Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

Gracefully letting go


You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside
I’m not sure that there’s anything left of me

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

Sometime in the early fall of 2005, a level 60 warrior walked into Molten Core for the first time.  He was wearing a mixture of low- and mid-50s green and blue gear, maybe one or two pieces of Tier 0 dungeon set stuff, a few “of the” bits here and there.  In his giant, three-fingered hands, he wielded a Fist of Omokk; in his backpack, a shield and some one-hand weapon infinitely worse than even the Fist.  He was spec’d 31/5/15, back in the days of vanilla WoW when warriors occasionally tried a hybrid spec to off-tank while still doing DPS.  He had been level 60 for less than two months, and existed in Azeroth overall for maybe six.

His player had taken him from Arms, to Fury, to Prot, and back to Arms, and now Arms/Prot hybrid.  His player had no clue what he was doing.  His player was scared and excited as he got on Ventrilo with 39 other people and headed toward his very first raid pull.

Last week, a level 85 warrior walked onto the top of Wyrmrest Temple for the fifth time and peered down at the fallen corpse of Ultraxion, Deathwing’s ultimate creation.  He was wearing three pieces of Tier 13 armor, with a token for a fourth just placed in his bags.  He carried a sword and shield torn from the depths of the Firelands.  His average ilevel of the gear on his body and in his bags was 388.  He was a dedicated, skilled Prot warrior, four years running, with a Fury offspec that he never used, because he was the raid’s tank on single-tank fights and shared duties with a longtime paladin friend on the tank-swap fights.

His player had played him for going on seven years.  His player had a blog now, and had written guides about How to Be a Prot Warrior (even if those guides were one expansion old).

His player was miserable and burned out.  And had been for months.

How did it come to this?

You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence, say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on, dear, and there’s nowhen that I know
And I can’t stand forever
I can’t say if we’re ever gonna be free

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

I took a long and convoluted path through raiding over my years in WoW.  In the beginning I had no intention of taking Linedan protection, I always wanted him to be a DPS warrior.  But the downsizing from 40- to 25-man raiding in The Burning Crusade, and having to hook up with a friend’s Karazhan 10-man as a tank because The Anvil, my current raid, had no room in the two Kara groups they’d formed, forced me to take Lin tanky…and the rest is history, I guess.  I grew to like it, then love it.  And I was able to work my way back into The Anvil and hang on to a spot as an offtank through TBC and into Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, the raid went from three tanks to four in a rotation system.  There was tank drama as two different death knights came in at various times and moved into my raid role as #2 offtank.  Hence the rotation system, so they could keep four tanks on staff.  Despite that, I nearly lost my spot a couple of times and had to step my performance up.  But the rotation also meant that I got to actually main tank some fights for the first time.  And I was one of the two tanks the night The Anvil reached its crowning achievement, our lone Arthas 25-man kill.

Then the Cataclysm hit, in more ways then one.  The Anvil fell apart as people headed to guild 10-mans and the officers, after five hard years of cat herding, burned out.  Some of us formed two 10-man raids out of it, sharing some people but run separately one night a week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday.  After just a couple months, though, the two raids effectively merged into one two-night-a-week, three-hour-a-night raid.  With that raid, we moved through Tier 11 and 12 content.

It was partway through Bastion of Twilight/Blackrock Caverns that I began to notice that I wasn’t having as much fun in the 10s as I did in our old 25.  At first I chalked it up to less activity on Ventrilo and a slightly higher level of sobriety (but only slightly).  But as we slowly ground our way toward Cho’gall and Nefarian, the fun continued to lessen.  Then I thought that maybe I was just bored with the instances, and that it would pick back up when patch 4.2 dropped and we got to go to the Firelands.

It didn’t.  Firelands felt more like a slog than a fun way of overcoming challenges with friends.  I began to come to a horrifying realization.  After years of struggling and working to become a good tank, after finally achieving what I’d always wanted–a secure spot as a raid main tank–I was burned out.  Just when I’d hit my goal, I’d lost the fun of it.

So I went to our officers–my guildleader Ghaar and our Chief Cat Herder Dorritow–and asked for a sabbatical.  It would be the first true raid break I’d taken in over five years.  They approved, and so partway through Firelands I took a month off to recharge my batteries, the first time that I’d ever not attempted to raid when I was at home and the raid was going on.  And it helped.

