What killed World of Warcraft for you?

I used to play World of Warcraft. I thought it was great fun, but something drove me away, and this article on WoW addiction helped me see what it was.

It really is a rich, well-made, enjoyable game, with lots of challenging stuff and fun stuff. I’d probably still be subscribed and playing it if it were tailored to what they called “casuals”, and if that elitist distinction between “casual” and “hardcore” players hadn’t emerged. I would be rolling my eyes at the accusation that Warcrack was addictive — just manage your life, people! — except that I was seeing more and more artificial goal-setting that was intended to suck players into an addictive vortex.

“I don’t particularly harbor any strong feelings of resentment towards the game itself,” said Nick Peake, who dropped out of college while addicted. “Obviously it is acknowledged to a certain extent as an ‘addictive’ piece of entertainment, but I think to view it purely in those terms belies what an extraordinarily immersive and lovingly crafted game it really is, and risks it being viewed as entirely analogous with other aspects of addiction and gaming, such as the ongoing lootbox/microtransactions debate within the industry in recent years.”

There are parts of World of Warcraft, then and now, that seem, at best, irresponsible. Achievements that could only be earned by spending spectacular amounts of hours playing, designed knowing it would force players to stretch and contort their lives, day in and day out.

But it’s also true that many of the people I talked to who became addicted to World of Warcraft also had trouble with other addictions. The game’s impact wasn’t unique.

Making a great game would mean, to me, that I could log on on a weekend evening and play happily for a few hours. I would still be subscribed if that were a possibility, and Blizzard would be making just as much money from me. It’s a subscription service, so they get the same amount of cash whether I log in once or twice a month, vs. whether I log in daily and grind for 18 hours straight.

I gave up on it when I realized it was catering to the latter crowd, for some unfathomable reason. There were all these setups where you were expected to jump through a bunch of hoops — and it was pretty much the same hoops every day — in order to get some meaningless title or a fancy geegaw or even some indispensable gear that would allow you to keep up with the Joneses.

I even remember the precise moment the game died for me. There was some widget I learned about that I could win by following some mission some panda bear would give me, and all I had to do was talk to it every day for months and months, and it would be mine. I realized that that wasn’t exciting, or fun, or challenging — it was just tedious and repetitive. It sunk in that a lot of the game at that point was just repetition and boring grinds, so I said “Fuck you, panda bear” and unsubscribed instead.

I guess some people get a sense of accomplishment from doing the same thing over and over for tiny rewards, so good for them, they’re well prepared for a life under capitalism. It wasn’t what I was looking for in a fantasy role playing game, though.


  1. leovigild says

    I gave up on it when I realized it was catering to the latter crowd, for some unfathomable reason.

    It’s actually a common problem/trap for many hobby-oriented companies, whether to cater to the die-hard fanbase or to try to appeal to casual/new customers. The diehards are the ones sending in feedback, spending countless hours buying your product or using your service, it’s natural to want to reward them and to keep them happy, but that often is in tension with welcoming newbies and maintaining a level playing field. Especially as it is often the diehards who are the people who recruit new customers, and acclimate them to the hobby.

  2. F.O. says

    World of Warcraft III set the stage for WoW, and I could never enter into that setting where even the elves had the body of a pro wrestler.
    It just felt an utterly vapid attempt at ripping off another franchise I dislike, Warhammer.

    I’ve been sinking several hundreds hours in Warframe, it’s free to play and really well made, albeit it can be grindy; I have my family-sized clan and we’re super casuals, the community is decently non-toxic, probably because it’s a coop PvE.

  3. says

    I played a lot, during the era now being recreated by “WoW Classic”. In my recollection, it was more addictive than other games, but only in degree. It just makes effective use of random reinforcement, and has deeper timesinks than most.

    I stopped because I was playing duo with my brother, and I stopped when he stopped. Solo just wasn’t as fun, and I didn’t like dealing with other players I didn’t know. Would not play again.

