Opinion, Socio-theological babble, WoW


Change can be weird.  Sometimes you plan for it, prepare for it, see it coming a mile down the road – and other times it blindsides you like an ice cube wedgie at 3 in the morning.  But some residual chilliness aside, most of the time the changes we deal with are not nearly so dramatic.  Case in point: I’ve been a ‘WoW player’ for 5 years now – quite mind-boggling when I stop to think about it.  My reasons for playing have changed substantially over that time, but I’ve always remained a ‘WoW player’.  The game has been a part of my life in various small or large ways continuously since August 2005, and while it’s never defined me I’ve always felt like I help to define it – because the social and ‘sandbox’* nature of the game has always led me to feel more comfortable conceptualising it in terms of its community, the players themselves, rather than its buts and nolts.  And I’ve always been a part of that community in some sense, increasingly so since I first spent a frustrating evening downloading a gig and a half of patches so I could log on and find the friend I’d bought the game in order to spend time with.

Always – until now.  For the first time since I began playing I really feel disconnected from the game community which I’ve become so used to.  Changes are rolling by on MMO-Champion and I’m barely keeping up with the major stuff, whereas before I could recount a blow-by-blow of changes to the most obscure spec you could think of in each beta or PTR build.  Bloggers are writing scads of posts which I’d normally gobble up, but instead Google Reader’s “you have this many unread posts” number has reached the middle hundreds and keeps going up.  I’ve gone from browsing several forums and posting regularly to struggling to keep track of one or two threads on a single site.  I guess with Cataclysm so close and patch 4.0.1 out, the game is probably moving faster now than it has at any time previously – and I’ve managed to pick this time to “take a break”.

I’ve never felt so disconnected.


The worst part of it is the separation from my guild and other in-game friends, who I’m used to seeing on an almost daily basis but haven’t spent any quality time with for weeks.  At first the feeling of isolation from people who’ve become almost as familiar as flat-mates was almost crushing, but now I’m getting worryingly used to it.  The WoW community is a powerful drug – perhaps I was suffering withdrawal and am now officially detoxed?  But I still miss them, to the point where they’re the major reason I want to keep playing WoW.  Possibly, right now, the only reason.  When you’ve played almost non-stop for 5 years, that’s a scary thing to say.

It hasn’t come as a shock to me that these relationships are the main reason I still play World of Warcraft, as I’ve been focused on the communal nature of the game pretty much since day one.  I was seduced for a while by the levelling and the acquisition of items, by the gameplay and the thrill of the vast shared world to explore – but those things faded away and it was the social space that remained.  What disturbs me now is that all the other things that I really did enjoy about WoW even recently have since faded to such a barely perceptible dimness that I’m having trouble even remembering them.  And the irony is, I didn’t stop playing because I wasn’t enjoying the game – when I stopped, I was still having a really great time.

Because, as with the third type of change about which I rambled in the opening sentences, this sort of snuck up on me unexpectedly and was so subtle that I was kept from even noticing a change had taken place for some time.  I knew I may have to take a short break from raiding to deal with RL stuff, so the first few weeks where I wasn’t raiding didn’t come as a surprise, though I had expected to be raiding less rather than not raiding at all.  Logging in less was also an expected side-effect of having less energy to commit to the game, so that passed me by unnoticed.  Patch 4 was released as widely anticipated and I had planned to avoid the game for a few days after it launched, while all the inane /trade banter died down and the servers recovered from everyone logging in and screaming at broken addons.  Then I was just too busy to log in and sort out my own addons, then I didn’t have the energy, then I eventually began to realise that I didn’t actually have the desire.

Space and context

The title of this post is “disconnection” because that really sums up how I feel about WoW at the moment.  There’s a disconnect between what it was to me and what it is to me now, which I can’t really explain and am not entirely comfortable with.  I don’t have a problem with quitting WoW or taking a break or playing more or less or anything like that, and as with anything else in life my interest in WoW has always had its troughs and peaks… but throughout I’ve always remained a “WoW player”, someone interested enough in the game for its own sake to log back in, and I always thought if I stopped playing altogether it’d be for a well-considered reason.  I don’t want to stop just because I took a break for a month and couldn’t think of a good reason to come back.

