WoW Wednesday: Whither WoW

I think I played WoW over the weekend.  But otherwise, not.  Often, I play in that dead hour from 4-5 when the kids are home and being noisy and demanding, so that I can’t focus on real work, and it’s not quite time to start putting dinner on the table.  This week, however, I’ve been doing “just one more thing” in preparation for something that’s coming up later this week.  And, I know, I’m being all mysterious about it, but I don’t want to jinx it.  You’ll hear all about it later, I promise.

So, WoW has been on the back burner.  I’ve been thinking about it.  I’ve been reading things here and there about new content coming out in the next expansion.  But no actual playing.  And actually, that might be a bad thing.  WoW, and game playing generally, has always been about distraction, destressing in a way that’s fun, but still challenging.  WoW is much less mindless than Facebook games and tv, so that my mind is still engaged just in a different way.  Still, I think it’s also possible that I needed even more of a break and thus did not turn to WoW.  Instead, I’ve gone on walks and vegged in front of the tv, passing out by 10 p.m.  Man, I feel old.

I’ll get back in the groove, once all the hoopla is past.

WoW Wednesday: Addiction

First, let me say I’m not entirely sure that video games are an addiction.  But I’m not ruling it out.  If gambling can be an addiction, then perhaps video games can be too.

Yesterday, my husband sent me this article about how video games are designed to get people addicted.  It’s a little reminiscent of the tobacco companies’ knowing that their products were addictive.  The article notes that game designers often exploit the brains natural motivation and reward receptors, so that gamers are compelled to keep playing to get to the next reward.  I wrote about reward and motivation myself without a single nod to the fact that the tweaking Blizzard does might, in fact, be intended to “get people addicted” to the game.  Instead, I applied the in-game reward system to my real life, noting that I like small rewards along the way, so that, in order to get myself through an arduous task, I should reward myself with a little something along the way.  Progress tracking was another important motivator that I could apply to real life.

My ability to step outside the game, to recognize what it is doing to my brain, probably separates me from the people who play games for days on end, even to the point of death, for a virtual reward.  These people have lost touch with reality.  And the question is, did the video games cause that or was there something in their psyches already that led to this disconnect.  Would those same people have been driven to another addiction or problematic behavior if video games had not been available?  In fact, this Time article notes that the problem of video game addiction among teens in South Korea may be due in part to long work hours and pressure put on kids to go to “cram schools” at night.  Video games provide a way to relieve stress.  It could have been drugs or alcohol.  Some people just take that stress relief too far.

MMO’s like World of Warcraft do encourage long hours of play.  Running a dungeon can take at least a couple of hours.  A raid, even longer.  I remember the first time I picked up a dungeon guide and the estimate it gave for one dungeon was 2 and a half hours.  Whoa, I thought, I don’t have that kind of time.  Well, things have changed a bit in the game and dungeons can now be run in a half-hour, though raids still take many hours, often spread out over multiple days to complete.  But at least you can play for an hour or so and then save your raid and try again another day instead of having to do it all at once.  Still, most people I know don’t hop on for an hour and leave.  Most log on at the end of the work day and are on until bedtime.  That can be a more than four or five hours.  If you do that every day, is that an addiction?

Look at it this way.  If someone has a couple of drinks every day, they aren’t necessarily alcoholics.  I’m no psychologist, but I know that alcoholics can’t stop at one drink, and they often can’t go a day without a drink (even if they tell themselves they won’t drink).  I once thought I was an alcoholic in college, so I vowed that I wouldn’t drink over winter break.  I was seriously worried that I’d want to drink.  As it turned out, I didn’t want to drink and I went around to holiday parties drinking Dr. Pepper, and felt fine about it.  So, if you can’t go for a day without playing or can’t stop playing after an hour because you need to go eat dinner, you might have a real problem.  And actually, better video games than alcohol or drugs.  At least you’re less likely to harm others or yourself (despite some scary news stories, it really is rare).

