There, I've said it, I feel better. The truth is though that I miss it. Warcrack and Evercrack, as they are often known in victim circles are very well-named indeed. OK, as addictions go, it's not exactly up there with hiding whiskey bottles in the planters or shooting smack into my eyeball, but it was nonetheless an addiction. And one that took over large portions of my free time to the detriment of other things. For instance, all exercise [I count walking here] ceased for nine months. In fact the only thing being exercised on a regular basis was my right hand - Oi, for the mouse, the mouse - and my mouth which spent a lot of time hurling a remarkably colourful array of obscenities at the screen.
With over nine million WoW players out there now, and growing at a phenomenal rate still, WoW addiction is rapidly becoming a major problem for many and even Blizzard has warnings in the game that WoW should be played sparingly. Most people playing smile at those little notices as they prepare to grind their way to the next level by killing 3,500 spiders in a row for two or three hours. As games go, the scientist Pavlov would be proud although there is more carrot, and less stick, in WoW.
It's brilliantly designed to ease you in gently with a very gradual learning curve. The upshot is that your first game costs you three hours and you never even noticed. You do what is required and you get rewards, lots of them. Not only do you get to kill things in spectacular ways, you can earn money that you can spend in the game world, find great loot, become an expert at creating things that others will pay lots for and you can trade the crap you don't want. Hell, you can even pay real money to get WoW gold on the Internet and, if you ever have, you need to back away from the PC now, and speak to someone immediately.
Blizzard has always made great games. I started out on Warcraft back when it came on floppy discs - I still have them - and even then they were the ruination of an otherwise healthy social and home life. Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo - you can probably sign off maybe three years of my life to them and their expansions. As someone with obsessive compulsive tendencies, I was perfect fodder for online gaming. When Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMPORGS) came along, I was ripe. I cut my MMO addiction on Asherons Call 2, which was a great game, but once Warcraft came along it wiped the board with everything else. And remember, my entire WoW gaming was done over a 56k modem which will give you some idea of the level of my commitment (insanity) to making it to Level 60.
I was mostly a loner but I did make some casual online friends but only in the game. However, because I could never devote hours and hours to organised raids at certain times, I never got sucked too deep into the guild (team/club) idea. In fact, the one saving grace was that I didn't get too into the social side - something some researchers claim is the upside of these games. Not for me, nor millions of others. If I had found a great guild with helpful people I'd be broke, unemployed and divorced by now. It would have made it nigh on impossible to quit. As it was, my waking free time was spent playing WoW when possible and the rest of it spent thinking about it, while most nights I'd dream about it at least once.
A word of advice - as Robin Williams once said about drugs - if you find yourself playing Warcraft, and you fall asleep and you're still playing Warcraft and then you wake up and you're doing Warcraft except your family has left you and you stink and there's a starved dead pet at your feet and all you can worry about is where you left your Hammer of the Naaru - WARNING!
In the end, I hit Level 60 with one character or alt' - the highest level at the time - and quit. Thank God I didn't make too many WoW friends and even better that none of my real-life friends played it too. I didn't run too many time-consuming raids as they required me to be available at times only suitable for students, teens and single-folk with no kids. It wasn't until three months after quitting though that that I actually cancelled my subscription. I kept thinking I might just nip back and play casually. I laugh at the naivety of it. I have been back in to check out the Burning Crusade expansion, but that's after more than a year off. I stayed a few hours and left. I no longer obsess. That's not to say I haven't dabbled with other MMOs like City of Heroes, Guild Wars and Lord of the Rings online since. These days though it's less about fulfilling an inner urge to be a seven-foot tall, armoured Paladin adonis with a massive glowing hammer of destruction and the ability to call down the power of the Gods to smite the evil doers, and more to do with keeping up with what's going on in the games world.
No really, I'm cured now. Really. OK, of Warcraft maybe, but I still have that obsessive streak and that's harder to ditch. The reality is that some kids have killed themselves and each other over online games and Blizzard is fending off numerous lawsuits. There's also a growing online community of WoW addicts. Still, it's not my place to tell others what to do. I had a great time playing WoW but I lost a lot too. There will soon be 10 million WoW players and the games industry is hell-bent on trying to emulate that success by making even more MMOs. How soon before we get the first WoW Anonymous Club? If there is one, I'll probably be at the head of queue competing to be the best WoW addict. Do they have levels? µ
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