The major disconnect, however, is the relationships which I am cut off from by not playing the game.  Sure, many of my friends in WoW are also people I’ve met in person, or at least talked to on the phone, and most of those who don’t fall into either of those categories but are important to me are on my facebook friends list (woefully unused) or in my email address book.  But without WoW, many of these friendships don’t have a space or a context.  You may be very close to your student flat-mate while you share a room (notwithstanding that annoying thing he does with his socks) but may struggle to relate when you move to different parts of the country and suddenly find that your paths no longer cross.  Or you may have lots to talk about with your colleague during lunch break but find that when you get a job at the technology firm across the street while she continues to work in finance that friendship just becomes so much more awkward and halting as you lose that shared experience.

The Wall

If I try hard enough I can remember things I enjoy(ed) about WoW, and even get a little bit excited about playing again.  I make the effort to try because I really don’t want to lose the space and context for those relationships just yet.  But to stoke that fire I need to play the game, and logging in at the moment is like climbing a high wall.  A high wall studded with protruding nails and those annoying chips of paint which get under your fingertips, and leaning slightly towards you so that as you get near the top you fear it might collapse and bury you in brick and whitewash.  Um.  But yes.  To start with, for all my characters which I’d like to play even a little, I need to set up or tweak talents, glyphs, toolbars, gear sets, reforging, gemming, enchanting and re-setup a vast swathe of addons as well as replacing some out of date ones – and this is with a fairly minimalist approach, just doing enough that I can enjoy the game without necessarily being great at it.  I also need to get used to the changes to game mechanics and UI as well as new/changed addons, which have made the game “window” require a high amount of concentration and thought compared to the second-nature my old UI and setup was.  I also need to relearn a vast amount of game mechanics either first- or second-hand, and it’s never easy to go from being great at something to being rubbish at it.

The worst part is that there’s no guarantee if I go through all that I’ll be a happy, contented WoW player again – there’s not even any guarantee that the friendships that motivate me to try will last much longer in the old context and space anyway.  I suspect I’m not the only one considering changes in the build-up to Cataclysm’s release.  There’s an odd sort of whiff of innocence lost about all this which I can’t quite pin down but which manages to add to the generally disturbing nature of the whole business, and it all feels rather petty and silly.


The crowning irony of all this is that WoW has been something of a refuge for me in the past couple of years, a place where I can still be useful and capable despite deterioration in my health, and a place where I can still have an active social life despite severe curtailing of my ability and opportunity to get out the house.  Now a point has been reached where even playing WoW – even remaining an integrated part of the WoW community – is just a bridge too far and forced this unexpected break.  I fear if I get too disconnected, I’ll lose that refuge for when I need it again.  But at the moment WoW is something I have had to take refuge from rather than refuge in, and I don’t know when or how that will change.  The transition from connected, “online” life to disconnected, “offline” life was so subtly sudden and unexpected that I have no reason to imagine the reverse might be any different.

*Yes, as Razz will no doubt be very quick to point out, I know WoW is not a “sandbox” game design – my meaning here is just to emphasise the extent to which your game time is what you make of it by how you choose to play, with whom, when, and so forth.



13 thoughts on “Disconnection

  1. Come back. The addon nightmare is not so bad, the reglyphing, regemming, reforging is not so bad either. And with fulmination, lava surge and earthquake I’m pretty dang pleased with Ele right now. Other option is to get lots of sleep til Dec 7 and then roll a goblin mage.

    Posted by Shat | November 5, 2010, 10:33 pm
  2. Every six months or so, I’ve taken a bit of a vacation from WoW. Well, not a *total* vacation, except since the shared lockout patch. I’ll log in the two days for raids, but that’s about it. Pick up a new game for the PS3 or PC and get away for a while.

    Most people would call it “burnout”, and I’m inclined to agree to an extent. Once you get past the rush to 60/70/80/85, and have the gear for the raids, there’s not a huge amount of incentive to keep playing. Sure, you can roll alts, but until Cataclysm, it was all the same stuff, over and over again.