For the record, I haven’t played WoW in three days.  Real life has gotten in the way.  As it should.

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WoW Wednesday: Photo Op

There are some really interesting things you can get in WoW that don’t really gain you anything, but do something really off the wall.  Case in point, a trinket I got tonight.  Its only use–to turn you into a gorilla inside a ball:

WoW Wednesday: A Return to Questing

I’ve spent the last few months of my WoW time running dungeons and participating in raids.  When I came back from spring break, after over a week away from WoW, I decided to return to questing.  I leveled my priest so quickly via dungeons and pvp that I didn’t do very many of the later quests since I didn’t need them for the experience.  I discovered, in leveling tailoring, that there’s a design I can get if I do all the quests in Northrend.  So I decided to give it a go.  I used the same strategy I used for paying off my credit cards.  I started with the area with the lowest remaining balance, an area where I was about two-thirds of the way done.  It didn’t take long to complete it and I moved on to the next area, where I had about 60 quests left.  I am now about 3 quests away from completing that area and the next ones have more than that left.  It’s going to be a long road.

There are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way.  One, some of the quests are really fun and interesting.  I’ve never been one to pay much attention to the storyline of the game, but the last area I was in, Zul’Drak, had some pretty compelling stories to go with the quests.  It was also very well laid out, so that one progressed through the quests easily without having to cris-cross the area much.  Second, I learned that I feel compelled to finish something once I’ve gotten past a certain point and if there’s a concrete goal ahead.  Once I realized that I had less than 20 quests left, out of over 100, it seemed like a no-brainer that I should finish them.  Things I do in life are like that, too.  If I struggle too much at the beginning of a project, I’m likely to give up.  If, though, I can get over the difficulty and get to a point where I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m motivated to see the whole thing through.  The trick for me is to figure out a way, if I am struggling early on, to get past it.  Often this means breaking it down into smaller parts, asking for help, or reconfiguring the project.  When I move on to my next questing area, where I have 100 quests to finish, I’ll have to think in these terms.  Five quests a day, or one area a day or I’ll break up the quests with a trip into pvp or a dungeon.  WoW lets you see these things more concretely, by showing a number of quests left to be done.  Life isn’t always like that and it’s up to us to set the goals and try to reach them.

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WoW Wednesday: Raid Tanking vs. Dungeon Tanking

I’ve actually not played WoW for a few days.  Life’s been busy and I just haven’t gotten back to the game.  I’ve been tanking more lately due, in part, to a lack of tanks in the guild.  In fact, when it came time to buy a shiny new piece of gear, I opted to get a tank piece rather than a dps piece.  I still feel pretty awkward at it most of the time, but I’m getting a lot better.  I was telling someone the other day that I felt like I was better at raid tanking than dungeon tanking and shortly thereafter, proceeded to fail pretty badly as a tank in a raid.  It was my fault mostly as I forgot to set some things up for tanking (frost presence, for example).  But, in general, I usually do slightly better tanking a raid.

In a raid, there are generally fewer groups of mobs the way there are in dungeons.  Groups are my nemesis as I sometimes have a hard time getting them all to attack me instead of the other members of the party.  This is especially hard when there are people in the group with super fantastic gear and dps numbers.  Mobs tend to want to attack those people immediately.  In raids, too, you get another tank, someone to help with all of that, so that when you do have groups, each tank has a task to accomplish, keeping mobs under control.  Raids tend to focus on single, hard to kill mobs, and those, I’m pretty good at, most of the time.  The difficulty for me comes when there’s a strategy involving moving around a lot or other special tasks.  It just takes me a bit longer to get the coordination and the timing down.  I’m 42, remember.  So, three tries into a hard boss that requires kiting in a circle or taunting off of the other tank, I’ll get it.  And I’ll get it the next time also, once I’ve figured out the strategy.  I have to actually do it to understand it, get that physical memory in my fingers.  Watching a video or reading a strategy helps, for sure, but I’m not going to be able to do anything the first try.  That may frustrate the teenagers, but it’s fine by me and my guildies most of the time.

