An Idiot In Azeroth Part Six: This Is The End

A friend of mine said it was like knitting. Unless you’ve played World of Warcraft you’d say that was a nonsensical metaphor. You’d have zero understanding of why it made perfect, perfect sense.

It’s the grind. The pure grind. In a sense World of Warcraft is a passive gaming experience. I’ve had conversations whilst playing. Full-blown conversations. I’ve blah blah blahed my way through levels, blah blah blahed my way through entire quest lines. World of Warcraft doesn’t always require your fullest attention. It’s not like other games and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t remember being able to have conversations whilst playing Dark Souls.

Some people take knitting seriously. Some people take WoW seriously. But a lot of the time spent, I have to imagine, would be spent in a fairly passive state. Surely.

Someone made a comment on last week’s Idiot in Azeroth post: they’d played the game for 511 days.

Not hours. Days.

So I thought about that — the 511 days thing. I tried to parse it in real world terms. 511 days – roughly – is about one year and four months. Nine years has passed since World of Warcraft launched but, for argument’s sake, let’s just say that humans spend eight hours of every 24 sleeping.The average human being, therefore, has spent six of the last nine years awake. This means that my friend, the Kotaku commenter, has spent one year and five months of his last six waking years playing one single video game. In percentage terms he has spent 25% of his waking hours over the last nine years playing one single video game.

I haven’t spent that amount of time doing anything. Work? Maybe? That’s literally the only thing that comes close.

I think I’d rather play World of Warcraft than work. If I had the choice!

511 days. 12,264 hours. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that any single person could master anything in this universe if they applied 10,000 hours of their time to it. They could become a professional golfer. They could be an expert stock market trader. A high level martial artist practitioner. Anything.

With 12,000 hours you could have mastered practically anything you could imagine. You could’ve become a world class artist. You could have changed careers. You could have made your dreams come true.

Does that make World of Warcraft a waste of time? Did that person waste his time? Have I wasted my time trying to learn the game? No, I don’t think so.

I’ve never believed video games are a waste of time and I never will. Even in excess I don’t think it’s wise to ‘regret’ time spent with a video game. I know friends who met their long-term partners in World of Warcraft, people who made lifelong friends. WoW can legitimately change lives.

It’s just that, as my time with World of Warcraft comes to a close, I’m thinking about this video game and the impact it has had on people. Individual people. World of Warcraft is such a unique beast in terms of its reach; in terms of the hold it has on people.

And I’m doing that horrible parent thing, I’m asking the question that a thousand clueless baby boomers have no doubt asked of their children: what could these precious babies have achieved if they had applied that time with other ‘real world’ tasks? A pointless question, but I couldn’t help pondering.

But I had to snap out of it. It’s easy to forget that everything we do, in the grand scheme of things, is pointless. It’s easy to forget how good it feels to truly achieve mastery over something – even something as arbitrary and silly as a video game.

“Are you going to keep playing?” Asked one friend. He had clocked up over 300 days in World of Warcraft.

“I don’t know if it’s for me,” I replied. “It’s such a time-sink.”

“It’s a bit crazy,” he said back, “eventually you just meld with it.”

I don’t know that, in my current life stage – wife, child, job – I have the time to meld with anything.

In my naiveté, I had always wanted to close my time with World of Warcraft with a raid, possibly my first raid. I had this idea in my head from the very start, of me being clueless — an Idiot in Azeroth — ruining everything in a comical fashion ala Leeeerrrroooooooy Jenkins.

I wouldn’t deliberately ruin things. I would just be hilariously terrible. I would piss everyone off. I would be clueless. I would let my team down. I imagined it as the perfect climax to the story of my time in Azeroth.

But at the time I wasn’t aware of how unrealistic that goal was. I didn’t realise players had to be specific levels to undertake specific raids. Didn’t realise just how long I would need to invest to level a character. It took me over 12 hours to build a character to a pathetic level 15, the level required just to take part in dungeon quests, training wheels for raids.

That was as good as it was going to get. A dungeon it was. My final foray into World of Warcraft would be a quest set in the Deadmines.

I entered the Deadmines as a tank. I had been informed by my expert guide that my stats, gear and character class was best suited to this role. I was a tank, therefore I charged. I charged at everything moving. I clumsily beat enemies down with my brutal shield attack. I was proud of myself for having the vaguest idea of what to do, proud of myself for not being completely useless. I was being awesome at World of Warcraft and it felt so good.

Then it happened.

Like a pack of seagulls chasing a chip, we charged up the decks towards to top of the dungeon, assaulting what looked like sunken ships holed up in broken down caverns. What a spectacular sight. I was caught up in the moment: the spectacular scenery, my shield bashing prowess. I was dizzy with joy. What a perfect ending to my time in World of Warcraft: the joy of mastery, the beauty of self discovery. I was no longer an Idiot in Azeroth. I belonged.

