I Can Quit Whenever I Want
I’ve been playing a ridiculous amount of World of Warcraft lately.
I’m sure if a cyber-cop pulled me over on the Information Superhighway and gave me a virtual breathalyzer test I’d be several points over the legal WoW limit.
Why am I so captivated? What is it about this game that’s got me wondering if I need to join a 12-step program?
Is it the Immersion?
Have I begun to slip heedlessly into a fantasy world and lost all sense of reality? Nah, probably not. I’m more of what one would call a “casual gamer.” I understand the fear of entering a game world and feeling as though one is more a part of it than one’s own life. That’s often the kind of problem one sees in science fiction stories about people entering virtual reality and losing all sense of self. But the truth of the matter is that World of Warcraft is pretty cool, but the Matrix it’s not. Heck, even the Matrix MMO wasn’t. Besides, I don’t have all that much of a sense of reality to lose in the first place.
Is it the Simplicity?
World of Warcraft is very easy to play. The controls are easy to learn. There’s very little in the way of resource management (aside from how much space you have in the bags you carry around to stuff quest items, fishing poles, alchemy bottles and magical pairs of pants into). You receive instructions, get pointed in a direction and usually go off to either kill things or pick things up off the ground – sometimes both. Not a lot of thought is required. If you want to interact with other players, you can, but recent updates to the game mean that you don’t really have to socialize if you’d rather go solo. I must admit that the game’s convenience factor is a pretty big deal. The fact that I don’t have to devote a lot of time to it means that I end up… devoting a lot of time to it.
Is it the Potential?
One of the major draws for me with games like World of Warcraft is not what you can do with it, but what you COULD do with it. Azeroth is a huge, new, shiny, undiscovered world (okay, maybe a bit less shiny since the Cataclysm) and I haven’t visited every single corner of it yet. I’m one of those obsessive bastards who tries to see ALL of a game’s available content. Some of it – like, say, any given dungeon – requires you to team up with other players, which is something I don’t usually have a lot of time for, but I still feel a need to keep quests involving said content on my to-do list. Even though it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get to them. If you add to that the fact that they’re regularly updating the game with MORE shiny, new things, you can see that this game may be holding my attention for a very long time.
Is it the Adventure Gaminess?
Back in the crazy, carefree days of the 1980’s, we had these things called “adventure games.” Among my favorites were the games in the Quest For Glory series. These were games in which you had a character with RPG-like stats and the freedom to have him wander around, fight monsters and explore different plot threads. The developers at one time had an idea to make it into an online game, but that plan never came to fruition. World of Warcraft seems, to me, to be the closest thing to what they had been hoping to do. So maybe I play it as a way of trying to recapture my youth – which I’m told is much safer and cheaper than the usual method of buying a muscle car and treating every road as though it’s the Daytona Speedway.
I think that if I try to be brutally honest with myself, World of Warcraft – or any other MMO, for that matter – is, more than anything, an excuse to listen to a bunch of podcasts. I like the game music and only listened to it while playing at first, but as soon as I got comfortable enough with the game that it didn’t require my full concentration, I started playing podcasts in the background instead. MMOs and podcasts can make an awesome combination. I’ve already blogged about my deep podcast affliction, so I won’t go into detail about it here. But I think it’s interesting that I’ve essentially got two addictions that feed into each other. If one desperate need wanes, the other will always be there to drag me back to my plush Obsession Suite in the Junkie Hotel overlooking Dependence City. Lucky me.
All kidding aside, though, I’ve gone several months at a time without playing WoW, and if my schedule requires it, I’ll go cold turkey once again. I’ve done it voluntarily before – most recently when I hit a point in the game at which I felt I couldn’t progress further on my own and decided to just park my characters in a corner and wait for the Cataclysm. And, lo and behold, when the Cataclysm happened, there was enough new content to pull me back in. I’m not sure what it says about me that it takes a near-apocalypse to garner my interest these days, but that’s another topic entirely.
To return to somewhere in the general vicinity of the point, I’m sure that what with all the various things I’ve got going on my life, sooner or later I’ll need to take another break from WoW. It will be a sad day indeed but I’ll find some way to survive. After all, there’s always City of Heroes.