The Northrend Beasts Encounter

Here’s a video of the fight courtesy of WoWRaid (and Irae). Check out the different abilities and the loot table.

European players get a treat as they got to check out an encounter on the EU PTR (unannounced I might add).

This appears to be one of the first encounters you’ll find entering raid aspect of the coliseum. The sequence here is that it’s 3 sets of mobs that come in one after the other. A Hunter provides the video perspective here (and wow, I’ve never seen those kinds of numbers before but then again, I’ve never played a Hunter). It looks to be an encounter that’ll take a little under 9 minutes or so give or take.

Gormok

Seems like a straightforward tank and spank. I noticed the Hunter had to switch fire periodically. Looked like he was targeting members of the raid and trying to shoot something off. That’s some serious precision right there.

Acidmaw and Dreadscale

These damned Storm Peaks snakes again. I thought I had seen the last of them in the cavern when I was getting all the Oil and stuff out of there. Figures they’d be back again.

Icehowl

The first thing I noticed about his abilities is that he does a ~70000 damage headbutt followed by a stun. Oi vey.

Looks like you’ll be engaging all of these bosses one after the other with little to no reprieve. I can’t wait!

Tip: Inner Focus and Divine Hymn

Just a quick tip for new Priests who don’t know about this powerful spell combination.

Inner Focus

Instant
3 min cooldown

When activated, reduces the mana cost of your next spell by 100% and increases its critical effect chance by 25% if it is capable of a critical effect.

Divine Hymn

63% of base mana

40 yd range

Channeled
10 min cooldown

You recite a Holy hymn, summoning the power of the Divine to assist you in your time of need. Heals 3 nearby lowest health friendly party or raid targets for 3024 to 3342 every 2 sec for 8 sec, and increases healing done to them by 10% for 8 sec. Maximum of 12 heals. The Priest must channel to maintain the spell.

Individually, these abilities are great. Inner Focus helps provide a free spell every so often. Divine Hymn can be an emergency heal that helps stabilizes raids.

But combined together?

You get a free smart heal that automatically targets the weakest 3 friendly players and hits them with heals that have a 25% chance to crit.

It’s great for fights such as:

  • Mimiron Phase 2
  • Hodir’s Frozen Blows
  • Deconstructor’s Tympanic Tantrum

Usable every 10 minutes. But still a cool setup regardless.

Of Heroes and Villains part 1

Of Heroes and Villains part 1

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks you’ve likely heard about Blizzard obtaining and copyrighting domains and trademarks surround the name Cataclysm. wow.com has been doing a great job keeping up on it .
The registering of the domain and copyrighting the name has sprung all sorts of speculation in the community. Some are calling it the name of the next expansion and a reference to the Maelstrom, the aftermath of the Well of Eternity exploding. Others speculate that it is the name of the next MMO that Blizzard has been working on (I have my own theories on what that one is, but that’s another post). All the buzz has produced one important truth. With Ulduar here and Yoggy being trampled, and with the tournament around the corner we are definitely getting ready for the announcement of the next expansion. Regardless of where the expansion takes us, one of the most talked about things has been what the next hero class will be. Today I’d like to talk about hero classes for a bit, this is the first in a series of three posts.

Back in the days of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos many of us were marveling at our new hero units. Some of us lucky enough to be in beta got to experience them before they were level capped (A lvl 14 mountain king > scourge fyi). It added a new depth of strategy to the game we all loved. This solidified even more as we got into The Frozen Throne and saw the story unfold.

When World of Warcraft came out there were many of us that were disappointed to not see hero classes present in the game (hell, we had to wait until patch 0.6 to be able to play Druids!), but we did ok and trudged along. When the announcement for The Burning Crusade came, the community was full of speculation and hopeful murmurs that hero classes would be in the game finally! Again we were let down, but we sucked it up and kept trucking. Then came the announcement for Wrath of the Lich King, and with it the announcement of our first hero class, the Death Knight. I’ll be honest I was giddy and eagerly followed their development. When I got to play around in the beta I was not disappointed. The way they were packaged and presented to us was amazing and it had a way to immerse you into the story line. The way your character broke out from under Arthas and went back to their faction was great. The entire story surrounding them was amazing and most importantly, their arrival signified two things. Hero classes were indeed real, and their arrival has changed the story of the world we play in.

Now that we are looking for the next hero class, lets take a quick gander at the actual list of Hero units from WC3.

Alliance

Horde

Scourge

Night Elf

Neutral

Quite a few of them right? Some of these are already in the game in the shape of NPC’s or bosses, and a few are already playable. Looking at the list above you can figure some of them out see Paladin’s are already a playable character, as is Death Knight. Archmage abilities can be found on regular mages now (with mass teleport being replaced by portals in a way). Lots of the Shadow Hunter abilities found their way over to Shaman, and various others are represented by NPC’s strewn about the dungeons and cities of Warcraft. Take a look around and see who is where.

