Friday, January 25, 2008

Why I'm Still Here

So firstly I just want to say that I am probably more amused than I should be at the fact that Google Reader is recommending me to myself:

Anyways, on to the meat of this post.

First we had Someone and now just today Laser Chicken, two great WoW bloggers who have decided it's time to quit playing the game and move on with their lives . While it's sad to see them go, I'm also glad that they're doing what makes them happiest, and on top of that... it's really just the nature of our hobby. As I've said in a few different comments now... I'm going to quit playing someday too. It's not so much a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when". All the games I have ever been really obsessed with, I have eventually stopped playing (or slowed down enough that it can be considered "over"; with WoW you get more finality than with other games because you actually have to cancel your account and then you can't play again until you re-subscribe.)

Lemme tell you a little story. Before I played WoW I played Neopets. A browser-based cross between virtual pets and an MMO. Now despite this game's reputation as being just another kiddie site, let me assure you this is a very deep site with legions of adult fans. It has an economy the intricacies of which I'm sure are more in-depth than WoW's. It has an astonishing amount of stuff to do and an astonishing number of goals to accomplish, goals which can often take months-- or more-- to reach.

I played this game every day throughout the day (being a browser-based game, you could multitask and play it and do other things at the same time, which was nice) for probably about a year and a half or two years or so. What really got me hooked was the money-making aspect. There are a few different ways to earn Neopoints and I earned mine through restocking; refreshing a shop page every few minutes, buying up all the items and then reselling them for more in my shop. I got good at this. I could tell you what the best deals were to resell. I could tell you what the rare ones were that you could nab. The economy was changing constantly and I had to deal with that and I loved the challenge.

This was all really fun at first. I had one goal I was working towards: I wanted the rarest most expensive Neopet in the game. It would cost about 2.5million Neopoints.

It took me a year.

One year of restocking. One year of playing games. One year of scrounging up every last Neopoint I could get my hands on. And then I did it: I got him. The rare dragon-like Draik. It was an immense accomplishment for me. And yes I know it sounds super-dorky. But I was really proud of myself.

I kept playing for about a year after that, because after I'd accomplished my main goal I'd sort of gotten greedy and there were dozens of other goals that I wanted. I wanted to collect all the avatars I could. I wanted to collect all the special sidebars that I could. I wanted to get as many trophies as I could on my user lookup. I wanted more Neopoints so I could buy the second most-expensive Neopet, and so I could paint all my Neopets rare fancy colors.

And as time went on... it quit being a game.

It became a job.

I would log on in the morning and do my dailies and maybe half-heartedly play throughout the day to get my allocated 10,000NP (my minimum amount of money I'd allow myself to make in one day) and then I would just be glad when I was all finished for the day. I was no longer having fun. I was merely playing for two reasons: a.) to maintain my status as a successful Neopets player, and b.) because I'd made some friends who I would chat with on the chat boards.

Finally this past May I started playing WoW. I continued to sort of play Neopets after that... less and less... recently my Premium Neopets subscription expired (you can play the game for free, but Premium nets you a bunch of benefits). I chose not to re-subscribe and I haven't played since.

I look back on it and at first glance I see a couple years spent playing an online game, making online currency, so I could make some pixels on a screen look nicer than they do by default.

...but ya know what? I still feel some of those accomplishments I made in an online game were legitimate accomplishments. I set a goal. I worked for that goal. I achieved that goal. Yes the goal was merely fantasy, pixels that aren't tangible. But the process of working hard and achieving something is very real. That feeling of accomplishment has stuck with me. I don't regret the time I spent playing Neopets. I learned more about supply and demand than I ever did in school, I made new friends, and I learned that if you can put your mind to something you can accomplish even the most far-off-sounding goal.

When I started WoW I determined that I was not going to let it become a job. I was going to take it one day at a time, enjoy exploring the world and playing it how I want to play it, and then when I got tired I would quit. And that's how I've played it. I've met lots of amazing new people and made new friends. I've found something that I can take pride in (playing my hunter). I've learned a lot about teamwork and group work... more than ever before I feel like I know what it means to work as a team, simply because of what I've learned from when I do an instance. And this will sound strange but because of WoW I feel like I have a new way to connect to my siblings (all of whom were WoW players long before I was) and my boyfriend and I also have a multitude of new things to talk about. If I do start to feel overwhelmed, I take a break. Usually the feeling passes pretty quickly.

"But Pike, it's not real. It's just a game." Yes. But without launching into a whole 'nother essay about why video games have helped me become a better person, I'll just say that I read somewhere that it's not that playing video games or enjoying other hobbies is a bad thing. It's the time that you pour into something that you could be evenly distributing with other things. I play WoW a lot. I read/write about WoW a lot. Yes. But I also have a job that I enjoy, family and a boyfriend that I hang out with, and even the occasional forays into the outside "social world" (I have never been a social person, so honestly, it's not like WoW has gobbled up my "social time" because I rarely had any "social time" to begin with. =P) However, I will say I'm glad I waited to play WoW until after I graduated university. (Quite glad!)

Anyways, the key is in variety and if you can maintain that variety and that balance then you're doing good.

Will I quit playing WoW someday the same way I quit playing Neopets? Yep. I'm going to try my hardest not to let it burn me out the way Neopets did though. And I can tell you that all the benefits I've reaped from WoW and other video games are benefits that are going to stay with me. The game world is not real, but the people you meet are and the things you learn and the feelings you have are. So try your best to make your experience a positive one. It's a game-- have fun. =D


Dammerung said...

What I've found is that WoW has given myself and my wife something to talk about when we're both just tired of talking about 'real' things. We can set goals that are readily achievable and that also has helped in its own little way.

While I'm certain I will not be playing wow 10 maybe even 5 years from now I know that right now, it is a good thing and something we can do together while a tired little orclette sleeps.

I agree about the balance. If you stop the rest of your life entirely to devote it to your WoW life, you probably need to stop and make sure that doing so is something that is healthy for you. And usually its not.

My rambling aside; for now, WoW has actually increased my time with my wife and given us a hobby we can use to grow closer together with. So for now, I'm keeping it, like you.

Gah I'm not supposed to talk this much in comments but I wanted to -delurk-

Nialla said...

Well, you'll quit wow someday but maybe not gaming? or blogging?

Pike said...

Yay, good to see you Dammerung *waves*

@ Nialla - I most certainly won't quit gaming... blogging, I'm not sure, my personal journal I'm sure will still be around, not sure what will happen to my "public blogging" though. We'll see when I get there I suppose.

Eleanor said...

Thanks for this post, Pike - it really sums up my feelings on the issue as well. I don't blame folks for quitting if they're not having fun any more - but I *am* still having fun (and I resent some of the quitters for assuming that no-one else could possibly be having fun any more either).