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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:40 am 
Tarutaru Murder Suspect
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Joined: Sat Aug 02, 2008 6:07 pm
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Location: The land of a million galka...
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Not exactly FFXI, but close enough. I think we all can relate... right?

I Can't Stand World of Warcraft
And I still can't leave.
by Charles Onyett, art by Scott Bromley

As far as I know, I am not a hamster. I ride a bike to work, which I suppose could be considered a hamster wheel-like device, but at least it moves me somewhere. As of late I've lapsed into a familiar routine. I'm in a crowded cage, scrounging and competing for morsels sprinkled down by a distant team of unknowable creators. Sometimes those of us in the cage work together, sometimes we fight, and in the end only one thing's certain: we'll engage in an uncharacteristic amount of passive-aggressive prodding to ensure everyone's around at the same time so we can clear out Scarlet Monastery. I'm yet again an active World of Warcraft subscriber.

I first started with a few friends during a chilly December 2004 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The radiator was moody, and my fingers shook from the unfortunate indoor cold over the keyboard. There was a pizza joint down the street, and my roommate and I – both freshly subscribed – would routinely gorge on extra-large pepperoni and green pepper orders while questing through Thunder Bluff and beyond. We even brought the TV from the living room into the computer area so everything would be centrally located. Eating pizza, watching football, and playing World of Warcraft was my life outside of work – a combination sure to terrify any would-be girlfriends. But at least I made a set of Turtle Scale mail for my Tauren Hunter and scrounged up enough funds to buy a mount at level 40.

Those were the old days when the 1 through 60 leveling process was nowhere close to the bullet train it is now. But at the time it was fast compared to other MMOs. I was one of the many running across the Barrens contributing to a chat field filled with unanswerable questions and puzzling over the pointlessly nasty verbal sparring. This was before Facebook and Twitter blossomed into popular consciousness – an early social network that tied together like-minded people in a virtual space. Not only could you keep in touch with old friends in distant cities, meet new people, and form selective social organizations, but you could also have fun and kill stuff.


That was six damn years ago. I thought I was done with all this. Still here I am, starting a new Undead Warlock and once again snatching up a round of kill quests from Nesingwary's Expedition in Stranglethorn Vale. The question I keep asking myself: Do I need help? I'm quite literally doing the same thing over and over again, and I'm paying to do it. That strikes me as insane behavior. I don't feel insane, but I suppose failing to recognize your own insanity is one of the necessary symptoms.

People, including myself, apply the term addictive to praise games. It makes sense to me and, from discussions I've had, others like me. But using terms normally reserved for things like drug use and mental disorders goes a long way in creating the wrong impression, especially to someone unfamiliar with the jargon of the video game press. At the same time, it's also useful for someone looking to spend money on a video game. Buying something that'll maintain interest for a while is a solid exchange of dollars for gameplay hours, right?

With World of Warcraft, the experience begins innocently enough. There's the colorful character selection screen where I choose a haircut (soon to be obscured by a helmet) and consider each race's unique bonuses against which class I'm looking to play. There's the initial starting experience that, in Blizzard's recently released expansion, Cataclysm, is like a non-stop sugary fireworks display around a licorice highway lining the folds of my brain. The quests and rewards are unloaded at machine-gun pace, goals are clustered intelligently together, and all are woven with interlocking stories, voice acting and cinematic moments. Blizzard's clever method of changing the world while I quest, called phasing, makes me feel like I'm not on hamster wheel but in a dynamic world doing important things. This is a virtual space I own, define, and rule. I can't wait to see what's next.

A few weeks later, I'm full of doubt. I've been using the dungeon finder to slam on bosses and grab nice items and accumulate cloth for my tailoring enterprise, but I know I'm about to speed into a ceiling. Before long the time between levels is going to stretch out to painful distances and the useful rewards will become fewer and further between. Everything gets more expensive, preparation becomes a grind, and guild mates make demands on increasingly larger portions of my free time. I'm no ultra hardcore user, so I'm not going to hit level 85 within a few hours of Cataclysm's availability. I'll need to play for months.

