Make Love, Not Warcraft

Until I cancelled my account on World of Warcraft, I hadn’t realized how painfully early it was getting dark in the evening. Coupled with the end of daylight saving time (a change that happened as I was freezing on a ridge in the Cascades, and one to which I was completely oblivious until Kate mentioned it in a voicemail), these long and dark nights have become unbearably dull.

For two years I avoided getting into World of Warcraft, not because I wasn’t interested in it, but because I was interested. The very make of the game frightened me. I knew that World of Warcraft was of a design that, if I were to play it, would completely consume me and my life as I knew it. I had friends who played WoW and raved about it. I had friends who assured me it wouldn’t take me over, that I would be able to quit whenever I wanted, and this did nothing to allay my fears.

You see, try as I might to resist, I love video games. I was born and raised on them, but the industry has since grown to a freakish might and power that I swear these games are no longer designed to be games, but rather full-on replacements for a normally rich human life. Modern video games subscribe so scientifically to game theory and play so well to the desires of human psychology that they are more than capable of shoving aside everything else that matters. Video games are addictive by design. They are the Soma of our century.

This fall I couldn’t resist it any longer, so I grabbed a copy of WoW and dove in. I joined a realm where some of my friends were already playing, and became a Level One Troll Hunter named Olav. I joined a guild named The Bunny Boilers. Before I knew it I was playing the game every evening, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. My 30-day trial period expired, giving way to a $15/month subscription. When I started with the game I swore I wouldn’t let that happen, but I justified the cost in all the same ways that a heroin addict would justify his fix.

I played for two whole months. I picked up a red raptor for a pet and named him Stimpy. I explored the wide expanses of the world, getting as far as Gadgetzan and the Zoram Stand. I learned the lingo. Twinks kept camping my corpse in Hillsbrad, which is a notorious location for that sort of thing. At some point I finally knew the game well enough that I could no longer consider myself a n00b. I went on a solo excursion deep into Alliance territory to gore enemy players, which was a devilishly fun journey. Outside of Westfall a level 14 human tried to take on my level 28 troll, and I instantly pwned him beyond recognition. My friend chimed in, “That’s the ally spirit!”

I loved every guilty minute of World of Warcraft, and yet I knew I couldn’t go on playing it. I was playing for hours every day, and my appetite was insatiable. There are so many better things to do in the world besides sit in front of the computer all day playing video games. There is awesome stuff out there, like riding your mountain bike and seeing live music and cooking thai food and hiking through clouds in a freezing drizzle.

In the interest of living a better life, I needed to walk away from World of Warcraft for the very reason I was afraid to get into it in the first place. I knew that I would love the game, that it would completely consume my time and energy, and that’s exactly what happened. I knew that as I invested more time, effort and knowledge in WoW, it would become increasingly difficult for me to give it up.

That said, my subscription expired two days ago, and as of tonight I’ve been clean for 48 hours. Dangerously, Olav is still around, waiting in the Balnazzar realm should I ever have the desire to fire up my account again. I’m resisting the temptation.

I can live without World of Warcraft, but I can’t live without… well… I suppose I can’t live without long, dark and rainy evenings with nothing to do between 5:00 and midnight. Yeah, I’m not gonna lie to you, this kinda sucks. Even the financial aspect of canceling my account has completely backfired. Now that I’m not paying $15 a month for WoW, I’m looking at $1,500 televisions to fill the void. Yup, in lieu of a subscription to Warcraft, that TV will pay for itself in eight years.

Sigh. Maybe I should just develop a real drug habit. If nothing else, it would give me an excuse to hang out on my deck in the rain every night.