Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The slavery of WoW

I wouldn't say that any of the games I'm currently playing is strictly better than World of Warcraft. But I very much enjoy the freedom of coming home and thinking "now what shall we play next?". Previously the question didn't pose itself, as the answer was always WoW. But now I'm playing several different games, sometimes two or three in an evening.

With World of Warcraft I had always something planned for the evening. There were several raid nights a week. And even on the other days I felt I just had to check the auction house, do my jewelcrafting, cooking, and fishing daily quests, and this or that other activity. In hindsight that looks more like a job than a game, doing the same series of tasks every day.

How many people plan their real life activities so they don't collide with raid nights or other game events? On the one side it is great that a game can fascinate us so much that we are willingly submitting ourselves into slavery, but on the other hand I do feel more free now that I have a choice to make between different games.
Couldn't you make exactly the same comment about any other mmo Tobold once someone has gotten stuck into the the game. It is perhaps my biggest difficulty with the whole mmo genre. I don't want to spend the rest of my life playing one game. I want variety. I wish mmos had natural breakpoints that you could aim for and then leave the game with a sense of accomplishment.
It extends beyond mmos full on into hobbies. How many other people spend two hours preparing and cooking supper because they enjoy themselves? How many people plan activities around poker night with the guys?

I do agree that it's a lot easier to just rely on the almost natural patterns that mmos offer up, especially when raiding. But the fact that people arrange the rest of their lives out of something they enjoy doing isn't in and of itself a bad thing. It's when they keep doing it after it has stopped being enjoyable that there's an issue.
Agree wholeheartedly with Rob though I can also empathize with the feeling that WoW crowds out other possible sources of entertainment. The question that one has to ask oneself is whether the continued to commitment to WoW at any one time is justified relative to the enjoyment one might get from other pursuits. I think for a lot of people they can't even answer that question until they take a break from WoW, and can then evaluate it without so much invested in the game.
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Slavery is a strong word. Last time I checked, the point of slavery was that there was an outside force preventing you from stopping. Is scheduling your life around sports or music also slavery if you happen to have a coach/teacher that likes punctuality?

IMHO, as long as the schedule is being followed it's still harmless. But when one activity overwhelms all others, then it's time to use a better word: addiction. So how are you holding up against the withdrawal symptoms, Tobold?
Heavy raiding schedules can get a bit crazy. But mine is one 25-man raid night a week. That's not a hassle to plan around.

I also spend one night a week out at the pub with friends. I'd put them roughly on par.

Having said that, one of my big issues with raiding (particularly in WoW) is the insidious pressure to play more. If you're in any kind of successful raid guild chances are you are raiding at least 3 nights a week. And possibly at least one more for farming/ dailies/ 10 mans.

And suddenly that's a lot of nights to fit into your schedule.

But you just have to decide what is more important.
I don't think addiction is the right word either. People don't simply get bored of an addiction and walk away from it, but that happens with WoW all the time. And as I said, instead of feeling "cold turkey", I feel somewhat liberated.
like others said, it's a hobby, like modeltrains, lego, puzzles, boardgames. once you get bored of it, you even start to wonder why you even did it for X years.
Ofcourse it's liberating because every hobby takes up too much time you actually want ;)
Vive la revolution.
People don't simply get bored of an addiction and walk away from it, but that happens with WoW all the time.Think alcoholism, not drugs. I have some friends that semi-regularly swear that they'll never drink again and hold that thought for a few weeks. While they do feel great after the regret-inducing hangover has passed, they get all fidgety on friday evenings, not knowing what to do. Nicotine seems to trigger a similar response, only with a faster cycle.
Was writting a response but it turned out a bit big so its in my blog instead.

Short story is team hobbies (like MMO end game/raiding) require structure and gamers tend to be less structured in their hobbies which may induce the feeling of "slavery" but really is no different than the "slavery" of indoor football/soccer.
A number of commenters have likened MMORPGs to other hobbies but very few hobbies are so demanding of time as an mmo. Sure there are folks who spend 30+ hours per week watching TV but at least they get to watch a variety of different programmes. An mmo player plays the same game every day, every week all year round.
Essentially mate, this is one of the main reasons I no longer play WoW, and probably never will.

I play MMOs mostly to get together with other people and have a good time, mainly with my guild mates (who I miss a great deal, though I do get together with some of them in other games here and there). Like yourself and many others, I quit WoW once already and returned because I was missing that social interaction in the games I was playing. At first I returned and just worked solo and some 5 man dungeons. But soon I realised that most of the time, it was hard to get guild groups. On non-raid days many people we're farming for raid mats, or taking a break. As I ran out of solo content, getting groups became harder and the draw of raiding became stronger.

