Over the weekend I found myself thinking about World of Warcraft, about entertainment and stress levels. And those stray thoughts lead me to the three-legged stool.
A three-legged stool is just that, a stool with three legs. If you take one of those legs away, the stool doesn’t stand anymore. You might be able to shift your balance and keep it up on just two legs for a while, but you can’t do it forever.
For this analogy, you’re going to have to look at the game through my eyes for it to really make sense. If you’re the kind of person who hates leveling, doesn’t like PvP, and lives only to raid – then you probably won’t understand it all that well if you only look at it through your own perspective. I do my best to explain what I’m feeling so that you can understand.
World of Warcraft: The Game
I look at WoW as a three-legged stool; there are three parts to this game for me that I can enjoy or not. Leveling is the first, the one that I enjoy most of all as it’s a game in and of itself and I find nearly infinite replay value in this. Second is PvE, end game heroics and dungeons in this case. I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with this one and currently we’re “off” as I’m not taking part in it at all. Finally, there’s the PvP leg which encompasses everything from low level twinking to competitive arena. PvP is my second favorite of these three where I find the most challenge this game has to offer as I face off against people rather than programs.
I really enjoy leveling in Cataclysm. Where many people are disappointed in how quickly they can level or how easy it is, I’m loving it more than ever as I get to try so many different classes and specs, and I get to play around with different variations and settings for all of them. I still find leveling to be extremely satisfying.
As I mentioned above, the PvE aspect of this game isn’t holding my interest right now. I’ve been in two raids this expansion, a total of four occasions (two in each). I won’t say that I didn’t have at least some amount of fun in them, but there certainly wasn’t enough there to make me want to go gear up my toons and show up for raids like I did in parts of Wrath. Instead I’ve spent all of my time either leveling or in PvP. I do like running an occasional 5-man or something, but that’s the only part of PvE content I’m really enjoying.
The PvP aspect of the game has been one of my stronger focuses this expansion. I got into arena for the first time and actually found myself having a ton of fun playing with some of my guild members that I didn’t always spend a lot of time with. I’ve had a great time this expansion doing arenas with my buddies, Hex and Cyn.
World of Warcraft: The Social Network
The number of friends that I have in WoW is truly mind blowing. I had no idea when I first got into this game just how insane the social side of it would become. I never expected to end up following hundreds of WoW players on twitter. I never thought I’d have this blog and my readers. I also never imagined the kind of honest relationships that would be built between myself and members of my guilds.
I took a second to think about the friendships I have in WoW and realized I have a three-legged stool here as well. With all of my friendships related to the game, there are three key people who contribute directly to how much I enjoy playing the game. The three people holding up my social stool are my wife, Cynwise, and Anexxia. My wife is the most direct tie-in to my love of leveling as she shares my love for rolling alts. Cynwise, if you don’t already know him, is my direct tie to PvP. Anexxia, while also an altoholic, is also my tie to PvE.
Each of these three people has some amount of direct impact on how much I enjoy the aspect of WoW that I associate with them. The more fun my wife is having with leveling different toons, the more likely I am to do the same. When I see her having fun with a class/spec that I haven’t tried yet or haven’t done in a while, I almost always “steal her idea” and go roll one of my own to experience it for myself. When Cyn finds something cool in PvP, whether it’s twinking or gear or whatever, I generally want to go get in on it and experience it for myself. And when Anexxia is talking about killing raid bosses and what she’s doing to enhance her own performance while also increasing her own enjoyment, I get more and more interested in raiding. It’s important to note, however, that the opposite is true as well; the more they dislike it, the more I dislike it.
The analogy of the three-legged stool isn’t complete without talking about the legs. Right now, as I’ve already mentioned, the PvE leg for me is extremely wobbly, and threatening to knock over my stool. I’m pretty good at balance for a big guy, though, so I could still play this game and enjoy it without PvE. However, the PvP leg is weakening as well, and I don’t know how long I can balance on just leveling. I could do it for a while, but even I get burned out on leveling if I don’t have something else to do every now and then.
I don’t see the leveling leg giving out on me any time soon. I don’t see it in this expansion, or even in the next. My love for leveling runs very, very deep. More so than most of you can probably even comprehend if you don’t really know me from more than just my blog or twitter.
The PvP leg is shaky right now as I haven’t been all that interested in twinking for a few months now, and the new arena season is so incredibly jacked up that I really just don’t even feel like looking at it. The only PvP that I’m getting in on right now is the PvP that I do while I’m leveling. So the PvP leg of this stool is only about one third of the size it usually is for me.
As for the social aspect of the game, all of those legs are wobbly right now. My wife has been pulling back on her WoW time significantly for about 4 months or so. There are a lot of different factors as to why, but the details aren’t important here. Maybe you can imagine the feeling of there being something that you really enjoyed doing with someone who then stopped doing it, and maybe you can’t. I really enjoyed playing WoW with my wife, even though we technically don’t play together very often because we have very different play styles and she loathes PvP. It’s like going out with a friend for ice cream or drinks every Friday night, you might not enjoy the same flavors but you both like to buy them from the same place. Suddenly you start to notice they only make it a couple of times a month, then once a month, then once every few months. Eventually, it’s just not going to be the same at all without them.