  4. Susan Montgomery says

    It was the gradual removal of RPG elements and limiting skill points that first began to push me away. The cutscenes and the rigid linear stories that finished it. I had 11 lvl 90s and really didn’t want to go through the hoops that many times.

  5. says

    I have never played World of Warcraft. Personally, I won’t play a role-playing game unless I can cheat in it. RPGs always have some desirable items or levels or other perks that cannot be obtained without grinding. I hate spending even a single hour level grinding. I hate redoing the same action again and again until some rare item is dropped. If I spend a day grinding for something in order to further progress in the game, I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment upon finally getting that thing. Instead I’m just bored and frustrated. I play games not because progressing in them gives me a sense of having accomplished something, but for the sake of enjoying the moment to moment experiences. And grinding is just boring.

    For example, I belong to the generation that grew up with Pokemon games. They appealed to me back when I was a kid. But I enjoyed these games only when playing with some emulator that allowed me to hack the save file and give myself all the rare and desirable mons (like shinies) without any grinding. I also cheated in order to level up my Pokemon team. I think I have heard that nowadays newer Pokemon games give you lots of experience points simply for progressing in the game, but back in the day you had to knock out countless wild Pokemon for the experience points in order to level up your team.

    Of course, I feel the urge to cheat only in RPGs that require players to grind for desirable in game stuff. In strategy games this is no longer the case for me.

    Nowadays I hardly ever play games anymore. The loot boxes have messed up games and made them even worse. I dislike randomness in games. I hate that I have to open, on average, 20 boxes before I finally find that one item I wanted with a 5% appearance rate. Randomness that made me waste time and grind for the stuff I wanted used to be annoying back in the day. But pairing irritating randomness with a necessity to pay for each dice roll is the worst thing imaginable for me. If a game offered me to pay 5 euros for that item I wanted, I’d be unhappy but I’d at least consider the deal. If a game offers me to pay 5 euros for a chance that I might get what I want, I just get super annoyed. I dislike randomness, I hate hoping that maybe I’ll get lucky.

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    Back when it was just starting to get popular, I tried WoW once.


    While my youth was immersed in the Atari 2600 and the NES, I hadn’t actually done a lot of computer-based gaming since the late 90s. The last games I played seriously were Heavy Gear II (i.e. Mech combat based on the tabletop rpg/wargame), Independence War (i.e. space combat simulator), and Warbirds (i.e. multi-player online WWII air combat). I spent most of that single evening pointing and clicking on whatever monsters that came across my path and it was dull; very, very dull. When I was done. I deleted my account and uninstalled it from my desktop. It just didn’t hold my interest like actual tabletop RPGs or wargames would.

    These days video games don’t excite me at all. The only “games” you’ll find on my tablet or phone are Solitaire and Sudoku apps. Yeah, some look really cool, but for some reason I can’t summon the enthusiasm to invest in the time and money to play them.

  7. Kip Williams says

    Totally OT:

    I played D&D type games happily in the early mid 70s. A friend of mine put in many hours setting up a new dungeon for a Metamorphosis Alpha session at his house, the beginning of a multi-session campaign. We heard the first part of the backstory and went in. At one point, “Fafnir” declared that he was throwing a lightning spell. “Wait!” said another player, too late. We were in a tunnel.

    The player who’d tried to stop him had so many hit points that he was able to crawl for one, maybe two more rolls, and then everybody was dead, dead, dead. And kind of disgusted. It was the last time I played.

  8. hoku says

    I slowly quit for good when they introduced cross server play and lfg. I was the exact person those services should have helped, I played several hours a week and didn’t raid. I had a a good guild to hang out with and help, but after a hiatus it split up and I lost track of people.

    Suddenly lfg was the only way to run dungeons. And it made it really easy to see all the content. Too easy.

