Oh, this one should be fun.
I’ve been writing bits and pieces of this draft for a while now, so there may be a missing sense of narrative akin to my other similar posts, but I think it’ll be good, and I’ve gone through and made sure that the linkage here makes sense and still tells the tale about as well as my more stream-of-consciousness posts. I want to make that clear up front for a major reason – this move on my part, unsubscribing from World of Warcraft, is not a hasty move or some sudden change. As I’ve said in the posts leading to this one, I made this decision before I moved, before the lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard and those heinous allegations came to light, and before I had some time on the other side of my move to reflect.
So before we get to the current day, let’s actually discuss the history I have with unsubscribing from WoW.
This Has Been My Longest Subscribed Streak Ever
I don’t have a wolf and orc statue, despite having played WoW for the majority of the last 16 years.
In the past, when I was in my early twenties, money for a WoW sub came and went. It was a luxury I couldn’t always maintain, a thing I couldn’t always make time for such that the value of $15 spent felt correct. At times, my ex-fiancee would complain about me playing the game – at all, for any length of time, and sometimes because I was playing it too much, and in some of those cases, she was even right! It wasn’t until Wrath of the Lich King that I became a constant WoW subscriber, and that stayed the case until Mists of Pandaria.
In Mists of Pandaria, I broke up with my ex-fiancee and took around a 4 month leave from the game. I surrendered my guild and raid leadership duties to a friend, we steamrolled Blackwing Descent as a guild, and off I went. I missed the vast majority of Throne of Thunder progression, leaving as we were walled at Horridon. I came back for the launch of patch 5.4 and Siege of Orgrimmar. I unsubbed again in January 2014 as I went on my 19 day, around the world trip version 1, and resubscribed upon my return to the United States. I’ve been subscribed to WoW basically non-stop since then, regardless of much of what is happening around me with my (old) guild, raiding, or the like.
Why is that? Well, WoW is fun passive entertainment to me. I can play it while watching YouTube, listening to podcasts, talking to my wife, or just about any mix of activities alongside it. It’s the video game equivalent of comfort food for me – easy, quick, and simple to enjoy, and more often than not, I enjoy it. Even when WoW is bad, to me, it’s good enough. I have a lot of time invested in the game, and outside of any sunk cost fallacy, that time investment means I have a degree of comfort with WoW I’ll likely never replicate in any other game, ever again.
But, that is a double-edged sword, and that leads to my first reason for unsubscribing (hey look, I did a history section about my experience playing the game without going over a thousand words! BE PROUD OF ME)
WoW Is Too Effective A Distraction
I’ve had a lot of projects in varying degrees of completion sitting on the backburner because I can play WoW instead. That’s a luxury I am afforded, and I appreciate that very much, but the first major trigger for me wanting a break is simply that I have too much shit I want to get done, that I have been working on, that I keep putting aside or cutting short because I decide to reward small progress milestones with gameplay. I finished a chapter in an eBook, let me just run a dungeon. Oh, I’ll get started on my day, let me just do my Korthia chores first. I have a modestly addictive personality at times, and I definitely am a procrastinator if left to my own devices, so it gets real bad up in here sometimes. The first week of Season 2 of Shadowlands? I ran 38 Mythic keys to completion, joined around 10 raid PUGs and killed 7 bosses across two difficulties, and did all of the campaign quests, two full layer 9 Torghast runs, and all the trimmings that came with all of that.
Basically, I came to the conclusion that WoW is too good at distracting me, and I am too weak-willed at present to allow myself to stay subscribed and also be trusted to get work done to advance my self-employed career, short of this blog (which makes money, but not like, living money). So…make it so that I can’t play. Easy. Well, it was now, because…
I Have No Social Obligations To Meet In-Game
Without a guild or a scheduled raid, there’s no reason I feel compelled to remain subscribed even knowing that the game is a hindrance to other goals, so it was really quite simple to unsubscribe. More than that, my friends and I play at different hours often enough that even just running dungeons with them was largely off the table, and then there’s the awkwardness of being invited to a run with now-former guildies, which my IRL friends will not overcome, although some online friends have definitely done it anyways and those have been some fun runs.
In fact, the whole reason I had contemplated the raid break, which became the gquit, was for the very same reason – I saw my raid time as an obligation to meet, and when I was strengthened in my resolve, I opted to remove myself from the raid roster because I knew I wanted to reclaim those hours. Then I played 9.1, and I was having fun, and my weakness came to roost, and oh man now I want to raid and then, you know, all of that happened. Since gquitting, I did PUG raiding and got into an organized raid team, ran two weeks of raiding, and the social ties just weren’t there for me. Certainly, they weren’t strong enough to push me to keep at it, even as I was having fun. In fact, joining a fixed raid team may have been the final nail in the coffin – expanding my raid time to 6 hours a week sounded fine on paper, but it was not for me. Couple slower progression with no IRL social ties and well, the whole thing explodes. I really enjoyed the people in that group, and they were exactly what they advertised, but it wasn’t for me.
