"The universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew. There is in truth no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it." ― Terry Pratchett
When I was in high school, O those many years ago, my best friend and I would spend countless hours in my basement sitting on our billiards table playing games. It was an old, heavy commercial pool table, originally used in some bar somewhere, and very sturdy. We would sit on it—inadvertently destroying the felt in the process—and endlessly play a game that captured my imagination fully and completely. The game was Blood Bowl; a tabletop fantasy football miniatures game from Games Workshop. It was (and still is) a game of mayhem and bloodshed, all about the unfettered joy of bashing the living hell out of someone all in the name of good fun.
Back then I was completely hooked on Blood Bowl and pulled my friend Mike along with me. We had a large league just for the two of us, and we played literally hundreds of games against each other. I kept detailed statistics, agonized for hours trying to come up with names for new characters to replace fallen players and created logos and back-stories for my teams and players.
Yes, I was a massive Blood Bowl geek. Needless to say I didn't have a girlfriend at the time.
Still, the time I spend with Mike playing Blood Bowl was well spent. An absurdly high number of inside-jokes were created on the top of that billiards table and each square of that polystyrene pitch that we played on has a great memory attached to it—often involving the death of some innocent Goblin or Halfling who unwisely chose to try his hand at football one afternoon. In fact, the phrase, "squit like a pimple" was used often to describe the precise way that a Halfling dies when faced with a large, angry Ogre. A lot of these jokes have stuck with me, and thinking about any one of them can send me into a giggle fit. The name Steve Tuttle, for instance, cannot be spoken around me unless you want our conversation to be cut short by a lot of frantic chortling. Best not to ask why.
THE WHEREABOUTS OF A CERTAIN DWARF
Why am I writing about this on Battle Medic, an unashamed WoW-centric blog? Clearly, reminiscing about games played during high school has no relevance to slinging healing spells during Spine of Deathwing, right?
However, the excitement that Blood Bowl filled me with has only ever been matched by one game: World of Warcraft. When I first started playing WoW it engulfed my imagination like nothing else had since those long lost days on the pool table, and in my excitement I yearned to learn everything I could about the game; to get a deep, fundamental understanding of everything that Azeroth contained. This blog is the result of that passion.
Lately, though, I have been feeling a little tired of WoW. Looking at the character selection screen made me feel like I was going to work―doing something I had to do, not necessarily something that I wanted to do. Obviously, that is a counterproductive feeling towards a recreational activity. The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is to go to another job. I want to have fun, damn it.
Now, please don't misunderstand me, I am not quitting World of Warcraft. Far from it, actually. I am still raiding regularly, and my guild and I are progressing nicely. In fact, on Monday night, Mountain Top went into Dragon Soul and managed to down 7/8 in a mere three hours. Aside from a couple of hiccoughs on Zon'ozz, it was a very smooth raid, really. But I wasn't truly excited about it. Not like I was when we got the good Majordomo down, nor did I feel the exhilaration of when Cho'gall fell for the first time. It was just... something to do.
|Dwarven cheerleaders come prepared
with their own kegs.
(Then again, he thinks, as his silly Dwarf team fumbles the bloody ball yet again, this damned game is the stupidest, most frustrating, damned, arrrrrrgh, fargin' greasy bastich son of a ...)
Burn-out is a mental state. I think it happens when one perceives that the effort expended to do a task becomes greater than the reward one expects to receive upon it's completion. Considering that the reward for playing WoW are intangible things such as relaxation, enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment, it's a tricky thing to gauge. At what point do I think that my playing time could be better spent doing something else?
WoW is an interesting game in the sense that it becomes somewhat like a relationship. Time needs to be spent to maintain the relationship or else it will begin to decay—manifested by characters falling behind in progression, gear or daily quest rewards and the like. The more developed the relationship becomes the greater the feeling of obligation to maintain the relationship. For me, at least, it's this sense of obligation that has contributed more than anything to my burn-out.
And I don't know about anyone else, but WoW is unique in that, like a relationship, it creates a feeling of monogamy unlike any game I've ever played before. The notion that the characters in the game need to be constantly maintained leads to the feeling that playing anything else is like cheating on your spouse. I think this is the reason that a lot of WoW players get upset when their fellows begin dating another game such as Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic. Faithful spouses are the ones that are most likely to look down upon infidelity. Frankly, this idea is kind of insane; it's just a game after all.
I think it's normal and unavoidable that after doing an activity like playing WoW for a long, continuous period of time to feel less enthusiastic about it than when it was fresh and new. I've been playing it to the exclusion of just about anything else for over three and a half years now, and at least for me, right now, the lustre of the game has worn off a bit.
And given that it's unrealistic to play the same game for three years and still remain as excited about it as when it was new, yet not wanting to give up on it, means that I need to manage my feelings of disinterest.