But not enough.

When I came back, I fell back into my deepening spiral of burnout, made worse by the depression I’ve been flirting on-and-off with for years.  I only logged on during the week to raid, not even logging on alts to roleplay or Lin to accept calendar invites.  Instead of my old chatterbox self on Vent, I became more and more monosyllabic.  I found myself crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t find enough people so the raid would be cancelled.  When that tenth spot filled in, and the call went out to head to Firelands or Dragon Soul, I would sigh, shift in my chair, grumble a little bit, and head on inside.  Things that I never gave a damn about before–turns of phrase, certain fight mechanics, etc.–grated on my nerves like crunk in an old folks’ home.  My right hand was giving me low-grade chronic trouble on raid nights after a couple hours of hard tanking.  The second the raid was over, I would hearth back to Orgrimmar and immediately log out of WoW and Vent with nary a “good night.”  And I came to the dawning realization that this wasn’t salvageable.

I was done.  My raiding days, at least for quite a while, were over.

But obligation and pride are tough things to overcome.  Obligation, because I follow through on my commitments; me not wanting to be there didn’t matter, because the rest of my raid did, and therefore I was going to do what I always did–my best, whatever that was.  I worked hard to make sure that my performance never suffered no matter how badly I felt, and I think I pulled it off, if I’m honest.  Not to mention, these people are my friends, I’ve been raiding with most of them for years.  If I couldn’t raid for me, then I would suffer through the burnout and raid for them.

And pride, because I had finally “made it.”  I’d spent years falsely worrying that I was one step from being dropped from the raid every time I made a mistake.  I watched death knights move into my tanking spot and shatter my confidence because I thought the raid officers had brought them in to replace me instead of supplement us.  And through attrition and sheer dogged persistence more than anything else, I came out the other side as one of “the” two tanks in the surviving 10-man.  It is a very hard thing to let go of that after years of struggle.  I like being the main tank.  I like being on point.  I’m not the greatest tank in the world, never have been, never will be.  But I do the job that’s put in front of me to the best of my ability, and that’s gotten me to tanking a fairly successful (5/8 normal) T13 ten-man, so I guess I’m not that bad.

Well, matters came to a head this week.  There was no drama, no meltdown, no spectacular failure.  Dorri simply came to me and said that the officers had noticed the shape I was in–it wasn’t much of a secret, as I’m a very bad actor–and that if I needed to drop out, I could, they could find another tank.  And after we talked it out, I realized that she was right…that I was doing a disservice to myself and my friends in Doom and Blet if I kept digging myself into a hole and coming when I just wasn’t having any enjoyment with it.  It can have a subtle, corrosive effect on a raid over time when someone is so obviously down and depressed about being there.  I should know, I’ve seen it happen.  And now they were seeing it happen with me.

And so, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in World of Warcraft.

The mighty Panzercow hung up his sword and shield.

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed
I have used up all my weapons, and I’m helpless and bereaved
Wounds are all I’m made of
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
Send me to the rear
Where the tides of madness swell
And men sliding into hell
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

So is this the end of WoW for me?  Not quite.  While I’m done with the raid effective immediately, I’m going to give it a month before I decide whether to suspend my account or not.  I haven’t had any desire to level alts so far in Cataclysm–my goblin is level 6, my worgen doesn’t exist, and my little dwarf tribute to the Tiny Angry Woman is only level 15–but maybe now I might.  I still should log Beltar on more to RP with the Wildfire Riders.  And it’s not like my game-playing schedule is empty outside of WoW.  Old Republic, iRacing, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 coming out on March 6…trust me, my leisure time can be as full as I want it to be right now.  I’ll see most of my WoW raiding friends in Old Republic, and continue to follow WoW news through my hundreds of Twitterati.

And even if I do cancel my account and leave the game, it’s not necessarily permanent.  Rumor has it there’s a mysterious island full of pandaren out there, and I’m fairly sure that when the Mists of Pandaria finally lift and there’s evil to be fought there, a certain very large cow in very heavy armor will be on the first boat heading that way.  I don’t think Linedan’s story in Azeroth is quite done yet.

But even if it is, it’s been one hell of a ride.  Seven years, 85 levels, and thousands of memories.