Logging In Felt A Little Sore and I’ve Had A Hard Time Letting Go
I’ve had a lot of fun in Shadowlands Season 2 so far, going HAM on KSM, pushing raid content, and keeping current with the story in the game. Coupled with that, however, has been a certain remorsefulness creeping in.
I watched streams of my old guildies raiding. I tried not to, but I just wanted to see. I’m happy for their progress, but there was definitely a sort-of bad feeling for it. I’ve run dungeons with several of them, talked to a lot of them, and kept in-contact, but in so doing, there is a twinge of FOMO and a twinge of regret. I kept my mind busy with my KSM chase, motivated by my own self-improvement, and I had a lot of fun with that. But at the same time, there was a degree of pettiness to it, which was unhealthy and bad. In my head early on, it was a sort of friendly competition – who cares if I get to KSM really early except for me? I had convinced myself that if anyone was keeping tabs on it, it might be motivating or interesting, but at the same time, I definitely pushed harder than I otherwise would have because of it, and that felt a bit bad. It’s a mix of emotions – I am really quite happy to have done the push and gotten to KSM within the first two weeks of the season, but it wasn’t as pure of a journey as I wanted it to be, and a part of my deflation on keys since then has been the acknowledgement internally that I was, intentionally or not, being a showoff and doing a thing I have professed to dislike.
My playtime since that realization has been better, but it was that realization that pushed me over the edge to the WoW break. I want to have a healthy relationship with the game and with the people I interact with in it, and it was veering in a direction I didn’t like.
Mistakes Were Made
I’ve written here at length about my guild departure, and I’ll link the final post in the trilogy here just for reference, because I want to say a little bit more about that through the lens of my unsub very specifically.
I made what was, I feel, a valid choice in leaving my guild. The discussions I had in the leadup to that choice were pretty unsatisfying, and I stand by my representation of them as accurate and fair – they were text, after all, so there was no real subtext, no tone, and little way to get sidetracked off of meaning unless someone just chose their words quite poorly. I say this because the officers discussed in those posts have read them (or, well, some of them, or some posts in general, I don’t really know), and well, they disagree. I think it’s fair to say we have differing perspectives on what happened, and it was clear that the one who came forward directly was hurt by it. Generally, as a person, I don’t want anyone to be hurt by things I say or to feel hurt, but at the same time, I stand by what I said as fair and accurate (if slightly incendiary as the series of posts progressed), and people involved in the conversation who’ve also read my posts have taken the same position as me. I do feel that I was contacted about the posts in bad faith – there wasn’t a meaningful effort to discuss, and the direct quotes were mostly about the competitive streak I had in the early days post-departure, which, as I said above, I do think was unhealthy, but it was also not even in a post about the guild drama at all, so I find it quite telling as to the actual reason for the message.
As a result, I left it alone – and I only mention it here to separate things neatly for my next point, as I’m not particularly interested in relitigating that aspect of things and I believe that our viewpoints simply diverge, as I cannot see their intentions, only their words, and the message I received pretty clearly from that final conversation was that continuing down that path was a waste of time. I came away disappointed – I don’t hate anyone involved, and never did, and I only state that here to make it clear. Not out of any sense of obligation, either – I feel like I conveyed disappointment well in the actual posts, but for some people, the line between that and hate is pretty thin, and for me, it isn’t. I’m firmly in the disappointment camp.
However, I am prone to self-reflection – I even consider it a strength, and in the days since that fateful evening, my stance has softened slightly, and not just due to FOMO. My issue was ultimately with the behaviors of individual players, and my ask was that such behaviors cease or take less crude forms, but I wanted help having that conversation as I thought it would go poorly alone. I do regret that course of action, as in at least one case (and the far bigger issue I had personally), the player involved has stated that he would have apologized and made it right. While I think it would have been more of a project to prevent more casual homophobia from creeping its way in, I regret not having just approached the player directly myself and having that conversation. Part of the reason I felt it was time to breach the subject fully was because I was having better interactions with that player, even enjoying playing with them, and I felt that I had built enough rapport to take a chance on that conversation to make things better and to remove the animosity I still felt, even as it had dampened considerably over the last 6 months. I decided to send that player an apology, because I regret that he had to ask why I left because he enjoyed playing with me (which I didn’t even know) and had to hear filtered and half-versions of the story. My departure became about a lot more in that last day – and his slice of it was so small at that point that I feel any version from even my friends would have been incorrect in scope and scale, which is my own fault.
A similar story is true of the meter-waving rogue as well. Ultimately, with time to reflect, while I do think he could use some discretion in how he approaches other players, I think he is just calibrated as a person to perfectly hit my berserk button, and I feel like I was probably unreasonable to a point in how I felt about him as a result. I think it’s reasonable to say that I have more power over my own response there and provided he’s not creating a hostile play environment, that as I said in my first post of the Unpleasantness Trilogy, he’s allowed to have the room to make an ass out of himself and to find where the lines are with the group as a whole, and it was my job as an officer to help guide that process, and my personal aversion to his personality clouded my judgment in that case.