Yeah. That feeling didn’t last very long.

In the heat of the moment I spotted what looked like a cannon. I then discovered that I could jump into the cannon. “This is a great idea,” I thought. “It’ll be like in Halo, I’ll jump in, support my buddies from the rear. I’ll be the hero of the hour.”

I had no bloody idea what I was doing.

I got in there fine. Then I realised I didn’t know how to fire the cannons at all. Worse, I didn’t know how to get back off the thing. I just sat there for about 10 minutes completely clueless, no idea what to do, too embarrassed to ask, right clicking the cannon over and over again, hoping and praying something would happen.

Finally, respite in the form of a whisper.

“Hey Randy Marsh,” said my companion. “Click the button at the bottom right hand side of the screen.”

Oh Lord Jesus Christ. It would be the very last thing I did in World of Warcraft.

By the time I got out of the cannon and found my companions the dungeon quest was over. Every enemy was dead and I just sort of rocked up like, “hey guys, I’m an idiot…

“In Azeroth.”

Thanks for joining me for the Idiot in Azeroth series. If you want to catch up on previous entries into the series, click here.


    If anything, this series has confirmed why I've never gelled with the idea of playing an MMO.

    I've probably spent more time reading this series than I've spent playing WoW, and I've definitely gotten more enjoyment from this than the game.

    great idea, Serrels & well done.

    Dungeons at level 15 are basically facerolls mark =P You don't get to really see mechanics at play until you at least start doing the Frozen Throne heroics or even the normal Cata dungeons. That said hope you enjoyed your time with WoW and if you ever decide to get back in try it out casually.

    I used to play every single day back in college but these days I'll just jump on over a weekend for a few hours to relax by levelling an alt or just doing a few dailies. There's a serenity to WoW's environment I never really found in any other MMO.

      I definitely see myself dropping in now and then.

        That doesn't seem very economical?
        One of the reasons I like a game like Guild Wars 2 is that you dont have to pay a subscription. That way you can choose to play a few hours whenever suits you.

    Most new players just ninja loot, you got stuck in a cannon.

    I think you need to stick to playing Kinect games.

    Enjoyed the blogs though thanks :)

      Please god no. Not Kinect games. ANYTHING BUT KINECT GAMES!

    Does that make World of Warcraft a waste of time? Did that person waste his time? Have I wasted my time trying to learn the game? No, I don’t think so.
    I’ve never believed video games are a waste of time and I never will. Even in excess I don’t think it’s wise to ‘regret’ time spent with a video game. I know friends who met their long-term partners in World of Warcraft, people who made lifelong friends. WoW can legitimately change lives.
    I can understand this. Not in a WoW context, but something like Kotaku's own TAY. I've spent a lot of time there. Some outsider might consider that wasted time but I've made friends. I've gone places I wouldn't have gone to otherwise. My life is better than it was before I found this place. If something makes you happy it's not a waste of time. :)

      Exactly what I mean. And I'm glad you feel that way. TAY CHANGES LIVES.

        Thanks to TAY, I now live in Dubbo.

          Thanks to a sci-fi email list I moved to Australia. It's amazing where life leads. :)

          Well, we can't get it right every time.
          Also, back in your box, you.

          Thanks to TAY, you don't have a job anymore.

      Although 36536 posts is probably a bit excessive. :P

        Lagging a bit with your Lifehacker post count, however. ;-)

    Lol at the hey randy marsh

    That's when you know you've had that idiot in Azeroth moment as good as any other

    Last edited 04/08/14 1:15 pm

    Hehe, Randy Marsh. Possibly the politest way they could've put it.

    It's a shame it's over, but maybe it's for the best. With all due respect, at the rate you were going it would've taken you a very long time to see most of what the game can offer.
    So many things, like your first mount, getting to see the beauty of BC armour, your first raid, your first raid group, your first flying mount, battle pets!, working on a transmog set, profiting from professions...

    Hell, you didn't even get to see the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms, let alone Kalimdor, the Outlands, Northrend and beautiful, beautiful Pandaria. Plus there's 10 more races and classes. And all those skills you didn't earn yet.

    It's a pretty huge game. It's not all that surprising it's lasted 10 years, and with several expansions still planned, it'll probably be around for a long time still.

    Maybe it's good you got out now before your first LFR experience though. No need to sour the experience...

    Oh yeah I forgot to mention, good job with this series. Very enjoyable to see the game fresh again. Sad to see it's over, but on the bright side... what's next?

    Last edited 04/08/14 1:23 pm

      Ugh my body has an involuntary convulsion at the very mention of BC armor *shivers*

    Just a side note: the 10,000 hours theory is something of an oversimplification

      I reckon a few hundred hours in WoW and you'd have pretty much mastered it ;)

    Its a shame you were not able to use the lvl 90 boost, and be raid ready 2mins into the game, thats what I am about to do as a Tank / healer... WHAT COULD GO WRONG!?!