    Because of huge player pool I never saw the same people twice, so I never got to know them. There was no need to recognize who was a troll and who was friendly/good. There was no need to help each other out. The people you saw in the open world were one time encounters as well.

    The only barrier was item level gates. Hit that magical threshold and you could do all the next set of dungeons easily.

    So suddenly the game was purely about making numbers go up instead of figuring out how to build a team to complete objectives. There was always an element of this, but now there was nothing else.

    I just slowly stopped caring and drifted away.

  9. waydude says

    This is why I never even started playing, even though this sort of thing is right up my alley. It just seemed to be something aimed at a dedicated crowd the whole time, and I didn’t have any desire to have to go through a bunch of rigamarole to be a casual gamer. I’ll stick to my Xbox online I guess.

  10. says

    I played for hours on end in the early aughts then real life came in and I stopped playing for six years. I came back when they had announced they were erasing old characters who hadn’t been played in years to free up names for new players. I’ve been playing casually for five years now and two expansions.

    My problem in coming back is that Blizzard killed the social aspect of the game. There is no point in being in a guild and the people who are are hard core PVP. I actually left the first time when I got to be a max level character and no one in my guild would help me get the gear I needed as a max level character.

    When I first played you not only needed a guild to gear but you also needed to know a lot of math if you wanted to be used in raids – you had to balance a bunch of data points like avoidance and strength on pieces of gear to optimize your DPS or Healing or DOTs. I’m glad the need for a spreadsheet is gone and it is a lot easier to get gear as you get to be higher levels without needing for it to be created by a guild member.

    I tried playing classic and it is just another grind but stripped of all the stuff Blizzard added to help the casual gamer like me. The other day I died six times trying to gather six shimmer weeds surrounded by trolls. That to me isn’t fun. Classic isn’t fun to me because it reminds me why I left years ago after Wrath of the Litch King expansion. That and ninja looters.

  11. microraptor says

    I never got into WoW- when it was really becoming popular I still lived in a rural area with lousy internet connection speeds. MMOs just weren’t feasible for me.

    These days I’m avoiding Blizzard (not that that’s difficult, given how few titles they have anymore) for social reasons.

  12. says

    WoW had stupid quest lines. What killed it for me was realizing that Blizzard was willing to invest in top notch artists but they didn’t realize that writing was also an art-form. They started to do better with MoP but any time you levelled up an alt you have to fight through cringe quest after cringe quest. Meanwhile there were games like Halo or GTA5 or RDR or Fallout, which tried.

    In WoW the interesting stories were among guild-members and the compelling game-play was cooperating with other people. So Blizzard took a great big crap on that by putting people in solipsistic garrisons. That was when I stopped caring – all Blizz left was a grind.

  13. says

    I don’t know how many times I used to yell at the screen, “OMG! I am HERE trying to SAVE AZEROTH and you want me to collect some dripping goat spleens so your aunt can cure a stubbed TOE?!” They kept trying to give players a sense of purpose but suddenly they’d decide “OK, we’re going to make you grind, now, because we need body-meat in LFR for the Siege of Orgrimmar so we’re going to make everyone run that 220 times.”

    Playing WoW gave me many happy hours of thinking how difficult it is to create an MMO, because the premise of being a hero in a computer game is that you’re the center of the universe. Well, we can’t ALL be the center, can we? That’s a tough balance to sketch out (I think Blizz needed to do something different between “main” and “alt” toons) it means that you can’t really have solo and cooperative and PVP rando-play. They’re contradictory.

  14. logicalcat says

    Play Final Fantasy 14 instead. Its like WoW except actually good. I’m on the Midgardsomr server tho im taking a break for now to finish other games.

  15. doubtthat says

    what I heard from people was how World of Warcraft helped unhealthily fill a void in their lives.

    If that ain’t the damn truth.
    I don’t think I ever came close to addicted level, but I sure as hell played that game more than I wanted to, and it was 100% on a shitty, shitty year I had.

