Finding Yourself

I recently read a post by the inimitable Alternative Chat, whose philosophy on the game is one I think everyone would do well to take in and think about at a time like this, when we’re not even a year into an expansion but already looking at its end. To sum up a little, Alternative asks a few questions:

Do you enjoy playing the game? Do you have solutions for the problems you see? Do you believe Blizzard can fix the problems?

If the answer to any of these is no, then what reasons do you still have to play?

It’s an interesting thing to consider, especially when weighing up whether or not it’s time to cut that sub for a bit, or indeed for good. I myself left for a three-month period at the tail end of 5.4; I, like many others, returned in the WoD hype, having heard nothing but good reviews of the levelling content.

And then endgame hit. So, going into the next expansion (especially if the price remains at its elevated level) I’m not sure I’ll be as quick off the mark. But this relies on the assumption that I’m going to quit, which… I don’t know. I never know. It took months of internal wrangling last time, because the fact of the matter is I, like so many others, am emotionally attached to this damn game. I have invested… a lot. No one wants to see their investment go down the pan, but… Maybe if that’s the case, we should stop seeing it that way.

Back in the heyday of Burning Crusade and Wrath, and even Cataclysm, I had far less anguish about taking breaks. If I felt burnout, or content was lacking, I stopped, I played other games, I returned when I felt the desire to play WoW again. I should probably take this attitude now; if I dislike the content, there’s nothing stopping me from returning if I want to.

The backlash to this is also understandable – how am I supposed to influence a game, critique it and try and ensure it’s what I want to be, if I’m not paying and playing? If Blizzard makes its future decisions based on what is most popular, and the things I like are not being represented because I am not there… Is it going to just get worse?

The ultimate answer to this is we just don’t know.

Burnout is inevitable, I think, whether or not you are casual or hardcore, and what you tell everyone else you are – my worry in recent expansions is that burnout appears to be coming to me faster each time; I don’t know if this exponential acceleration of burnout is due to a change in how I play or how I approach the game, whether the content is inherently more grindy or less fun, or indeed whether it’s just me getting old, though I hope not.

I play this game for story, for the occasional roleplaying experience, for the landscapes and the cinematics and the characters. WoD’s endgame has precious little via any avenue given my self-professed casual status – beyond the 16 garrison campaign mini-chains and the legendary quest, there is little to find.

So, beyond finishing the legendary chain, Hellfire Citadel LFR, and the 6.2 garrison campaigns, my future is unknown. I’m not sure if I’ll stay, but I’m not the only one dependent on my account – unless the powers that be (my relatives) decide they don’t want to continue trying to get past level 20, my sub will probably stay on.

Unfortunately, we are not Blizzard. We cannot say with any certainty whether sub numbers are carefully tracked, whether player activity is tracked, what activities are most popular – all we know is that shareholders are told subscriber numbers at a certain milestone, four times a year.

The only thing that will determine whether Blizzard cares for us beyond money is the future; I have long since abandoned hope, and indeed my playing WoD surprised myself. I was disappointed.

But it’s good to take some time, analyse what you want out of the game, whether you’re getting it, and why you’re still playing.

Like all good things, WoW is best taken in moderation. It’s good to make sure you’re getting satisfaction from other parts of life. Have a good summer, folks.

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