I went back to World of Warcraft for another rodeo during the Shadowlands launch, and can’t believe that the game’s been around since I was in college.
To me, World of Warcraft (WOW) is an old friend that I love and hate at the same time. Having been an on-and-off player since the game’s release, I’ve been around long enough to remember what it felt like to have to grind a long time to get the gold to buy a level 40 mount – and the sheer joy that I felt when my Tauren Druid got his first mount. I think I just ran around a few zones with it for a couple of hours after forking out the dough.
While the game has had its ups and downs for the last 16 years or so, it’s still amazing to me that millions of people still play it. Sure, there aren’t 11.5 million subscribers like in 2008, but there are still millions.
I played solidly from 2004-2008, but since then my MO has been to take one or two expansions off, then come back again for a few months until I burn out.
My latest foray into WOW came during the release of Shadowlands, and it was definitely my shortest stint in Blizzard’s genre-defining MMO. I lasted somewhere around five weeks before I felt bored of the gameplay loop.
Here are some of the things that have made me begin to realize that Azeroth and its related worlds may no longer be for me.
The core loop is the same
Over 16 years, I understand that the core gameplay loop will always involve dungeons, raids, and gearing up. Funnily enough, I used to really enjoy it, even until the last time I took a break at the end of the Legion expansion.
This time around, though, I got bored pretty quickly. Sure, there were the weekly M+ dungeons to do with different modifiers, but I just couldn’t seem to find the drive to keep playing the same content over and over again.
Gearing up feels less special now
I get that they tried to make gear feel a bit more special again by lowering drop rates in Shadowlands, but it still evoke and real sense of accomplishment or joy when I’d get a new best in slot piece with a slightly higher item level.
I’m clearly looking through rose-tinted glasses, but I do remember that the grind (especially in vanilla WOW) took a really long time and when you did get that next part of your armour set, or that weapon you’d been dying to show off, you felt great.
It doesn’t really feel like MMO anymore
WOW is certainly much easier to get into as a new or returning player these days, especially because tools like the group and raid finders let you experience content without having to be in a dedicated guild. Sure, the rewards aren’t as great as doing normal, heroic, or mythic raids, but at least casuals can get to experience the dungeons and some of the boss mechanics.
It’s a double-edged sword. The tools make grouping easier, but there just doesn’t seem to be a sense of community when it comes to a server anymore, and with connected realms, sharding, and everything else, it just feels like there’s a giant disconnect between players.
The toxicity continues to get worse
Speaking of disconnects, I feel that the toxicity continues to get worse in WOW much like it has in other games. The ease of finding a group these days rewards bad behavior, especially from people who aren’t as good as they think they are. People are quick to brick keys in an M+ dungeon if one single mistake is made, even if they’re the ones who ignored a mechanic and caused a wipe.
There are a ton of people who like to shit on newbies as well, even in regular dungeons. I found myself getting in an argument with a tank (I’m a healer) because he tried to initiate a vote kick for someone for doing too little damage. The guy said he was new at the start of the dungeon, and so I already assumed we’d have a couple of problems.
After the first couple of pulls and first boss, we hadn’t wiped, we hadn’t even seen anyone die, but the tank still wanted to kick the new player out. Considering he was playing DPS, that newbie would have waited around 20-40 minutes for a dungeon pop. I thought it was fucked that the tank had no issue trying to be a complete asshole to someone who admitted they were new. Fortunately, the other people in the group were more reasonable and we counter-kicked the tank and got a new one and finished that dungeon.
Since there’s no consequence to being an asshole in an online game, this kind of behaviour continues endlessly. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I don’t have time to deal with that kind of crap almost every day.
I’ve changed as a gamer and person
Look, I’m not out here to say that WOW is a bad game. I’ve spent many years playing on and off, and I think it’s great that the game has lasted this long.
The problem also lies in how I’ve changed as a gamer and as a person over the last 15-16 years. I no longer have the same amount of time to invest in an MMO as I did back in the day, and while I used to enjoy gear grinds and the rare rewards, I admit I wouldn’t have the patience to play WOW like I did in Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King.
I also acknowledge that things like community building are just not going to be as easy as they were in the past. Gaming has expanded so far since 2004 that there are many more language barriers, age differences, and other factors at play. People also aren’t going to be as active on forums or trying to make friends online like they used to. I certainly don’t.
I understand that it would probably be easier to get a regular group with some real-life friends, but again that’s much harder to do now. When I play Call of Duty: Warzone, friends and I can play a couple of games for 30 minutes or an hour. Most of my old WOW friends have either moved on from gaming, or simply don’t have the time.
If I want to seriously raid, I’ve got to commit upwards of eight hours a week at set time slots, which is much harder to do now. Even if I have the time, I always ask myself if I have the patience to do it.
That’s why it’s probably time for me to move on from WOW. While it feels like saying goodbye to a very old friend, it’s just time to part ways.
I know there are still a ton of players that enjoy the game, and I’m happy about that. I hope the game continues to succeed because it’s the one title that has been around through so many different periods of my life.
Back in the day, playing WOW helped me get through difficult times. When I felt isolated or anxious in the real world, I knew I could go on to hang out with some of my friends in Azeroth to unwind and relax. I hope the game still serves the same purpose for others today.
I simply don’t have the same fire that I once did, and that’s just life. I really thought I could try to get back into it but it’s not meant to be.
I’m not closing the door completely though. Who knows, maybe another expansion will come up, and if there’s one around the 20th anniversary, it would be hard for me to resist the siren call.
For the Alliance.