So what do you think the next hero class will be? Do you think it’s one of the ones on the list? What do you think of hero classes in general?

Be sure to check back for part 2 of Heroes and Villains,

Until next time

Sig

Image courtesy of www.comicbookmovie.com

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

Friends and Raiders: How Far is Too Far?

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I’m back after my vacation and feeling very recharged, with that said I bring you today’s post!

This is a question every raid leader has to ask themselves at one point or another. How far can you push your raid before it’s too far? If you push your raiders too far, they drop like flies. Burn out increases at exponential rates and you find yourself actually losing ground. The problem is how does one gauge it? How does a raid leader find the line before they cross it? It’s not easy I can tell you that much. Most people I’ve talked to about this on twitter as well as just passing conversation all have different ideas on how you can find the line.

The topic came up a little over three weeks ago. Our main tank and guild leader (Death Knight) was in the middle of a horrible storm and was making sure his roof was still in tact, needless to say he wasn’t there for Vezax (and understandably so). This left us with our Second highest tank (Prot Paladin). In addition to this we were down a couple raiders due to vacations or family events. If you’ve read up on Vezax you’ll know he has an ability called Surge of Darkness. A Death Knight is able to blow cooldowns every time it’s being cast (part of the reason it’s DK tanking is getting a slight nerf) and makes the ability moot. The other tanks don’t have the luxury of having a cooldown available for every surge. One strategy is to kite him around for the 10 seconds the ability is active, but we like to reduce movement on boss fights as much as we possibly can. After a couple wipes we developed an idea for a cooldown rotation involving the Pally’s CDs, two Guardian Spirits and Pain Supression. The night was filled with all sorts of Murphy’s law. Everything that could go wrong did. After every attempt though I kept trying to push the raid forward. This is an easy fight all things considered, we’ve killed him before multiple times and 90% of what was going wrong was outside of control. No reason to quit right? After 12 attempts we finally kill him again.

After the raid I was talking to one of our warlocks, he commented that the number of attempts we made almost broke him. So I asked him if he though I was pushing the raid too far. He replied with “one more and probably”. The week after we had a similar issue with Thorim. Murphy came out and smacked us around just a little bit with random DC’s and bugged mobs, and after several attempts we were all feeling worn down and called it a night after we toppled him.

As a raid leader there is nothing more frustrating then wiping on farm content, be it through player error or laws of the universe conspiring against you. Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably remember many of my in between wipe comments like “I think I need to kick a puppy”. Being in charge, even just in part of a raid can be very frustrating. When the event fails it’s hard not to take it upon yourself and feel like you failed, or let the guild down. The burden of responsibility comes with a certain amount of guilt and most raid leaders will tell you as much. Sometimes we walk away in defeat and try again later, other times we push harder to meet the goal. Raid leaders have to know though, when it’s time to lick your wounds and come back later.

If they don’t learn when it’s time to call it they run the risk of increasing raider burn out and doing more harm then good to the raid overall. So what do we look for?

Performance

Watching your raids performance is one of the ways a raid leader can tell if they are pushing the raid too far. Are your top DPS getting lower on the charts? Is the raid missing easy interrupts? Are people who normally don’t fail at void zones failing at void zones? Is there an overall increase in the frequency of easily prevented deaths?

When you see your raid’s performance start to dip you have to stop and ask yourself, why. Is it because of bugs or lag? Bad luck with connections and addons? Is it just too late in the evening? If you find raid performance dipping with no good reason or outside cause, it might be time to call it a last attempt and then sleep it off.

Morale and Attitude

Another good indicator is the general mood of the raid. Is everyone still having a good time? Is everyone talkative on vent? Is everyone moping about or seemingly disinterested in the raid? People seem like they are ready to go to bed? If your morale in the raid is slipping, you bet performance is going down hill. Also when morale slips, tension between raiders can rise as well. Sometimes this can lead to confrontation if you’re not careful.

I have a raider who I adore, she’s one of my favorite people in the world. Every now and then I’ll get a tell from her with a statement something like “this isn’t going well is it?” , “grrrrrrr what are we doing different tonight?!?”, “I think I need to lay down =(“. It’s usually at this point I know it’s time to call it a night, or getting there very quickly. She’s usually very chipper and gives it her all. But when I get one of those tells I know we’re going to be winding down soon as morale is starting to take a turn south.

Raider input

This is a big one for me at least. I listen to my raiders. If a raider comes to me and says that it’s just too much, I listen. I expect my raiders to be vocal.  If there is a problem or concern I expect that they will tell me. I know my guild leader expects the same as well. As a raider you should be able to go to the raid officers and let them know when you feel yourself slipping for whatever reason. Your raid leaders aren’t psychic (even if we are using Big Brother) and sometimes the only way we know what’s going on is when you tell us. We are after all only human so help us out when you can.

