It’s the end of the World (of Warcraft) as we know it, and I feel…

…actually, I’m still sorting through my feelings.

I’ve been playing MMORPGs for about five years, and the last three years of that was playing WoW. A few weeks ago, I cancelled my account, but missed the renewal date by three days, which left me with a month of playtime. It’s not the first time I’ve cancelled my account, but it’s going to be the last.

Yesterday in Melbourne was wet. I started out the morning cleaning out our walk-in-wardrobe, but got side-tracked by sitting down to play WoW for half an hour, just to “take a break”. I sat in front of my Mac for the rest of the day playing WoW.

I didn’t play with my kids. I didn’t finish cleaning out the wardrobe. I played WoW. Again, not the first time I’ve done that. However, I think it was the first time I’ve done that on an account that I knew wouldn’t be usable in a few days. Still, I kept on going. The morning was playing on a toon that wasn’t even my main or alt. The afternoon was devoted to getting all the pre-quests I needed for a Blackrock Depths 5-man guild levelling run set for last night.

The thing is… by the time we got to raid time, I was too tired to go, but I went anyway. My playing was lackluster at best, but I managed to completely derail the run when I managed to die in the middle of a pool of lava and took almost half-an-hour to get out. By the time I got out and the five of us got back to the entrance of the instance, most of the mobs in the instance had respawned and it was too late to really do much more, and the group split up and went to bed.

I’ve nearly quit WoW several times. I’ve quit several times, but I’ve always re-installed a few weeks later. Last night, I realised that I wasn’t having any fun. I wasn’t enjoying the game. In fact, I hadn’t enjoyed most of my playtime yesterday. Or for quite some time. I was just playing because it was easier to occupy myself in WoW than deal with the real-life stuff that needs my time and thought.

There have been too many days I’ve chosen WoW over spending time with my wife and my kids. I haven’t practiced my guitar, taken photos. I haven’t painted. I haven’t drawn or published my comic strip. There is a large list of things I haven’t done because I’ve chosen the ease of play and the cheap rewards of WoW.

I’m not going to blame WoW. WoW is designed to keep you playing. Quests and progression are based on a rewards cycle; basically what Nick Yee talks about here. There’s no argument that I felt a sense of satisfaction when I had a good run with either of my old guilds on Blackrock (AlterElectus & Order of Avalon), I also enjoyed running instances with my guild on Proudmoore (Really Useful).

But at the end of the day I’ve spent five years, across three MMORPGs, chasing pixels to get “cool” pixels.

I started on EverQuest for a while, before switching to Star Wars Galaxies with a couple of real life friends, before moving to WoW (with the same friends). There’s also no denying that I had a lot of fun along the way. Sitting here today, I have virtually nothing to show for it. No real-life friendships that evolved out of the game. I have reasonably developed in-game skills that don’t, as far as I can see, translate to usefulness outside of the game.

Even worse, I took some of my real-life bad habits into the game; principally, the tendency to hoard things for a rainy day. Last night after I logged out, I went and sat in bed for a while. I took stock of the time I’ve spent in-game. On my two main characters, I had a total of 72 days. That’s 72 24 hour days. That doesn’t include the other 16 or so characters I had spread across three servers or the low level characters I created and deleted along the way. I’d estimate an extra 28 days there, giving me 100 24-hour days – and I think that’s a conservative estimate.

To put that into a different perspective, if you were to divide that up as 40 hour working weeks, I’ve spent over a work-year playing WoW. A year that I could have spent with my wife. My kids. Or both. Playing guitar, painting, drawing, reading, learning new design techniques, praying, studying. Anything. Had I done any of those things, the results would be tangible. Something I could show. Instead, I’ve got nothing but some hazy memories, and an account full of WoW characters whose in-game bags and banks resemble my garage.

After taking stock of my MMORPG history, and my attempts to quit in the past, there was only one thing I could do. I can’t do a little bit of WoW.

I got out of bed, and logged back into the game. Told my guild master (and real-life workmate) what I was going to do. He tried to talk me out of it, but he got the shorthand version of this post. I think he accepted it. Starting with my lowest level character (aka “toon”), I worked backwards emptying their banks, and selling everything and sending it on to my main toon. Then I deleted the toon. I finally sold everything on the main toon, and sent the proceeds to the guild master. Then I deleted my Level 57 rogue on Proudmoore (/played time = 7 days 16 hours). Then I moved onto Blackrock, where I’ve spent most of my last three years play time, and did the same there. Finally, and most painfully, deleting my Level 70 rogue (/played time = 64 days 9 hours).

See, for me, only the scorched earth solution will work. I know from past experience that given the chance I’ll hide in WoW rather than make an effort in real life.

My name is Warwick, and I’m addicted to World of Warcraft.

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