  16. Captain Kendrick says

    I loved WoW for the exploration and lush visuals. There was always something new to discover. I stopped playing as soon as my free 6 month intro was up and I had to pay to subscribe. I haven’t really played much of anything for several years, but recently got back into it, and built myself a new PC. Jumped right in to Skyrim, which has all the elements I loved about WoW — exploration, details, but none of the pressures of online play. It’s just me and the computer. It can be as addictive as WoW, but only up to a point — you can get sucked into the world, but there is nothing compelling me to keep playing. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything if I only play for 1-2 hours a day, and can easily stop, go make dinner, and do other stuff. Unless you really like the online social interaction element, you might want to check out Skyrim.

  17. says

    This is not a problem that casual games don’t have. Go watch the funny video “So This Is Basically Animal Crossing” on YouTube (id jOfy7Pns-oc — not linking to make sure it won’t autoplay) for a few mentions of the phenomenon.

  18. simonhadley says

    I played WoW for a few hours and found it utterly boring; same thing with Elder Scrolls Online which is odd since I love Skyrim and the Assassin’s Creed games. Maybe it’s because there is a storyline, I dunno.

  19. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    I never started. I played way too much Ultima Online back in the day and knew WoW would ruin my life.

  20. Porivil Sorrens says

    N/A, I still play it. I’m invested in the storyline and it’s a decent time-waster when I’m at work and doesn’t require any real thought or input

  21. KG says

    The only computer game I ever really got into was Alligator Swamp, around 1980. Tried Civilization a couple of times, but nah – too many other things I’d rather do!

  22. garysturgess says

    I had a punctuated relationship. I started playing at public release having briefly played it at a mate’s place in open beta. I was in a tiny guild, just a few friends that played, so we never did any raiding (at the time that was a 40 man job, we rarely had 10 players online) but we had a bit of fun levelling up to 60. Even then a few players dropped out, were replaced by others that I had some serious personality clashes with, and I just stopped playing.

    A while later, catching up with one of my old mates who was still playing, I was essentially convinced to give it another try. I’d missed Burning Crusade completely, and Wrath of the Lich King had come out fairly recently, so the first thing to do was level up to 80. The guild was still tiny, but we all got along. The raid sizes had been reduced as well, but even then we still often had to team up with other guilds for even a 10 main raid.

    It was when I decided to branch out to tanking and healing that I had some issues. With such a tiny guild I didn’t want to take everyone’s time to support me in learning to play my tank or healer properly, so I took advantage of the LFG cross server stuff. Tanks got in instantly. I was always careful to tell everyone when the group formed that I was still learning, that I would probably make mistakes, and if they preferred a different player I was happy to leave. No groups did that. But when my inevitable mistakes occurred, the abuse I got was … enthusiastic, to say the least.

    That sort of thing grinds even a cis-white straight male down (I can appreciate how much more hurtful others had it). When Cataclysm was coming out, with the attendent mechanical changes that would have required me to relearn everything, it seemed a decent jumping off point. I have occasionally been tempted to have a peek in from time to time, but honestly Minecraft is much more my bag these days.

  23. John Morales says

    Susan, indeed I have. Enough to get to sustainable fortresses, not enough to get past aquifers or to properly use magma. Shame it only runs in one core, too. Probably under 1000 hours’ worth of playing.

    (Right now, I settle for watching Kruggsmash videos :) )

  24. Kagehi says

    The thing that killed Everquest for me was – raids. Every damn thing needed raids, and no alternative means existed to get certain things, or explore (not that you could explore anything, without it being in a damn raid, in which case, yeah.. no real exploration). I tried Wow a while back.. You start out sort of in the original “world”, and you get quite a bit of exploring you can do, but.. right off the bat some things, like your class “weapon” can only be improved with – ding, ding, ding “a raid”. Sigh.. But, then you go to the next “stage”, at a certain level, and its nothing but a grind on some world that isn’t the one you started on, but you get a new mechanic, which lets you upgrade your weapon. Only, at the end of that stage, apparently, there is some “raid” which has you killing the big bad, and expending this weapon. So, now you have something that doesn’t do what it did, and has no new powers, so you are back to looking for better weapons – only, now you are in a broken, post war, world, where you have to spend hours, and hours, and hours, exploring (ironically), but this also, it turns out, means “raids” every single freaking part of the new landscape, before you gain back the ability to use your flying mount, which you fought through level after level, to finally get, while slogging through the first “original world” version.