That’s it for today.

Until next time, Happy Healing.

Sig

Image courtesy of  http://images.paraorkut.com

How do You Ask Mages for Water?

Water. Without it, all raids would become excruciatingly longer as healers would have to halt and gas up after every attempt. I don’t know about you, buy the raids I’m in tend to have a lot of biscuit-hungry players. They just devour the entire table. Sometimes we have to ask for single conjures.

And let’s not begin to even talk about that guy.

Oh yes. You know who I’m talking about.

He’s that guy who always accepts that summon late.
He’s that guy who never realizes there’s a table (or a fish feast) on the ground and asks for one after it’s completely disappeared.

Or he just plain forgot to loot the table. In the past, I’ve always found the raid I was in to be under the Bystander effect.

…social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely proportional to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.

Ever get in a raid with like 5 Priests and wonder why the raid hasn’t gotten Fortitude yet? Because each Priest expects one of the other Priests to do it, thereby saving them precious candles. I noticed its the same thing with mages and any other player with biscuits. Some of them conveniently AFK or spin around in their chair not sharing.

So instead of asking Mages for Water, I simply walk up to the closest Mage and pop open trade while saying "Need gas!”. Most of them usually figure out what I’m after. I trained the guild mages well after all!

Here’s another thing. How many biscuits do you really need? Do you really need four stacks of biscuits? You’re telling me you go through that many in a single raid? I go through 1 stack usually. On serious wipe nights, it’ll hit the tail end of 2 stacks.

If every raider took 2 sacks of biscuits instead of 4 stacks, then we’d have enough stacks of food to go around. Don’t be so greedy! Eat what you take! Stop burning through Mage reagents to conjure that stuff!

And don’t get me started on the players out there that have almost no bag room and choose to throw away perfectly conjured biscuits just so they can loot some random trash loot to vendor later. At least pass it on to someone else.

Oh yes. I know you exist.

Anyway, enough with that rant.

How do you ask Mages for water?

Online Gaming Addiction Part 3 – Coping Strategies

This is a guest post by Professor Beej. Part 3 of 3.

So now we’ve looked at my experience with Online Gaming Addiction and the four primary signs and symptoms that indicated a problem in the first place.  Today, I’ll deal with a few methods that can hopefully help addicts manage the addiction and at least take a few steps on the road to recovery.

Go Cold Turkey

Just stop.  Cancel the subscription, uninstall the game, and go on about your life.  It’s that easy.

Okay, no, it really isn’t.  Despite the fact that this sounds like the easiest, most direct route to overcoming gaming addiction, this is also the method through which the most backsliding occurs.  The mental need for the game will still exist in the gamer because Online Gaming Addiction just that—an addiction. 

Going cold turkey might work for some people.  It requires a great deal of willpower to maintain the distance between the addict and the game.  I know from experience that even when the game is cancelled and uninstalled, it just takes a few minutes from the time the addict gives in to get everything back into working order.  I’ve heard some players say that they delete characters before leaving an MMO to take away the urge to return, but in World of Warcraft’s case, Blizzard will generally restore a deleted character with relative ease, making that argument effectively worthless.

From my own personal experience, I think going cold turkey is the wrong way to go about ridding this addiction.  Sure, there are people whom it can work for, but the mental nature of the addiction makes entirely giving it up in one shot much more difficult on the addicts themselves than other methods.  There is a reason that there are step-down methods for quitting chemical dependencies such as nicotine and alcohol because the body has to learn to function without the drug; MMO addicts’ minds must do the same thing.  To take a person out of the world in which he or she has spent potentially 14+ hours a day in would designate an entire lifestyle shift; the addict would be totally unprepared to deal with everyday situations without the safety net of being able to escape online.  Such a shift could potentially send the MMO addict into a sort of shock, and he or she would not be able to cope with the complete 180 life had taken and know no other way to cope than to seek solace in the very addiction being worked against. 

Take A Break

Along the same lines as going cold turkey, the addict can possibly just take a short break from the MMO to which he or she is addicted, coming back to the online world with a fresh outlook on how to find a balance between the real and virtual worlds.  Small breaks can help an addict realize that the real world can offer enjoyment and validation that can matter even more than the virtual world.  The possibility of returning to the game at any point might offer enough freedom for the addict to re-engage in other hobbies on a limited basis.

Taking a light break from the game has the possibility of allowing addicts to also re-invest themselves with their family and friends because, unlike going cold turkey, there is always the possibility of a quick fix of the game when symptoms of addiction like I mentioned last time—crankiness and negative interaction—become too strong.  Such a limited exposure to the game can help an addict deal with the “withdrawal” symptoms. Addicts can learn to adapt the MMO to their own lives because a simple break allows them to set whatever boundaries they think are necessary to limit their playtime. 