I figure the big guy deserves a little R&R well off the front lines.  And, in the end, so do I.

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19 responses

  1. You made the right decision, Lin. Time for the Tauren to take a break and go do some fishing for a while.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:24

  2. Oh, and thanks for the BoC, man.

    February 14, 2012 at 08:25

    • Is that not the greatest version of that song ever? Soon as I found it on Youtube months ago, I figured I could use it for some post a some point. :)

      February 14, 2012 at 08:27

      • It takes me back, that’s for sure. I lived in the dorm room next to a guy who loved BoC in college, and you’d always hear them blaring through the walls.

        February 14, 2012 at 12:52

  3. I remember when you downed LK, and what a high point that was for you – and for all of us watching and cheering from the sidelines.

    Saying goodbye to a main is really hard. It’s not quite admitting failure, but rather admitting that you need a change, all while trying to convince yourself that you didn’t fail. You didn’t. You just need something different.

    I log into Cynwise every so often, usually to make some bags or a pattern or bum some cash off of her. It’s okay. I’ll come back to her, someday, and if I don’t, that’s okay too.

    Enjoy your rest, Lin. Go have fun. :)

    February 14, 2012 at 08:54

  4. I think a lot of people forget that it’s people behind desks, and that people have a direct input into the characters they choose to represent them in a fantastical world. I did worry about Linedan recently, the person behind the Panzercow, because not only had his blogging tailed off dramatically, there simply wasn’t the same ass-kicking joviality behind the words that there used to be. That punch, drive, heart and commitment had tailed off significantly. I recall seeing this with my favourite warrior blogger, Veneretio, and it happened with another of my favourites in Kadomi. What was once cute had become infuriating, and it’s chilling how well Oscar Wilde put it; it’s amazing how pitiful something becomes when you cease loving it.

    Burn out, bad design or other (more IRL related) things, it was clear you had lost love for the game.

    You and I have never really spoken directly, but I’ve always enjoyed coming here and reading what you had to say. Humour and the ability to not take oneself so seriously are wonderful traits that I cannot, ever, lay claim to. It’s no coincidence my favourite bloggers were essentially my opposites in their approach, and many of your posts made me laugh because I could either relate to them directly, or picture the Panzercow, (something of a deliberate caricature in a similar fashion to Ratshag), getting up to these things. I hope you understand what I mean when I say that I learned nothing from this blog technically, but got so much from it on a more personal basis. Your personality comes through in your best posts, and I’ll miss ‘em. :)

    Your blog will still be on my daily rounds until you announce you’re formally winding up, much like I still stop in on Tank Like a Girl every once in a while. I just hope that you enjoy the new freedom from raiding that Belghast recently spoke of, and that you can learn to just love playing again. It may not mean anything to you, but my partner (no Aggrokitty, but a hunturd by trade) gave up raiding and got far more heavily into the RP side of things on Argent Dawn, EU.

    She’s never been happier in six years.

    Until the next time, Lin – take good care of yourself. :)

    February 14, 2012 at 08:55

  5. I’d say you definitely did the right thing, though I’m sorry to read that you painted yourself into that corner. I’ve done it myself, more times than I care to think about, so I know how easy it is to do.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you find some enjoyment in Azeroth again, and that it stops feeling like a chore. Raiding can be fun, but it is also draining, time consuming and plain hard work!

    Take a break, enjoy your time, partake of some RP, and hopefully you’ll regain some sense of enjoyment. If not, as you wrote, there are plenty of other games out there, as well as an island full of Pandaren on the horizon.

    *hug*

    PS: Yay for Blue Oyster Cult ^.^

    February 14, 2012 at 08:57

  6. Lin-

    I was in your exact same spot about a year ago. The stress and pressure of raidng 3x a week was overwhelming, I was bored, and resented having to log in. I felt like I was always doing something for OTHER people, and the game felt like a job.I was also suffering with depression. I canceled my account, thinking I was NEVER coming back (after playing for 5 years).

    I took up landscape photography, started enjoying the extra time with my kids and husband. I got help for my depression. I started playing RIFT casually. Fun started to come back into my life at all levels (except work, blargh, who has fun at work?). About 9 months (and almost the entire Cata expansion), I started to miss WoW. It wasn’t my guildies that I missed, in fact most of them had burned out during that time too, it was the GAME.

