I had a dream last night…
I did, actually, have a dream last night. And needless to say, it was complicated! It started off with me playing central midfield for Manchester United on a private, indoor field somewhere in Buckingham Palace. I think the Queen was playing right back, because we eventually switched positions after Sir Alex Ferguson yelled at us for letting in a late goal (we still won the game, and added an extra while being yelled at). It’s mostly unimportant, except that afterwards, I ended up having tea with the Queen and talking about various things. After a lengthy sidebar into the politics of chance and birth (those who know me will find this not-at-all surprising), she asked me about something more realistic, and I responded with “Now that I’m 50 in RIFT, I hope I don’t get caught up in all that raiding-related stuff again…”
We talked about it for a bit, but then there was some sort of peasant revolt and my time with the Queen came to an end (also, the alarm went off). It really struck me just how vivid my memory of the dream conversation was, but I suppose it makes sense, since it is something that I’ve worried about for a while as I have approached the level cap.
<Wayne’s World doodly-do dream transition> Dreeeeam weaver…
As background, I was an active raider in WoW for both Wrath and Cataclysm, and previously to that I was primarily a dabbler. I ran the occasional Molten Core, Zul’Gurub and AQ20 in Vanilla, hit the brick wall that was casual Maulgar/Gruul at the beginning of Burning Crusade and then returned to work on part of Karazhan towards the end of the expansion. For a large part of the time prior to actually raiding, I followed along with the community at places like Elitist Jerks. And despite the fact that I could easily have spent the time raiding during those days, I never found myself actually doing it. Some of it was a hope not to have to switch guilds/servers, some of it was a feeling that I’d never be good enough to participate (I was still healing instances as a primarily shadow-specced priest at the time), and some of it was simply the fact that I didn’t feel like I had the time (although I very definitely did, at that point in my life).
In any event, I eventually got over the hump, found a guild of folks that I mostly liked – and a class, druid! – and started raiding (10-mans, which probably helped a lot) a couple of nights a week. For 4 years or so, I basically maintained somewhere between two and three nights a week of raiding. I changed guilds a couple of times, raid sizes more than once, roles (tank/melee dps/ranged dps/healing with an alt), and found myself in a raid-leader type position on a couple of different occasions – most recently through the end of our efforts in tier 11, 6/7H Firelands and 6/8H Dragon Soul. During that time, I learned a ton of things about WoW, about the way that I like to play games, and about the way that I don’t like to play games. I spent countless hours reading about my class (and other classes), raid bosses, looking at gear/gem/enchant options, working with simulators and spreadsheets, and practicing – both on target dummies and on raid bosses.
Eventually, I burnt out, like so many people before me. I could tell that I wasn’t looking forward to logging on for raids – and I was barely logging in outside of raids. So I decided to retire. Overall, I really enjoyed my time as a “hardcore” (I use the term loosely, and primarily with regards to attitude, rather than as any indication of standing within the raiding community) raider. I’m glad I raided, and I had a lot of fun playing a game on a semi-competitive level. It’s burned a deep love of WoW into my heart, but unfortunately, a lot of the passion is gone. And, given that games are supposed to provoke passionate responses, it was time to (mostly) move on.
Snap back to reality
I took a bit of time off, and now I find myself playing RIFT. I had played originally during the beta and at launch, and really enjoyed the game. However, my enthusiasm sort of died down when I was approaching max level the first time (my first character stopped at level 43 of 50, my second at 41, etc). There were so many things that I loved about RIFT – and still do – the soul system is incredibly complex, but also totally customizable; the Defiants’ reliance on machines to power their magic; the fact that they actively reward you for exploring, rather than removing those easter eggs as exploitative; the simple fact that there are dyes and wardrobes. Stuff like that really endeared the game to me. I also met some of Trion’s people at the PAX party last year and got a super good vibe from them, which makes me want to support them.
But the thing that made me stop playing, originally, was the end game. It seems silly, but it was all there from the beginning – reputations, high-level crafting, dungeons, experts, raids, tiered PvP. I distinctly remember a conversation where I said, “I really like RIFT, but I don’t think I can go through all that shit again. Especially not while I’m still playing WoW and running heroics and LFD and raiding.” So I ended up letting my subscription lapse and walking away from RIFT for a while.
Well, a month or two ago, several of the Cats started to return to RIFT, and while I hadn’t been playing WoW with them, I’d kept in touch via IRC and other games (like SWTOR). I wasn’t playing WoW anymore, and so I figured I’d give it a try. I have to say, I’m loving it. All the things that were great the first time around are still great. There has been a ton of added content over the past year, the first expansion is on the horizon, and they are adding housing! Seriously, that is amazing. There is a ton to do, and a ton that I’m looking forward to doing! I’m enjoying it so much that I’ve even pre-paid for a year (and the expansion), and didn’t feel at all bad doing so.
The only thing is, I’ve just finally hit max level for the first time, and I’m kind of nervous about getting sucked back in to the numbers-based game. I really don’t want to. I mean, I want to participate with the guild when it goes on raids and rift-hunting and everything else. But I also really relish living in that happy obliviousness that is “I picked this spec because the burning rock pet (which I have cleverly named Gorignak) is the coolest looking of the pets, and who cares if it’s any good!” I want to keep spending my time exploring and finding the Ancient Cairns and jumping off waterfalls for titles. I am not really worried yet, but I can feel the min-max tug, and some of the “Congrats! Let’s talk later about all things wizard!” comments in guild chat are hard to ignore. I don’t like playing stupid, but… well, maybe I do.
Or, maybe I just want to live in ignorant bliss for a little while longer. We’ll see how it goes.