Confessions of a World of Warcraft Addict

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The scourge of addiction; it consumes everything in its path – families, neighbourhoods, puppy dogs, bicycles, you name it. It's the ghastly boil on the face of humanity - a boil that's about to burst. Sure, humans have always found something to become addicted to, from the ancient Egyptians, who would smoke dried dung beetle for its soporific effects, through to the shamanic Chihuahua lickers of Mexico, but the times they are a changin'. You see, in recent years we've seen an alarming development. Drugs that were once regarded as the most destructive and addictive ever devised - cocaine and Evercrack, to name just two - now look nothing short of quaint when compared with the new 'super drugs' – crystal meth, triple-sod, clarky cat and World of Warcraft. It's a dangerous new world teetering on the brink of utter annihilation.

The videogame industry has been one of the hardest hit, with over ten million World of Warcraft addicts alone. That's ten million people chasing the dragon, in the hopes they can kill it and score some epic loot. To peer inside the mind of an addict is to peer into the void, where all the concerns that you and I take for granted – having shelter, food, clothes, and a steady supply of money from our whores – no longer matters. All that matters is the drug. All that matters is the next fix.

It's a serious problem, and one which many of you are no doubt grappling with on a daily basis. With that in mind, we got in touch with two former addicts who have seen the blackest depths of addiction but somehow came out the other side. With their help we'll take you through the realities of WoW addiction and the steps required to live another day.

 

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The Darkest Depths
"When I was still at uni, I could put in twelve hours comfortably," Former Addict #1 told us. "I used to only go to the classes I had to. If there was a night class and I didn't have to go, I wouldn't, because there'd be raiding on WoW, which came first; uni came second." Former Addict #1 - let's call him Billy-Tim Shimshaw (it's catchier) played that intensively for over two years, forsaking all the usual teen pursuits – playing hoop stick, going to the talkies and binge drinking.

Former Addict #2, on the other hand, obviously didn't try hard enough, telling us: "At my absolutely lowest point, there were eight hour days - entire molten core runs, plus an instance or two afterwards just for the hell of it. By the time I felt like getting up, chair fibres were deeply embedded into my sexy buns and my eyes felt like deliciously painful raisins."

Sexy buns aside, that's an awful lot of time spent in a single game, but Former Addict #2 – lets call him Joey Jeremiah – didn't realise he had a problem. "I think, like a lot of people, I only realised [I had a problem] in retrospect." Also like many addicts, even now he tries to paint his former lifestyle as a lesser addiction. "In terms of total hours played," he rationalises, "I wasn't nearly as bad as many of my guildmates. There were people I knew who had been logged into a character for about a quarter of the time since launch. That's six hours a day, every single freakin' day. The terrifying thing is that these people had jobs and families, and still somehow managed to find a quarter of every day to play. Something had to have been neglected (probably sleep)."

Sleep, university, work, hygiene; WoW has an impact on them all, with the latter being arguably the most impactful for an addict's close friends and family. "I smelled like a moist foot all day long," Jeremiah admitted. "Wild dogs loved me."

Shimshaw's hygiene also suffered. "I had a period of almost two weeks where it was a hot summer and I was so heavily focused on farming and raiding that the smell in my room could be smelt upstairs," he revealed, while dry retching at the memory. "That's foul. That was a mixture of stale B.O., cigarettes and spilt Coke. It was nasty."

The game obviously had an incredibly strong hold over both Billy-Tim and Joey. Shimshaw would skip out on uni whenever possible to make time to play, while Jeremiah also tried to get the most out of the game. "I would spend a lot of time thinking of ways to make my playtime more efficient, or to squeeze just a little more DPS out of my character," he told us, "but I wouldn't cancel a real-life obligation just to play. That said, I did try to schedule things around it. It was certainly very important to me at the time, and in some ways, still is. I met a lot of genuinely rad people through the game, and we're still in touch, so in some sense, WoW still very much has an influence."

 

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The Reasons to Play
In fact, it's this social component that is at the core of most WoW addictions, and very much one of the driving forces for players. "We got on really well, and we had a blast playing," Billy-Tim Shimshaw told us of his guild. "It was a really social thing to do."

Joey Jeremiah agrees. "When I first started playing WoW, I befriended some people quite early on and began levelling with them," he explained. "Later on, I got into a small but very elite guild with some of the funniest guys I've ever talked to. That was the major sticking point – the people. Also, I was freakin' awesome at it."

Indeed, perhaps the players that become the most addicted are those that can get past the petty politics of guild life, to have a mostly harmonious playing experience. Shimshaw agrees. "I reckon that was paramount to the success we had," he revealed. "We'd known each other for long enough that the concept of DKP was non-existent in our guild… no one gave a shit about loot, and that was a big, big shift, because loot-whoring is a big issue for these sorts of games, especially when DKP points are accumulated… I mean, we were the fifth Australian guild to down Illidan, which is a pretty good accomplishment in itself, and we did it with no in-fighting, which made it all the more fun."

