The dreaded B-word
Burnout. It’s one word that all of us as gamers are familiar with. And make no mistake, Gentle Reader…it will happen to you. Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the obsession that you’re feeling with whatever is your current favorite game. Even WoW.
In case you haven’t noticed, the content here on Achtung Panzercow has slowed down a fair bit. This is partially due to a busy real life schedule that’s cut into my blogging time, but it’s mainly because I’ve hit a bit of burnout with WoW and with the blog simultaneously. My gaming time over the past month has shifted more toward a brief fling with Star Trek Online (verdict: good chance I won’t resubscribe when my free month ends on March 11) and finally, after three months of it sitting on my hard drive, making progress in Dragon Age: Origins. And even then I haven’t finished the game–I shelved my original human noble warrior and am now attempting to make a go of it with, of all things, a dwarf rogue ranger. Yep, that’s right, kids…I’m playing my dwarf huntard in DA:O. So far, things are going well, except I’m still waiting for archery to actually be worth something. Half the time he ends up drawing swords and running in to kick darkspawn in their rotted jubblies instead of standing at range and plinking with his crossbow. But I digress.
I am a cyclical gamer–always have been, probably always will be. My tendency, for the 21 years I’ve had a PC sitting on my desk at home and games to put on it, is to grab onto one New Thing, sink my teeth into it like a frenzied terrier, and go nuts on it. That works with both single-player games and MMOs, by the way. I “hit it like I mean it” for a period of time, playing it to the exclusion of most any other recreational gaming, and, depending on the game, to the exclusion of some sleep as well.
Then at some point, from a week to a few months later, the passion fades. I still play, but not with the same intensity. I go through a period where I hesitate to fire the game up, then to where I actually am sick of the game. That’s usually when the Next New Thing comes along…or, as often as not, when an Old Thing comes back to life and snags me again. The Great Wheel turns yet again, or, as we say in consumer-driven America, “lather, rinse, repeat.”
This cycle is why I still have a sub to EVE Online even though I rarely fire the game up anymore. Every so often I get this jones to jump back in my Dominix or Retriever and mission or mine hard for a few days…and then I get over it, and I go a month only logging on to train skills. (It’s why my EVE character damn near has more skill points than he does money.) I do the same thing with flight simulation. I have over 70 gigabytes of installed addons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X, accumulated over a seven-year span. I’ll go months without firing up either program, and suddenly one day I’ll get the urge to fly virtually again. And then I’m in the “cockpit” every night for weeks.
The one game that has partially broken that pattern is World of Warcraft. My interest in WoW waxes and wanes, as anyone’s does, but I’ve never put the Warcrack down and gone on a complete hiatus in the five years I’ve been playing–not for more than a few days, anyway. I sat back over the weekend and thought about this, and there’s a few reasons for it.
The biggest, of course, is the people. If you don’t fire up Dragon Age for a few weeks, Leiliana isn’t going to get worried where her main man went. But in an MMORPG, those are real people on the other side of that monitor. I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of acquaintances in five years on Feathermoon, and I enjoy their company. I don’t want to let any burnout feelings I’m having with WoW affect my communication with them…I’m not tired of them, I’m tired of the game. Big difference.
The second reason ties in with the first one, and that’s my raid. I raid three times during the week right now, all on Linedan–Thursday and Friday night ICC 25 with The Anvil, and then a Saturday-afternoon ICC 10 (plus weekly raid quest) with some other Anvillains, including a few alts. Now while tanks are somewhat rare these days, we’ve got four in our 25-man and some spares available for the 10 as well, so I’m by no means indispensable. But I’ve always taken seriously the fact that by signing up each week to raid, I’m making a commitment to attend and to do my best in whatever role I’m assigned, be it tank or DPS or whatever. Real life takes priority, of course. If I’m sick, or an emergency comes up, or anything like that, I don’t raid–they’d chew me out if I did. But if I’ve got 24 other people counting on me being there, especially if I’m slotted to tank? What does it say about me if I just decide to blow that off without a good reason?
The third reason is a corollary to the second. I’ve raided with The Anvil for well over three years now (except for a period early in TBC where I was part of another Karazhan raid). I’ve persisted, and improved, and just hung in there, and slowly, glacially, geologically, moved from the days of being “Garr offtank #6″ and bottom-of-the-heap hybrid DPS warrior in Molten Core, to being professional #2 offtank all through Tier 4, 5, and 6 25-man content, to being part of our current four-man tank rotation as we poke and prod at Icecrown Citadel. I don’t want to lose that. I don’t want to disappear and then come back in a month to find that I’ve (rightfully) lost my spot to someone willing to put forth the effort to be there every night and now I have to go find another raid. I don’t know even if I’d raid if that happened.
So I’ve got a lot of very good reasons to stay…but can those hold burnout at bay forever? I don’t know. So what I try to do, to mitigate the burnout, is reduce my WoW time outside of raiding. But that runs into another problem. Raiding nowadays is expensive. Working on progression content for three days usually costs me 150-200 gold in repair bills. Even taking advantage of my wife having a flask-spec alchemist and a jewelcrafter, and The Anvil being incredibly generous with enchants and gems, and me being able to make Lin’s own sockets and buckles as a blacksmith, upgrades can cost a few hundred gold in raw gems for cutting or materials for enchanting. Linedan rarely has more than 400 gold to his name. I spent the couple thousand that he’d accumulated during the first month of the LFD system as I was able to rapidly upgrade several pieces of his then-deficient DPS set. So I have to keep playing, at least a bit, in order to have the resources to stay on top of my game for the nine hours a week that I raid.
At this point, I don’t think I’m in any real danger of quitting the game anytime soon. I still have a lot of fun. But at the same time, the warning signs are there. I have five level 80s and am leveling two more characters through Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord…and the thought of the grind through Dragonblight, to Grizzly Hills or Zul’drak, to Storm Peaks or Icecrown, isn’t exactly filling me with glee and happiness. I have “been there, done that” many, many times. My non-raid playtimes tend toward doing a lot of PUG dungeons, flying around herbing or mining while waiting 15 minutes to get in a random dungeon with people of random intelligence, skill, and personality. I should break it up by roleplaying more, I know. But roleplaying takes effort, and due to a myriad number of real-life things, mental effort is not something I’ve got a lot of right now…as witnessed by the fact that I started writing this blog post one week ago and am only now finishing it.
So how do you handle burnout? What do you do when you feel it creeping up on you? How do you handle your commitments to your guildmates and friends when your thoughts of logging on to raid change from “wow” to “meh?” What do you do to make your WoW experience feel different after you’ve been through the content multiple times?
(And finally, as for the blog–Achtung Panzercow is going nowhere. I’m still here. Updates may slow down a bit from time to time, but I have no intention of leaving either the game or this blog unless something radical happens.)