Once upon a time, when I had a disposable income, it was spent on things that made me happy. The majority of those things, it must be said, were related to World of Warcraft. The justification for this was simple: I collected stuff, it was cool to own these things, and they showed other people in game that I was a loyal, committed member of the Blizzard ‘family’. I wanted to belong. I needed to.
That sense of needing to be part of something was, at times, overwhelming.
When I was lost and alone, the game was the place that saved me, but at a cost. In the end, the vast majority of that was financial, it transpires: pumping money into a collection habit which probably now, on reflection, ran into thousands of pounds. When I chose to quit my job and change direction, that habitual consumption became unsustainable.
As my mental health again plummeted, the game was no longer capable of supporting me, because I’d seen the real truth of my one-sided relationship: Activision Blizzard relied on me to keep funding their work. It even said as much in its financial statements. Without MOMAs like me, there was no future, so whatever could be offered to me as means by which I’d part with cash… that was the future.
The problem, of course, was that sense of belonging that I craved so much, yet was unable to fully satisfy. I didn’t know this was an issue for the longest time, and now I do. Someone yesterday was even kind enough to provide an Urban Dictionary definition of what is going on, without me realising this mattered as much as it undoubtedly does:
As I stated at the top, counselling has highlighted the fact that, for so long, what I really wanted would inevitably get consumed by an overriding need to feel as if I was part of something important, that other people have been guiding my thinking for a lot longer than is probably healthy. Add to this an increased revulsion in why others need to own things to be somehow complete, and I’ve reached a perfect storm of aversion.
For a long time, I’ve seen Warcraft as less about entertainment and more focussed on consumer driven events: buy this bunch of physical rewards to celebrate 15 years of the game that we can sell at a massive profit to ourselves, attend our events where we can get you to buy more things… and so on. Except, of course, this ignores all the important and real benefits this process grants to many people who still have friends who play.
This was the key, yesterday, that unlocked a previously closed door. When Warcraft involved people I was friends with, whom I’d become friends with because of the game, my mindset was different. I needed that stuff, it mattered. Then, I began to become friends with people who were okay that I didn’t play, because they accepted me as what I was regardless of my ability to do decent dps.
They became friends with me outside of the game.
These were people I’d never met and never played with. They were happy to know me as me, not that online person. Sure, we’d share stuff from game, but they’d never judge my choices. Those that did were. undoubtedly, those who never truly understood what I was becoming. The people who really care, reading this, know that I will never begrudge where they spend their money as enjoyment. This revelation is not aimed at them.
To those of you who are happy for me, what I am becoming, I thank you for being there. You are the most important people still in my life, and I really hope that going forward we can stay friends, in that ‘casual, internet relationship’ kind of way. Find your ways to be happy and content, and if that means Azeroth then be there, do it, enjoy every moment as if it were your last.
Last night I realised I’m never going back.
I was genuinely afraid of what would happen when leaving for good: would I spend months attacking the company for ruining the game, destroying what I loved so much? Nah, it hasn’t changed at all. I did. It’s been finding the means to take my money for 15 years, and I willingly did so until I had no more money to give. I am no longer of interest if I refuse to consume, but don’t worry, plenty of you still do.
In the end, the most important epiphany I ever had about Warcraft is simple: it stopped being fun. However much cash I threw at it, however other people promised it would be great if I played with them, I stopped enjoying it. That’s how this ends up, as the realisation that, to find my own sense of happiness and contentment, I can’t buy it with a commemorative statue. That won’t bring the game I loved back.
The game I loved no longer exists.