Friday, November 11, 2011

The Invisible Wall

It's been a while.

When I logged on the other day, I found not only some Halloween quests in my queue, but some Brewmaster stuff as well.  I hadn't played for an appreciable stretch of time in well over a month, and I still haven't logged into my Horde toons since, oh, early October.  This isn't due to any real lack of desire to play, but merely my credo of keeping my priorities straight.

My overall absence from the game is due to a combination of factors, but the primary ones can be summed up in two words:  family and work.  It was kind of a perfect storm, really, where work amped up right at the same time that the family got really busy, and I'd end up hitting the hay later and later at night.  Since I play early in the mornings, less time for sleep on the one end meant I had to make it up somewhere, and my WoW time suffered as a consequence.  About halfway through my disappearance from the servers, I finally admitted defeat and let my sub lapse for a little while.  Hell, if I wasn't on to play, why pay for it?

Well, this past week I finally resubbed and logged back in.

You know how Larisa over at PPI once talked about how she'd gone away (on vacation or something) and then came back to find that she couldn't remember how to play at all?  Well, that is no lie.  The first few battlegrounds I got into I swear I was doing little better than hitting a button --any button-- hoping it would score a hit.  About all I was good for was announcing when there were incs or taking away the enemy's attention on the healer.  If anyone had listened in on that first early morning, they'd have heard a steady stream of "no, TV comes after I get the 3 HP...  Dammit, I hit Exorcism again!  Stop it, you moron, use your CDs!  Now why the f*** did I blow both the trinket and Divine Shield?  He only hit you once!"

Times like this, you kind of wonder why I logged back in in the first place.

(Of course, talking to yourself is one of the first signs of senility, and as the Old Man around the WoW bloggers I frequent since Larisa retired, I'm sure I'm letting myself up for a bunch of retirement jokes.)

To be honest, I did kind of question myself a bit about resubbing.  After the first week or so, I found that I didn't miss it quite so much, and I could quite easily keep up with what was happening on the blogosphere and on the guild website without actually needing to login to the game.  Was it a sign of an addiction that I wanted to resub just because?

Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  Interacting in the blogosphere or on a website (or, yes, on Twitter) isn't the same as in-game interaction; there's a voyeuristic feel to reading about people's exploits or general chatter, and an unspoken but omnipresent barrier involved.  If you're not out there, interacting in-game, you're just a spectator.  Grab some chips and the remote, and you've got an evening in front of the tube watching a reality show.

But really, what is more interesting:  reading about people interacting in-game, or actually being in-game?

Some people (/cough Rades /cough) could write about killing ten fire elementals and turn it into epic prose, but the rest of us aren't so gifted.  We need context, we need grounding, we need the interaction itself to make our words come alive.  You can mention that "I finished my last Firelands dailies!" or "I finally got that Netherwing Drake!" and those who have a common reference can appreciate it.  If you don't have that, they're just so many electrons cluttering up the interwebs.

The irony is that I'm talking about playing in a virtual world when there are likely some people out there saying "Go outside!  Enjoy a physical world for a change!"  Well, yeah.  You've got a point.  And yes, I do go outside and enjoy the wilderness, such as it is in my part of the Midwest.  But this isn't a blog for my outdoors foibles, and it misses the point.

If I wanted to merely read about people playing WoW, that's all fine and good, but the fun of WoW is actually playing the game.  It's a shared experience.  People respond to the game --and the other players-- with the entire wide range of emotions because the game world is a living, breathing thing.  Perhaps WoW has more than it's share of detractors due to it being the 1000 lb gorilla in the MMO world, but if people didn't care, everyone would yawn.  MMOs live and die by the passion they stir in their players, and the players themselves are a large part of that.  When an MMO generates merely indifference, then the barbarians are at the gate.

As for myself, I decided to resub because I missed the interaction with friends and fellow bloggers/guildies online.  Sure, I tend to play when the servers aren't exactly busy (or are filled with insomniacs), but they're busy enough.  And the lunchtime crowd can be plenty fun too.

And naturally, right after I resubbed, I came down sick with a very nasty virus.  As I lay on the couch, dosed up with Robitussin and Ibuprofen, I kept muttering "....don't it just figure?"


  1. I don't think it's that simple to say that reading about other peoples exploits in WoW isn't a meaningful as playing the game.

    I think a big draw for me to WoW (and the reason I didn't stop paying for it) is to make connections with other people. And blogging sometimes builds more meaningful connections over shared experiences (even though the experience wasn't had together!) than actually playing the game.

    The more I feel that I'm connecting to people on Twitter the less I feel the drive to blog/write... but often I log in and don't get that sense of connection at all and that pushes me to blog or chat elsewhere.

    Sometimes I think I keep subscribing for the blog and not for the game :)

    And I still don't think I remember how to play after having a break. I'm not sure I'm going to get past that feeling.

  2. @Cassi-- I think it depends on the blog. It's not like people are consciously trying to exclude some readers, but after a certain point it feels to me like I just can't relate quite so much, and if I try to I end up looking like "that guy" who tries to claim his sporting experiences in school are the same as that as a professional athlete. Think about all the people who run into David Beckham at a bar and say "oh yeah, I played soccer as a kid! Great game!" and they then rattle on about it for a while, boring and annoying everyone around them.

    As I said before, none of this is conscious or even intended, but I suspect the wall does make an appearance the longer you are from the game. However, the closer the relationship you have with the blogger/twitter friend/etc. the more easily you're able to overcome this, because your entire relationship isn't defined by the blog/tweets/etc.

    If we're both feeling like we've forgotten how to play the game, maybe a Mists of Pandaria --with its associated class changes-- might be what we need. That way everybody feels like that... ;-)