So I started raiding again. For a while I managed it. But soon I got more and more annoyed that it seemed like every night I played that I wasn't raiding, I had to solo for gold/rep/mats (whatever) to support raiding. I personally didn't enjoy this much, and felt like Blizzard was forcing me to give up nights playing other games, watching a movie, reading a book etc, in order to support the 2 or 3 raids I was attending each week.

Eventually, that and other RL factors (including the loss of a family member), finally broke me, and I threw in the towel (in somewhat dramatic fashion at the time :P ).

In hindsight, I had planned some of my RL around raiding. I'm not sure you could have called it addiction, because breaking away from it wasn't particulary traumatic, it was more of a relief to be honest. But it wasn't healthy (FOR ME that is).

Personally, I am well shot of it. And as a result, my leasure time is spent, well, more leasurely. More playing music, working on my photo's, following my mad friend about with a long lens as he takes part in ww2 battle re-enactments. More Blu-ray, more 360. More books. And I'm not falling asleep at work every day after an evenings raid were that "just one last attempt" meant a post midnight finish :)

I think Tobold, you'll be back in WoW when something is back in the game that interests you. I don't think you had the same kind of issues with it as I did. But in the meantime, enjoy the larger world of gaming and entertainment, and perhaps I'll see you in another MMO soon (was great chatting to you in Free Realms :) ).
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mbp - I can think of a fair few hobbies that take up nearly as much time. Friends I know who kickbox seriously, for example, train five nights a week and go to the gym on the sixth.

In all cases, it's the hardcore end of the sport, but so is 30 hours a week on WoW - I spend between 5 and 10 hours a week, and I'm still raiding and topping damage meters (Naxx 10-man, admittedly).
I have a schedule of dailies as well. But none of them are particularly "necessary". Most people have enough cooking awards. The other dailies you mention are mostly for achievemnents and vanity items. No one says you have to have all of the JC recipes. And don't you have enough money by now?

Raiding can give you better gear, offer you a chance to work together with people. All of the other stuff? Its suppose to enchance your fun. Give you a few minor casual activities in between the raids. If its not, nobody is forcing you to do them but you.
Argent Tournament

I don't feel like doing the math. But perhaps someone might.

How many days would it take to get enough tokens to purchase all the pets and mounts from the tourney?

It's that type of stuff that makes WoW feel like if you do anything else you are just prolonging the things you'd like to get done in WoW.
After six years of planning my week around raiding, It is nice to be free. I wouldn't call it slavery per se.

All hobbies take up time, it is just the large blocks of time that needed to be set aside on a regular schedule that finally caught up to me.

Other MMOs allow for more individual advancement without the huge time commitment to large group activities.
I have been away for so long, that I may actually enjoy going back..

Or not.
I think "slavery" might be a bit strong a word (though maybe culturally it doesn't have the same implications for a european as it does for an american?). You are getting something back, and you are choosing to spend that time, and always free to stop, as you have, Tobold. More of a "job" or a "grind".

I'm with you, though, been only logging in to wow for raids lately, instead playing a variety of other games and reading books/watching movies in the newly-free-up time, because wow was starting to feel like too much of a job.
and @mbp: comparing wow to other hobbies and watching tv: like others, I'd argue that many other hobbies are just as time-consuming, and as for watching TV, it's true that you get a variety of programs (in theory), but in a game you:

a) are actively participating
b) interacting with other people
c) potentially doing a variety of different content

So I'd argue that you're getting more stimulation and variety from the game (provided you aren't just grinding the same dailies mindlessly every day) as you do from TV.

Someone else mentioned the massive number of tokens from dailies required to get rewards from the tournament. It does make you feel like every day you don't do them, you are delaying your reward, so the whole thing is self-reinforcing. That's the "slavery" or "addiction" or "job" aspect that is worrisome, but it's not the game's fault. We each have to make our own choice, like Tobold did, to overcome that stuff. If we do, the game can be valuable and enriching. If we don't, it becomes the albatross of work that so many in this thread complain about.
@Hatch - You're right it's not the games' fault if you choose to obtain 450 Champion seals.

A better example would be the seasonal events. Where if you take a break from the game, be it a short or long one, you end up missing out on something that will take you a whole other year to get - the violet proto drake.