    I’ve always gone back, though, and like seeing friends or going back to work after going on a real life vacation, it’s not as bad as I thought it was getting before. It does help that 90% of the people I interact with are all the same people I’ve been raiding with since Karazhan. The fact that I’ve met most of them in person so that I can put a living, breathing face with the name helps as well. They’re all “teammates”, for lack of a better term, and most are friends, rather than the acquaintances that most online interactions tend to be.

    (Also, Elemental Overload is awesome. Especially that first double or triple Lava Burst.)

    Posted by Ktulu | November 6, 2010, 4:45 am
  3. Sorry to hear that you’ve been having less energy lately. I’ve been going through a bit of that myself, and it’s hard to get excited about relearning a game I was already pretty good at. Hopefully you can find ways to stay connected to your WoW friends, and if not, I hope you find another good way to connect and relax.

    Posted by Wugan | November 6, 2010, 5:22 am
  4. @Shat: I’ve actually been logging in now and then to do a little bit of stuff that needs to be done – I’ve specced and glyphed my shaman, learned glyphs on my other toons, and got about 1/3rd of the way through setting up my shaman’s UI – but I don’t have the energy for more than 20 minutes or so of that kind of stuff at a time, and afterwards it takes a while before I can try again.

    @Ktulu: I took suggestions from guildies on non-WoW games that wouldn’t be too much effort and have enjoyed playing some of them in my down-time over the last month or so, but I’ve felt a little guilty about using what was previously my WoW time for solo stuff. Not that there’s any real reason to feel guilty just, y’know.

    “Burnout”, while not really what I’m experiencing, is I guess a fairly useful parallel. Part of the way I’ve always avoided that sort of total WoW collapse has been to keep “in touch” when I’ve not felt in a WoW mood – regularly logging in to do a daily quest or instance or just to chat for a few minutes – but this time around that discipline slipped up… not least because I was still having a good time playing! 🙂

    Having set myself the goal of rebuilding my UI for patch 4 seems a bit silly in retrospect, but OTOH it was badly outdated and increasingly error-prone and this is the only chance I’ll really have to do it.

    @Wugan: Thanks, appreciated! Your “WoW as a refuge” post has been on my mind the past few weeks in particular and is one of the things reminding me that it’s worth making the effort to get “connected” again.

    Posted by Charles | November 6, 2010, 2:49 pm
  5. I’m experiencing the exact same as you, although there’s lots of stuff happening in “RL” (the abbreviation makes it so awkward; like sitting on the moon and talking about planet earth) – the desire to log on, chat with some mates and play a little does keep coming back for me. Personally I have had enough of ICC and think they should have released some new content for us to play with until Cataclysm – Ruby Sanctum, I’m sorry… feels like nothing to me.

    Trust me, it’ll start itching when Cata is out and you’ll return. Maybe not as hardcore as before; there’s nothing wrong with playing this game in as a so called “social” (you know, like the guild rank). I will play socially, in fact I think I’ll enjoy it even more this way. You’re not obliged to keep up with everything – just relax, explore the new stuff and enjoy the content.

    Good luck 😉

    Posted by Mayenco | November 7, 2010, 10:29 am
  6. Like Shat said, Ele has not changed so much that you might need to research it. Update the addons your used to, and just read talents as you spec, and your away laughing. The same is true for resto, in fact if anything resto is even less changed and plays almost exactly the same.

    Enjoy your time away, just dont feel the 4.0 hump is so large it will take effort, because if anything its a breath of fresh air in the right direction, and does not take any huge leap to fit right into for a shaman.

    Posted by Zuzum | November 8, 2010, 8:33 pm
  7. I really enjoyed this post, which may sound a bit perverse, but I feel in reading it you might be in a position a little better understanding of where my head was at each time I’ve retreated from the realm of cocaine-online. Of course our situations are not entirely comparable, I more mean that from what you’re saying you sound like I once did many moons ago.

    To be honest I feel you’ve been given a bad hand right now. Current situations being what they are with yourself, it’s argueably the worst possible timing combination. The game feels like it’s in a whole new place now, not the same game we really fell in love with and the sheer effort to see past these old rose-tinted glasses is taking the strain even on the most dedicated players. A lot of people are drifting as of the latest patch and while I feel it will be well worth the effort to stick through the mundane times, the thing that makes it even worse is that each time (personally) you get online there is just nobody. bloody. there. Roll on the expansion and grabbing back that community guild spirit, I say. I’m almost certain you’ll have more enthusiasm when everyone is back in the boat.