MMO Methadone, or Slow It Down

If going cold turkey or taking a small break doesn’t work, then perhaps what I call MMO Methadone will.  This is the method by which I am currently trying to control my gaming habit.  I call it this because it uses the MMO to which one is addicted like a heroin addict uses methadone.  The player will still play an online game just enough to “get a fix” and feel fulfilled, but log off before things get out of hand. This is really a step-down method that gradually reduced playtime until the minimum playtime desired is reached.

Using this method, the player continues to do play the game to which he or she has become addicted, just in smaller doses.  I don’t think this method should really impact playstyle at all. If you’re a raider, you can still raid.  If you’re a PvPer, you can still PvP.  The addict can play whenever and however he or she wants, just less.  If there are four raid nights a week, then begin by trying to only make three.  Do that for a while, and then try to only make half the raids.  After the step-down becomes habitual and the time spent out of game is easier to manage, completely cutting ties (or becoming acclimated to the reduced and manageable schedule) with the game will be significantly easier.

My personal dose of MMO Methadone is PvP in WoW.  I want to play WoW some, but I don’t want to have to schedule raids or really dedicate long hours to it.  I came to the realization that I could not do that with raiding, even PuG raids.  So I decided that doing a few battlegrounds here and there has completely satiated my desire to play.  I started out doing hours of them a day, grinding 10-20k honor in a sitting, making every Lake Wintergrasp that came up.  Gradually, I have reduced my playtime to where I log on to do the PvP daily when I get home from work, a Lake Wintergrasp if one is imminent, and maybe a Warsong Gulch or Alterac Valley.  I have not spent over an hour and a half on WoW in one sitting in a while, and I am quite happy with where I am managing my schedule.  I might not have a 2500+ Arena rating or competitive gear this way, but I have fun in-game and still have time to do things outside of the game that I enjoy.

This method is the most useful in overcoming addiction, I think, because it not only allows for players to actually still enjoy the aspects of the game that initially attracted (and thusly addicted) them, but to do so responsibly.  If this method is approached correctly and actually adhered to, addicts nothing regarding their desired gameplay experience, yet gain the freedom of at least working toward not being tethered to a virtual existence.

Alter Your Playstyle

If you just can’t seem to kick the MMO habit through any other method, then perhaps the best way to do it is by altering your playstyle.  This is similar to #3 in that it might include stepping down one’s playtime, but it differs in that it helps players control their addiction by not allowing them to get sucked into the same part of the game over and over again.  The variety in playstyle might make the addict realize there is more to the game than the single facet that had been so overwhelming.  When transitioning to a new playstyle, addicts might be able to see the rut they had gotten into when otherwise they might have remained blissfully (or so it seems) ignorant of that fact.

For instance, if one is a raider and the scheduled raids consistently impact real life activities, then try PvPing.  Set a goal of a total honor to grind for each day, and then work toward that.  There is no set time to be online, and there is no pressure that one might perhaps be letting down the raid for not showing.  This is not to say that PvP cannot dominate one’s life, but if raiding is already doing so, then changing focus to something completely different like PvP will allow for raiding to take a backseat and perhaps the addict will see that other fun is to be had which might not have the same impact on his or her personal life.  This way is much easier to fit the game between other aspects of life because queueing for a battleground takes under a minute in most cases and can be done from anywhere.  With the PvP daily quest and the Wingergrasp weeklies, there is still a great deal to be done regarding casual PvP that still allows for immersion and character progression.

On the other hand, if the addict is a PvPer, then he or she might have the competitive nature of the system overtaking life or personality.  This kind of impact might call for a more laidback way of playing the game.  In this case, pugging a few raids or heroics might help ease the addict into a more casual playstyle that could mellow out the addiction.  Instead of being relegated to getting in a certain number of arena matches or maintaining a rating to progress one’s character, collecting badges and doing the daily heroic quest can be done with random people at one’s own pace.  There is little competition in this playstyle, and so a PvP addict might be able to find casual solace in instance running that would be impossible in the other playstyle.

Professional Counseling

If you or someone you know struggles with some of the signs and symptoms I outlined in my previous post, and none of these home-grown remedies and coping methods seem to be able to kill the addiction, then it is time to seek out professional counseling.  Online Gaming Addiction is a very real problem that therapists are trained to deal with.  There are also many online support group websites that can be Googled to begin seeking professional help.

