Recently I was thinking about the time I put into WoW, especially the last year that I played when I was basically logging on to raid or prepare for a raid. At the time I knew it was a major commitment, but thinking back on it now I can’t help but realize it was basically addiction in the worst way. The more I thought about it, the more the rush of feelings and emotions crept back into my head, until three pages later, you have what is below. My goal with this post is not to condemn raiding, or to say all those that raid are fools. Simply put, its just something I needed to get off my chest, to put in writing so I could re-read it and fully realize what happened during that time in my life.
I was one of the main tanks for a top tier raiding guild, as well as an officer. At this time I was a senior in college and had a joke of a class schedule, having already completed my core classes. Our guild would raid 6 nights a week, 7:00pm to whenever we were done, which was usually 1-2am. The one night ‘off’ we did Onyxia/ZG/MC. At this time we could one/two night clear BWL, speed clear MC, 1 shot Onyxia, and we were working on AQ40 4-5 night a week. Along with being an MT, I was also one of the officers running our DKP mod, updating it when it had errors and generally doing all the behind the scenes stuff for the guild along with the other officers. This generally took anywhere between 1-3 hours BEFORE we organized the raid, and during the raid often ran the waitlist mod managing who goes in/out during the raid. My raid attendance was somewhere around 90-95%. The only time I would miss a raid would be if I was on vacation (rare) or due to some emergency (also rare). I planned movies/dates/dinners/etc around raids. If the guild had a good week and had made progress, we would sometimes call for a night off, and I would then fill up that night by going out, otherwise I was online. My character at the time had close to 2000 hours played, and if I remember correctly that came out to just under 4 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s an average of 28 hours a week, basically a part time job, and during the more drama filled weeks being an officer, it certainly felt that way. I maintained this type of schedule for about a year and a half, including close to 6 months out of college, when I was working full time.
And yet at the time, I always felt I could be doing more, that our guild was not progressing fast enough, that we were not learning encounters as quickly as we should be, or that our membership was not stable enough to push faster. I spent a good amount of time on our guild forums discussing ways to improve our progress and increase our pace. I remember getting frustrated with members who would not log on consistently, or who had to leave a raid halfway in. We knew exactly who our best healer/dps/support players were; we had the guild all-stars and we had the rest. I could take one look at a raid and know if we had a chance for progress or not, simply based on how many of our ‘key’ players we had that night. The players who like me were consistently online and put in the extra effort to read up on strategies and farm up potions/buff items. It was a constant effort to find those types of players to replace those that ‘only’ raided 3-4 nights a week, those that did not put in the 2-3 hours to farm up potions or read extensive strategy write-ups.
Whenever I did miss a raid, I would hear about it the next day; and at worst find out that the raid had not gone as planned due to lacking a tank. This guilt factored in heavily in making me log on. I felt that if I take a night off, I would be letting 39 others down, people who depended on me to be there. I prided myself on my consistence. Most of all, I did not want to act like the people who I was trying to remove, the ‘casual’ raiders who did not dedicate 5-7 nights a week to the guild.
At the time, downing a boss for the first time with the guild was the greatest of highs. When after weeks of attempts that stupid little life bar goes to 0% and we got our shiny epics. Vent would explode in a cheer from everyone, and not long after a post on the server forum would be made showing off our latest accomplishment. At the time, that feeling made all the work seem well worth it.
The next night, it would be on to the next boss, rinse and repeat until the instance was cleared. And then we would run it again and again, over and over, gearing everyone up so we would be ready for the next raid instance, to collect our next set of shiny new epics, so we could stand near the mailbox in Ogrimar and have ‘lowbies’ run up to inspect us, ask us where we got item x, or in some cases just flat out tell us they thought we are gods.
Ha, if only they knew…
And then one day, after a week of pure drama over progression or items or who knows what, I quit. I had had enough, and I realized, sadly so so late, that WoW was now 99% job, 1% fun for me. The only time I really enjoyed myself was when we downed a boss for the first time, and that happened perhaps once every two weeks or so. Near the end, everything else was work. Dealing with guild drama, judging new recruits, repeating a strategy in raid chat for the 1000th time, updating DKP, it was all work. I would often sit in our officer channel on vent, away from the rest of the guild, and along with the other officers just bitch about all the shit we do for the guild, and how the guild always asks for more. The phrase ‘if they only know how much effort we put into this’ was said so many times in officer chat it was not even funny.
After I quit, I transferred servers and joined another raiding guild, one that from the outside looked like it was more organized and filled with hardcore raiders. No more dealing with the ‘casual’ raider who misses raids; or any of that at all really, since I was no longer an officer. I figured I could just log on, join a raid, and have fun. Problem was, raiding itself was no longer fun for me. Even though I was seeing bosses I had never seen before, downing them was not fun. I felt like an outsider in the new guild, and really could not relate to them. After having played with the same guild for close to two years, I realized joining a completely different group of players on a new server removed that need to please others. A server first was ‘there’ accomplishment; I was just along for the ride. I slowly logged on less and less, until one day I just stopped caring all together and quit WoW.
It was at that time that I first realized how much of my time was taken up by the game. Suddenly I had all this free time with nothing to do. I would wander around the house like a zombie, looking for things to interest me. I played some other games, but nothing could hold my attention for very long. I started watching TV, something I had basically never done when I was playing WoW, and found it very boring. I would flip around looking for god knows what, and ultimately find nothing. Going out was fun for a time, but not being someone who is social 24/7, I soon found I needed that solo time to myself. That solo time that was now a void. It took a few weeks to ‘recover’ from WoW, to get my life back to where I felt normal. To where that feeling did not creep up that I need to log on, that it was getting close to 7pm and I needed to be home ready to raid. I’ve never been addicted to drugs, but if I had to guess, it feels something like that. That little voice in the back of your head telling you to do something, that itch that reminds you of what you once had, the feeling to log on and once again feel that rush you get from a server first. It’s sickening really.
Months later, I would go back and read the raiding forum, amazed by the pure stupidity posted. Reading about people doing insane things for marginal gain, jumping through a million hoops for a shred of carrot at the end of a very long stick. I would laugh, until I realized not long ago I was that person making the post. I was the one on the inside looking out, looking at all the ‘casuals’ and cursing them for their lack of dedication. And then I would feel sorry for them, because I knew at one point or another, they would realize what the game was doing to them, and that in the end, it meant nothing. All those server firsts, all the things that seemed so damn important at the time, they all mean nothing now. Instead of a trophy of accomplishment, they now represent a sick addiction.
I now look and wonder how many people are still stuck in that addiction? How many guilds with how many members are out there pushing the limits of raid content? Contend designed to be painfully slow, requiring crazy amounts of dedication and sacrifice. Because simply put, you can’t ‘casually’ raid. It’s just not possible if you want to make progress. It’s designed that way, and every developer knows it. They know that in order for the player to see Ragnaros, Nefarion, C’Thun, etc, they must put in the insane amount of time and effort it takes to reach them. The same is true now for the raid bosses of The Burning Crusade, including Illidan, the ultimate prize.
I’m very grateful I escaped that cycle, and would never go back to raiding. Even the thought of it sickens me; the thought of all the things I would have to give up to go back. Yet at the same time, I completely understand why those that raid do it, why they jump through those hoops. I’ve felt the rush of that success, and like anything in life you pour so much effort into, the feeling of success is powerful indeed. But like so many other things in life, it can consume you to the point of addiction. If gaming is a taste, raiding is the overdose.