If you could spend the next 2 years of your life doing one thing for 4.5 hours per day, every single day, what would it be?
Surely you could get a firm grasp on a new language, or learn to play a musical instrument, or get an associates degree, or transform your body into peak physical condition, or spend time with loved ones, or start a business, or master a computer programming language, or any of an infinite list of potentially life enhancing activities.
Of all the things I could have done for the past two years, I chose to play World of Warcraft.
I used to make fun of my sister all the time because she spent so much time playing WoW. I could talk to her on the phone and tell that she wasn’t really paying attention; that she was off in some distant world slaying dragons or leveling up her alchemy skills. I’d tell her, “Sounds like you’re running low on mana. Perhaps you need to cast a Level 3 End Conversation Spell.”
I never saw the game as something negative, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I preferred more “real life” video games such as baseball, basketball, or some first person war simulation shoot em’ up; something I could play for an hour or so then move on with my life.
That all changed when a friend of mine became ill. During a lengthy treatment and recovery process, she was unable to participate in many everyday activities, and was eager to find something to fill those hours of idle time. A friend of hers suggested World of Warcraft; insisting it was just what she was looking for.
Both my friend and I found the suggestion pretty funny, because neither of us could envision the other playing a fantasy game, let alone enjoying it. Nevertheless, she signed up for the 10 day trial, and I did the same. She and I used to chat on Yahoo! Messenger every day, so I pretty much had to play too if I expected to talk to her again. 😛
After the first day, neither of us saw the appeal, and we were both confident our WoW career would end when the trial period expired. After the second day, we were a bit more comfortable with the interface and decided that the game was pretty intuitive and easy to play, but we were still clueless about what we were supposed to do. After the 5th day, we started to appreciate the level of detail and artwork that went into creating such a large virtual world, and we agreed that we could see why so many people liked the game, but there was no way we were going to spend $15 per month to play. After the 10th day, we sheepishly signed up for subscriptions and jumped in with both feet.
I have to say, the folks at Blizzard really understand people and their behaviors. So much effort was put into creating a game that is simple to play yet challenging to master, as well as a reward system that keeps people coming back for more, no matter what their skill level. Adding to the already well-thought-out user interface is an endless selection of third party addons designed to enhance the game-play. When you throw in the social aspect of making friends, creating guilds, and group questing and raiding, World of Warcraft is a potent recipe for a truly addictive gaming experience.
For over two years, I played. I leveled up two characters to the maximum level, achieved virtually all the in-game goals I wanted to achieve, and I even made a few new friends along the way. However, this past Thursday, my subscription expired and I did not renew it. I had decided a few months ago that I would quit the game, and I’m still not 100% sure why. Maybe I don’t like feeling that the game has control over me, or maybe I just want to see what I can do with those extra 4.5 hours per day? Whatever it is, there’s something inside that is telling me it’s time to close this chapter of my life.
It’s been a fun ride, but now it’s time to mount up on my Winterspring Frostsaber and head out into the sunset.
I leave you with one of the funniest World of Warcraft movies ever, “I’m on a Mount”. Enjoy!