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Editorial: Help me! I'm addicted to World of Warcraft!
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posted by: Gary Wong
date posted: 12:00 AM Tue Mar 29th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Tue Mar 29th, 2005

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It's two in the morning.  My eyes are bleary, my shoulders are tired, and my mouth is parched.  I've been hard at work in front of my computer for over four hours now without a break.  My body is telling me that it's well past quitting time considering that I have to be up again in six hours.  I know I shouldn't be in front of my computer right now but there's just too much that needs to be done.  Besides, who else is going to stop those damn ogres from running amok while I slumber peacefully?

Confused? Maybe I should start from the top.

My name is Garywong and I am hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft [WoW].

The story of my descent into addiction starts simply enough - my college buddy Darwyth (WoW character name used to protect the anonymity of my fellow WoW players - yes, Garywong is my WoW character name) sent me an instant message in January asking me if I would be interested in playing the game.  The reasoning behind playing WoW was that it would help my college buddies and I to stay in touch with each other.  It had been almost three years since we graduated and it had been getting harder for us all to gather in one place with all the demands of the real world being foisted upon us.  I was concerned that playing a massive multiplayer online role-playing game [MMORPG] would be a strain on my already stretched-to-the-limit schedule of work, socializing, and freelance gigs.  I told Darywth (again, WoW character name not his real name) that he should rope some of our other buddies first while I would think it over and we left it at that.

Fast forward to early February , I'm killing time before I meet a friend to see a movie and I find myself standing outside an EB Games store.  I walked into the store thinking that WoW would be sold out - thus dodging another bullet , but, lo and behold, they had three copies left.  I'd like to say that I gave serious thought and debate over whether or not I should make the purchase but there was never really any option but to buy it.  Still, I had another out , as long as I did not crack the seal on the box, I could still return it for a full refund.  Again, never really an avenue I intended to pursue, but it put me at ease believing I had that option.

Finally, the day came when all the stars were aligned and we were able to congregate (online, at least) and play WoW together.  The seal, along with any chance of returning the game for a refund, now non-existent, I thrust my trembling hand into the box and pulled out the heavy manual and four shiny CDs.  Eschewing the option of reading the manual, opting instead to learn the nuances of the game on the fly, I embarked on the lengthy installation process.  The anticipation slowly mounted as I inserted each CD into my and after what seemed like hours (okay, it was only one hour), the game was fully installed and ready to be played.  Itching to play the game, I clicked on the WoW icon in the dock and I watched it gloriously start up.

But I wasn't ready to play yet.

First, I had to open up an account with Blizzard so I could actually access the game.  After a few minutes of searching for my wallet (it's never where you last remember it to be), I dug out a credit card, typed in those 16 magic digits, and, voila, my account was created.  With a Blizzard account in hand, I typed my user name and password and off I went to Azeroth!

But I still wasn't ready to play yet.

Now, I had to download all the updates that had been released since the game was first on the shelves , oh boy, were there were a lot of updates that had to be downloaded.  This part of the process really did take well over an hour to finish.  With the updates finally downloaded and installed, I was finally ready to play.

I created a night elf named Ghettob so that I could start at the same point as my college buddies, Darwyth and Lumios.  I'll admit that I wasn't very impressed with playing as a night elf and, by extension, the game itself.  Sure, there was the usual Blizzard style of click and slash that I had loved in Diablo , I just didn't see what all the fuss was about.  When I signed off that first night at 3 am, I thought that it was a fun game but I didn't think it would be anything truly habit-forming.

Oh, how wrong I would turn out to be.

The next night, I went back to the first character I created , a human paladin by the name of Garywong.  Knowing I had the next day off from work meant that I didn't have to concern myself with having to log off at a decent time , thus, I was able to really immerse myself in the game.  I started to complete quests, learned new paladin skills, and made my way out of Northshire Abbey into the greater Elwynn Forest area.  I discovered the thrill of flying the friendly gryphon skies, the delight in ridding the forest of nasty creatures, and the joy of partying with others to achieve common goals.

I was hooked fast and I loved every minute of it.

Being hooked on WoW, however, had some major drawbacks.  Spending upwards of four hours a night playing WoW meant I was spending four less hours sleeping, doing productive work (the kind that I am rewarded with a paycheck every other week), or socializing outside the confines of my computer.  At the height of my addiction, it would not be uncommon for me to log on at one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and not log off until four o'clock Sunday morning.  I was cognizant of the fact that many aspects of my life were suffering as a result of WoW but I didn't want to acknowledge it.

And then I got this email from Melaf, another one of my college buddies:
It's official, I'm an addict.  Last night I dreamed I was IN WoW as a frost mage.  I was fighting some elite humanoid and I was about to kill it when a giant spider-thing ran up and started kicking my ass.  I had already used my frost nova to freeze the elite and it hadn't finished it's cooldown yet (25 seconds!) and the spider-thing had a very quick move and attack speed.  I was basically running for my life, trying to get my frost nova cooldown to finish when I woke up this morning.

I'd also like to point out that the media could never use me as an example of someone committing violence because of video games.  In my dream, I did not actually "cast" the spells but rather I had some mental keyboard that I pushed the correct button on (with hot keys laid out same as my real character).  As I was running from the spider-thing I was trying to find the hotkey for Cold Snap (reset cooldown on all frost spells), which ironically I don't have for my real character yet.  Yes, I am a sad, sad person.  Maybe I need a WoW intervention.  I've only been playing for 3 weeks.

How sad is this?  This is only the 3rd game I have ever had a dream about.  The first was Starcraft and the second was Diablo II.  Damn you Blizzard!  Damn you!Funny stuff, isn't it? Rest assured that my friend isn't truly as addicted as the e-mail would make him out to be.  But it struck a chord within me that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I was playing a few too many hours of WoW.  Of course, that didn't stop me immediately from scaling back the hours but it did give me cause to act eventually.  Again, I'm not saying my friend is nuts and needs help cutting back on WoW but it certainly made me think that I should do so.

So now, in an attempt to take my life back into my own hands, I've cut back my playing time to zero hours.  That's right - I haven't played the game at all for an entire week.  I now spend time out with friends without thinking in the back in my mind that it would only be a few more hours before I would be back in the saddle playing WoW.  I'm managing to get more work done when I'm in front of my computer as opposed to my paladin getting more work done in his chosen professions.  All in all, I'd say that I don't miss playing the game at all.  I'm not saying I'll never play WoW again , I'm just going to do so in moderation like everything else in my life.

Have I kicked my addiction completely? That remains to be seen.  As easily as I can say that I'll regulate the amount of time I spend playing WoW, it's just as easy for me to fall off the wagon and put in a marathon 12-hour session.  Regardless of what eventually happens, I'm happy that I've been able to stop myself from playing WoW this past week.  If one week is the pinnacle of my abstention then so be it - at least I can say I tried my best.

Author's Note: Though this column was written with tongue firmly in cheek, video game addiction is a serious affliction among young and old.  For more information on video game addiction, please read the fact sheet available at The National Institute on Media and the Family.