    It was at this point where I sort of did it for a bit, then went.., “yeah, F this!” For all the crap that Everquest 2 ever put me through, while I played it, where I couldn’t advance in some manner, or get some quest done, because it needed a damn raid team to do it, it never pulled this BS, “We are going to completely F up your skill bar, re-arrange all your equipment, and utterly ruin the mechanics that you where using for months, just for the hell of it, because we needed a new expansion and thought it would be super neat to totally fuck with you!”

  25. Marshall says

    What’s amusing is that there is an entire group of people who are the exact opposite, and love grinding just for the purpose of leveling up. In fact, there is an entire genre of games specifically for this purpose, called incremental games (r/increment_games). I got sucked into Antimatter Dimensions for far too long than I’m willing to admit. Granted, it was a moneyless game, but still.

  26. DanDare says

    I wrote Reach for the Stars for the Mac back in the 80s and played a pre release of Civilization at a game conference in the US. I got really hooked on playing those sort of strategy games. I still play Civ VI.
    The things that pass for RPG online have never cut the mustard. Too much combat and buff up focus to compensate for a lack of human GM. Table top RPG with actual people gets me going still. I have been running my own club for 4 years now, 50 players, 6 other GMs.and heaps of private spin off games. That’s addictive.

  27. Kagehi says

    @32 Marshall

    Yeah, maybe, but I don’t get it. It doesn’t matter how deep a game is, how much content, etc. Eventually you land at, “I have all the levels I can get without a new expansion, and everything I kind of want, so..” Then it becomes about playing during holidays, or the like, to get the “prizes” and “special decorative thingy for this year”, from the seasonal special events, or finding that one last freaking shiny, so you can turn them in for the Lost Bucket of Shiny Objects, or some such. And, that later case is when its “good”. When its, “There is some obscure alternate version the Sword of Endless Time, which can be mounted on a wall, it just becomes, “WTF am I doing?”

    I spent a lot of time, frustrated out of my mind, in EQ2, precisely trying to go to places, including ones below my level by enough I could go in without a raid, trying to get the last freaking page of some book, which dropped like 1 time in 100, or something, and then utterly randomly in a 20 floor labyrinth, the size of a small freaking continent (or it started to seem), and failing to find the damn thing, only to have to wait around for a respawn, and still likely not finding it again.. It wasn’t terrible, since EQ2 had player homes, which you could decorate with practically thousands of items (if you could get them all), but.. when the, literal, only reason you are on is to find that one last damn page, while also needing a dozen other things, all in different zones, all for different collections, all so far apart that you have to spend 20 minutes, flying, traveling on ships, etc. to get between them, every time you gave up on the one you are currently trying to hunt down… And, you are doing this because you have “literally” only two other options – a) wait for the new expansion, or b) go on raiding parties for even more useless crap… it gets a bit old. lol

  28. logicalcat says

    To answer the question, being the leader of a hardcore guild. Being addicted to the game as a hardcore gamer was bad enough. Add the fact that I was a guild leader of several dozen other players made it worse. Because it didn’t just feel like a job. It felt like I was responsible for everyone enjoyment. To a lot of people when they hit rock bottom of mmo addictions its when they realize that playing the game has become a full time job as opposed to a fun hobby in a fantasy world to live in. That also happened to me except I was manager at that full time job. I didn’t even want to be guild leader, it just happened.