Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Life of Game: Kicking the Habbit

Just over a year ago, I made the fairly crucial error of signing up for a free trial of "World of Warcraft". I'm not going to link that, because if you haven't heard of Warcraft, you are almost definitely living in a cave and therefore not linked to the internet and therefore not reading this post. (I want to make it clear that I in no way intend to insult you if you do in fact live in a cave, which by law, could be classed as a residence.)

Once the free trial had ended, I was persuaded to sign up for a full blown subscribed account by a few friends who wanted to set up their own guild, which struck me as a good idea.

What followed was similar to a Zombie survival style film. First of all we lost a veteran player who actually knew what he was doing, then we moved realms which culled a few more players and then exams hit. Matt and Kris for example went to a festival and stopped playing for the summer and then decided that they quite liked the outside world.

Although the analogy to a Zombie survival style film is actually quite tenuous, but you get the point. I ended up being one of the last people left. I think there are a couple of others, but we all appear to have odd logging on habbits and seem to work different shifts in terms of Warcraft.

The point that I really am trying to get to, is that people quit. I don't mind it when someone stops playing something, or gives something a break, but the thing that makes me furrow my brow a little is when somebody quits as if the game is a large brick of heroine. I am well aware that Everquest, an early online RPG, was dubbed as "Evercrack", and that many people have waxed lyrical about how addictive Warcraft is, but to make such a strong quitting declaration over a computer game seems just a tiny bit extreme.
It is possible that I am quibbling over semantics here, but I recently spoke to a colleague of mine who has quit in this manner, and her reason appears to be that the game is too good and that there are other things that she would like to do. That is in essence, fair enough, but I can't think of a single instance where I have not played a game because it was too good, nor can I think of any time that the presence of a game has prevented me from doing something different that I wanted to do. Admittedly, I've had that "oh, it's daylight again" sensation once or twice, but not to any phenominally unhealthy degree.

It's not even just Warcraft that inspires this level of "kicking the habbit". My occassionally-bordering-on-OCD-when-presented-with-video-games friend Elliott has frequently announced that he is giving up computer games and promptly destroys saved games, uninstalls software and attempts to utilise the CDs as frisbees. All that happens is the feral gamer reawakens after a couple of days of monotony in the real world, hunts around in the garden for discarded CDs and then reinstalls everything, insurring the cycle can repeat.

What I'm really trying to say is that I think it's a real shame that fewer people achieve some degree of compromise with these things and that the only options they really see are on or off. The main element that throws this complaint out of whack is that Warcraft costs money each month, and so taking a more casual approach may seem like you're not getting the most out of it, or quite plainly that £8.99 is just being burnt each month. As well as this, to really get anything out of a game like Warcraft, you really need to put a lot of time into it, with some groups of people expecting you to play every night in order to get a place on raids and such. I'm also aware that this could just be me being bitter about the fact that my gun-slinging-engineering-hunter-cow used to have a small platoon of friends, whereas now it is in fact Fien and myself against the rest of the world.

Whatever the true reason for this feeling of mine is, I would like Warcraft declassified as the class A substance that people think it is and for compromise to muscle it's way into the otherwise binary option of play vs. don't play.

Additional Notes:
The free trial was fun. I think you get a lot out of the game when you know you only have 14 days. It's like a trailer for a film: You get to see some fairly interesting stuff, and you don't get completely bored out of your skull by the clumsy building up sections that have odd pacing.

The guild was called "Balls of Cthulhu". This isn't as offensive as it sounds, but based on the UCL juggling society's name, "Balls", as most of the members were jugglers. Many people have sent me messages saying that the guild name is "awesome" or various alternatives for that word.

Elliott has an incredibly strong Guild Wars addiction. Guild Wars is in fact a much better game, but it requires a little more team work and interaction with strangers than Warcraft, and the thing that I have started to learn about online games is that I tend not to like interacting with other players... I've mentioned that in Warcraft, it is now myself and Fien against the world. This isn't essentially true. It is in fact me against the world, being generally grumpy with anything that doesn't inspire me with confidence in the first 5 seconds of contact, with Fien being a good PR manager for our two person team and dealing with their random requests for help.

When it comes down to it, what I really want to say is "all things in moderation, especially moderation." Maybe all of this is just an issue of willpower, and maybe I am being naive in thinking that I could just stop playing whenever I wanted withouth going 100% cold turkey.

1 comment:

DJ said...

I think everyone needs time to find their own balance when it comes to Warcraft. "Whatever works for them" is the term that springs to mind.

If a person wants to be completely consumed by this game to the point of having no outside life, then I would say that was their choice (albeit a rather wasteful and probably harmful one). But who are we to tell people how to live their lives? Conversely, if a person has to go “cold turkey” then why let it bother us so much? After all, it's simply their way of dealing with it at the time.

Some sources suggest approximately 40% of players are seriously addicted to wow and according to those statistics, I highly doubt this game will ever be "declassified as the class A substance that people think it is".

On a personal note, I think many people forget that this is just a GAME, as enticing as it is, and life does exist outside of the sat-in-front-of-my-computer-having-oodles-of-fun virtual world. Perhaps it’s just me taking life too casually, but the stolen phrase: “Why so serious?” generally pops to mind when dealing with in-game players.

In any case, I have to admit the world would be a better place if we could all be as well-balanced as you appear to be… and I agree with your closing thoughts of all things in moderation… but if all else fails “Que Sera Sera”.

This is all just my opinion...