Leaving Azeroth for parts unknown

World of Warcraft has been a staple in my gaming life for the better part of a decade… in fact, as of this month it officially has been a decade since I first set up my own account and properly dove into Azeroth. Prior to that, I’d sampled the game those trial CD accounts Blizzard were selling in most game stores, as well as made a character on a friend’s account briefly just to give it a whirl.

Since that time, it’s been a fairly frequent feature in my gaming hours. It hasn’t been constant – there have been a few times I’ve unsubbed, so the fact that I closed my subscription earlier this week isn’t a first. I can’t even say for sure that this is very definitely the last time I’ll do so, since my investment in the game has been so ongoing that I’ll always be inclined to just pop back in and see how things have progressed.

But, well, it’s a canceled subscription all the same. So what brought it on this time? You could reasonably guess the answer for it by citing the major reasons for my previous periods of absence from the game:

1- I no longer had any friends to play the game with and make it worthwhile to be part of a community.

2- I had run out of meaningful content that I was interested and able to partake in.

I quit for a two month period after Icecrown Citadel came out in Wrath of the Lich King, as most of my friends took a break and my guild fell apart, then came back when they did. I quit again for a time in the opening months of Cataclysm, only to come back a bit later when another group of friends expressed interest in playing the game. Once their interest fell and they started to quit, I did too, and that was my longest absence from the game since – a full 18 months. Not long in the grand scheme of things, but quite a substantial time to be away from a game and have it continue to flourish and grow without you, if you think about it.

When I returned during the later parts of the Mists of Pandaria patch cycle, it wasn’t for the usual reasons of having friends lure my back. This time, it was something I did on my own, diving headfirst into a server I wasn’t familiar with and rebuilding a new set of friendships from the ground up. The reason for that was actually personal – I was seeking escapism from personal problems and tragedies, and I was in such a depressed state that I felt like I needed to be anybody BUT myself for a while.

World of Warcraft was always good for that, simply because it had a thriving roleplaying community, and one that I’d usually been part of throughout my time. Many have mocked me or rolled their eyes at my decisions over the years, but it matters not – it was my investment in the world of Warcraft and the stories within that fueled such a constant interest, and roleplayers were usually the ones best suited to fueling that further. While I always played the game for the game, roleplaying helped connect me to it one step further.

It was roleplaying that kept me sometime active for some of the absolute worst stretches of WoW’s lifespan. The fourteen month break without content after the final patch of Mists of Pandaria? I remained subscribed the entire time. Warlords of Draenor? A couple of brief times unsubscribed, but never for more than a couple of months. Until this point, I’ve been subbed for all of Legion. Those long stretches without update and with awful, uninteresting and uninspiring content I was still playing not for the game, but the stories and characters… and not the ones Blizzard was providing either, but those that my friends and I worked on.

Sometime during Warlords of Draenor, I realised that my investment in the game was no longer anything to do with World of Warcraft. Once upon a time I cared for the stories and setting of Azeroth, but honestly? Not anymore. To be blunt, the writing of Blizzard has gotten bad. Quite frankly, that’s an understatement – atrocious would be closer to accurate.

For whatever reason, the little details that I grew to love were largely absent from Warlords onward. The primary plot and the relevant characters had been full of cliches and tropes and poor writing since Cataclysm. And honestly, even the main plot of Wrath of the Lich King starts to look shaky when you realise that the entire conclusion of Icecrown Citadel is lifted almost verbatim from the conclusion of the original Diablo, just with a few flavour differences.

While Blizzard is trying to make their world more concise with books like Chronicle, the overall details are just… not good. The characters that they want me to care about are bland, boring, insipid, or otherwise delivered in such a way as to sour them entirely. I cared about Illidan once, but the push to suddenly redeem him and make him some fated saviour of the Light is written atrociously, completely kills the character, and looks strikingly like the ending of Starcraft 2… which, I might add, is one of the worst video game endings that I’ve ever played through, perhaps rivaled only by Mass Effect 3.

Simply put, I’ve stopped caring. I find myself no longer attached to Azeroth. I don’t care what happens to it or the residents of it anymore. Given that there were huge stretches of game time where it felt like I cared more about the details and consistency of the world and writing than Blizzard did, this is quite a conclusion to come to. But alas, it’s not the World of Warcraft that I care about, it’s the characters I’ve built within it… and frankly, since they’re all the creations of mine or my friends, it’s not too hard to lift them up and take them to a more interesting setting or even stories of our own in order to preserve them.

Let me make it clear: I enjoyed playing Legion. It was all I did for a good chunk of time after it came out, constantly working through the content, diving into the quests, and generally having fun with the game. It wasn’t perfect, and I had some complaints both major and minor, but overall it was a fun experience and a relative return to form. But all throughout, this nagging feeling of disinterest and apathy continued to claw at me, and it’s only now when I’ve been actively avoiding playing World of Warcraft that it occurred to me why it was.

I still have friends playing. I still have meaningful content I would like to do and have the means to do so. I still log in when I can to attend my guild’s raids. But I just don’t care about the game anymore, overall. Turns out, there was a third condition – interest and attachment to the world of Azeroth, and it was that which called me from any lapses in playing WoW over these years back into its folds.

Alas, now it’s gone. It probably happened in Warlords of Draenor, which very nearly completely killed the game in itself, but now it’s finally set in that I just don’t have that attachment anymore. I’ve stopped RPing in the game for various reasons, but mostly because I got tired of repetitive and cliched plots among the playerbase that were barely any better than (or worse, were actively encouraged by) Blizzard’s poor writing. There’s also a lot of politics and drama when dealing with RP servers for too long, and I think I’ve just gotten so tired of all the pettiness that I was driven away from it. All in all, that was yet another nail in the coffin encircling Azeroth.

So it’s time to put WoW behind me and play some other games. I’ve played FF14 in the past to scratch the MMO itch when WoW wasn’t sufficing, and I’ve started doing that again. There’s a huge amount of games I’m slowly working on beating, and a few big titles that I’m actively awaiting in the next few months. I’ll be fine without WoW, and I suspect it’ll be fine without me.

I enjoyed my time on Azeroth, but there are other worlds calling my attention… worlds with considerably more interesting narratives and characters to discover, no less. Maybe I’ll return, maybe I won’t. All I know is that this is the first time ever where attachment to the world and characters of Warcraft is not staying my hand in departing, and isn’t threatening to call me back instantly.

If anything… I feel delightfully free.

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