these sights were of my figurative mental sniper rifle.  I started to see my problem, and my problem was gaming.  Mind you, this was ten months after moving in with my mother, and well over a year of playing the game.

By this time I had 5 level capped characters, gear coming out of my ears, professions all maxed out, gold gold gold gold!  I had spent so much time and effort on this game that I didn’t leave myself much else to do.  Also of note, throughout this whole process I did convince my girlfriend, before we split up, to play the game.  She played for months, waiting for me to stop what I was doing and play with her.  I also convinced my step-father into playing as well, he actually marked the first person I ever made it all the way to level cap with, without leaving them behind.  Yet, after level cap, I still left him behind.

This is where my life got tricky.  I was back to being without home, and when I heard the news of being booted, I was three and a half hours out of town.  I will give it to my former roommate, and my current best friend at the time, because when the big life changing calamity wasn’t his, he was an excellent problem solver.  Even if the solution wasn’t my first choice, it was far better than going back to sleeping in my car in the dead of winter.  He had been living back with his parents as well, and had come up with the brilliant idea that I live there too.  After making it back to the home city, I crashed there overnight, and then talked to them the next day.

We worked out an agreement, and from then on I handled things a lot differently than I ever did before.  I became the best house guest ever; I helped with chores, projects, and anything else they needed someone to help with.  The great thing in it was, they had many unfinished projects that needed finished, and their kids would rarely help with them, so when I came there trying to prove my worth, they got what they needed.  My motivation and work actually made their sons help, because they didn’t want to look bad next to me.  I found a job very quickly after moving in, and set forth on getting myself a place to live on my own.  I didn’t want to burden them any further; though I did supply an additional two hundred dollars a month in food.  I was done being a burden on others, and due to a very good coworker of mine, I was able to rent a room in town for well within my budget.  Another thing to note, that coworker turned roommate is one of my very best friends now.

I had given up WoW, and no matter how much I tried to, I just couldn’t ever focus on it like I used to.  I would get bored with it fast, and move on.  Turns out, this happened with any game I touched.  It wasn’t until Assassin’s Creed II, a year after moving out of my former roommate’s parent’s house, that I was able to play a game all the way through.  The only reason that even happened was because I used it as a crutch to quit smoking.  However, my life had changed a great deal.  I would no longer get obsessed with gaming, I could no longer dive deep into a game and block out the world.  It wasn’t as if ‘it was easy to put the game down’ but more that I had trouble keeping the game picked up.

That inability has kept going through to today; nearly 6 years after this all started, I am rehabilitated and free.  Does that mean I hate games? No not at all.  I play a pencil and paper game, Pathfinder, with friends every Sunday, I occasionally pick up my PlayStation controller and play either Diablo III or Final Fantasy.  However, I am able to easily prioritize now.

So, the lesson here is, the best way to kick a gaming addiction habit, is to get dumped, be homeless, have your life turned upside down, be given a chance by people you didn’t expect, and see what happens.  It worked out great for me.

So, is World of Warcraft to blame for this?  No, not at all, just like guns don’t kill people, spoons don’t make you fat, immunizations don’t give your kids autism, and homosexuals aren’t the reason for the decay in the American family.  Moderation is key, realizing that games are not things to put above the important things in life.  Better yet, realizing that games aren’t the important things in life.  The most important thing about being a good geek, is taking care of your life, before you take care of you hobby.

This isn’t exactly how you thought this would end is it?

-Andrew

I feel inclined to add, quickly, that my experience with the game was great.  I had a very good time, and I met some of the best people out there.  Several of my closest friends came from that game, and I wouldn't change that for the world.  The negatives were how I handled the game, and how I let the game take over.  Not the people involved in it.  -Andrew