As I stated earlier, I’m four months post-WoW. I was subscribed to World of Warcraft for more than six and a half years – since December of 2005. “Subscribed” may not be the right word. “Addicted” is more suitable.
Most weekdays/nights consisted of two to four hours of farming and/or instancing. Weekends could be an eight to twelve hour affair. Raid nights ran between five and six hours. And all that was before I became a guild leader.
A 10,000-foot overview for the uninitiated: farming, instancing, and raiding are the three pillars of World of Warcraft (WoW). Farming provides currency, which is used to fund gear. Instancing more directly provides gear, and indirectly provides another source of currency. It also helps enhance skill. Currency, gear, and skill come together in raids. The reward from a successful raid? Gear and prestige.
On the surface, digital doo-dads don’t seem like a reasonable reward for a 50 hour/wk job. But I’d argue that they’re a modern analog for a successful hunt – a sort of gamer’s retail therapy. In a very compressed cycle, a character will start with little or nothing in terms of wealth, but can acquire great fame and fortune in-game. When compared to the day-to-day of work “in real life,” investing a few hours to become a digital king seems like a no-brainer.
Underpinning the farming/instancing/raiding cycle is the social aspect. As a “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game” (MMORPG), I existed in a world with thousands of people. As a natural progression in gameplay, I became part of a guild with a few dozen people. It was a small “in group” united with a common cause: successful raiding. The guild eventually became a very close analog of a family/workplace hybrid. We spent both our ‘on’ and ‘off’ hours with each other. With only the thinnest veil of internet anonymity, we shared life events that are usually reserved for actual family: weddings, divorces, births, deaths, and everything in between. Having such a rich social outlet entirely negated the need for any real human contact.
After a year, the game became my life. I was constantly achieving great things. I always had the wealth necessary to buy what I needed – the fanciest of items. I had the skill and time to put it all together and become a successful raider. I had a guild, and friends. I needed nothing else. In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy, I had most of my needs met. And when I was without the game, I missed it. I worried about the guild while I was unable to log-in. When I wasn’t playing, I was planning. I strategized, and studied about how to be more effective. I was addicted to WoW.
But, as addictions go, it wasn’t the worst possible thing. The social bonds I gained in-game translated to a few friendships out of game. I’ve actually met several guildmates “in real life” (i.e. over a beer). Leading a guild also gave me a significant boost to my confidence, public speaking, motivational, and time management skills. There’s hardly a motivator greater than having dozens of people relying on you to keep an organization afloat.
About 11 months ago, right about the time I was inspired to start this blog, I decided it was time to stop playing WoW. I had accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible. Completing the Cataclysm expansion seemed like a good stopping-point. It took almost six months to wind-down guild activity and complete our final goals. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say goodbye to everyone for good. Most everyone who was social within the guild stays in contact via the guild forums.
I spent a little over a month logging-in for a few minutes each week. I continued to read the relevant WoW news sites for a few weeks longer than that. The slow wind-down helped with the cravings. I can honestly say that after four months, I have no WoW cravings at all.
So what’s next for me? Well, that’s what this blog is about. It’s about time I made a few life changes.