Cynwise has been in a head-meet-wall situation with PvP lately. There have been so many changes that were put in place without notification, or that we were told would be one way and then right before release they were another, and just all kinds of stupid little changes and failings all over the place that just keep on piling up. It’s incredibly frustrating and here lately they’ve just been piling on one thing after another.
Anexxia is in a very similar situation with raiding right now. Though she does love rolling and leveling alts, raiding is her true passion. She’s had trouble with raiding schedules and such here lately and her raiding time has dropped to almost nothing. She’s done some looking for a Horde guild on a non-PvP server that raids during the times she can commit to, and so far she hasn’t had much luck.
The trend here, in case you haven’t caught it yet, is that these three people who support my social WoW stool are all facing really hard times right now in-game which makes it harder and harder for them to enjoy it. They’ve all considered cancelling their accounts, each to different degrees of sincerity. But the more I see my true core of friends not having fun with the game, the more I find myself not having fun with the game. If some of them do decide to quit playing, I’m not entirely sure how long I’ll have a desire to continue playing. They haven’t said that they’re actually going to stop playing, but they’ve thought it and those thoughts have prompted me to take a closer look.
I don’t want what I just said to be taken in any way as a “guys, don’t leave me! you’ll kill my fun!” This is just me taking a look at the game as a whole and asking myself how I really look at the game right now. What do I enjoy, and why do I enjoy it? What do I not enjoy right now, and why not? I enjoy some of the play, but some of it I don’t. I enjoy playing with friends, but with some of them potentially leaving, how much would I enjoy the rest of it? I’m not pressuring them to stay, I’m offering my full support in their decisions whether that is to stay or to go, because I understand all three of them and the situations they’re in.
This is the part where you’re wondering whether I’m going to drop the bomb on my own account, right? ;)
I don’t have that particular answer for you right now. I’ve cut back on my own play time because of health reasons. I do enjoy having some time away from WoW, but I do still really enjoy certain aspects of it. I guess what it really comes down to is, I’m not quite having as much fun with the game as I used to. I’m having a blast with the leveling, but I can already see that eventually that’s going to stop being as fun as well.
I think right now, if I could find another game that I enjoyed as much as WoW, I wouldn’t mind moving on and leaving WoW behind. WoW isn’t my favorite game of all time, but I’ve had more fun with it than any other game to date. If there were another game I really enjoyed playing, I could cancel my account right now and it wouldn’t bother me very much. The major drawback would be the social aspect, which I’m sure I could get through just fine with Twitter and Google+.
I’m a gamer, plain and simple. I’m not a WoW addict or even an MMO addict, but I am a gaming addict. In the past it’s been Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, forum-based roleplaying, or Diablo II. Right now WoW is filling that void, but I can’t say for sure how long that’s going to last.
Maybe I need a break. Maybe I’m just in a bit of a funk and it will all be better in a few days. Maybe I need to quit. Maybe I just need to try something new in-game. I don’t have all the answers right now. What I do have are these thoughts and this blog that I can share them in, and so I did.
July 11, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Ok m8, i read e-mail i received and i have something to say: as most adult players in this game, i have a wife, a job and a little son. They all demand a lot of time, so i can only explore the “solo” – let’s called it that – component of this game…but that’s fine to me, because, as someone once said about this kind of games, many people go there to be “alone in a group”…still, i haven’t found anything like this game since my hardcore incursions in the world of rpg’s and i am gonna miss your posts…remember: there is allways someone watching :)
July 11, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Well, like I said, this isn’t necessarily the end. More just me letting people know that the game is changing for me a bit right now. I might stop playing, or I might keep on playing for another year or more. I really don’t know for sure how much longer I’m going to keep playing right now.
Time will tell, I suppose.
July 11, 2011 at 12:38 PM
I take regular (short) breaks and either go off and smell the roses IRL or go a bit touristy – via Rift or whatever.
I guess I’ve been so anti-social for so long now that I’ve made peace with never raiding or anything again – I’m just pottering round on alts, which, whilst not giving me the social aspect, does give me that ability to do whatever I like whenever I want to. It works for me :)
I think the thought of a (personal) challenge – whether that’s Iron man or pacifism or gold cap or whatever helps keep things interesting for me, but then again you’re the uber-man of levelling so I guess you’ve kind of done a lot of it already!
I hope that both your health and your… spirit… for want of a better word, improves and you feel happy again, whatever game you’re playing and however you are playing it.
July 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM
Thank you so much for this reflective and insightful post: it resonated with me greatly. As I was thinking about all the obstacles I’ve met with trying to do the end-game content last night, be they guild or real life related, I always come back to the friendships. My grandmother had a three-legged stool, one she threatened to just throw away because of all the grandchildren who had a turn toppling off of the damn thing, so your metaphor made me laugh – cursed stool! Perhaps, the friends and family we play WoW with are the seat of the stool, where we feel most stable. Thank you again for your post – much appreciated.