It feels bad that I left so suddenly because I think it has allowed for a lot of room in the margins for stories and legends, for players to feel abandoned or allowed to speculate, and I think that was also wrong of me. I made the choice I made and the manner of my departure with the idea that doing so would cause less drama, but I think it was predictable that leaving in that way would create more questions than it answered (and thus drama), and even as I came to individually explain my choice to anyone that asked, I think it was a moving target because my reason for leaving ultimately shifted quite a bit in that last day such that it was difficult to describe succinctly.
Lastly, I think a lot of the heat of the moment was due to emotional rawness on my part. I’ve never put a pet down before, because it’s either been childhood pets that my parents dealt with after I moved out, or in the case of my adulthood pets, I just haven’t had that many and situations led to rehoming in both cases prior to this one. I was definitely not prepared for the way I would feel about that, and it certainly bled over into me being a lot more stuck in my feels than I would have wanted to be for that conversation and the fallout of it. I could see that clearly as I started to finalize packing for our move last week, and while it’s no excuse for the mistakes I do feel I made, I think the impact it had was undeniable. My wife and I have been coping with it in waves, as we packed up the last place we lived with him and even now, as we sometimes feel that rawness return when discussing how Shadow would have been at this new place – sliding around the hardwood floors, with multiple neighbor dogs to bark at, or how he’d be a liability with our new loveseat double-recliner. It hit me a lot harder than I expected it to, and I could feel in hindsight how I’d been a bit more aggressive and quick to dip out because I was in that headspace. At the same time, I do feel like I would have felt that way about the actual responses I received anyways, and I still feel like I made a valid choice that I would have probably still made if I didn’t have the image of that last day lodged in my brain.
But I’m willing to admit my failings, and I’ll say it loud enough to hear – in many ways, I was wrong to leave how I did and there were options I could have approached that I neglected out of fear or clouded judgment.
So Where Do I Go From Here?
Well, first things first, I’ll still be writing here, including about WoW. The edition of the Weekly Scuff I just published prior to starting on the final draft of this post indicates the fate of that feature (paused while I stop playing), but the rest of the writing I do about WoW can be done whether or not I’m playing the game. My focus will be taking that time and plowing it into other projects outside of this blog, while taking the same marginal times I write for this site and still using it here. So 3 AM PDT posts are still likely on the menu!
I intend to return to the game within about 5 weeks, give or take – if I blast through my goals outside of WoW in a fast and satisfying manner, it could be sooner, if it takes longer or I am enjoying time away from the game more than I expect to, I may be back a little bit later. I had thought about quitting the game completely in the wake of the California DFEH suit against ABK, but the response from developers inside including victims and some discussion with my friends led me to the idea that the best path is critical support.
I have resubscribed to Final Fantasy XIV and I’ll probably write a bit more about it, but I also want to try and broaden my horizons, using some of my gaming time I’ll allot myself for things like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2. I also want to finish some backlogged titles, including Yakuza: Like A Dragon, and I’ll probably have posts on that in the same vein as my Final Fantasy XV posts.
As for the projects I’m working on, I’ll probably share them here once they’re publicly available. A lot of them are writing, but some of them are stretch goals for me and I’m excited to see if I can pull them off!
Lastly, when I do return to the World of Warcraft, what is my intention?
Well, I suppose I’ll definitely aim to keep running dungeons. However, I think one of the things I’ll be working towards is rejoining my guild. I fully expect some penance will be required, and a part of writing what I did here in this post is to establish that I have lines along which I am more than willing to apologize, to explain, and to ingratiate, but there are some things where I think that burden is not mine and where I will not cross that line. I’m prepared to remain out in the wilderness if that doesn’t go well too, because I know that is a possibility. At the very least, I sent my apology note prior to my sub dropping so if nothing else, I’ve cleared a bit of the karmic debt I feel.
Should things on that front go pear-shaped, well, I may very well be seeking out a new guild, and at that point, I suppose most options are on the table. I had debated applying to a Mythic guild and server-transferring, or finding my old vanilla guildies that still play retail and have a guild on our server and seeing if they remember/like me enough to bring me into the fold. If the raid bug remains for me, my PUG experience has taught me the only way I’m going to make meaningful progress without being irritated is by joining a serious, progression-minded group with a minor time commitment that aligns with my desires to do FFXIV stuff on Fridays with my Free Company and to have Tuesday open for Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. Hell, I might even end up just recruiting and building my own raid team from scratch!
At the end of all of this, I feel like I have a good sense of clarity on what it is that I want and need, and why it is that I think a break from the game helps me get there. For me, it’s a chance to get work done, to focus in on seriously taking a real shot at maintaining my currently very enjoyable life, and then to come back to the game reinvigorated. For the externalities, I hope that time heals wounds and that perspectives shift into alignment such that my goals are not a fight with others or leading in that direction.
If all that fails, I am still having a blast with Mythic Plus, and I guess I’ll just keep doing that if nothing else!
(Funny sidenote: in the process of drafting this post, Blizzard has given me no fewer than 5 different times at which my WoW subscription is set to elapse, including the WoW client and the launcher disagreeing with each other. Fix the harassment and pervasive inequality first, but maybe look at that after, yeah?)