Seeking therapy is not something to be ashamed of; I thought for a while I might have been in the position where I might have been forced to seek it out myself.  I was, however, able to control my addiction enough through the help of my family and friends that it never got that far, though it was a tough road.  Even without professional help, I was not able to keep my own addiction under control alone.  I did require others’ support to keep me on the right track.  Even as I write this, I had a discussion with my girlfriend earlier tonight about applying to a raiding guild in WoW for the 3 nights a week I generally have free, and she was able to help talk me down, citing these posts as an example of why that could be a bad idea.  I just could not do this alone, and I don’t know many people who can.

And don’t worry about money.  Yes, there are therapists out there who charge an arm and a leg and sometimes a first-born child for payment, but there are often professional counselors who can help for a nominal fee or for no fee at all.  If the addict is a college student, most universities offer counseling to enrolled students as a part of tuition.  All it takes is a trip to student services to find out how to make an appointment. For high school students, the school counselor should be able to help or at least find someone who can, and most public school districts offer a professional therapist for students in need. If the addict happens to be a non-student in the workforce, many corporations offer therapists and counseling as part of employee benefits, and many large companies offer free therapy to workers to maintain productivity and morale.  And again, remember that these are all generally free, and if there is a fee, it’s usually nominal.

Just don’t be ashamed or afraid to seek help.  If help isn’t sought and remedies aren’t tried, then the problem can only persist and the addiction can only get worse.

And remember that you’re not alone.  There are many people, myself included, who suffer from being addicted to online games to some degree or another.  These people might not even know they need help, but believe me, they do.  Through proper channels, this addiction is treatable and can, through work and perseverance, be overcome so that online gaming can become the social and fun pastime it was intended to be. 

Online Gaming Addiction Part 2 – Signs and Symptoms

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This is a guest post by Professor Beej. Part 2 of 3.

In my last post, I chronicled my ongoing experiences with Online Gaming Addiction that have led me to the point where I am now—I’ve realized I am addicted, and I am trying to rid myself of the problem.  Today, I intend to go through the signs that initially helped me realize that I was (and still am, but to a lesser extent) addicted to the hobby in which I have to this point invested eleven years of my life.

If you think that you or someone you know might be addicted to online gaming, then ask the following questions. These are the four points that predominantly signaled that I had a problem.

Has your personality changed?

It’s a given that over the course of our lives, we all change, and sometimes that change is for the worse.  Online gaming addicts, however, change for the worse in a very dramatic way, albeit one that might be gradual enough that it goes unnoticed by the addicts themselves.  The personality change will probably appear stress-related or just mild crankiness for the first little while, but it might actually stem from a “withdrawal” from the game world.  If the personality change persists and grows steadier while the person is away from their game, yet appears perfectly normal while logged on, then it could be a sign of online gaming addiction.

As I grew more engrossed in World of Warcraft’s world, I became more of a jerk to those around me.  I was more snide, more sarcastic, and I had very few pleasant things to say about anything or anyone that was not directly related to my success or enjoyment in WoW.  It was really like the nice guy I had been all my life had been transplanted with a completely different personality.  The more time I spent away from my virtual life in Azeroth, the less amenable to reality I became.  As soon as I was logged in again, however, I was chipper and happy and joking all night long.  I would ignore friends during the day, yet I would pester them for instance runs later that evening.

Those around me every day never really noticed this behavior.  I just seemed occasionally grumpy to them.  It was my parents who noticed it growing worse and worse on my visits home from college.  It took my mother saying “I don’t like who you’ve become since you’ve gone to college.  You’ve really become a smartass” to really make me look at my life and realize that I was going in a direction that I hadn’t even noticed, nor had anyone else.  My personality was worsening too gradually for friends who saw me on an everyday basis to really see, but when my parents only saw me every three weeks or so, they would notice that I was getting surlier with each visit.  My time away from WoW was becoming less and less pleasant, and my demeanor showed it.

Do you interact with your family and friends in a different, more negative way?

Online gaming addiction not only affects the addicts themselves, but also the people with whom they interact and how they interact with them.  If a person becomes addicted to an online game, real life can begin to seem like a distraction, and he or she can begin avoiding or cutting short responsibilities and engagements just to get a little extra time in the virtual world. In addition to my being cranky with my friends and family, I would also interact with them differently than I ever had before I became so engulfed by the game.  Gaming addicts’ interactions with others are often limited to online chats and channels without their realizing it.  If you or someone you know has stopped most offline socialization and typically only communicates through the game, then there is a good chance that person might be experiencing some level of addiction.  I’ve been in this situation before. 

In college, friends would rent or buy DVDs and bring them over to my house to watch as a group; I would be in the back room alone playing WoW while they occupied my living room, laughing and having a good time.  If my friends wanted to go eat dinner, I had to make sure it didn’t conflict with raid times or something else I had scheduled in game, otherwise I would not go.  I figured I could get all the socialization I needed in-game.  I would miss birthday parties, barbeques, and weekend road trips because I had a raid scheduled or just would have rather been playing my game than doing something that wasn’t WoW.  When I went home to visit my parents, I would set my laptop up on their coffee table and raid, barely paying attention to them (even as my dad recovered from heart surgery), because I could not stand to be offline and miss a raid for any reason.