I have been giving some thought as to what can be done to take a break from WoW, get refreshed and get one's mojo back while still maintaining the relationship.
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN A GAME THAT YOU'RE BURNED OUT ON
1) SET A GOAL THAT YOU WANT TO DO, NOT THAT YOU HAVE TO DO
The first step for me is to remove the feeling of obligation. I want to play the game because I want to play it, not because I have to play it. During the Firelands patch the prospect of grinding out a month of dailies was an incredibly unappealing thought that made me want to think twice about logging in until eventually I just stopped doing them and felt a lot better. Same goes for capping Valor Points; it's something that is nice if I can do it, but if I don't manage it every week I'm not going to fret about it.
Once I realize that I don't need to play if I don't want to, I need to find a goal that makes me want to log in. I realize how much stuff that I haven't actually seen or done in the game, so there are lots of potential goals or achievements to go for. For instance, I decided that I wanted to get Jeeves for my engineer, and while it was a grind to try and get the recipe, I actually enjoyed the process knowing that the reward at the end would be something that I and my raid team would find extraordinarily useful.
Make the goals small and doable in easily accomplished chunks. There is no point in taking on a task with a grand scale that will simply increase the feeling of obligation or force you to quit before it's done. Failure to accomplish a goal will only make the burn-out worse.
2) DO SOMETHING IN GAME YOU'VE NEVER DONE BEFORE
While there are some people who have been playing this game so long that they have literally done and seen everything, I cannot even begin to list all the things that I have yet to do. I have never levelled a horde character past level 15, and there are whole zones that I have never experienced other than riding through to get the explorer achievement. PVP is still more-or-less a mystery to me. There are more than a few raids I haven't seen, and I really haven't raided seriously in any role other than as a healer. I could go on as the list is extensive.
When burnt-out from doing the things that one normally does, it's time to change it up. Find something—anything that you haven't done before and try it out. The worst thing that can happen is that you won't like it.
3) INTRODUCE SOMEONE NEW TO THE GAME
Enthusiasm is very infectious; if it caused sneezes it would be considered a Level 4 Biohazard and very serious men in very serious suits from very serious government agencies would be present to monitor the situation any time a 13 year-old girl told her friend about Justin Beiber in case a pandemic broke out and doomed the Earth. It's serious shit.
It's interesting to see a game that I'm so intimately familiar with through the eyes of someone new to the game. I watch my young nephew play, for instance, and am amazed at the things that he finds interesting and fun. Fishing, for instance, is tremendously entertaining for him. And he would happily have his character swim for hours in the rivers and lakes. Seeing the things that he finds interesting and fun is fascinating, and allows me to see the game through the eyes of a 9 year-old.
So try finding someone who hasn't played the game before and show it to them. Even if they don't go and pick up a copy, show them how to play and let them give it a try. Sharing their experiences as they see things for the first time is a fantastic way to rediscover the magic yourself.
Alternately, help someone learn to do something that they don't know how to do. Try showing a guildmate the ropes of a role they don't often do. I have often found that they best way to discover new ways to do something is to try to teach another person how to do it. It can be a lot of fun, and is very rewarding.
4) BE MORE SOCIAL WHILE PLAYING
It cannot be argued that the most compelling feature of any MMO has nothing to do with graphics or quests or gameplay, but rather in the people that play the game. Whenever I log onto WoW and see our guild chat silent, it's a little bit deflating. I love lively chatter, and having a fun conversation is a great way to get me in a great mood.
Meeting and talking with someone new is a great way to reinvigorate interest in an MMO, and can potentially expose you to a different way of thinking about it. There are literally thousands upon thousands of potential friends online at any particular moment; all it takes is a little bit of effort to meet them.
5) TALK ABOUT IT. WRITE ABOUT IT. SCRIBBLE SOMETHING ON CAVE WALLS USING CHARCOAL ABOUT IT
There are a gazillion support groups out there for just about every conceivable problem that a person can possibly have, and they work. Talking about feelings and problems with people who share them is a great way to begin to get a grip on them.
So talk about how you're feeling about the game. There are any number of places you can do it: Post on forums; comment on blogs (like this one!); write a blog or hell, even talk about it in trade chat if you're desperate. The point is, don't keep it bottled up. You'll feel better. Honest.
As a blogger, Battle Medic has been my outlet for a lot of things when it comes to WoW. This post has been wonderfully cathartic in getting some of this stuff off my chest and feeling better about this game. I plan to do this more often, and focus more on the things I really enjoy about this game.
FIVE THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THE THING YOU LIKE TO DO BUT REALLY WANT TO DO SOMETHING
I think I may need to tweak that title somewhat. It's not exactly pithy, is it?
