My name is Tomas…not Windpaw…and I’ve been WoW free for over 20 days. The last time this happened I was in another country where the Internet just didn’t live. Short of my time in Kosovo and Afghanistan there hasn’t been a day in the last six years that I can remember where I wasn’t either playing, wanting to play, or writing about World of Warcraft.
In a world where commitment to well…anything…is at an all time low, a six year uninterrupted relationship with a virtual world is pretty significant.
Perhaps all the more significant because I’ve finally called it quits. WoW and I are no longer seeing one another. We’ve moved out, I’ve got all my concert t-shirts back and we’re both embarrassed about the whole “who gets the dog” thing.
I think for most people, this is the part of the blog post where I’m supposed to wax all bitter and despondent about how WoW has ruined my life, destroyed my relationships and maxed all my credit cards. How WoW kept me from being me, how it kept holding me back and stifling my creativity.
So before I get much farther here let me make one thing clear.
I still love World of Warcraft. It’s a great game. I miss playing it.
I think it’s important to say that. Most people, when they finally decide to cut something loose, seem to feel the need to destroy their feelings toward it as well. They demonize it, call it bad, blame it for all of the ugly and unfortunate that wraps their lives. Sometimes that’s all true. More often though, it’s because they’re trying to absolve themselves of responsibility.
In this case, I knew what I was doing. Simply put, I finally realized that I’ve been playing the game for too long and that I was playing too much.
Perspective though – lets have some perspective.
Lets put apply some of that to the phrase “too much”.
I’m not saying I was playing so much that I had forgotten about my family or ruined my career. I didn’t become a 400 pound slab of marbled man-fat squatting in front of a computer screen, eating pork rinds and chain draining quarts of Mountain Dew while raiding six nights a week. Nothing like that. I just played too much. I played too long. I let the game become a salve of sorts that kept me from worrying about things that bothered me.
What’s kinda funny is that I really didn’t even have some defining moment where all of this came together into a shining epiphany. It was gradual. I think the first clue to all of this was when I started using (abusing) Blizzard’s race / faction change service. Every couple of weeks my main characters would go to bed in Orgrimmar and wake up in Darnassus or Stormwind. A few days later and they’d be back on the other side of the fence. I’d be $60 bucks poorer and apparently no wiser. Within days things would start to go stale again.
Add in my own OCD like tendencies and WoW was becoming an extension of work. I’d get home, kiss the wife and kids, then plop down on the couch with my laptop and do my dailies. After that I’d have to try to get into a heroic so I could make sure I wasn’t getting left behind in the gear game. I played Tol-Barad every time it popped, not because it was worth a crap as a battleground, but because I need the honor and I needed more TB rep.
From a personal point of view, the relationships I had with people in the game started to suffer as well. I was getting thin-skinned. People were pissing me off constantly. It seemed like I couldn’t get into a 5 man group without getting angry about some part of the group or feeling like my time was being wasted. I know a lot of people complain that WoW player base has become more toxic and awful. I don’t think so. I think for the most part they’re as great or as lame as they ever have been. It was mostly me. I was getting bored and I didn’t want to be bored. I was getting tired of playing and I was scared of what finally quitting might mean. You know what happens when people get scared, don’t you? Yeah, they get touchy, they get mean, they stop talking to people.
So anyway, the Army called me a few weeks back and asked me to come visit for a bit. I did and it was a good visit. It was a tame visit too. No running around in the woods, no freezing, no getting wet and wondering if chow was going to be edible. No, it was the kind of Army stuff that 40-somethings end up having to do. Planning, putting together yearly training briefings, eating out and letting the per diem pay for it. Boring stuff. But each night, after working out and heading back to my hotel, I did something different. Or more to the point, I didn’t do something.
I never logged into the game.
A day went by. Then a week. Then almost almost a month. I *do* miss the game. But I think I need to stay away for a while. A long time ago I told all the people that mattered in my world that I wanted to be a writer. I think I was seven then and “all the people” in my life probably consisted of my parents and the kids next door. In a lot of ways I’ve made good on that early hope. Sure, I wanted to be a Paleontologist and a Fireman too, but at the end of the day, I was writing stories about dinosaurs and firemen, not studying bones or hosing down the house.
My ability to string words together in some coherent fashion has played a part in every success I’ve had in my adult life. I’ve been published, I’ve won some awards and best of all, I’ve had you Internet people tell me that you like my stuff and that I should write more of it. But plodding along in a blog can be just as distracting as playing a game. Worse, it can give the illusion of progress: “Hey I’m writing here!”
The one thing that I have never really done is given myself a goal. In fact, I can’t remember ever having goals. I blunder into them from time to time and have had some pretty neat successes all without the benefit of goals. But without a goal – without a target to aim at – that’s all I’ll ever do.
Blunder around aimlessly.
If anything WoW let me practice goal setting in miniature for a while. Early on in the game I couldn’t commit to anything. I never leveled to cap, I never raided and I never accomplished anything. After a while, after seeing my in game friends leave my horrible stack of alts behind I decided I needed to change. I focused on one character. I learned my class. I made a commitment to raid and actually showed up. It’s kind of funny, but in a way, the grind of the game helped me work out some effort vs. reward issues I’d been having in my real life. How?
Simple. Nothing worth having comes easy. Nothing.
The other thing I learned was that if I wanted something – I really needed to work for it. That thing. That specific thing I wanted.
That’s my next job. Figuring out what the hell I want. What I really want. And getting it.
So, that said, this isn’t a “So long and thanks for all the fish” kind of post. It’s just a post. But it’s a post with intent and one that I want to signal good things in the future. Even if they’re not taking place in Azeroth.
See you all around