    I came back in December, after a 9.5 month hiatus, and I’m having fun again. I DO NOT RAID anymore. I’m pvping now, and love that. Less stress. I can do a 20 minute match and walk away. I’m not committed to having to be sitting in front of a computer for 3 hours straight, 3 nights a week. If I feel like fishing, or exploring, or doing archeology, or farming herbs or soloing dungeons for transmog gear, I can do that all, guilt free. Hell, I spent 15 minutes sitting on a sandbox tiger at the Darkmoon fair while chatting with guildies one day. I’m playing the game now, the game isn’t playing me anymore.

    I hope you find what you are looking for, no matter where you end up. If you decide to come back to Wow, some of us will still be here waiting for you. Others will leave to pursue greener pastures. Find YOUR happy place.
    <3 Baybdoli

    February 14, 2012 at 09:44

  7. I know exactly how you feel, Lin. I’m thisclose to calling it quits, too — but letting go is hard after four and a half years, especially when you feel like other people are relying on you.

    Best of luck to you, in-game and out!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:26

  8. Pingback: Serious Game stuff (As opposed to writing) « Itanya rambles on and on

  9. Cheesepizza

    Man the fuck up. Also, 7 years while married? I’m sure that did wonders for your relationship. RP’ing? You know what the rest of the world calls it? Real life. You should get out of your closet and go get one of those. Loser.

    February 17, 2012 at 20:39

  10. Hey Cheese? You’re reading WoW blogs. Guess what? People who write WoW blogs PLAY WOW. I know, it’s probably hard to think about, but it’s true. Also some of us – Panzercow included – play WoW with our spouses. So perhaps playing wow for 7 years while married has been (wait for it) GOOD for his relationship. I know that’s probably hard to understand too.

    Also, since you’re reading a WoW blog, I’m going to guess you TOO play wow, and therefore it’s a little pot/kettle to tell someone else to get a life. Unless, of course, you quit long ago because you’re so above all this gaming stuff- in which case, why do you care, and why are you still reading this blog?

    February 17, 2012 at 21:13

  11. You more than deserve a rest. If it is not fun, then it is a job and games are we come to let go of our jobs. Do what feels right for you and your friends will support that.

    Certain beings (points to particular doughpie reply above) do not count.

    February 19, 2012 at 17:14

  12. Hades

    I have started to play WoW since its vanilla days and i quit playing 1 year ago. I have played orc warrior tank all this time. You know what’s the biggest problem with this game? You do not have a game “pause” button. But the game has one. It pauses your life and by the time you realize this, it’s kind of too late. You can keep on fooling yourself with “i can stop playing anytime i want”, it won’t work. You will end up again in front of the keyboards, in a zombie state like, staring at some pile of pixels commonly referred as “boss”. And when you wake up you would have missed all kind of beautiful moments with your family.
    I am not trying to patronize you but try to focus your energies on other things. Take up sports, go outdoors, damn it man, live your life.

    February 20, 2012 at 02:36

    • That’s true of just about any hobby, Hades.

      People have this strange idea that because the entertainment is pixelated, it is less real. That’s a crock of shit.

      February 23, 2012 at 16:44

  13. /salute

    :moment of silence:

    Thanks for the bovine wisdom and enjoy the rest.

    February 21, 2012 at 15:13

  14. Zanja

    That was a very well thought out post sir, and believe me I feel you.
    this was def a damn good read.

    Hope you feel like sticking around, wow need players like you

    If nothing else see you in pandaria

    February 23, 2012 at 18:58

  15. Night

    I just want to thank you for the great work you have done for the community. The Prot Warrior series was excellent.

    If you do come back there is always non-raid stuff around to explore. Heck I am even participating in the “Ironman Challenge” for a different take on the game.

    February 24, 2012 at 14:03

  16. Théodoro

    /salute

    I know the feeling…somehow it’s nostalgia mixed in with regret. I feel that for me personally, after 5 years of almost constant playing and raiding, it’s time to move on and let Pandaria be discovered and tamed by other adventurers :)

    Maybe you should consider the same.

    Respectfully yours,

    Théodoro

    March 1, 2012 at 08:43

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