      A tank healer eh? May god have mercy on us all...

        What better way to skip the LFR queue but to fill either of the important roles.. DPS are a dime a dozen!

    To me to be a hardcore WoW player you must watch the following if you do indeed want to become that sort of player: sword art online (perma death in that game means real life death), the movie that kotaku did an article on LAST WEEK (where a couple played an mmo while their actual child died), tron series (a child loses his dad while he was exploring a virtual world). There are plenty of other media that tells the same story, but to be a hardcore mmo player means cutting all contact with physical people, while trying to maintain a good internet connection (aussie problem). Ohh did I forget that also to be a hardcore mmo player, you must try & get fit, while trying to playing your game

      What do you consider a hardcore MMO player though? Your definition sounds pretty extreme.

    A fun series Mark, but a shame you couldn't sink your teeth enough into it. 12 hours to level 15 seems crazy to me, but then again it's been a long time since I was green to the game so maybe that's impacting my view.

    I'm glad you got a taste though, you can't really judge an MMO until you've tried it. I slandered many an MMO, WoW, Rift, SWTOR... Now I find myself enjoying them more than ever. No need to stress about how long it takes to hit level cap, I'm enjoying the ride more than ever. Admittedly I don't have to worry about the same level of responsibilities you do though, just the job :P So what's on the cards next? A rundown of the 5 worst Kinect games?

      12 hours to level 15 seems crazy to me, but then again it's been a long time since I was green to the game so maybe that's impacting my view.

      Turn on the slow text reveal, don't use Thottbot/WoWhead/etc, don't use dungeons, judge whether you should use an ability based on how it sounds in the description (turn off advanced tool tips/ignore combat text) and base your decision on where to go next entirely on where the quest chains send you (even if you know you're not getting great xp from the area anymore, take the more interesting route if there's a fork in the road). I knew I'd streamlined how I play MMOs but reading Mark's series really made me realise how differently I process the experience now compared to when I was new to them.
      Now I do a million little things on instinct that more or less supercharge my progression. Simple little things like knowing how to scan the horizon to look for groups of mobs that have more Defias Conjurers (which drop the items I'm fetching) and less Defias Enforces (which don't drop anything useful). Using the map to quest effectively. Originally I'd drop everything and try and get a group together for each elite quest I was given but now I know they're only worth doing if they're easy. I can either solo them or call in guild support and keep questing until it arrives, otherwise I'm just wasting time.

    Well, I made it. I followed the entire series down to the last sentence without installing World of Warcraft. =P
    I'm not an addict or anything, but as much as I hate World of Warcraft I love Warcraft and even a lot of parts of World of Warcraft. It's one of the very few fantasy type settings that doesn't feel 100% generic to me. It makes it hard to remember that it's just not built for me. I like to move forward, but I hate the way World of Warcraft progresses. If only the encounters were more engaging, like Zelda, rather than just preperation, set in stone strategy and GCD ability spamming... but then it'd be an entirely different game.
    It's like that ex-girlfriend you love even though you don't work together as a couple. You could both change to meet each other halfway but then you wouldn't be the same people that are worth changing for.

    I don’t know that, in my current life stage – wife, child, job – I have the time to meld with anything.

    That's the thing about MMOs, they're 24 hour social experiences. A lot like chatrooms. When you don't have time in your life for anything you can sit down on the computer and interact with friends. In my 'golden age' of World of Warcraft (and XBOX Live) I'd spend my nights playing/chatting with my friends even though our schedules never matched up. We all had responsibilities, partners, etc but aside from scheduled raids, which are as easy to fit into a schedule as say, playing basket ball twice a week, we had freedom to just come and go.
    You go AFK to make dinner but when you get back it's all still there. Your friends may have decided to run a dungeon while you were gone but you can still chat with them while you go off and do some of the mindless busy work the game constantly provides you with. You finally put the kids to bed and it's time for the 9 o'clock raid. It's too late to go to the pub or do pretty much anything, and to play a sport you'd need to go straight from work, but in the most useless of hours the MMO is sitting there. Odds are one of the infinite free time people in your guild is there and looking for someone to run a dungeon with.
    I've raided with a friend in another MMO for so long that his boy has gone from being a two year old sitting on his knee talking gibberish into his microphone during raids to actually understanding how to make the characters punch and kick. It's strange to have someone go 'ok, the wife is giving the kids a bath, anyone want to do a quick 20 minute run of something?'.
    It makes for this really weird drop-in/drop-out social setting. It's almost like having 100% independent room mates.