The culminating incident occurred after I graduated college.  The girl I was dating at the time moved back in with her family who lived over three hours away from our college town.  I decided to spend one last summer at college instead of moving home.  She wanted to come visit me and stay with me a lot over the summer, but I told her no.  I told her I wanted to “spend time with friends and just play my game.”  She would ask over and over again, but I would still refuse to see her.  That summer, I would spend on average 15 hours a day on WoW, really only leaving the house for food.  I never even realized until afterward what was going on and that I was alienating my closest friends.

When I said I wanted to “spend time with my friends,” I meant I wanted to instance and raid with them.  My real-life interaction with friends and family dropped to nearly non-existent, and when I did see other people, I was unfriendly and always thinking about being back online.  Combined with my sour mood that had been slowly developing over time, some friends got fed up with me, and we still do not talk that often.  Other friends stuck with me, and I eventually was able to patch up relations when I realized how badly I was affected by this addiction. 

Have other hobbies been tossed to the side and forgotten?

I mentioned this briefly in my previous post, but it has always been one of the prime symptoms that made me realize I was addicted to online gaming rather than simply mismanaging my time.

One of the primary qualifiers of an addiction is the physical or psychological need to place it over other aspects of one’s life, no matter the consequences.  In the case of online gaming addiction, this “hobby” can entirely overshadow other hobbies and interests to the point where the addicted person simply has no other life.  While not as damning as impacting one’s base personality or social skills, online gaming addiction can lead to tunnel vision where the gamer thinks that nothing else is worthy of his or her attention.

In my case, I stopped reading any books for pleasure or, really, for school.  I would Sparknotes anything I had an assignment for in order to make as much time as I could for gaming.  Not only was my school reading impacted, but I see gaps in my journal of books I read for entertainment where there are months on end where no new entries are made, and I feel bad about that because I was an English literature major in college.  Reading has always been one of the things I do for fun.  When I became addicted to WoW, no book could even hold a candle to the entertainment I thought I was getting.  I claim to be a huge Harry Potter fan, even wanting to dedicate part of my doctoral research to the series, but when books 5 and 6 were released, it took me a good week to two weeks to finish them instead of the hours or days it took most of my friends.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of doing anything but being on WoW.

It wasn’t just books, either.  I mentioned earlier how I would avoid watching movies on DVD my friends would rent because I couldn’t justify not being in-game for those two hours.  TV was no different.  I could not justify the time to actually sit down and watch any shows.  I thought a DVR would fix that once I left college, but my DVR is filled even today with TV shows I refuse to set the time aside to watch because I spend so much time on various MMOs.

Even though this aspect of gaming addiction only directly affects the addicted players themselves, it can have far reaching consequences that can impact others when the addict’s habits and interests are shared with friends and family, as in my previous example.

Is it hard to concentrate on anything not involving the game?

Online gaming addiction is a mental addiction rather than physical, obviously.  There are no drugs being ingested and no body chemistry alterations, but the mental pull that online games have on the addicted is just as powerful.  A surefire sign of gaming addiction is when a person is participating in an activity entirely unrelated to the game, yet constantly draws parallels and references to it.  This symptom can also lead to diminished performance in other aspects of the addicted person’s life because he or she simply cannot (or will not) put forth the effort required to excel at anything but gaming.  Since no other aspect of life is as fulfilling to the addicted, why exert the energy required to concentrate? 

Sometimes, it’s not an active lack of concentration, though.  When I was in my worst stages of it, I could not help where my thoughts led.  I could have been in the middle of class, and I would be writing out gear lists or talent specs I wanted to try out.  I might have been at dinner and interrupted the conversation with yet another WoW related train of thought, even when the discussion was nowhere around it.  I could not concentrate on other aspects of my life, even when I tried.  When I did try, I was trying to relate them to the game so I could increase my enjoyment.  If I could not relate them in any way, I would consistently have my mind drawn back to the game because that was where I would have preferred to be.

Just like an addict’s social life, academic and professional lives are also at risk from being too engrossed in an online game.  Productivity and GPAs can severely drop as a person falls unchecked into an MMO.  I was always a student at the top of my class, with more A’s than B’s and never anything lower than that.  When I was at my worst, however, for the first time in my life, I began making C’s.  I just didn’t care that I hadn’t studied for that German vocabulary quiz because I had finally been on top of DKP and earned my Tier 2 shoulders.  I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate anyway even if I had studied because I would be thinking about having to farm consumables or which alt to level or any of a hundred other things that made WoW more appealing than homework (or any other part of my life).

