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Admitting to your problem is the first step. Forgiveness is the key. The support of others is vital to rehabilitation. These clichéd sayings are spewed like molten lava from the fires of The Burning Steppes whenever one hears anything about the long and pothole riddled road to recovery. After all, clichés are so for a reason: they are often true. And so, my own situation is no different as I step onto the cold, shameful stage of admittance and own my addiction like the strong adult I am, in hopes that I can not only be forgiven for my transgressions but also move forward amicably.
My name is William Harrison and I am a World of Warcraft addict.
Whew…That felt good.
Before thoughts of stereotypes go flying through your head about the typical World of Warcraft player, allow me to stipulate by saying I come about my addiction honestly and that I am hiding nothing in my plea for sanctuary from this most horrible of digital deviance. While I will say that my experiences with the multiplayer monstrosity from Blizzard have not been completely negative, I also feel that sometimes you have to know to leave the party before all the good stuff to drink is gone, so to speak.
But, before any kind of silly reflections or moments of clarity allow me to start from the beginning.
The winter of 2007 was surely the season of my discontempt. I was locked in a veritable fugue state due to failing out of nursing school and felt an utter disregard for ever trying to accomplish something ever again. To give some insight, nursing schools typically require you to pass a series of courses each quarter and if you fail even one of them (in this case, a failing grade being anything lower than a final average of 78) you must start right from the beginning…
…the equivalent of playing through a long section of a game that doesn’t have an autosave point and dying right before you reach the end.
I received a final grade of 76 in the microbiology class (while getting an A average in the actual nursing courses) and was left devastated because for the first time in my life I failed at something I set my mind to. I took a leave of absence from college and drifted aimlessly through my days when I didn’t have to be at work.
Like many of the socially inept mindset I went about drowning my sordid sorrows in videogames–mainly RPGs. The genre had always provided comfort as the arching story lines intrigued my imagination and provided me with thoughts to envelope my mind that didn’t involve thinking about my academic missteps.
Then I stumbled across a game called World of Warcraft.
The idea of paying for a video game per month had always seemed silly to me, especially since I lacked a credit card. Also worth mentioning is the fact that I have been a console gamer for the majority of my game playing tenure (minus a few expeditions into RTS territory thanks to Command and Conquer), and like many pure console players, the system requirements and hardware upgrades that come along with aligning yourself with a PC gaming experience seemed silly. Nonetheless, I installed World of Warcraft with slight trepidation, created a Draenei priest named Deardramezda, and tried to figure out what all the fuss had been about in this massively multiplayer role playing game.
And as New Found Glory said once, “It’s all downhill from here”.
The initial draw to World of Warcraft was that unlike my beloved console RPGs the game never truly ended. Sure, there were the usual +new game modes, secret dungeons to discover, and ultimate weapons to acquire…But Warcraft was different. The environment in WoW felt like the world had a pulse and was constantly in motion. Even though while leveling my first character up I had nobody to play with that I knew in person, the social nature of the game easily allowed for interactions with your fellow players. Soon enough I found myself in a guild of like minded individuals who united for a similar reason: “Phat loots”.
The addiction spread like wildfire in the forests of California. Soon enough I spent my time reading up on the lore of the universe, message board posts about the best spell rotations, the proper way to gear your character for high end content, and arguing with other anonymous addicts about the minutia of the game itself. I was in a sad state of affairs from the outside perspective…But at least I was happy.
My habit took an interesting twist when I found out my friends I worked with at Gamestop also played the game. Now I had a real life attachment that continued on into the lands of Azeroth. Long discussions about gear statistics, the utterly stupid people we had ran dungeons with, and whether or not we thought Thrall would end up with Jaina Proudmoore were now the standard of the day. And now that I had a real life connection that lead in game, my pensiveness about being so deeply entrenched into World of Warcraft lessened. I rationalized like any addict that “I’m not the only one, so it must not be that bad”.
