Nostalgia and doubts

My guild turned five years old the other day, which I considered a reason to celebrate. I've always found that "internet time" seems to operate under different principles than real time, meaning that things come and go much more quickly because it's very easy to put a new website up or to take an old one down. It's amazing for me to think of all the forums and community sites that I've been a part of over the years, the drastic changes they've undergone and how many of them have even vanished completely. With that in mind, a guild in an MMO surviving for five years is pretty damn good in my opinion, even if it's gone through a lot of changes during that time as well.

It's not all sunshine and roses however. While working on commemorating the occasion, I went through a lot of old screenshots and blog posts of mine, and it was a somewhat strange experience. Nostalgia is always bittersweet, happy memories combined with the knowledge that those events and people are in the past and gone forever. You can never go back to how it was; I know that. Yet still, looking at those memories captured in pictures and words, I did find myself wondering about why some things have changed.

For example I came across some (what I thought were) absolutely gorgeous screenshots of boss fights in action. "How come I never take pictures like that anymore?" I asked myself. The answer? Probably because I'm a ten-man healer now instead of a twenty-five-man damage dealer. Many of those pictures were taken while I was hugging the floor and people were still struggling to salvage a fight gone bad. I was only one of over a dozen dps, I was expendable for at least a while. This kind of thing never happens anymore. Healing ten-mans is srs business. If I die - or any other healer for that matter - we'll end up wiping pretty quickly, whether we want to or not. No time for distractions!

As much as I do love healing, I'm wondering whether spending some more time as dps again wouldn't be good for my sanity. I've been running random Zulroics on my hunter but no other characters lately - is that my subconscious trying to tell me something? And today a guildie invited me to join a Baradin Hold pug with my hunter and I was thrilled I tell you. Thrilled! Not having to worry about anything but blowing shit up? Sign me up!

But then, raiding as a whole seems to have lost a lot of its luster for me. I found an old blog entry about the first time my guild downed Magtheridon, and I quoted a guildie as describing the reaction on voice chat as similar to a "mass orgasm while trapped in a burning building". Compare that to our latest first kill, Beth'tilac: my boyfriend wasn't in the raid, just occasionally glancing over my shoulder from the sofa, until he suddenly said: "Oh, you got her down then!" He hadn't been able to tell because I hadn't had any kind of reaction to the kill. It's also a world of a difference compared to the nights when I'm doing rated battlegrounds, constantly giggling at some nonsense that's being talked about in chat in-between games, and keeping my eyes glued to the screen at the exclusion of everything else just to keep our flag carrier alive for a couple more seconds.

And the sad thing is, I don't even know why. Out of all the parts of WoW that I believe lost some of their appeal over time, raiding would probably be dead last. Yeah, personally I would have preferred tens and twenty-five-mans to remain separate, but Blizzard still makes some great encounters regardless. Yet somehow... something is missing. There's a definite feeling of going through the motions to it all - and not just with raiding actually.

Again, looking at those really old blog posts about how I used to spend my time in game... wow! No plans, just messing about. Log on, see if any friends are online, then do something together, even if it's just mucking about in Stranglethorn in some way. Nowadays it's: log on, do some solo activity to progress my character, log off again. I could wait for friends to do something together, but all too often that random dungeon or battleground button is too tempting.

I don't know how much of it is simply due to the game itself changing and how much is me, but it's certainly food for thought. I'm enjoying the game in its own way still, but while there is no going back in time, I still can't help but wonder whether I couldn't have more fun with it if I managed to return to my roots in at least some aspects. The problem is that it's hard to break established habits, and you can't be a true noob twice. You can't "un-know" what you already know about the game, such as all the rewards you're missing out on by choosing a less focused approach. But can you still try?


  1. I think part of the appeal of PvP over PvE (raiding or not) for you right now is the uncertainty. Everybody plays differently, and while the mechanics are the same, the strategies and tactics will differ. That uncertainty really creates a lot of tension in a BG.

    With a boss fight, you know the drill. You've seen it before, and it's strictly a matter of execution. If a boss changed tactics on a regular basis, it would keep the fight fresh and uncertain, but that doesn't happen.

  2. Sounds like you might have a touch of that general malaise we've seen going around. I had a really nasty case of it a few months ago that stuck around until pretty recently. I played some other games, leveled some toons just to mess around, and basically ignored all my responsibilities (which was easy since I didn't really have any at the time, but still, I wasn't working on "progressing), and then one day I suddenly wanted to play again.

    WoW can become as much a part of a person's identity as a job they love. I'm dealing with being without teaching (though I still have my methadone college professoring to go to), and I've dealt with feeling bad about WoW before, and I can tell you that there's a lot of similarities between to two.

    If you still like the game, then the good feelings will come back. It may take time, it may take breaks, it may take a big change in your game play, but it will come back if you want it to. Whether it does or not, you're still you, with or without this part of your identity. You're still the priest with a cause, even if you're not priesting on a daily basis.

  3. Beautifully put last paragraph. My raid group just disbanded, largely due to real life commitments (mine included), and no small amount of just getting tired of it all. I dream of leveling that alt, rolling a new class, and/or switching to dps... but is there any going back, or will it all just be time spent trying to get back to a "perfect" place, long since passed?

  4. @Redbeard: That's definitely true, but it doesn't really answer the question of why things feel different to me now. Boss fights have always been about learning the dance, and I used to find that exciting too. Maybe there's a certain element of "been there, done that" to it, seeing how there's only so much Blizzard can do to make encounters new and different. Maybe some of the changes to the raiding game also play a part, such as the point madness and the planned obsolescence of every new raid.