There comes a point when it's just time to get the hell out of dodge for a while and actually take a break. Even though I don't plan to quit WoW any time soon, the past week or so of not really playing WoW very much has been nice. A little distance has been a very nice thing, indeed, and I'm starting to feel the irresistible urge to return to the sunny shores of Azeroth.
So what can be done to take a break from the game and reinvigorate the gamer's soul?
1) PLAY SOMETHING ELSE FOR A WHILE
Feelings of infidelity aside, there is no reason why anybody needs to be a monogamous gamer. WoW's feelings won't be hurt if you start seeing something else on the side, regardless of whether it's a single player game or another MMO. I flirted with Lord of the Rings Online for an afternoon, and other people have dived into other games head first, and through it all WoW has soldiered on and is always ready to take back it's players who have strayed. Variety, as they say, is the spice weasel of Neptunian cooking.
Games—all games—are a lot of fun. Over Christmas my Dad and I played a game of Tiger Woods golf on his Wii (the fact that my father has a gaming console and I don't felt a little odd, honestly). As we were starting up the game he said, "I didn't take you for a golfer."
My reply was simple, "I'm not a golfer, Dad. I'm a gamer. Let's rock." And despite the horrifically bad slice in my golf swing, we had a blast that night (and the whisky helped, certainly).
Exclusively playing a single game—even one as vast and deep as WoW—is very limiting. Expand your horizons and try something new. You may find, as I have, that cheating on your game may just remind you of why you fell in love with it initially.
In fact, it was cheating on Warcraft that inspired me to start writing this post. The days I spent transfixed to my computer pitting eleven stout Dwarven footballers against enemies on the Blood Bowl pitch were so exciting and so much fun that I was reminded of why I play games in the first place.
2) DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
Of course, there is more to life than gaming. Sacrilegious, I know, but perhaps the best thing to do when you're burnt-out on a games is simply not to play anything.
For me, whenever I'm feeling in a rut or depressed, I find that doing something creative will always lift my spirits. Writing, for one, is a phenomenally powerful power-scrub for my brain, and always helps me regain my emotional balance. Likewise, spending some time working and playing with photographs is always good for my soul, like eating a bucket of chocolate at Halloween.
Personally, I find that doing something that allows me to flex my creative muscles—especially if it produces something tangible, like a finished print I can hang on my wall—is a tremendous stress reliever. I don't ever do it often enough for my liking, but I always feel better after I'm done.
3) GET SOME EXERCISE, SLACKER
I am the single worst person you could ever imagine to give this advice given that I am one of the most sedentary people on the planet, but physical activity is a perfect way to change the switch in your brain from the CRANKY BASTARD mode to the ULTIMATELY CALM CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE setting. It's good for the body and the mind.
Every Friday during the winter my wife and I go Curling. I always feel emotionally recharged when I get off the ice, especially if I've had to sweep hard and am physically drained. There is just something purifying about getting a good sweat on, especially if it is then followed up by a pitcher of lager at the bar that's attached to the rink.
Yes, I know, it's not the most effective diet and work-out plan. This could explain why I don't ever lose weight.
4) READ A BOOK
Likewise, giving the mind a workout is equally good for the spirit. Plopping down in front of a cozy fire, or on the couch with a glass of wine and a great book is a wonderful way to change your attitude. It always works for me. It's very peaceful, very zen, and allows me to put my mind in neutral and forget about all the crap that I have to deal with during the day.
Of course, when the Dwarfling insists that she wants some attention and oh my doesn't that book look like a fun thing to grab and see if it fits in her mouth means that I seldom get time for this particular option these days. But any chance I get to steal a bit of time to plant my face between two pages, I take it.
5) SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO INSPIRE YOU
The final, most obvious and infinitely most effective tip I have to combat burn-out is this: Go spend time with someone that puts you in a good mood. Hang out with your buddies, get a hug from your wife or a cute Holy Paladin that drops by your house occasionally, go play with your kid or even chase the dogs around the backyard. Just find someone who makes you smile and let them do the hard work of cheering you up.
BURN OUT IS A REVERSIBLE STATE OF MIND
Feeling burnt-out on WoW is an emotional state that can be reversed. Any of these tips can be utilized to get yourself in a better mood and back to doing what you want to be doing. The real trick is, and one that can't be answered by anyone but yourself, is to figure out what you really want to be doing. There is no point in forcing yourself to play a game you no longer find fun.
However, I think that most of us still enjoy World of Warcraft and don't want to leave the game permanently. I think it boils down to giving yourself permission to do something else, to remove the pressure of needing to maintain the high maintenance WoW relationship, and allow yourself the freedom to do other things.
Go ahead, cheat on WoW with another game or with your family. Take a step back from your sense of obligation and take it easy for a while. I think you'll find it will still be there when you have the urge to come back.
And I think that you will want to come back. It's been two weeks for me and I already do.