Breaking the WoW addiction

World of Warcraft stole my life!

Lots of fervour in the press about WoW lately, largely surrounding some Swedish teenager that put himself in hospital playing beyond the point of exhaustion. Tabloid headlines aside, it IS horrendously addictive for many, myself included. The headlines are just a wake up call for what is an insidiously dangerous game. What’s less splashed across the press is that in the US and other countries the games is directly linked to a fall in university entrances and rise in drop-outs. Can’t remember the links offhand but feel free to Google it.

Then there are the scary tales, some of which I’ve heard of first hand, of the level and length some of the hardcore raiding guilds go to – such as coercing members to ‘pull a sickie’ from work and college, faking illness to play because they are needed for the next 25 man raid. Even relatively large but socially orientated guilds are pushing towards 3 raids a week, with the hardcore guilds running 5, 6 even 7 raids a week, with punitive threats and expulsions for minor infractions.

The ‘achievements’ (which I like – but hate)  only reinforce the idea that the suits at Blizzard will do anything they can to keep players hooked and filling the companies coffers with monthly fees, knock on and franchise sales. PLAY MORE, PLAY LONGER is very much the subtle mantra they are preaching and actively pushing.

I’ll get back to this (above) in a minute, but consider this thought: many long-term players (1 to 4 years) will have hundreds, often thousands of days logged across their characters or avatars. When I say days, I mean literally days, hundreds of days.

Talking away in guild chat we got round to how long we’ve played individual characters (/played in-game). Between 100 and 200+ days was common – per avatar – with many of us having several ‘main’ toons in the level 70-80 range to cover healing, tanking, dps etc in the various classes. And, as in my case, every single profession covered and maxed to 450, with almost every recipe, including many obscure ones – and an almost maniacal obsession to get the last ones. ‘Gotta catch ’em all‘ as the Pokemon catchphrase says.

For arguments sake, across a score of Horde and Alliance alts on several servers, let’s say I’ve /played 500 days in total.

That’s 500 x 24 hours of sitting in front of a screen playing one game.

That 1,500 working days.

Or something like 5 man years.

Five years of your life lost forever – and you are paying Blizzard about £100 a year for the privilege.

Given the average weekly wage in the UK is £479       ( http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=285 )

Yes, I know the game has only been out 4 years, but while the average working week is 40 hours, out of work addicts to this game can – and do – easily spends 12 to 16, even 20 hours  a day, seven days a week feeding the addiction. As one of the tech sites put it (in response to the Swedish incident), it’s not like you can snort a line of Arcane Dust*.  But that’s it in effect what you are doing, if you get hooked to this.  ( http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/02/27/world_of_warcrack/ )

There’s a lot to like about the game, from the gathering aspect, to the financial wheeling and dealing in the Auction Houses, to the strategic planning for taking down raid bosses, to just sitting in town socialising in says and chats.

There’s also a lot wrong with the game, from males pretending to be girls prostituting themselves for gold, to the incessant barrage from gold sellers (that many conspiracy theorists rightly point out Blizzard do little to curtail, leading to the conclusion they profit from it), to the many frankly dim-witted and often antagonistic teenagers and twenty-somethings that delight in cyber-bullying behind the cowardly anonymity of their online persona.

One of the breaking points for me was an idiot teenager spamming (in the guild) whose attitude to being asked to stop was “If you don’t like it, don’t play the game, you ******* noob”

Another breaking point was the realisation of how many hours, days and months of my life I’ve wasted playing this game when I could be doing something more constructive like working on my web sites or learning another language. It genuinely would not surprise me, nor my long-suffering wife, if my ‘hours played’ in the past year were in the region of 4 to 5,000 hours.

I’m retired now, but let’s put this into perspective. If I developed one website every 10 hours at just £100, the game is costing me £50,000 a year in lost earnings!

Or I could be practically half way through a Master’s degree…

But in the end, it was Blizzard themselves that stopped my addiction. Well not stopped as I still get unnaturally strong cravings to get my fix of daily quests and achievements…

*stands up* I am a wowaholic, it has been 3 days since my last login!

Nope, what all financial factors and negative players and aspects of the game couldn’t achieve, what the concern of friends and family over the reality of playing anything up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year couldn’t achieve, Blizzard managed with one  ‘achievement’.

Well, two really:

One was the ever-increasing frustration of not getting the Mongoose enchantment to drop and not being able to get groups for ‘old country’ instances and raids. In Guildwars I could shrug and happily ‘solo’ it with my self configured band of npc heroes (non-player characters) . In Blizzard you get to waste hour after hour, day after day waiting for the right friends to log in or for a ‘PuG’ (pick up group), most of which either a) fall apart for various reasons and/or b) include or are led by ninjas that go, steal the drop(s) they want and leave.

And the piece d’resistance? It isn’t actually out for another week, but it’s pets. One of my hooks on the game in the pets and you really do ‘Gotta catch ’em all’ Or as many as is achievable. But, the thing is, I positively hate pvp. Some people live and breath for playing against other people, the (sad) dance of victory as they grind their opponent into the sands of the arena and /spit on their broken corpse. And the new pets need tournament arena achievements. The pet I and everyone else would want is the armoured Murloc. Woohoo. You ‘just’ have to enter 200 arenas to earn one.

You ‘just’ have to fight 200 players in the course of a few weeks the tournament lasts. Hundreds of matches running into several hundred man hours – literally several working weeks to get an in-game pet, albeit Bind on Account.

Unlike many others I really, REALLY don’t like pvp. I’m just not a people person. Apart from the fact computers didn’t even exist when I left college, and the fact I’m over 6′ and nowty as hell,  I’m the eternal geek that’s typified in The Simpsons and a thousand tv shows and movies. Take me away from my computers, donuts and pizzas and I’m lost.

And now, with the introduction of Wrath, the incessant dubbing down of the game and an almost fervent push towards PvP by the developers, and the push towards playing for playing’s sake to actively encourage obsessiveness to boost the bulging coffers beyond the billions of dollars they already pull in a year… Sorry Blizzard but you can PvP off – or words to that effect.

To earn the murloc pet, the 200 games must be completed during the last four weeks of the qualification period, after team ratings are reset to 1,500 on or about March 10th ( http://www.warcraftpets.com/news/archives/?m=2&y=2009#armored_murloc )

Each Eligible Participant that competes in two hundred (200) matches during the final four weeks of the Qualification round of the Tournament shall be eligible to receive a unique, in-game “pet,” that the Eligible Participant may associate with characters on the World of Warcraft account registered by the Eligible Participant. The pet will be mailed to the character designated by the Eligible Participant during the registration process within four weeks following the Qualification Round of the Tournament.

OK, yes, did I mention that as well, in a blatant exploit of players, you have to pay £12 to participate in the sodding 3 by 3 tournament. Seriously considering cancelling my account over this! ( http://www.wow-europe.com/en/info/basics/arena/tournament/index.xml )

*stands up* I am a wowaholic, it has been 3 days, 2 hours and 6 minutes since my last login!

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