So I mentioned recently that I haven’t really been playing WoW. That has been true, a vast majority of my time in games has been in FFXIV.
However, after the events of last week, losing my job, I found myself starting to do something unexpected.
I’ve been leveling a lowbie in WoW.
The reason for the back-to-back posts is that I wanted to push out the talk of new player experience first because it kind of dovetails into this.
I am not a big fan of leveling. In fact, I sometimes hate it. To what I like, the best part of an MMO is the endgame content and gameplay – the most strategy in moment-to-moment gameplay and decision making, larger rotations, harder combat, and the like. I have never leveled a Horde alt to level cap through the standard leveling process – the closest I have is a goblin warrior I took from 1-100 via the Legion pre-launch invasions. All of my other Horde alts have been boosts. Most of my Alliance alts were leveled via multi-boxing with recruit-a-friend bonus experience from back in the day (I have 7 WoW accounts, only one of which remains active). In FFXIV, I paid…$225 dollars in total to avoid leveling alt jobs to 70. Still less than I spent on doing RAF with myself (gonna avoid the easy playing with myself jokes here!), but not-insignificant.
So for me to be leveling an alt through low-level content now, I must be crazy or mind-numbingly bored. In fact, it is neither, but there is something I found interesting in the process.
For me, I’ve talked a lot about how WoW is a sort of home for me – most of my concerns with leaving the game for the time being have been about concerns outside of gameplay, and while BfA has sort of bummed me out, I’ve been engaged with it about as much as I was for WoD. Ultimately, what I find that WoW offers me at the core of it is a sense of familiarity and comfort.
While I am, on a surface level, pretty okay with the loss of my job last week, there is certainly a subconscious-level discomfort that rises up to conscious concern. I wouldn’t say this has no effect on me – I’ve felt a degree of relief from the mental and emotional exhaustion I carried for the last several months, but it has some degree of replacement from concerns over what comes next and the uncertainty there.
So, while my leveling in FFXIV in crafting jobs has been a more engaging affair and remains where I spend my time in bulk, almost every day the last week has seen at least an hour of leveling my Highmountain Tauren Beast Mastery Hunter.
His name is Mantlers, which I found funny in 2018 when I rolled him, and he is now level 40 after starting last week at 28. His pet’s name is Bird of Prey, because I forgot to rename him and to be honest, he’s likely to be replaced once I can tame something cool (sorry, Bird of Prey). His transmog is currently the full mail Invasion set, because I don’t have a full Hunter set transmog from vanilla as of yet. He has heirlooms, but I’ve remained mindful of replacing pieces of gear outside of those items.
Playing WoW at low levels to me at this point is a simple act, requiring almost no actual engagement. This sounds like it might not make a great coping mechanism, but in practice, it allows me to feel almost completely zen in a weird sort of way. I made that more complicated by playing with War Mode on for a bit, but now that I am questing in Stranglethorn, I’ve turned it off because it was a nuisance (PvP is still not really something I engage with much, sorry to say).
As much as I write about high-level design, and complain that BfA just isn’t the WoW I love, as every expansion changes the game sharply and imbues it with its own character, I have to say that leveling holds that up to scrutiny. Sure, the game has changed, and you feel that in leveling content – the world feels less whole, there’s almost too much going on, etc – but at the same time, I’ve enjoyed leveling more than I would have expected. For each of those roughly hourlong diversions into the ranks of the Horde, I feel less troubled and more at ease, more comfortable and certain and less afraid of the looming possibility space before me in real life.
Let’s not pretend – I’m not a convert on the leveling experience and I don’t have plans to suddenly level my other 3 Horde allied race alts, at least not yet.
But for right now, while leveling in WoW isn’t what I want in a game experience, it is what I need to soothe my troubled mind, and for right now, that is enough.