    Posted by Markus | November 8, 2010, 9:22 pm
  8. @Mayenco: I’m honestly glad there was nothing after ICC, because I would’ve felt doubly pressured to finish it all up along with the inevitable tiresome achievements. ICC had its problems but the thought of having to master another new raid in that design era … *shudder*. Ruby Sanctum was bad enough! I’m sure I’ll look back on it more fondly in the future though 🙂

    I am fairly casual in the way I’ve played, but I do like to be good at what I do – which is why it’s so important to me that every toon I level to 80 meets a certain standard. That does make it slightly daunting when the entire game changes and you have to relearn 5 classes and 10 specs 😀 (Each of my 80s was levelled slowly and only when I ran out of stuff to keep me occupied on my “mains”, and I’ll probably only have one or two 85s for most of Cataclysm’s release.)

    @Zuzum: Well, there’s a bit of a difference between knowing the theory (which I am very well conversant with) and actually playing it out with folks depending on you, especially when your UI changes, and doubly especially when the entire *context* of the game changes – things like what buffs do what, what class/specs are good at certain roles or bad at others, and so on. As a raid leader I’ve always felt an obligation to know almost everything about every class/spec, and while that’s not really necessary in the lead-up to Cataclysm as my guild isn’t raiding, it’s still a bridge I’ll have to cross eventually and a sort of mental tick to deal with.

    Heck, even the reasons and rewards for play have changed and have to be, to some small extent, relearned. I love what they’ve been doing for Cataclysm and have benefited from being involved in the alpha/beta, but it’s still a lot to process when it finally goes live onto characters you have to care about! But yes, I think the enforced break is probably good even if it’s also kinda weird and difficult, and the game is definitely improving as a result of the changes that are being made.

    @Markus: I reckon your comment is very insightful, thank you. One thing about this “bad hand” is that it’s sort of enabled me to begin to understand why some of my friends in the past have quit WoW altogether or even just taken brief but strict breaks – I was always able to manage my WoW engagement in such a way that my level of burnout never exceeded my level of ‘reward’, if that makes sense.

    I’ve managed to get about half my UI sorted in the past week, which has helped me feel a bit better about getting over the “hump”. So I think I will be ready to enjoy WoW again when, or at least not too long after, Cataclysm is released. Provided I have the time, and the energy. Hopefully it can become innervating again, rather than ennervating.

    Posted by Charles | November 9, 2010, 2:57 am
  9. Pull a stunt like I did and take some time off. 😛

    Right now is the perfect time for a break, anyhow; “current” content isn’t too much relevant anymore (yet I say this even though my guild is about to work on heroic LK 25 for the next month). All this super-dee-duper gear that we have will be outclassed by mid-late December. All I’ve done since starting back ~2 weeks ago is build up gold and work on oddball achievements via PUGs (such as the 20 man Naxx achievement the other day).

    Posted by Kazgrel | November 9, 2010, 7:58 pm
  10. Welcome back Kaz, I noticed you’d started blogging again but was a week late in doing so and felt embarrassed at revealing that by posting a comment ¬_¬

    The gear thing is true, though I still feel annoyed that my shaman is stuck in brown shoulders instead of frosty silver because we got so incredibly unlucky with shaman token drops. I’d have liked to have had a matching set, but I doubt I’ll even bother to hang onto my T10 for long. Keeping pixels for nostalgia seems weird somehow. My druid still has his beautiful tier 5 outfit but there’s never an occasion to wear it 🙂

    Posted by Charles | November 9, 2010, 8:21 pm
  11. I’m able to make occasions for lolnostalgia gear, such as doing heroics a week or so ago in level 60 PVP gear (and still managing to outdps someone in the group o.o). Harder to pull that kind of stunt off if your T5 is for tanking or healing, though.

    I kinda like my mismatched T10 setup, but mine’s a mix of the 264 and 277 colors. The dear ol’ 251 set looks meek when upside it’s higher ilvl kin. Shaman T10 > all, though, IMO.

    Posted by Kazgrel | November 11, 2010, 3:43 pm


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