Setting aside the irresponsibility of dedicating so many hours to a game that could be spent on enriching my career, calling my family or, um, showering, what I'm really doing here is chasing a high. World of Warcraft ushered in a gold rush. Publishers and developers are still looking to reproduce the giddiness of leveling or netting a rare drop and translate it into real dollars. Transitioning from greens to blues to purples is enough to initially induce such an upgrade obsession that images of Blizzard's item description popup windows clutter dreams. Walking out the apartment door and into the actual world is a bizarre convergence of the real and surreal. I start imagining crazy things like green regenerative health numbers floating up above the heads of people eating by windows in a taco shop. I wonder how long it's going to take a traffic jam to respawn. I start speaking in chat channel abbreviations.


But that still doesn't explain why I'm often filled with regret over playing for long spans of time. I spent an entire Saturday a few months ago playing Heavy Rain, and at no point did I feel remorse. I was caught up in the story and fearing for the characters, driving them toward an uncertain climax. When the original Mass Effect was released I literally did not leave my apartment for three days until Faunts' M4 Part II blasted through my entertainment center's sound system. Yet after a weekend of World of Warcraft, I feel depleted, exhausted somehow by a siphoning of life energies by a virtual representation of myself.

Such is the process of suspension of disbelief and ego projection in any role-playing game, but it's all the more powerful in an MMO. Regardless of how stylish and fantastical the visuals, MMOs still feels like real worlds more so than any other type of game because of the continuity of travel between zones and the existence of other people. You can always skip lengthy transit times with fast traveling options in most modern games. But the fact that you can, while passing by and interacting with other real players, run from one end of the world to another establishes an unrivaled potential for immersion simply because it's so blatantly, if inconveniently, mirroring the real world.

It's part of what makes it so easy to fall into a life that isn't your own, and part of why it's so difficult for me to continue playing for long periods of time. Gradually an inner voice gets louder, yelling something about wasted potential and spending disproportionate parts of the day in real and virtual spaces. Even when spending hours removed from virtual worlds, I'm perpetually thinking about them. I'm entertaining thoughts of jockeying for a high ranking within a guild, about finding the most powerful gear and standing around in capital cities to amaze low level players, of running through Shadowfang Keep as a max level character and obliterating challenges that used to seem insurmountable. Or, during brief spells of empathy, of messaging public chat channels to see if anyone needs help with questing or crafting.


The appeal, and why I continue to pay and create new characters, is in the versatility. Nowhere else can I so rapidly change roles. One day I'm a cook, camping out next to the Orgrimmar auction house and handing out free meals to those in need. Moments later I join a dungeon queue and am yet again slashing through the Halls of Lightning and soon thereafter transitioning to Wintergrasp for some large-scale player-versus-player warfare. Then I'm right back to the main city to play economist, looking for underpriced valuables to purchase and put back up at higher prices. In real life for the same kind of rapid change I'd have to quit my job, sell all my stuff to buy armor, somehow learn how to channel and control magic, and field an increasingly frequent number of concerned phone calls from my parents.

As much as I'm exhausted by the constant flip-flop of love and loathing, I can never manage to stay away. When I see others laughing at those who play MMOs, I'm always amused to later find out they engage in the same kinds of obsessive behaviors. They'll spend four hours a day on Facebook or check in every ten minutes with their Twitter feed. They'll spend half a day browsing YouTube for ridiculous videos, watch reruns on TV or check email on their iPhones while in the middle of a conversation with someone standing in front of them. The frequency of engagement with virtual worlds is increasing all the time, and not necessarily in the direction of discovering something new about nature and humanity. It's a backwards-looking, nostalgia-soaked, and frequently fruitless pursuit, but it can be fun. The difference between World of Warcraft and, say Twitter – both social platforms -- is only the stigma that's been attached to certain products and genres, not the underlying behavior. Except when it comes to the guys that hit level 85 in like six hours after Cataclysm's launch. That's just insane.

Anyway, I have a pizza to order.

Original Link: http://pc.ign.com/articles/114/1140875p1.html


PostPosted: Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:39 pm 
MS Paint Artisan
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Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:06 am
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BRD 49, WHM 41, and more misc lvled jobs
Ya, I'd say so Derz.


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