This article is by no means a comprehensive review of the intricate tapestry that is Blizzard’s behemoth, but more of a song of nostalgia, a reflection upon what was, for a very long time, my second life. If this article can be said to have a purpose, then it is to provide a window into the mind of a formerly voracious MMORPG player, to attempt to answer the proclamation that it so often heard of avid gamers: I just don’t know how someone can play that game for so long. Well, let me explain.
Living in World of Warcraft is an ostensibly terrifying idea; I doubt any among us would wish to submit themselves to nine-hour Skype calls or the windy cold that plagues endless bouts of Alterac Valley, but many of us do nonetheless. There is a very simple reason for this. World of Warcraft is, in many ways, simply better and more appealing than reality.
When I was most immersed in the Kobold-ridden world that had become more real for me than what I saw through my window, I can’t say that my (real) life was bad. It was really rather comfortable. I had a job, I went to college, and I had very little to complain about. I wasn’t ‘addicted’
because I was escaping some heroine addicted drug dealer with an obsession for acquiring and devouring my heart. I was just consumed with the notion that what I was doing mattered. I didn’t see my avatar as a mass of pixels glittering across a screen, but as an extension of myself, with responsibilities and objectives. It is a cliché at this point, but I was living in the game.
What was that like? I can’t remember much of my feelings from the time when my mind was so encapsulated, but I know that I miss it sometimes. I miss being descended upon by hordes of attackers in Scarlet Monastery and thunder clapping them to the grave, the picturesque view that greeted me every time I stepped into Arathi Basin, flying into Horde areas and mindlessly slaughtering unsuspecting low-levels with no remorse, and the grandeur; that I miss most of all.
The phrase ‘living in a game’ is not just a proverb or an expression. It is an accurate description of what you are doing. Some days I would literally only leave my room to use the bathroom and eat. In real life all I was doing was sitting at a computer, reeking of sweat, tapping away at the keyboard and lazily moving the mouse every now and again. But in reality, in reality I was a fearsome Warrior. In reality I’d be soaring through the skies atop a dragon, on my way to a dungeon, where myriad enemies awaited me. That is the main point that need be impressed, that is why I was able to play World of Warcraft for so long, because to me it was not a game. It was a life, a fantastic and exciting one.
For that reason ‘addicted’ is a misleading word in this context, because it does not describe how the gamer views it. Of course that can be said of any addiction, but it is subtly different for a gamer. They don’t lose any faculties; they simply transfer them to a different life. A heroin addict knows that he is taking heroin, even when he is taking it. A gamer forgets that they are playing a game. To them logging back in isn’t equivalent to injecting themselves with the needle, but is more akin to returning home after a hard day’s work.
To me, when discussing MMORPG’s, ‘addicted’ was synonymous with ‘departing Earth and transcending the banality of everyday life to become something great’: a Mage, a Warrior, or a mighty Death Knight perhaps. That is how someone who is ‘addicted’ to a game feels.
They no longer see themselves playing a game; they have utterly forgotten that fact. All they see is a hotbar littered with fiery abilities and a PVP vendor excreting allure. Their physical form melts away. They no longer feel the touch of the keys or the controller. They are directly connected with the game, on a visceral level, and it is just as ‘real’ as ‘reality’ is to anybody else.
That said returning to Azeroth is not something I will do for a very long time, because now I have moved house, changed life, stepped out from the game and back into the monotony of Earth. I can’t say that I prefer it here, but everyone must pay their dues before they get to slip comfortably back into happiness. That is how I view my hiatus from WOW: life has made its demands and I will meet them, but one day I shall return, when I am able.