For Shimshaw, the guys in his WoW guild were more than just players; they were some of his best friends. "A lot of these guys used to meet up for beers a couple of times a month," he told us. "Friday nights used to be 'No Raid' night – it used to be beer night, and pretty much everyone in the guild used to go out and have a few beers in the city. It was great. Other times we'd book out huge sections of net cafes so we could all play together. We'd have all these people standing around watching because they'd never seen such high level play before."

The clear lesson to be learnt, then, is that if you have to play World of Warcraft, DON'T – UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – MAKE FRIENDS. Be as isolated as you can within the game, and respond aggressively to any players who try to speak to you. Not only will you be keeping personal addiction at bay, but you'll be doing your part to reduce other incidences of addiction within the game. Pissing off other players, after all, makes them less likely to have a good time, thereby they're less likely to become addicted.

Of course, making friends and questing with them isn't the be all and end all of WoW's insidious lure. Both players also sing the praises of their erstwhile pusher, Blizzard, with Shimshaw emphatically telling us that: "Blizzard have a habit of making really beautifully crafted instances, with great lore and scripted events that are just really mesmerising… the game also pays great homage to well known games and characters – Link, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, they've all got references in there. You kill apes and they drop empty barrels."

The empty barrels of a wasted life.

 

Kicking the Habit
There is hope, however. Let's imagine – hypothetically – that you, the reader, are hooked on WoW. You're playing at least half of your waking hours and there's no end in sight, with raids on every night and regular new content updates to explore. Something's got to give, right? Right. In the case of most addicts, they just keel over right there, on their keyboard, dead as a board. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way, and Billy-Tim Shimshaw and Joey Jeremiah are living proof that there is life after WoW. So how did they get out?

Interestingly enough, neither one their families cared enough to stage a dramatic intervention, nor did they check them into rehab - so don't rely on your loved ones to rescue you. Instead, both these hopeless addicts ultimately made the decision to quit by themselves. For Shimshaw it was "partly the requirements of work, but more the realisation that there's only so much you can get out of the game in the end, that's material. It was sort of an investment decision – what would I get more out of putting my time into, and work – finally – won the argument." And now he's a powerful executive on a fast track to a coronary at 40. Good work Billy-Tim!

"Most of the people I used to play with slowly stopped playing," said Joey, "and crappy girl-troubles meant that even the thought of playing felt like slowly pulling all of my pubic hair out with a lit match. It was that sort of forced-break that caused me to realise that I really didn't need to play, or even really want to anymore. Ultimately though it was my decision to stop, though even now I think about playing occasionally."

Billy-Tim went to slightly more extreme measures to ensure he didn't get hooked again. "I thought the easiest way was pretty much to cancel the account, get rid of team speak or anything like that, kill all the references I had to it on my computer," he revealed. "I had to put away my mouse pad because it was a World of Warcraft one."

By the time Shimshaw was ready to quit, he had "nine Level 70s and two 60s. I had a Resto Shaman in two pieces of tier six. I had a Warlock in full tier five and a Mage in full tier five." There was only one thing for it – he sold his characters, earning around $1000, which he promptly spent on smack to try and fill the gaping hole that was left in his soul. Or maybe he put it in the bank - I don't know.

 

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Taking Advice from Former Addicts
We asked Jeremiah if he had any advice for other players looking to get out of the game. "That's tough," he told us. "I think everyone's motivation is going to differ. Though, some things to think about are that ultimately, like all things in life, WoW will come to an end and everything you've done will be worth zilch. It's one thing to play for the fun of it, and in moderation, but you have to remember that, really, you're not achieving anything. Go find something you're passionate about and do that when you feel tempted to play, and soon enough you'll find that the need to log on will just fade away. That, or get dumped by someone who is online like 24/7."

Shimshaw's advice is similar. "WoW is very addictive… but I think you just have to make a conscious decision about what's more important. If you can put the time in and it's not going to affect your real life commitments, then have a blast and enjoy it, but at the end of the day, WoW doesn't pay the bills… you've got to work to live, and you can't WoW to live."

Is there a danger of getting sucked back in to the game? "God yes," Shimshaw replied. "The thing is that the guys from my guild are still playing, and they're still doing very well. They've said I can come in any time I want and jump straight back to where we were."

The temptation to once again suckle at the teet of the dark mother that is World of Warcraft will never truly go away for either of these players, but at least they got out. For millions more – players hopelessly caught in the web of World of Warcraft, about to be devoured whole by the gigantic spider Blizzard – the future doesn't look as bright. To them we say - take solace from the experiences of Billy-Tim Shimshaw and Joey Jeremiah. It is possible to move on. You just have to want it. Just cancel your account, uninstall the game, smash the disc and burn your PC, then take a long deep breath of the fetid stench of your underarms.

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