essay

Reflections on World of Warcraft

Less than a year ago I stood before a new world. There was endless potential and limitless adventure.

Today I said goodbye to those lands. Having spent over 12 days worth of playing, I was ready to stop. The journey had led me far and wide but it had to end. All good things must end.

It all started with a demo. 10 days of free play. It lulled me in and showed a world of wonder filled with challenges-to-be if only I would stick around. And I did. The demo extended to a free month. The free month bloomed into a subscription. I was hooked.

I started my first character as a night elf druid. Think Lord of the Rings or any other classic fantasy depiction of elves and you will have some idea of the look. The place was Teldrassil, an island off of Kalimdor. My first quests were to collect simple things in the neighboring forest and cull the wild beasts of the land. Little did I know that most of my future experiences would consist of these same activities repeated over and over.

For several weeks I really enjoyed my time in the world of Azeroth, exploring and battling monsters. Over time though, I began to tire of the repeated quest templates. It seemed if I was always trying to find an item or defeat a number of monsters in an area. Occasionally, I would have to battle some type of boss monster or protect an ally in the game but that was rare. I burned out quickly and swore off playing for a couple of months.

It was a friend of mine that got me back in the game. He suggested I try out the PvP servers. I had been playing on servers that were Player versus Environment but he was saying I should try out Player versus Player servers. On these servers there was constant action. At any time another player, an enemy player, could come attack you. You could be fighting your way into a tower or trying to gather some plants, but when that player fight comes then you have to face off then and there. I found this fun, at first. My ever-alert status heightened the tension but that too worn me down. Instead of having a fun time fighting both monsters and other players, I soon found that I was being killed in the game over and over. Players who had played longer than I had would attack me, often without me being able to even see them before they had killed me. This happened so frequently that I would often only be able to walk out of a town before being killed again, minutes after being killed the previous time. This too I found so frustrating that I again swore off playing again.

Another friend of my mine wanted to come back to the game. He had previously played for an extended amount of time and wanted to play again with a friend in the game. I was ready to give the world another go. So, we began playing together. We did all the same simple beginning quests again but this time, with another person there, they did not seem as monotonous as before. We leveled up our characters and explored larger and larger sections of the world. Unfortunately, my friend had to stop playing again and I was left by myself. This time I was dedicated to getting some things done in the game.

That was the turning point for me. When I stopped thinking about the game as sections of play to be conquered before moving on and started to think as the game in the terms of a personal experience, the game got easier to manage. I set goals for myself. During one play session I would take care of a single quest or work on a single aspect of my character. The next session I would work on another quest. Once I began to break the game down into simple steps it became easier to build my character level by level and area by area into a strong warrior. I slowly, but surely, chipped away at the game’s content until I reached the level cap of my version of the game. That was early this morning.

After maxing out my character and finally buying a fast horse, I was ready to stop. Since I had started playing the third time, I had been trying to get a more epic experience out of the game. I had seen other players riding all sorts of beasts from mechanized striders to gryphons. I wanted those animals to ride as well. The price for those things, however, is very high. Only once I reached level 70, the max level in my version of the game, did I have enough money. Saving money level by level had given me just enough to get a fast horse for my character. Having achieved that, I rode around for one last time before stopping.

I could go back. I will probably go back. For now though I need a break. After playing for over 300 hours, I have come to learn that I will never win. There is no point at which I can. I could play for thousands of hours, accumulate piles and piles of money, get the best armor and accessories but I would never win. Ultimately, the game functions more like a security blanket than any other game. It will always be there. It changes very little. It provides a consistent experience that, when you grow tired of other games, is there to hold your hand and show you a familiar world that always has one more thing for you to do.