Saturday, November 15, 2008

Farewell, Cruel World (of Warcraft)- Part One

Or, In Which I Out Myself as a Huge Geek.

This is me, cyber-me. Or it was until today. I am now a RECOVERING huge geek, cause I'm taking this opportunity to escape.

But I played this game for upwards of two years, logging more game hours than I will ever admit to anyone save Darco. This is Darco, by the way:

Yes, I took that to display his boobs to full advantage. Yes, I made him take off his shirt. He's an animated lesbian elf avatar- what do you expect?

So how do I commemorate this colossal time suck? Well first, I have to make you understand how difficult it can be to leave this thing. In part two, I'll tell you why the colossal time suck was worth it!

In short, this post is about:


First off, why is Warcraft such a black hole of time usage? Why does WOW get sued when Trivial Pursuit is allowed to work its quiet mischief unmolested? The answer is simple: WOW is like the world's best-designed casino.

Ok, what are the primary elements of the casino trap?

1. NO WINDOWS. Obviously, most people have windows in their homes (internet/gaming cafes are another story). But staring at a computer screen has an uncanny ability to double as a constantly bright window, right in front of your face. Staring at it tends to eclipse the passing of the day in your actual window.

2. NO CLOCKS. Warcraft has a clock, but you have to roll over to see it. It also has a /played command which will tell you how long you've been playing on a certain character or account. But you have to, yknow, make the command.

3. MAZE-LIKE NAVIGATION. It takes frickin forever to get anywhere in WOW- between 5 and 20 minutes to travel from one area to another. But there are often intermediate stops (or you have to run the whole way), so you can't just get up and do something else for half an hour. Here is a quote from the designers on the subject: "...the reason for the potential delay in free-roaming is to allow the development team a chance to design and create exciting and interesting content which people will not simply fly over and ignore." And this, mind you, is regarding the use of the faster mounts (horses, birds, etc), not goddam instant teleportation or something. Anyway. Not only does travel time add up, it takes so long to get anywhere that you feel like you want to do as much in a given area before you quit as possible, just so you don't have to run there again.

4. SURROUNDED WITH EVIDENCE OF "WINNING." In a casino, its the sound of ringing slots. Whether they're actually tolling out victory or not is irrelevant- it
sounds like victory. In Warcraft, there are about 5,000 people per server, so you are always going to see people that are better or farther along than you. You are constantly aware of what is achievable.

5. IT IS NOT A PASSIVE EXPERIENCE. Gamblers are made to feel like they have influence over their performance. In WOW its easy to feel this way because, more than in a casino, it is true. If you put in (alot) of grinding time, you can get almost as well-geared as a top raider. Whether you can become a competent player this way is another matter- hence the term welfare epics.

6. SMALL REWARDS THAT COME OFTEN. You are always being rewarded for something, but it takes a while to get to big pay-offs. You feel like you are acomplishing something, while still being incentivized to continue.

7. SKIMPY CLOTHES: see Darco's toon above. And see that pic below on the right? Haha thats ARMOR! Metal bikinis are totally legit as protective clothing. Clearly.

Characters can strip down to their skivvies and dance. Human females do the macarena, but my character does something that I can only describe as Stripper Lite. Men in the game get weirdly...excited...when female avatars get naked and/or dance. Especially if they know they are played by actual women. There are people who earn in-game money by dancing naked in the big cities. Its just like Vegas!

8. FOOD AND DRINK COMES TO YOU so as not to interrupt your flow. In WOW, you're at home. Everything you need is about 30 sec away. Though Darco tells me that people are so excited about the recent expansion that people are literally (and I mean literally) staying at their computers for 24+ hours, leading to comments in general chat like this one: "I wish there was a toilet in my chair. I really have to pee, but I don't want to get up."

9. CONSTANT, RYTHMIC ACTION. Cards are dealt, bets are made, hands are revealed, wheels are spun and then it starts over. WOW has this irritating tendency towards quest chains- one leads to another leads to another. You just want to finish the line, so you keep going.

10. REPETITION AND A SHORT LEARNING CURVE (to be able to have fun, anyway). This is one of the major reasons I'm quitting. I just don't think Blizz has anything really new to throw at us. There is a limited number of quest types, and once you learn them you know exactly what you have to do to complete any given one. The prospect of the expansion pack sending my high-raid level characters back to questing and levelling...blegh, I can't stomach it. Raiding and PVP (player vs player, duh), which is what I have been doing pretty much exclusively for the last year and a half, has a more lasting appeal, but that is due to the human element (see Part Two) rather the game elements being dramatically different. To defeat a given boss requires coordination, teamwork and keeping 25 people focused. If you can do that, you can manage any game event within your gear level.

11. IT TAKES VIRTUALLY NO PHYSICAL ENERGY, so hypothetically you could keep playing as long as you can stay awake.

So much for reasons to quit, wrapped up in genuine (though grudging) admiration for the totally self-aware way Blizz sucks people in to their tar pit of a game. Next up, why I enjoyed it all the same.

But first, a quick (totally geeky, totally insider-y) cry about what they did to my class, cause you know its not ALL about how I could be doing something better with my time. In comic form!



  1.'re totally a loser! In the process of writing this thing, you actually spent even more time on Warcraft than if you had just quit the game cold turkey sans blog entry! Mwahaha -- Blizzard is winning!

  2. Of course they win! That's what the whole post was about- they always frickin win! Although, really the only way they could gain directly from THIS is if someone read it and was inspired to try it themselves (doubt it). Blizz hasn't gotten any of my money since October.

  3. I confess to spending a lot of time on games. Unlike most people, I actually keep track of what I've done over the last year.

    On an average day, I'll play:
    Spider Solitaire - 2 games - 25 minutes
    Kakuro - partials - 15 minutes
    Sudoku - 1 game + partials - 25 minutes
    Occasional other games - not tracked

    So that's over an hour a day, or roughly 8 hours a week. Now it is true that about 30% of that time is "toilet time". What have I gained? I'm good at them now. And I use these things to relax, on occasion. But they are like a candy bar to me - they aren't something I look forward to (i.e. not waffles!) but they've become a little habit. I see them and start snacking.

    So if I don't look forward to them, can I at least say "I look back on them fondly?" Well, .... no. But are they a waste of time? Hard to say - because they do relax me, and that may pay off more than the time I invest. But I doubt it. I guess I should cut my game time and replace it with something better - like reading.