Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 05, 2019
I'm cured!

If you keep up with gaming news, streams, and videos, WoW Classic has become impossible to ignore. The first guy hit level 60 after only 79 hours of /played time, got accused of using layering to cheat, then deleted his character. Many people are playing, but most are still on their way to 60. And so I come across lots of gameplay videos and streams, watch other people play World of Warcraft, and realize: I am cured! I feel absolutely no desire to play World of Warcraft in any form, Classic or not.

In fact my typical reaction on watching somebody leveling in WoW Classic by doing some quest is "Oh my god is that boring!". I have a hard time understanding how I could have spent thousands of hours doing just that. I assume that at some point it was exciting because it was new, interesting to explore a virtual world. But now all these quests seem so terribly trivial to me. It isn't as if you needed any skill to do them.

Of course at level 60 a part of the game opens up that requires more skill. But that comes with a lot of baggage. Dragon Kill Points, guild drama, and all the joy of playing in a large raid group in which not everybody has the same level of skill, leading to endless sources of conflict. I don't have very fond memories of my time raiding, although I sure spent a lot of hours doing so.

But the saddest thing about WoW Classic is that it is such a poignant reminder of how little the whole genre has evolved in 15 years. A stream of WoW Battle for Azeroth doesn't look all that different from a WoW Classic stream. And there isn't any other game out there either that comes much closer to the initial promise of offering you a chance to live in a fantasy world. It turns out all these fantasy worlds are populated by NPCs and monsters stuck in a time loop that never goes anywhere. Which is why it is possible to redo a 15-year old game and it becomes the hottest MMORPG of the year. Sad!

Yes, people enjoying themselves is always sad, isn't it?

Also, if it ain't broke...
@Bhagpuss Where did I say that? Please avoid putting words in my mouth.
I've been clean for a couple of years now. Was not even tempted to restart with this 'Classic' crap.

In reflection? I think a lot of the draw wasn't challenge or anything else... it was the sheer, monotonous, repetition of it all. You could just shut off your brain and go with the flow of the rhythm for a few hours. That there were moments of 'challenge', and moments of reward, kept your brain justified in a skinner box kind of way.
The thing is, there ARE different games you can play. Tobold, didn't you use to play that game where you build pyramids and stuff and it restarts periodically? I used to play Mush, where you are one of 16 crew on a disintegrating spaceship, and you may be randomly chosen to be one of two alien invaders. But hardly anyone plays these games! Everyone loves the grind instead.

Which made me think it was time to play Mush again, so I just embarked on a ship. Frieda Bergman, playing games 1000 years from now, so you don't have to.
Heh. I don't even do the whole AAA thing anymore. That has been lootboxed and monetized to the point I just can't deal with it. I only do indy games now.

I played a few this year that didn't hold my interest, the one that's sticking is "Screeps", a programming game where you code a robotic colony in Javascript. It's fun to watch... in a "...sheer, monotonous, repetition of it all. You could just shut off your brain and go with the flow of the rhythm for a few hours." way while at the same time, the coding is so complicated and the difficulty ceiling so high, it could shatter today and the shards wouldn't hit us in our lifetimes.
A true recovery is being able to look at those same streams and feel nothing, or a polite positive reaction for the person enjoying themselves. Right now, the negative diss-others attack-the-game reaction is still a hold the game has over you. It’s a partial cure at best. Keep at it. It’ll get there.

I had a very similar reaction with City of Heroes once they bundled in Incarnate raids. These days, I can read about people enjoying CoH and say, good for you! I like what you enjoyed once too! But it’s just not for me anymore. And move on without needing to list all the reasons why those people shouldn’t be enjoying themselves. Either it doesn’t matter to them, or they’ll have their own realization eventually.
Watching games isn't the same as playing them. I never watch videos of WoW gameplay. But I'm really enjoying classic WoW (playing it for the first time). One important element missing from a replay is peril. The viewer is never in peril like the adventurer is.
Tobold, the part of your brain that releases dopamine at meaningless achievement is burned out. I've found that it's gone for me in other areas. I don't like fishing that much because it reminds me too much of farming mats in WoW, for instance. Now, if I'm going to eat the fish, I'm way into it. But sport fishing? Pass.

Jeromai: it's pretty reasonable to look back at the hundreds of days wasted on a game, time that could have been betters spent in almost any other way, and feel a little bit of bitterness.

Anyway, I really can't imagine a sizable raiding community holding together for very long to rehash 15 year old content. Nobody is going to impressed you beat Naxx in 2020, and as I recall it the boss fights were relatively simple by later raid standards and only complicated by the fact that you had to get 40 people to not fuck up and generate adequate DPS at the same time. Raiding is based on that sense of achievement and competition that won't exist. Hard to keep people down on the farm when they've seen tier 21 armor and nearly instant PVP cues.
Honestly, I give kudos to anyone who beats classic Naxx in 2020.

(I beat moved Naxx in 2009 and honestly it was hard enough...)
I mean, the only genuinely challenging part of WoW was being a guild leader trying to herd all the nerdy cats into getting stuff done. You remember that guild of Chinese gold farmers that basically cleared Burning Crusade like it was nothing and they did it mostly in blue gear? That's what 20 competent players could do. Meanwhile I'm raiding with healers who did less healing than the enchant on the tanks weapon. Though they did kick that guy out for that one.
The true joy I've found in WoW Classic hasn't been the gameplay (though, in fact, it is better than nearly all of the other computer gaming I've done since I left in 2010) nor the difficulty level nor the fact that it feels familiar and nostalgically comfortable, though it is.

The real joy has been seeing all of the friends that I made, years and years ago, coming back. Asking them how their kids have been. Talking about the times we got together in the past. Reforming an instance group that hasn't played together in a long, long time.

That's worth doing.

And, honestly, is it any different than seeing your old bowling league, or the folks you used to get together and watch football games with?

The best part of MMOs is the MMO part, and WoW Classic does that part very, very well.
Wow Classic feels so much more organic and less directed than the current version of the game. I'm enjoying my return to the version of the game I most enjoyed....probably won't stick around long, but it's fun to play an MMO again where the mechanics require socializing to a greater degree than they do in current versions, and where the experience does not seem to assume you must be rapidly funneled past the leveling process just to get to the raids and pvp content, neither of which I ever engaged in to any degree, finding them to be far less interesting than world exploration and leveling for fun. It's like my entire "type" of player is captured in amber in Classic.
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