Roll with the Changes

Months ago, I had a voice in the back of my head whenever I would pause. It would say, “So I went out to Land’s End Beach…”

When a phrase keeps popping up in the background of my mind, unbidden, it could be two things. It could be evidence of my slipping grasp on reality, marking me out as someone who will eventually be put in a small room and looked at through a little window forever, only to be visited by my handlers and the occasional starry-eyed FBI cadet–or, it’s my mind trying to tell me something, and it wants this venue to do it.

I always liked Land’s End Beach. Before Uldum came along, it was the southernmost part of Kalimdor. I would ride out there old school, on a land mount, and sit with the nice neutral turtles, sure that I wouldn’t see anyone else, and just enjoy the utter solitude. This was before RealID, back when one could hop on a toon and hide from absolutely everyone.

I grabbed a portal to Uldum and flew out to Land’s End Beach. I wish I could say it was one of those areas completely untouched by the Cataclysm, but it’s not too bad. I found a spit of land and sat, waiting for…something.

It’s amazing how this digital world can evoke a sense of contemplation, like a real beach would. And as I looked around at the realistic water and dark sky, the things that I needed to talk to myself about came forward.

One, I wasn’t happy in my guild, where I had been for at least two years.

The reasons don’t really matter. It’s gauche to get into private details in a public venue. I left that guild not long after, and I must say I’m happier. It’s a chapter in my WoW story I really want to put behind me. I’ve learned painful but valuable lessons from the situation.

Two, (and this was hard to admit) I didn’t want to raid anymore.

I enjoyed raiding through BC, but the pinnacle of raiding for me was in Wrath. I originally joined my former guild at the beginning of Wrath because it offered more raiding opportunities, since they did 25-mans at the time. But the real attraction was that I didn’t have to raid lead; I just had to show up and let mobs hit me in the face. It was liberating, taking off a lot of pressure so that I could enjoy the game.

Then came Cataclysm, and the death of 25s. Three 10-man teams were formed, and I was asked by someone I respect very much to lead one of them. I was honored, flattered, and said yes. We did pretty well through Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight, but then came Firelands. To me, that was Blizz’ way of saying that casual 10-man raiding was going bye-bye. If you wanted to play at this level, it was all or nothing.

Firelands was not fun for me. The gimmick fights like Rhyolith, bosses that had to be spawned by killing legions of trash, and fights with more moving parts than ever before–this was the first point that I realized that I really didn’t like tanking a much as I used to.

Raiding went from “Oh good” to “oh God” very quickly after that. And as I’ve gotten older, gained more responsibility, and work has gotten to be problematic, I find myself less inclined to put up with my fun time not being very fun for me. I felt chained to my computer every Saturday night. Nonetheless, we did okay in Dragon Soul, got Deathwing down, and once we got tired of alting it up in there, I got a nice respite from raiding.

Then came Pandaland. Grind dailies, get gear to raid, and what do I hit first? Stone Doggies. Two years ago, that fight would have maddened me, but I would have relished buckling down and learning it. But when I was dragging myself to raid, it just made me want to stop. We got stalled. Raiders stopped showing up. I sunk deeper into depression. Finally, my wife and I made the decision that raiding wasn’t for us anymore.

Almost all of our raiders understood and respected our decision, and I count those individuals as valued friends. Others, however, simply…moved on, as easily as flipping a switch. Sometimes I wonder if the connections in WoW are real, or if they’re just based on what one person can do or be for another, and when that dynamic changes, they’re simply done with you. It leaves one with the sense that through all the wins and wipes, it wasn’t the people that mattered, that they were simply flesh blobs behind a monitor, meant to facilitate access to mounts and titles and purples.

That the raiding is what matters, and not with whom one raids.

People say that WoW is an addiction, and up until now I used to consider that view a tongue-in-cheek joke, but now I’m not so sure. Think about it: a junkie would get high with Hitler and Kim Jong Il as they took turns feeding kittens into a woodchipper, as long as they had also had quality drugs to offer. Maybe that’s why some players aren’t too picky about the quality of human they raid with.

And no, I certainly have not discounted the possibility that I’m the problem here. Maybe I’m too picky. I’m certainly no prize pig as a player or as a person.

All day long I have to deal with in-fighting, politics, and a campus system that makes even the smallest decision a paralyzing ordeal of phone meetings, where some consensus must be made but never is. And I’m not talking about my students yet. They’re their own barrel of monkeys. I need my play time to be relaxing, rewarding and refreshing, because God knows I’ll get very little of it once Katie gets here.

I’ll get to Katie later. One thing at a time.

In any event, somewhere along the line my view of this game has undergone a massive shift.

I used to pore over Elitist Jerks, agonize over armor penetration, and think nothing of spending four hours on perfecting a boss fight. I’d have to say that now my attitude is more relaxed, more “good enough”. If I am Blizzard’s unwanted casual, so be it. It’s all going down with the next raid tier, the next expansion, the next shinies to chase. Fuck the hamster wheel. I can’t see the need anymore, or the joy in it.

So why do I keep playing this game? I’ve found something that does make me happy again ;).