Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's not you WoW, it's me.

This is the post I knew I would end up writing the moment I started writing this blog. I'm sure most of you know what kind of post it is, and you've probably also read tons of posts like it before. In a way it's just one of all the posts I've done over the years, and in a way this might the single most important post I'll ever write on this blog. And it's not easy. There is just no good way to start a post like this and I don't want it to be like so many before it; "I've cancelled my account and finally quit WoW". There you've got the essence of it, but that's not all I want it to be. There is so much more to this than that and I find that the above sentence doesn't make it any justice. But most importantly I don't want this post to be a sad one, I don't want it to be yet another post about someone who lost their interest in WoW, announcing that it is over. I want it to be a post about how incredibly awesome this game is and what is has meant to me over the past years and why I've come to the conclusion that it was time for us to part ways. So where to begin?

Maybe back in Deathknell, April 2005. A young, undead priest stumbled out of her crypt, looked around and was awed at what she saw. A vast world lay before her feet, but she felt just walking down the road to kill some spiders and ghouls was about the coolest thing she had done on a PC up until then. Everything around her held so much promise, mystery and adventure it's difficult to put into words now 8,5 years later. That's roughly a third of my life and as sad as it may sound I've had few things last longer in my life than my relationship with WoW. I'd like to think it says more about what kind of a life changing game WoW can be than me, but needless to say WoW has definitely been influental to me. If you'll allow me to be a bit personal, WoW has been the active ingredient to the end of two of my relationships while also being the active ingredient to the start of two of my relationships. The amount of people I have met, the things I have done and experienced in this game... it can not be put into words. Things have come and gone around me but WoW has somehow always managed to stick around - my love for this game knows no bounds, truly. I would not have any of it undone and I don't regret a second spent with this game. I also don't regret stepping out of it, although I will always look back nostalgically wishing to re-experience all the good times I've had questing, dungeoning and raiding (and just chatting, idling around some major city).

Even long before I made my own decision to quit WoW I had plenty of thoughts about it, not just regarding my own playing but also regarding the fact that WoW simply won't be around forever (or will it?). Some days the servers will turn off and all the areas I've come to know as good as the back of my hand will simply vanish from the face of the interwebs, to only be part of all the players memories and the countless amount of data in form of pictures and texts that we've produced about this game over the years. Quitting WoW, I've taken solace in the fact that I can always change my mind and return whenever I like, one day that will not be so and I dread that day a lot more than I dreaded cancelling my account.

When I wrote a post about quitting (hypothetically then) 2,5 years ago, I listed all the things that kept me playing around that time. Things like the community, the possibility to hang out with friends both close and far away and just simply the fact that the game was so much fun in itself. I loved doing dungeons, I loved leveling alts and I loved raiding more than anything. The reason I am quitting WoW is simply because all of those things are gone to me now. I'm not going to tell you that WoW used to be so much better, because I honestly don't think that. I think Blizzard have done a great job with MoP, I think the raids and dungeons are fun and well designed overall and I wish I could still be part of it. Priest healing still never got boring to me. Although personally I think Wotlk was probably the best expansion, the game has far from deteriorated and still has plenty to offer to newer players.

But I've been doing this for 8 years now. Everyone I used to play with have gone elsewhere - every single person. I've done basically every area and dungeon (outside MoP) at least a 100 times each and played every class for hours and days on end. Although these things have changed somewhat every now and then they've stayed mostly the same, and the real challenge and fun to me has always been in raiding. Ever since I decided to really start raiding on a regular basis back in early BC, up until the second I had to admit to myself that I didn't have the time for it anymore, raiding has been what WoW has been all about to me, and everything I did around it was to support my raiding, like leveling alts to swap out in the raid group or having extra professions handy. Remove raiding and you remove a big part of what I found was so much fun about everything else in the game as well.

When leveling an alt I could sit and talk, be boosted or boost my friends and guildies. I could level it knowing that once it hit max level there would be somewhere for it to go and a chance for me to really get to know and use the class, get to put the experience and knowledge I had about the class thus far to the real test. Say what you want about the dungeons and quests in the game, but none of them are especially difficult or challenging (with some few exceptions, most notably in Classic). They were good enough for me not minding, even really enjoying to replay them over and over again, but not if there is nothing for me at the end of that journey. The same goes with farming or basically doing anything in the game. I knew that it would end up being of use for what I really loved doing in the game so as an extension that became a fun thing to do as well.

A year ago I wrote a post asking myself whether I could play WoW casually. Could I be content and still have fun with the game even without the community and challenge that I got from progress raiding? At that point I had just entered what would soon turn out to be my non-raiding days (although I still raided occasionally it was only every other week), and didn't know. I have an answer to that question now though, and the answer is unfortunately no. If you had asked me 5,6 or 7 years ago, the answer would probably have been different, but now that I've basically juiced the game of everything it's got to offer, the only thing left that kept things interesting to me was the fun of overcoming a big challenge with a couple of friends. This doesn't mean WoW doesn't have anything to offer me anymore, it just means that the things I want from it, I don't have the time for. And even if I still would like to play a dungeon every now and then, it doesn't justify a monthly fee of 12€ that I could put on other things right now (especially with a baby coming).

As much as WoW has meant to me over the years, I couldn't go as far as saying that it taught me right from wrong and the meaning of life. It did however teach me a whole lot of things about gaming and especially about how I game and what I want from the games I play.