I like being able to help out the guild, and I as get better and get better gear, I am enjoying tanking more.  It has definitely stretched many of my abilities, both in game and out of game.

WoW Wednesday: Birthday Edition

I actually received WoW as a Valentine’s gift and a couple of years ago, my kids got me all kinds of WoW books, so gifts associated with WoW are tradition around here.  This year, I got knives and Tivo, but the card–well, just look for yourself:

Birthday Card: Front
Birthday Card: Inside

WoW Wednesday: Don’t Panic

And always carry a towel.  That’s my new mantra.  I’ve noticed that when I’m healing, even when things get a little scary, I don’t panic.  I just calmly try to rectify the situation.  Sometimes, I let the mage die.  As long as the tank and most of the dps lives, I’m good.  I find the whole process much more enjoyable when I’m not in panic mode.  Even if someone gets mad at me, I’m cool as a cucumber.  I’ve carried this over to tanking, which I’ve returned to doing since our guild is often short of tanks.  I’m still not as good as a lot of tanks I’ve seen, but being calm really helps.  Panicking when a mob gets loose doesn’t help as you’re not able to think clearly about what to do.  By remaining calm, I can usually fix problems before they get out of hand and I enjoy myself a lot more than if I’m thinking, “Crap, crap, crap! Where’s the runestrike button?”  I like the contrast of a situation where things around you are chaotic–mobs everywhere, the mage is taking damage, and the tank is on the verge of going down–and a calmness internally.  When the mobs finally go down, the tank survives, and even the mage doesn’t die, it feels really good.

I’ve tried to carry this feeling over into my physical life by remaining calm in the face of stressful situations.  I don’t have too many of these, thankfully, but when I feel overwhelmed, I try to draw on that feeling I have in WoW, where I’m calming taking down mobs or healing the tank.  I think that other players could learn a thing or two from this inner calm I’ve tried to maintain.  Those players who get really angry when they die or if someone makes a mistake should just relax.  They’ll have more fun themselves and they’ll make the game more fun for others.  I’ve found that when I exude my serenity through chat by telling people not to worry about mistakes or telling them it’s okay that they aggroed an extra mob that the whole group feels more relaxed.  I know, I sound a little hippy dippy, but you know what, I’m having fun and I think I’ve learned something important.

And the towel? Comes in handy when you spill water near the keyboard.  Just saying.

WoW Wednesday: OMG! SNOW!

This is the view out my back door right now.  It’s still snowing.  And the power just did a little blink on and off.  So, naturally, I’ve been playing WoW. 🙂

My priest finally hit 80 a couple of days ago and so I’ve ventured into my first heroics.  They’ve gone relatively well, although most people doing heroics are way better geared than I am at this point.  The irony.  You have to do heroics to get the gear, but then people make fun of your gear when you’re in one.  I’m also grinding reputation points, which will allow me to get some good gear and enchants.  It’s pretty hard to manage both actually.  Grinding for rep takes a pretty long time, running long quest chains with each quest giving about 350 points in rep.  When you need 6000 or 12000 to get to where you want, that’s a long grind.  I can buy rep with emblems of triumph earned from running heroics, but it seems a waste when I should use those for gear.  I did shell out a couple to get my Wyrmrest rep up to honored and that netted me some new gear.

Because my gear isn’t quite up to par, running a dungeon right now can take longer than it would with a geared priest.  Which annoys some people.  But whatever.  I prefer running with my guildies, which I’ve done a little of.  Now, though, I’m taking a break for hot chocolate, a hot bath, and a good book.  Even on a day when one could play WoW all day, sometimes a break is good.  Still, I hope to be geared enough to run them more quickly and/or run a raid by the weekend.  I have goals, after all.