Jobs are just as easily lost from lack of attention as grades; being too engrossed in writing out specs, checking forums, and reading MMO blogs are easy ways to waste time at work that could jeopardize one’s position.  If those aren’t available, then simply having one’s mind elsewhere, concentrating on the game and what “needs” to be done there when the working day is done, can severely limit productivity.  In the worst case scenario, lack of concentration at work can cause one’s job to be lost because the work being paid for is not being done.

If you or someone you know constantly references an online life more than their real one or is consistently distracted when outside of the game only to rush to log in whenever the day is done, that person might be addicted to a game.

Conclusion

These are only a few of the ways that Online Gaming Addiction can affect a person’s life and those around them.  These are the four most prominent in my case.  This is, by far, not an all-inclusive list, but the ones where I have experience recognizing that something is wrong.  I have personal experience with each of these four symptoms, and through the help of my friends and family and a good bit of willpower, I started to figure out that there is a wide world outside of my computer that really is more fulfilling on every level than the “life” I had thought I was building for myself online. 

And therein lays the problem.  Recognizing that I had a problem was not the same as actually doing something about it.  No matter how much I knew I was addicted, I was still addicted and had to do something about it.  So the next and final post in this series sorts through a few methods of reaching a sustainable balance between gaming addiction and a functional life.

Image courtesy of sundstrom.

Online Gaming Addiction Part 1 – My Experience

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This is a guest post by Professor Beej. This is part 1 of 3.

I wrote an article a few years ago regarding my experience with online gaming addiction.  Last month, I even posted that I had cancelled World of Warcraft yet again, and now I am backsliding again.  My main problem is that I absolutely love any game that is massively multiplayer online (MMO), and I have since I was 15.  These games give me a sense of growth and community that I adore. I just cannot find that in single-player games.  The driving force in these games is a quantifiable increase in the power of your character through various types of progression (weapons and armor or abilities) that appears to affect the game world itself. Unfortunately, most MMOs directly link this character progression with time spent in-game, thus making casual gameplay impossible if a player wishes to experience the highest levels of the game.  With my schedule these days, I generally can’t justify scheduling massive amounts of time to raid or PvP; however, I find myself still logging onto World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online even after I convince myself that it is in my best interest to cancel my subscription.

In the last month alone, I have reactivated my subscriptions to World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online, as well as started new accounts with the Free2Play games Luminary, Free Realms, and Runes of Magic. I know I don’t have time to play a single MMO to its fullest, yet I have been hopping back and forth through 4 (RoM is still downloading, and I have yet to try it), trying to get whatever fix it is that I feel I need. While it’s not a physical addiction, it is a mental one; my thoughts constantly and involuntarily wander to these games and things I “need” to do in them, even when I am out doing something entirely unrelated.

And that’s the crux of it.  It is an addiction I have little control over.  I always think I can control the amount of time I spend in an MMO, but when I log in and start chatting with friends and seeing all the good times I’ve been missing out on, I set new goals in my head that I start working toward when I know that I have no reason for or time to realize. I am so set in a certain playstyle in World of Warcraft that even when I try to play it casually, I can’t.

I was talking to my roommate about this a week or two ago, and we came to the conclusion that it stems from that we (my close-knit group of friends) have always taken gaming seriously and consistently stay at the top-end of any game we decide to play seriously. We generally don’t game to have fun; we game to win.  And that’s fine as long as one’s lifestyle can facilitate it like ours could in college, but now, we’re out of school and have professional careers and other responsibilities which make scheduling twelve to fifteen hours of weeknight raiding almost impossible.  I’ve played WoW since the first week of release in November 2004 on the same server with the same people, and I have become deeply rooted into a certain playstyle in those four and a half years.

Simply “going casual” (at least in WoW) is not an option for me. I assume this is the case for many MMOers who are struggling with finding the balance between their chosen fantasy world and real life.  I want to try Runes of Magic because I will be starting fresh in a game, thus allowing myself to dictate a new playstyle, as well as not feeling compelled to get my money’s worth from the subscription fee.  If a Free2Play game like RoM doesn’t do the trick, then I will likely PvP on WoW in hopes that the mysterious battleground revamp in Patch 3.2 will allow for more casual progression.  If not that, then I am going to have to rethink my MMO career.

I don’t know about other people, but I know how I became conscious that MMOs are an addiction for me.  I found this out through a few painful years where my social life and family life started going to hell. The prime reasons that brought my MMO addiction to light were that I would limit time with my family and friends based around a raid schedule, or I would ask my girlfriend to stay away from me for a few days while I would grind out the rest of my PvP armor or get my new alt leveled.  I haven’t regressed that far in around three years, thankfully, but I am sure there are people who still struggle with this on a daily basis.