Once again it is still your decision, and yet...
"How many people plan their real life activities so they don't collide with"... their softball league games... their social club meeting... their favorite television shows... their exercise routine... etc. etc.

For a committed gamer you're showing gaming remarkably little respect. ANYTHING can be done to excess but hobbies are hobbies and it is normal to "plan their real life activities so they don't collide with" them!
Tobold used the word slavery to elicit response, but I also feel that the game is a form of slavery, with a small letter "s".

Even if you can walk away from the game any time you want, you might feel that the negative connotations of doing so aren't worth it. Missing out on dailies for rep and gold. Not completing the Argent Crusade dailies and missing out on getting access to pets and mounts. Or just missing the company of good friends you have in game.

Slaves, in the American sense, could also just walk away from Slavery, too...and there were negative consequences of it if they were caught. For WoW, I believe the negative consequences would be not having completed or at least continually done those things you would have made sure to do every day while playing. In essence, a WoW slave gets caught once they load the game back up and continue playing.

It's why I see people saying that they would never delete their WoW characters even if they decided they were going to quit for good. The slavery of WoW is still mental and working in the background to remind you that if you do come back to the game you'll highly regret the deletion of your characters...when the deletion of characters may have totally made you free of the game and not allowed you the position of coming back to play WoW later.

Me, I won't be deleting my characters when I finally liberate myself from WoW. Instead, I'll probably try to sell them. Complete a clean break, and walk away knowing my toons are out there somewhere being used and entertaining someone.

But slavery from WoW is real. Being leashed to a video game when you know its not healthy is a form of slavery. You know better, but you stay instead because its easier to stay than go. Whether or not a WoW player has strayed into unhealthy territory is subjective, but every player knows when they have, even if only subconsciously. If they continue to play, then yes, I'd consider them a slave...again, with a small "s".
It's that insidious "gotta get this/that done" feeling that seems to vault WoW from being a video game to waste a few hours vegging out with and a serious addictive tic.

I recently realized that I have plenty of gold to raid once a week for the next 3 months. So I rolled a new character, stopped doing dailies/checking the AH, and just play OUTSIDE OF GUILD CHAT when I really feel like it. Probably 5-6 hours in the past 2 weeks. I'm back to paying attention to the pretty music, awesome graphics details, and the amazing lull of spending 5 minutes WALKING down a road keeping an eye out for dangerous mobs. That's what I originally loved about the game.

And I actually didn't feel like raiding on Weds night and bagged it. Gardening, baseball, and golf are back in my life suddenly.

Thanks, Tobold. You kind of got my attention a few weeks ago.
Well, I'm enjoying my new found freedom from WoW. It -was- an addiction for me simply because I -did- plan my real life activities around playing WoW.

People can say what they want and attribute friends, goals or whatnot as their reason for playing the game, but at the end of the day it all comes down to the fact that WoW is still just a -game-....look up the definition of -game- and see if it pertains to you and how you play WoW.

I'm quite certain that a good percentage of people would argue that MMO's should be viewed differently because of the type of interactions that occur in them...but again, at the end of the day WoW is simply just a and white, cut and dried.
I switch MMO's fairly regularly, once every couple months, going between WoW, EVE, and a couple of f2p games.
You sound just like me, talking about whichever game I just burned out on last.
I had the same exact feeling when my subscription ran out last week.
I want to share a story. Was at a friend's wedding the other day. Strangely, the people being married had met in WoW. They probably married in-game too, who knows.

Anyway, I always thought my friend was a little extreme about the game, and what I experienced at the wedding, and found disturbing, is that there was a contingent of invitees who were guild members. They had their own table, and no one had to tell me which table it was.

Honestly, it was quite obvious. Everyone at the table was pale, visibly out of shape (either obese or scrawny), and appeared to be socially stunted. They were difficult to engage in conversation beyond the superficial "hello, how are ya," though they had little difficulty conversing amongst themselves.

Anyway, I used to play myself up until a about 9 months ago, and come to think of it, I experienced some serious negative changes from it, so I am glad I hung it up. And from this experience, I think it was the best thing I ever did, or I would surely have evolved into one of the guests. I shudder to think these were the types of people I was devoting hours of day sharing a virtual world with, and had I kept it up, I would have been sucked it as well.

Well, I do have kind of an OCD personality, so that is why I got sucked in. I try to focus my OCD on better stuff now. I am working on my chin-up skills. Shooting for 20 but not even half way there yet. Need to grind some more out right now. Be back later.
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