But, cracks in the glass began to appear. I remember specifically the first time I began to think about if my attachment to the game had gone too far when out at a Chinese restaurant one night with fellow player and close friend Jeremy (Tanthel – Argent Dawn), we got into a heated discussion about the at-the-time upcoming Death Knight class. As a group of local high school kids walked by, one of them overheard our argument about the best way to specialize a death knight and decided to jump in with his own opinion. Jeremy and I both immediately stopped what we were doing, stared the kid down, and forced him away like a naughty puppy cowering in fear from a newspaper.
At that point, I laughed and pointed out what a loser the kid was (because clearly Jeremy and I knew so much more about the game than he…Oh, the elitist complex), and continued on talking about the overpoweredness that was Obliterate. As Jeremy kept talking I thought to myself that maybe this was social deviance on our part. I began to wonder if we really were so much better just because we knew more. I shrugged off the notion as best I could and continued to devour my cheese wonton.
But the seeds of doubt had been sown.
The breaking of the proverbial camel’s back came not too long after “the wonton incident”. I had re-enrolled into college at my Father’s alma mater of Ohio University and found myself living on my own for the first time. Loneliness had set in to an extent, as I was in new territory and generally afraid of putting myself into the open of social encounters. Luck had smiled on me this one particular day however, as a friend from one of my classes invited me to hang out with her.
As she asked me of my plans I twitched a bit and felt a dark feeling start to burrow in my stomach…I had a raid in Naxxramas tonight. I might finally replace this silly staff from Zul’Aman….I ALREADY SIGNED UP FOR THE RAID AND SAID I WOULD ATTEND!
Clearly, going out was simply out of the question.
Ashamed of myself, I made up some excuse about having a paper to write, but perhaps another time (which never happened). At this point I came to the stark realization that I had a problem. Being the analytic type of person that I am, I decided the best way to assess the true depth of my habit was the break down why I liked the game, what I didn’t like about the game, and my options.
I took a look at what draws not only me, but others to the game. My reasons listed earlier about the game being an evolving environment certainly stuck out as the biggest point. I also considered the social implications. Players create shared experiences through their trials and tribulations in the game with those they play with. Thanks to these shared experiences, bonds are formed and a group mindset is formed (one reason why guilds are such a big draw in the game). Communication theory would call this “Symbolic Convergence”, and is something similar to the comradery that fans of sports teams feel. A sense of belonging is created that filled the voids I had in my life at the time.
The third, and probably the most relatable reason for playing are purely monetary. The “next-gen” console boom that came along with the PS3 and 360 saw an increase in the price of games. I’m sure many of you can relate to being a poor college student and being forced to pass up, or at least be more choosey about the games you play. With Warcraft I’m paying around fifteen dollars a month for a game that changes on a regular basis (content wise, at least). This certainly beats how much money I COULD be going through if I bought a new game every month.
Of course, there is a yin to this yang. The negative aspects are that World of Warcraft easily breaks down into doing monotonous tasks over and over with a reward that is purely meant to keep you playing. Some would refer to this as “Purple Fever”, or the chasing of epic quality (purple being the color associated with the highest quality gear) items and upgrades. Really, once you start the endgame content of World of Warcraft (or any MMO) you’re doing the same things over and over until a new expansion with new quests comes out. But, because we are paying per month for the “privilege” to play this game we tend to ignore the fact that we’re really just doing something that a trained chimp could handle.
To be blunt: World of Warcraft players are paying fifteen dollars a month for a glorified fashion show…and we gladly do so over and over. Why? Personal investment. My total time played for just one of my characters is over four weeks of actual in game playing time. As I write this, I think about that time and feel really sorry for myself. I have put so much time and effort into this character that I have an urge to “keep the party going” so to speak.
And so I have.
I’m not going to say that my time playing World of Warcraft is purely negative. Thanks to the game I keep in touch with friends from home and all over the globe that I wouldn’t get a chance to talk to otherwise. Warcraft allows me to think analytically and to enjoy a quality story line from a fantasy universe with a stellar lore background. But, I also don’t let the game control my life. I have great friends and loved ones that I cherish individually, and when the time comes to step away from Azeroth and into the real world I gladly do so.
Besides…I need to take a break for awhile. The next expansion will be out soon, and the cycle will start again.
Stay classy, kids.