WoW Wednesday: What to do about hate speech

I’m kind of cheating here, since I’m pulling content from  WoW.com, but I thought this column and the comments that follow it were pretty interesting.  In it, the Drama Mamas discuss what to do when someone in your group says something racist or sexist or offensive in some way.  The suggested strategy is a good one, boiling down to basically: 1) tell the person you find it offensive and to stop and then 2) if they don’t stop, kick them from the group and 3) report them to Blizzard.  I’ve had this experience more than once.  Just the other day, while we were waiting for someone to return, a guy told a racist joke, a bad racist joke.  I was stunned, but didn’t say anything.  The other two people said something, and one even virtually spit on him.  I doubt they reported him and we continued on our way, mostly as if nothing had happened.  According to both the columnists and many of the commenters, this is a pretty common reaction.  You’re thinking, damn, it’s just an avatar; I don’t even know this guy.  And you just let it go.

But I think the argument to call these people on their misbehavior is a good one.  It probably won’t change their underlying racism or sexism, but it might make the game space a more pleasant place for those of us who are behaving ourselves.

The whole pugging experience has made me think about how and why people behave so badly among strangers.  When I was growing up, I was taught to be on my *best* behavior when I was around strangers. Yes, the Internet provides a screen to hide behind, but I still have the sensation that the people might be able to figure out who I am, and I’d want them to think highly of me. It’s amazing to me that there are people who’s idea of letting their hair down involves making everyone around them uncomfortable.  When the guy told that racist joke, I thought, how does he know one of us isn’t black?  Or is he the kind of guy who would tell that joke even if he knew one of us was black?  Really, I shouldn’t want to play with a guy like that and I should have done something more.  And next time, I will.

WoW Wednesday: Resources

One thing I had not realized as a tank and/or dps was the level of resources one needs to have on hand to heal.  Sure, as a warrior or dk, I might have a few healing potions or flasks to enhance my health or my damage, but not always and certainly not for just a regular ol’ dungeon run.  But as a healer? I stock up on drinks to replenish my mana, mana potions, and reagents for buffs.  And all that costs money.  I do have an alchemist who can make mana potions, but I don’t play that character a lot, so I end up buying potions from the auction house or getting them from the guild bank when I can (my priest is poorsauce).  I can’t go into a dungeon without drinks (to replenish mana between fights) and I won’t go in without potions either.  I’ve been through many a dungeon where the tank ends up being undergeared and/or the dps draws too much aggro and then I run through mana pretty quickly.  If I don’t have a potion to get us through a boss fight, that’s bad.  And though I think no one really notices the buffs at this point, I do use my priest buffs–always fortitude and sometimes shadow protection, occasionally divine spirit.  Some people ask for buffs.  But I kind of knew that buffs needed reagents, but I never really thought about how often one must buy those to keep up.  I almost always go through two buff rounds–one at the beginning and one after a wipe (almost every group I’ve been in has wiped at least once)–but then there are the times when we wipe 3 or 4 or 5 times and then I’ve gone through 5 sacred candles.  None of these things cost that much, but I tend to keep a stack or two of 20 of most things.  It adds up.

Add to that that now that my priest is nearing 80, I’m starting to get gear that needs gems and/or is worth enchanting.  That, too, takes resources.  And gathering those resources takes either time or money.  It’s interesting that WoW incorporates these resource needs in a pretty realistic way.  It’s not points or some arbitrary way of saying you’re ready to go into battle.  You decide it’s worth investing in these things because your gameplay will be more enjoyable if your group doesn’t die because you’re undergeared or didn’t bring your mana potions.  Some people take the approach of being as resourced as possible–having the best gear with all the best enchants and gems, having a full stock of potions, food, drinks.  And some try to get buy with the least, sometimes out of necessity, aka lack of funds.  I am somewhere in the middle.  When I can afford it, either in virtual cash or the real time investment, I try to have an optimal setup for playing.  If I don’t have what I need for that enchant right now, I shrug it off.  After all, I don’t want to sacrifice too many real resources for virtual ones!