    @Stubborn: That last sentence made me chuckle. :) I guess it's difficult to take a break because of the built-in sense of duty that you develop as a raider. Of course you don't really "owe" it to your guildies to be available all the time, but on the other hand you don't really want to be "that guy" who's never around and leaves people hanging on a whim.

    @Ithilyn: You said it in a much more concise manner than me. :) So many questions, but no real answers.

  5. It's not surprising. I remember when I put out my first major published piece at work, 20 years ago. Exciting! Now? Well, it's a nice feeling to have finished a piece of work, but after 20 years and god knows how many publications (dozens?), it can't possibly be exciting. Put it this way, how many progression bosses have you killed over the years? Add them up and blog it, it'll be fun!

    In fact, I often go through similar phases in WoW. I'm not much of an alter either. Here are three suggested strategies that have worked for me in the past. (1) Take a three or four week break. (2) Get a new healer recruit or do some Tier 11 and demand to take your hunter for the change of pace. (3) Set parental controls with a max of 12 hours a week gameplay. This last one is my latest wheeze. I bet it sounds surreal to everyone, but I think part of the difference to how I play NOW to THEN is that WoW used to be something I logged on to for some fun. It wasn't routine! I didn't have this set dailies, heroics, one BG, check AH, log off thing going on. By not ALLOWING myself that routine, the game stays fresher.

    Anyways, good luck!

  6. Ironically, progression may be what kills guilds. What's the joy in an easy kill? It's the kill you don't think you can get that really brings the cheers. The kill that takes weeks is the one to remember.

  7. Oh yeah, here's two more things I do. (4 )Play a completely different game and let that take over for a while. I really enjoyed LA Noire. (5) Record the victories and never let them be devalued. I compiled all my WotLK photos into as nice narrative, wrote a story around it, and had it printed as one of those photobooks. Cost me a tenner, well worth every penny!

    It's like marriage or work or any other field of human endeavour, you can't ever recapture the initial highs, but you can settle into a comfortable, enjoyable and amiable middle ground. So good luck! /boxerdogs.

  8. You may not be able to un-know things but you you can stop reading up on things you don't know yet :)

    I have cancelled my sub but it is possible I will renew it come winter, and if I do I will certainly fight the urge to go find a good levelling spec or to deck my toon out in heirlooms. And I won't raid.

    I will choose gear based on how pretty it is and just amble along and smell the flowers :)

  9. I don't think you can "return to your roots" because you would be alone there which isn't fun in an MMO. It's not just that you log on and do a solo activity to advance your character instead of doing something with your friends. It's also your friends that log on and do a solo activity to advance their character instead of doing something with you.

  10. This really reminds me of a post Gilded recently wrote on how the world has become "colder" - and in a way I think that sensation applies here too, even for WoW and raiding. all our life we want to progress and discover, but once we have done all of that, the world just feels a little smaller. the older we get, the more well-known everything becomes and for games too of course, even more so, things just feel lacking and been there done that at some point.

    I made the exact same discovery like you some months ago, looking at my huge screenshot folders from vanilla and TBC, pondering how unimportant such kills have suddenly become and how I never take killshots anymore.
    the newb days are gone, they will never return. but then, 7 years is a really long time to play the same game, so that is already a bit of an achievement. maybe you simply need a time out and look at something new sometime, feel again how it is to start at zero, in a brand new world with brand new challenges. personally I found that helpful, just to noob around a bit in other games. and it can bring back your appreciation for the old, too.

  11. Argh, I had a huge comment typed out and then backspace ended up deleting the whole thing... /sigh. Once more into the breach!

    @BoxerDogs: It's that routine that really gets me I think. I like routine to a certain extent, but in my opinion Blizzard has gone somewhat overboard with it by now, with a daily for everything and pretty much every other activity being designed to be digested in chunks of a predetermined size over a predetermined amount of time. Just imagine what the World of Warcraft would be like if we didn't have any of that, if everything was just out there for you to take it or leave it. Sure, some people would rush ahead and burn themselves out, but at least not everyone would be expected to fit into the same mould. And I'd love to see that photobook! ;)

    @Klepsacovic: That's why discussions about difficulty rarely lead anywhere, because ideally everything should be just challenging enough but not impossible for everyone at the same time, and that's just not feasible.

    @Tessy: I haven't touched a heirloom since Cataclysm and have never looked up a levelling spec in my life. I guess levelling some more lowbie alts would be fun, but the lack of character slots on servers where I know people is somewhat off-putting. :(

    @Kring: True, that's where the question of how much the game has changed comes in. As Nils always likes to say, context matters. But I've ranted about that kind of thing enough, I thought I'd look at my own habits for a change. ;)

    @Syl: I wonder if SWTOR will be able to lure me in for a while. I'm not a huge Star Wars geek and never thought I'd be interested in a sci-fi MMO, but I've seen some videos that actually intrigued me and it would certainly be a change of pace.

  12. > Just imagine what the World of Warcraft would
    > be like if we didn't have any of that, if
    > everything was just out there for you to take
    > it or leave it.

    Sounds like vanilla to me.

    *hint* That was when they were growing subscribers, not losing them. :)

  13. BTW I'm already finding an enforced 12 hour limit per week hugely liberating. This is going to sound strange, but when I log on now, I have genuine choice. Hmmm... I am probably gonna raid 2x this week I think to myself, so that is 8-9 hours done, so I *could* run an hour of BGs, or I *could* do a zulroic, or I *could* do a full batch of dailies. But I can't possibly do them all. So strangely, less time means more choice.

    I know that technically there's nothing to stop me timing myself at 12 hours, but it comes back to the human mind (as per a more recent post of yours), just vaguely trying to keep to 12 hours is not the same as knowing the damn machine will kick you off at 12 hours! A thing that is in limited supply, is automatically more valuable.

    I'll be sure to let you know how my experiment turns out!