These days, I know I’m still addicted because I truly enjoy myself while I’m playing, even losing track of time because I am so immersed in the fantasy world, but when I get finished and log out, I feel hollow and unfulfilled. I think of a dozen other things I could have been doing that would have been more productive.  I even sometimes get a sick feeling in my stomach that stems from disgust in my having given in yet again.

MMOs keep me from really enjoying my other hobbies and interests, too.  I keep a journal of all the books I read.  I started when I was in college, and I think it’s something interesting to keep track of.  In this journal, there are sometimes months-long gaps in my list where I don’t have any new books listed at all except for audiobooks (which I listen to while I drive to and from work/school, so they don’t get affected by my online gaming at home). For an English teacher, I think that’s pretty pathetic. I joke around with people that those are my WoW breaks from life, but the sad truth is that they are.  This particular sign of my addiction doesn’t affect anyone but me, but the effect it has on my ego is actually pretty significant.  I’ve been reading the same 400 page paperback for at least three weeks because I’ve been up too late playing an MMO of some kind than to even read my customary chapter before bed, much less spend part of an evening reading for entertainment.

On the other side of the media spectrum, I feel my MMO playtime impacts my enjoyment of television and movies.  I sit down occasionally to watch a movie at home, but I feel bad because even though my roommate goes and rents at least three movies a week from Blockbuster’s new releases, I rarely sit down and watch even one.  I am usually too involved in something online, most likely an MMO.  My DVR will sit idle during my stints on World of Warcraft, piling up hours of television I want to watch but can never dedicate the time to.  I end up deleting shows off my DVR to make room for other shows that I might or might not eventually get around to watching.  And I always feel bad about this because I hear other people talking about how fantastic so-and-so show is but cannot join in on that conversation. And anyone who knows me realizes how hard it is for me to stay out of a conversation.

Right now, there are thirteen episodes of C.S.I. and eight episodes of Pushing Daisies on my DVR waiting for me to watch them.  Not to mention the library of one-shots and documentaries I record because the guide info makes them look interesting.  I still have half a season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars to finish, too.  Yet lately, when I find myself not writing, I am on an MMO doing something inane and pointless instead of catching up on things I had previously decided I would use my summer for. 

What a lot of this boils down to is willpower.  I’ve tried going cold-turkey on my MMO addiction, and I can’t do it.  Some people might have been able to break the habit like this, but seeing as how it is an entirely mental addiction, I don’t think I’m strong-willed enough for that path.  My mind always drifts back to healing an instance or a battleground if I’ve been “sober” too long, and I end up reactivating my account and feeling like I’m an awful human being for it.  I put in my information to re-subscribe, and I immediately get that sick feeling in my gut.  But I log in anyway, and start chatting and healing, and I lose myself for a few more hours.  If I can find a game that fulfills me on a casual basis and doesn’t make me neglect the life I am building for myself or make me feel bad about myself for giving in to the addiction, I will likely stick with it for a while, using it a step-down method of ridding myself from the addiction, rather than the cold-turkey method that just does not seem to work for me.

Because the fear of falling back in too deeply exists with any MMO I play, even free or casual ones, I always have to be vigilant for the signs that I am going too far in once more.  The entire reason for writing this post is because I can feel myself falling too far in already, and I needed to take a step back and think about my problem objectively before it gets bad enough to begin affecting my outside life again.  I don’t see a good reason to completely cut myself off from MMOs right now, as everything seems to be under relative control, but there is every reason to guard myself and place regulations on how much I play, which is why I am looking at the battleground revamp in World of Warcraft for casual gameplay or F2P games in general.

Gaming addiction is a very real problem, and I have seen firsthand how it can all but ruin a person’s entire life.  I have always been involved with gaming in some fashion, and I guess I always will.  It’s up to me, then, to realize the difference in reality and fantasy and put my real life ahead of my virtual one, and even put my other hobbies ahead of this one.  Anything to give this addiction less power over me.  It’s up to me to distance myself from the aspects of MMO gaming culture which have been harmful to me in the past.  I intend to use casual gameplay and Free2Play MMOs as a way to finally ween myself from my online gaming addiction like heroin addicts use methadone.  I may always play an MMO of some kind because I do truly enjoy for the genre, but I hope that eventually the impact the games have on my outside life is minimal compared to what it has been.

And that’s where I stand today with my problem.  It is definitely an ongoing battle.  I am even writing this with WoW idling in the background.  I am not trying to come across as someone who has beaten this addiction, far from it.  I want to come across as someone who realizes this is a very real problem for some people, and I would like to put my story out there in order to maybe help save someone the problems I went through.

So this is the first in a three-part series I am writing dealing with Online Gaming Addiction.  Part Two will focus on Signs and Symptoms I went through that should help easily identify gaming addicts.  Part Three will cover methods of beating the addiction (or attempting to, at least) once it’s recognized.

Image courtesy of stokfoto.