I took a very long vacation this past month in World of Warcraft.
Blizzard announced that they would be re-releasing the "classic" version of World of Warcraft in the summer of 2019. I knew I would get hooked on WoW if I played the real one, so I decided to burn myself out on a private server before Blizzard released the official version. I'm no longer playing, but I thought I would give an update on why I started playing, and what I got out of this.
Now to get real for a bit, when winter rolled in this year I felt like I was lacking purpose. I had just completed the core improv curriculum at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, and my day-to-day consisted mostly of me going to work, then coming home and watching TV, or movies, or ping pong videos on Youtube, and then going to bed. I began to question what I want to do with my life, etcetera, etcetera.
I think what World of Warcraft, and what many games offer, is a sense of purpose. Like, this is what I'm doing with my life right now, I'm on this epic journey towards reaching level 60 in World of Warcraft. And for a month, that was all I needed, a feeling that I was moving towards something.
It's great, because in World of Warcraft I did things not to gain fame and fortune and success and all that, but to gain progress in a fictional world. I found intrinsic value in just progressing in this game, even though I wasn't making any real money, or climbing some corporate career ladder.
I feel like when you're playing any game, you do things just do to them because they're fun, but World of Warcraft felt different, felt more like an alternative life, where I knew exactly what to do to become successful. In real life, success feels much more ambiguous, at least for me, as someone who aspires to be creative. There are many different real creative paths: becoming successful improvisor, actor, writer, film maker, or game developer. Also in real life you have all these responsibilities outside of being creative: you need to work a full time job to pay rent, you need to send flowers to your depressed mother, and you need to shop at Uniqlo for winter clothing. This game removes all the unnecessary and distracting responsibilities and ambiguity that real life has, and presents you with a set of simple goals. Goals that you can easily track, as well.
In World of Warcraft, I can just say that my goal is to reach level 60, the highest level possible, and to do that, every day I just complete a set of quests and kill a certain number of creatures, which will award me with experience points out of an exact point total goal to "level up". And that is pretty much all the responsibility and purpose I have to deal with. In real life you don't really get that. If you go to improv training, or art school, or film school, you don't get to become a level 500 film maker, and each class, set, or short film you do does not award you with experience points. It's much more open, and again on top of that you need to be dealing with all these distracting side responsibilities.
I'm not playing World of Warcraft anymore. There was much more I could have done in the game, but I completed my journey to reach level 60 and so I felt like I accomplished what I needed to accomplish.