    Last edited 04/08/14 1:52 pm

    I’ve never believed video games are a waste of time and I never will. Even in excess I don’t think it’s wise to ‘regret’ time spent with a video game. I know friends who met their long-term partners in World of Warcraft, people who made lifelong friends. WoW can legitimately change lives.

    I think they can be a waste of time if you are in the wrong mental state. I have suffered from depression for most of my life (which I'm thankfully now out of) but when I was at my worst, I played games to run from my problems and to make myself feel better. I played way too much and I had a girlfriend who turned into my wife (now to be future ex wife) and it wasn't fair to her or ultimately to me as it was not addressing my problem.

    So I would advise anyone who has any depression/anxiety/mental issues to try and get help rather then use games to escape. My issues were not addressed by playing games and ultimately I waste a hell of a lot of my life running to games for escape rather then helping myself.

    Last edited 04/08/14 2:06 pm

    The article photo is misleading. Nowhere is there mention of Karl Pilkington! Got excited for a minute there...

    Someone made a comment on last week’s Idiot in Azeroth post: they’d played the game for 511 days.

    Guilty as charged.

      Oh wow, I thought I was going well at 350+ days across my characters.. 270 of them spent on my main heh.

      Don't feel too bad. I definitely didn't get that high but I hit a point where I had to make an effort to forget the number and then promise myself I'd never check my hours played again. Granted the number is super high because I tend to stay logged in to MMOs even when I'm not playing them. I figure I might as well stay in guild chat while I'm playing XBOX, it's not like I'm too busy to come over and say hi when someone logs in.
      And on the bright side at least you get the most out of your subscription fee. =P

      Thanks for giving me something cool to write about.

    My girlfriend plays hours of WoW everyday, as she doesn't have a job, I used to play a few years ago, she asked me to start again, so I installed and found my old characters, which one of them was level 60, I think that was what the max at the time when I stopped playing.

    I didn't enjoy the game again , its changed a lot since I left and I didn't have the same feel of achievement as I did before, its seemed very dumbed down, I guess it was a design decision to bring in more players, and make it easier, girlfriend said it took her a while to get used to it but now she likes it the way it is.

    I guess I liked the way it was.

      Nilla WoW was definitely the shit.
      I still play from time to time, and still enjoy it, but nowhere near as much as I used to. It's also a popular opinion that they've ruined the game.

    I met my best friend by playing WoW. It started as 'Oh hey, I'm from Adelaide too!' and is now at the point where my wife occassionally gets annoyed at me for messaging him more than I message her.

    I also hear you in regards to the wife, job, kid thing. I've taken a break since I got my legendary cape and probably won't resub until Warlords hits release event. It can be very relaxing though. Just hard to find a decent amount of time.

      Legendary cape is worst grind

        Yeah, and it was before they had put in the revolving weekly buffs too. Ah well, I have it now, and the effect looks purrrrrrrrrdy.

      I don't find time the barrier (though I do stay up to ridiculous hours of the night and then regret it the next day at work!), I just find it difficult to actually be 'good'.

      I always find myself lost as to what gear to buy etc.. even with the help of online articles and guides.
      It always gives me a sense of "you're not good enough to really play the game".

    A friend was telling me once he read about this guy that sat down and made a pie chart of his life. WOW was a very visible and prominent wedge in that pie and that was how the guy knew he had to stop playing. I don't get the whole "You could have spent that time doing this instead" justification for not playing games though. I would be doing something I don't like and putting no effort into it, thus having the same net effect as playing a game for just as long. Even if I did enjoy it and put serious effort into it, if I never went any further than doing it for my own enjoyment, it's still a zero sum.

    I'm sure I'm about 511days too, if not more... it's an INCREDIBLE time sink. Still... quitting before you're even level 60 seems a bit premature. The game experience is different with flying mounts and things like Molten Core/The Dark Portal. Plus the pokemon battles as I'm guessing you didn't do that Mark?

    I think Blizzard are giving a free level 90 toon to everyone that buys Warlords of Draenor too... so that might be another opportunity to jump back on the train.

    only 511 days?
    pfffft, filthy casuals...

    The way I explain the huge amount of time is this:

    We've probably all had 10,000 hours of leisure time, right? We just spread it out to other activities?

    For some of us, WoW like a huge theme park where we hang out in our leisure time. The more you play, the more you realize there's things you haven't done yet. Or you make friends over the years and you experience their first time with them, hanging out as you level a new character with them and let them see the story/enjoy playing.

    Plus, more and more content keeps coming out (excluding these long droughts in between expansions).

    There's casual content to last a while and hardcore, and if you like both, well psh...

    WoW is like a side hobby in addition to regular gaming.

    Great series Mark.

    According to Raptr I've played 681 hrs of WoW over how many years, and I've never reached level cap... Admittedly I've never been a very active player though.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now