WoW: Drinking Alone

Five days since my last post. I’ve been playing WoW, I just haven’t been posting. I intended to post on Friday evening, but wound up playing a little more instead, and then wound up basically spending all day Saturday exhausting the quests in the Hellfire Peninsula zone to the extent that I was able, then pursuing more quests in Zangarmarsh. When I realized that the 24 hour point from the start of Friday’s session, and therefore my self-imposed posting deadline, was fast approaching, I thought “Yeah, I really should post something soon, or at least stop playing for the day”, but once that deadline was behind me, it seemed less urgent. (It should be noted that the WoW interface contains a real-time clock, so losing track of time is no excuse. However, this also means one less reason to switch back to the desktop and break the trance.)

So clearly, I’m finding this game compelling. (Which, remember, is a quality that’s orthogonal to fun, and not necessarily a good thing in itself.) It’s compelling enough that the moment I start playing, the rest of the day is lost. But this is a little strange, because the usual cited reason that people feel compelled to play WoW is the social component — that is, the same sort of reinforcement as is behind Facebook games, but with the added snare that your guildmates are counting on you to show up at appointed times and do your part in dungeons and raids. But that really doesn’t apply to me. The few people on my WoW friends list last logged on between a month and five months ago. And although I am technically a member of a guild, I was never able to participate in guild activities, due to not having a level 85 character. The only way I ever participated in the guild was via its chat channel, and that’s pretty much dead these days, now that all the old regulars are bored with Cataclysm.

What I have instead is quest addiction. At any given moment in this game, I have at least a half-dozen tasks in front of me that are well-defined and easily completable — such is fantasy. Completing them just leads to more, but, importantly, there’s a hierarchy of completion that keeps it feeling like I’m making progress. Every little NPC encampment has maybe a dozen quests, which I can complete and then feel like I’m done with that encampment. Each zone has several such quest-clusters, and if I complete them all, I can feel like I’m done with that zone, even if they add more quests to it later — and the game will even acknowledge this with an Achievement. Despite everything everyone has said, the entire game seems tantalizingly completable, given time. The other, better things I could be doing with that time doesn’t enter into it while you’re playing. (And remember who it is who’s saying this. When I say “other, better things”, I’m not just talking about working to improve the world; I’m also including all the other videogames I could be playing.)

I suppose what it comes down to is this: the WoW phenomenon is not as simple as many claim. It has more than one avenue into the psyche, more than one way of getting people hooked. If you’re antisocial, it loses one of its big draws, but it can still take advantage of your compulsiveness.

1 Comment so far

  1. FelixSH on 15 Aug 2011

    Two years ago i played Lord of the Rings Online, also playing alone most of the time. My motivation was to get a char up to the maximum level, which I accomplished after six month. I tried bigger group-quests, but wasn´t interested. Than I wanted to do all the quests and achievments, but…without a growing char, there was no motivation there.

    It was like in most games this today. I want to get to the point where I can do all the sidequests at once, but loose interest at them, short after reaching that point. I simply have too much games to play, if the world doesn´t fascinate me I need to go on.

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