First things first - I feel like I owe WoW an apology. Over the course of the 8 years I've played it, no matter how much I enjoyed it, I still always somewhere in the back of my head blamed it for taking up too much time. Not in a way that I was worried I was addicted or spending more time with it than I wanted, I'll not blame WoW for my choices. I was worried however that I was missing out on a whole lot of things around me, that WoW was simply too good. I was worried that eventhough I might want to play other games, I just didn't because WoW was always that little bit more fun and enticing - it already had basically everything I wanted, making it difficult for even my favorite games to compete. I was worried that WoW had gotten me too comfortable and that it was luring me away from all the other things I wanted to do.

Oh how wrong I was. As soon as I started to ease down on my WoW gaming (when it was at its peak I probably played an average of ~8 hours a day) I realized that WoW hadn't been taking time from me, it had allowed me to fill up all those chunks of time that are strewn across my day where I don't really know what else to do. The time before I go to work (or back then, study), the time after I come back but before dinner, the time after dinner but before bed time and sometimes the time around other activites I might have that day (like meeting friends). Now I will see that chunk of time, and wonder what to do with it. Do I want to watch a tv-series? Do I want to read? Do I want to play a game, and in that case, which game? WoW was my go-to thing and it was always a good choice. I was worried that I was missing out on things, but as much as a first world problem as it might sound, the amount of choices I have now often has me doing nothing but just wasting that time trying to figure out what of all the things open to me I want to do.

I had many choices in WoW too, but I could do productive things while thinking about what I really wanted to do. Do a daily while pondering which character I wanted to do a dungeon with, turn my ore into bars while thinking about what transmog gear I should get and a thousand other things. Regardless, in the end I always ended up having done something, and get a feeling of accomplishment, where I now just feel like I wasted an hour reading stuff on memebase again. This is not even mentioning what an endless source of blog-material WoW turned out to be to me. Although WoW wasn't the thing that triggered me to start blogging, it still gave me enough ideas to push out a post a day for 500 days in a row (!). 95% of those posts are about WoW and the reason I decided to ease down on the pace was not because of lack of ideas, but because I wanted to pursue other writing paths. Although I've always been writing, WoW is what really got me into doing it on a regular basis. WoW is also what started me doing my YouTube guides with which I've had tons of fun.

WoW didn't hamper me or steal my time - it pushed me into trying new things and got me to finally explore areas I've always wanted to try out. WoW got me to dare trying a whole bunch of games that I've always wanted to play but never thought I could, games like Half-Life, Divine Divinity, Skyrim, Diablo 3 to mention a very few. Silly as it may sound, I didn't think I'd have the skill to pull it off or the understanding of games to get very far. I just didn't see myself as that kind of gamer. Before WoW I mostly played multi-player party games, like Mario Kart and Mario Party and the odd RPG, but now I see myself enjoying and wanting to try out most genres of games (except sports games). I love this change in myself, and I am certain WoW has a big part in it. Through WoW I grew from an insecure gamer who rolled undead mostly so that the zombies in the game would feel less threatening, to a gamer who had 9 to 24 other people depending on my quick decisions and skill with my class. If I could've seen what I would've become when I first started playing I probably wouldn't have believed it. But baby-step by baby-step, WoW allowed me to trial and error my way through and out of nervousness, self-doubt and shame about my gaming capabilities. WoW didn't turn me into a leet-gamer, but it taught me to shrug off my worries and believe in trying before dismissing. It taught me that I don't have to be the best, or even good, at a game to enjoy it and that there is nothing wrong with going through a learning-curve.

Don't ask me where this notion in me came from, but I remember looking at games with a mix of curiousness and fear. I didn't grow up with games and I didn't really start playing until my early teens. I've always had a tendency to avoid things I didn't think I could immediately master, and constantly failing at the games I tried because of lack of general experience may somehow had me thinking that I was just not a gamer, I just didn't have the necessary skills to get anywhere. With WoW, I got the chance to play a game that allowed me to take things in my pace, from the simplest of tasks (kill 5 spiders) to some of the most difficult (kill Lich King HC).

I could harp on about what WoW has meant to me as a person and a gamer for a long time still, and it would probably never be enough. Some might think it strange that a game could have that much influence at all, after all it is "just a game". But it's a game that has been with me for 8 years, countless hours and experiences and it is bound to have some sort of impact. In my case, it has had a pretty big one.

Eventhough I have left WoW, WoW has definitely not left me. There is probably not a day that goes by without me thinking about it at least once (not counting the times I get reminded about things when reading what other people talk about it). And even before I had decided to quit I could find myself thinking I should maybe do just one dungeon, or a couple of quests, or some farming. I miss it, I really do. I miss it in the way you miss enjoying things you enjoyed when you were a kid, that you just don't find that entertaining anymore. Maybe I miss the feeling of enjoying the game, really. I find myself still reading the occasional news on the game, or even tune in someones live feed on twitch, just to reminisce a bit on old days, and yet I have no want to go back to it. Everytime I feel a nostalgic tang to do something in WoW, I also feel my brain telling me "been there, done that". Not only that but I've become so accustomed to playing with 30 something add-ons, that trying to log on after any amount of off-time, I have to spend the first 45 minutes setting up all the add-ons that have gone out of date. I can't revert myself back to what I was when I first started playing, add-on less, experience less, full of curiousity. What I require from WoW now, I just don't have the time for anylonger, and in a way I regret that.

It's not you WoW, it's me. I've changed whereas WoW is still its awesome self. I didn't feel a need to move on, I just don't have anything left in the game to do that also works with my current life situation, and there is no one to blame for that, it's just how it has turned out. And I think I am ok with that. I realized it had come to that point when I simply didn't log on to WoW anymore, and when it had gone a couple of months of me not playing, but still paying, I thought to myself - it is time. It is time to say good bye, at least for now. Because there is nothing saying I won't return in the future, to the best game I have ever played.