July 12, 2011 at 1:17 PM
Dude, I think we both need to start drinking and go grab a beer or something. Go get some Chuy’s in Austin or something.
July 12, 2011 at 2:54 PM
Chuy’s. Oh my God. Weak. So weak. Must fly home for decent food.
July 12, 2011 at 3:06 PM
Hold up, I don’t even know what Chuy’s is.
July 12, 2011 at 9:31 PM
It’s tex-mex that will blow both our points out of the water and we’ll be okay with it. :-)
I offered my first comment in solidarity, but I have to say – it’s very strange to be going through my own mid-game crisis at the same time as you. I took your statement like you meant it, not as a plea to stay, but rather a statement of fact: how much do I enjoy this if the folks I enjoy playing with aren’t there? There are always new folks, but there are also friends. (At this point, old friends!) And playing without friends can be hard.
I don’t know if I would have gone public with my own doubts had I not been very, very angry. I know that you and Fyn already knew about it without me saying much, but …
I don’t know. Can’t be undone now.
I hate that all my recent posts have been negative. I *hate* that all I’m doing is finding faults and problems and exploits, sleuthing my way to find out the real reasons changes are taking place.
And what’s ironic is that I didn’t even take time off because of this – I was willing to stick it out. I took it off due to RL concerns, of needing a break to focus on more important things. And I did, and realized that I needed to do so on a more regular basis.
I came back, tentatively, to find out that instead of being fully prepared for the new Arena season, I was now behind and facing an honor grind. Seriously? Seriously, Blizzard?
So, I don’t know what happens next.
Ironically, I closed down one of my other websites during my non-WoW week. It was a tech blog, and it had been open for 5 years. It was bittersweet writing the last post, moving the domain to a subdomain on my personal site, and then realizing that in 5 years, I’d gotten as many pageviews as I do in a single month as Cynwise. That in all that time I wrote for that blog, I never got 1% of the satisfaction for having helped people as I have with CBM/GTG. It never generated a flood of emails of people thanking me for helping them overcome their fears of PvP during Children’s Week, getting them into a positive attitude, or for making things easier for them.
Heck, it barely generated a trickle of emails.
It’s not about popularity, but it is about reach, and being useful and helpful. I look at the Children’s Week guides as the single best thing I have done for WoW, not because they brought in pageviews, but because they helped people who were distraught at the idea of the School of Hard Knocks. All the PvP fuckups that Blizzard has thrown out in the last 8 months can’t take that away from me.
It’s a sobering thought to realize that I care more about CBM than I do about WoW right now. But, all things considered, perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
July 13, 2011 at 8:48 AM
I had a similar thought writing this. The thought of what happens with the blog concerns me, but the game really doesn’t.
I like BG’s, I really do, but I’m not looking forward to going back to an honor grind so that I can go back to a conquest grind so that I can get fully geared up right before yet another arena season starts and completely resets my gear again for yet another honor grind.
July 15, 2011 at 8:58 AM
It’s the blog that has kept me playing the game over the past year, hands down. That and playing with you and Cyn and Wrenz. And now that Wrenz has cancelled his subscription (he hasn’t logged on in weeks, so it makes sense), I’m more than a little adrift. And /agree with Cyn that it is interesting how we are all three of us having this feeling/angst ensemble.
July 12, 2011 at 6:52 PM
July 13, 2011 at 12:15 PM
I have two blogs that I write, one professionally which has had over 6000 views, and my “fun” one, for my Azerothian adventures. Cynwise, thank you for your comment and insights, and always, I am grateful for Psynister’s work. Cynwise, the comments about Children’s Week validated my somewhat maudlin view of the whole event, and it took me weeks to get back to playing any kind of PvP. My cross-dressing rogue has talked me into doing arenas with him, so I’ll be getting back into it.
But you’re spot on, only the sublime flavors of Chuy’s Tex-Mex can truly get rid of the taste of Blizz-induced frustration — very jealous of those of you who are regionally superior to me.
July 21, 2011 at 7:42 PM
I haven’t lived in Texas for 11 years now. I really, really miss good tex-mex. :-(
July 18, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Being in Austin myself, I wholeheartedly recommend the heart-attack-inducing green chile enchiladas covered in eggs over easy. To die for.
July 21, 2011 at 7:44 PM
In Houston it’s the 911 Hot Plate for me. Austin, it was the Elvis Presley Memorial Green Chile Fried Chicken – chicken battered in potato chips, fried, covered in hatch green chilies (and cheese, which I skipped.)
So bad for my waistline, so good for my soul.
July 19, 2011 at 2:54 PM
I run WoW Insider and I routinely take breaks to keep myself from getting too jaded or angry. I say this on the podcast all the time, but if you’re feeling burnt out, bored, or just not interested in the game, don’t play it. It’s the best medicine.
July 21, 2011 at 7:45 PM
Mike – that’s great advice. Time away is honestly helping. Thanks!