Why I Reinstalled World of Warcraft Even Though I Mostly Have My Shit Together
Before I get started, I want to point out I’m disappointed my first post since our hiatus is about World of Warcraft. The second article I wrote for Silicon Sasquatch was a review of Wrath of the Lich King way back in 2009. (It’s god awful, so please don’t click the link.) I hoped by now, eight or so years into this dance, I’d be writing about topics other than, for example, that time I ran a dungeon last month with someone named Votefortrump.
Earlier this week we read Nick’s reasons for belly-flopping back into the quicksand of World of Warcraft. Now I want to provide an explanation of my own.
We are Legion
The last time I paid for World of Warcraft game time was March 1, 2009. In the intervening seven years I’ve managed to avoid logging on out of a combination of self-respect and determination. That’s because, in 2009, the game helped me skirt around reality and its numerous responsibilities.
Back then, I had no job. I had stayed in Eugene, Oregon almost a year after I graduated from college. My parents were paying all my expenses. Aside from the fact that I lived with my then girlfriend, I couldn’t have been a bigger stereotype of the MMO player who was more than a little depressed and, to be honest, lazy.
If you read Nick’s piece, or you’ve been reading us for awhile, you know Silicon Sasquatch was chiseled by Nick and me spending hours in World of Warcraft together. While aimlessly questing, we talked a lot about games media and criticism, and because we had literally nothing else to do while waiting for our phones to ring for interviews, we pivoted attention to launching our own publication. Having a project allowed us to feel fulfilled, even when we wasted a lot of time in the game. Since Nick and I cancelled our subscriptions around the same time in early 2009, I imagine we have this blog to thank for pushing us forward. Up until I started playing again last month, I was more than a little afraid. I thought it might surface demons from my past--my somewhat addictive, escapist habits.
Skipping ahead to April 2015, we were in the final stages of putting the blog on hiatus, which at that time seemed permanent. In 2008 we had so much free time that starting a games website was a good idea, but more than a half-decade later the whole team felt boxed in by the blog. All of us had other priorities (jobs, relationships, etc.), and putting time into Silicon Sasquatch--which up until its final days in 2015 had still been treated like a possible business venture--exhausted us. We burned ourselves out, and we were ready for the next project to push us forward. In some form, we were cancelling the blog like Nick and I had cancelled our WoW subscriptions those years before: We thought we had better and more important things to do.
One final jump ahead puts us a year-and-a-half later to September, 2016. After calling it quits in 2015 minus one “final” Game of the Year feature, we were suddenly talking about a relaunch of the blog. Coincidentally, World of Warcraft: Legion was out and getting fantastic reviews. I played the free trial for a week and found the game far more time-friendly. Today’s World of Warcraft, while still being as much of a timesink as you let it, respects a casual approach and allows me to bite off smaller chunks. I don’t have to wait for quest mob respawns for five minutes because an Alliance player snagged the kill from me, for example.
Pretty soon after we all agreed to drag Silicon Sasquatch out of hibernation (if it could talk, I imagine it would have screamed: “NO! PLEASE LET ME SLEEP FOREVER!”), the parallel to the blog’s origins was too strong to resist dissection. I asked myself: Why would we start the blog back up, and why would I ever go back to World of Warcraft?
Well, my own reasons aren’t complicated. I missed writing. I missed creating. My day job is filled with challenges and problem solving and has flexed career muscles I didn’t think I had, but it’s not “writing” in a pure sense. After we stopped the blog I earned a master’s degree in professional and technical writing, and I’m thankful my work affords me the opportunity to pursue that as a career. It just doesn’t scratch every creative itch I have. And, after talking about it with the staff, it seemed like many of us missed the act of creation, too.
As for why I went back to World of Warcraft? It finally felt like Warcraft in its original RTS format. The new expansion pays more attention to the quality of quests, each zone has a cinematic story, and, as previously mentioned, you don’t have to spend hours to accomplish something.
World of Warcraft will always have high-level dungeons that demand scheduling, coordination and hours of effort, but now the game has a “Looking For Raid” feature that lets random people join in on massive 10- or 25-player raids. RAIDS! Random players raiding together is a feature that would’ve been laughed out of town when version 1.0 launched in 2004. That the game doesn’t punish players without guildmates from queuing to see really cool content is a major shift in tone and proves its respect for today’s subscribers.
Moreover, Legion is actually very fun to play. It’s fast-paced, thanks in part to the new Demon Hunter class, which I’ve played the most of since coming back. This isn’t the same game from 2009: it almost feels like an action RPG with MMO elements, as opposed to its original grueling insistence on a grind/gear/grind cycle adorned with Warcraft franchise accoutrements.
In fact, World of Warcraft: Legion might be one of the best RPGs I’ve played this year.
Don’t Forget: You Were Going to Explain How Your Shit is Together
I proposed to my girlfriend of five years last June. We’re getting married in just over a week as I write this. She’s the love of my life, simply put. We also hope to start a family soon, which just blows my mind. And, on top of that, we bought our first house last year.
So in terms of life achievements, my Adult Gamerscore is something to be proud of. I’m not boasting, just explaining how I’ve gotten my shit together in the years since I stopped playing World of Warcraft.
This is going somewhere, I promise!
My fiancée was understandably a little concerned when I told her I was going to re-subscribe. For years I’d been blunt about how I abused the game to escape from reality and avoid confronting my anxieties and depression. When she asked if I really thought it was a good idea, I paused. I thought about why I wanted to play again for the whole next day. Was I choosing my steps carefully, or would I sink into the quicksand again?
After a fair bit of introspection, I concluded that I have nothing to hide from these days. I don’t need World of Warcraft, or any game, to serve as a coping mechanism. So while I can occasionally feel like that anxious and self-deprecating 22-year-old, I have so much good happening in my life. There’s more than enough for which I’m grateful. Even when wedding planning is stressful or my job is frustrating, I’m not running to login to Azeroth to avoid our family to-do list. If anything, my matured sense of responsibility means I want to check something off of that list before I log on. In a lot of ways, playing World of Warcraft again is like hanging out with a deeply estranged friend: we can enjoy each other's company, but we know it can’t, and shouldn’t, ever go back to the way things were.
I’m going to be a dad soon, I hope. I’m a homeowner who’s looking at the massive pile of leaves in his front yard while he types. I have a wonderful woman to share a life with and wake up next to. I don’t take any of that for granted, and so I trust myself playing World of Warcraft again.
So yeah, my shit is pretty much together. And I think I’ve finally found a way to enjoy a game that used to define my identity at a time when I had no real sense of self. Now that I know who I am, and who I hope to become, I can manage a little World of Warcraft here and there.
And in finally coming to terms with my priorities I can start writing again--for myself, and not because I want to make money off of it.
I can’t wait for all of you to share in the results. It's good to be back!