Monday, May 25, 2009

I think Memorial Day is a good time to post this.

I know this isn't my usual style. Stick with me here; it'll be worth the read. And yes, it's about World of Warcraft, even if it doesn't sound like it at first.

I was reading a news story a while ago about a high school age girl whose twin sister had died from a serious illness. The thing is, the illness was genetic, which means that the girl knows she will almost certainly die as well in the next year or two. And because the illness is so incredibly rare, doctors have no idea how to help her.

It was a heartbreaking story, but that's not why I'm sharing it.

I'm sharing it because it got me thinking about mortality - something that, as you can imagine, I've pondered quite a bit in my years.

You see, this girl isn't curled up on her bedroom floor crying all day. She's going to prom. She's hanging out with her friends. She's committed to making the most of her life, even though there isn't a lot left.

I think most of the people reading this (not all, but most) have things pretty good by comparison. You or your family can afford Internet access and a WoW subscription. You're playing video games. You're reading blogs. You're doing all right. And maybe you don't think much about how you use your time, because there's just so much of it.

But it matters.

Death twitches my ear. "Live," he says, "I am coming." Virgil wrote those lines over two thousand years ago, and he's spent most of the intervening time being pretty dead himself. You see, he knew how the game of life works; he knew that there's no rulebook, just an hourglass. That's why he spent his life writing some of the most extraordinary poetry the world has ever seen. That's why we're still talking about him now, in fact, two thousand years after his expiration date.

I know, I know, you've heard this before. It's the usual bullshit, right? Inspiring figure does something courageous, plea to make the most out of life, cue the sappy music and pass the collection plate.

It's a stereotype. It's a cliche. It's stupid.

It's the most important thing in the universe.

I'm not saying you shouldn't screw around, shouldn't have fun, shouldn't laugh. Of course you should. That's why I write this blog; that's why I play video games.

What I'm saying, and what I want desperately for you to understand, is that it's possible to pass through life just sort of...twiddling your thumbs, without doing much of anything. To play games, not because you enjoy them, but because you have nothing else worth doing. To surf the Web, not because you're getting something out of it, but just to pass the time. To let the minutes slip through your fingers until they accumulate into hours, and weeks, and years, until finally you have no more minutes left and you look back and find you haven't done much of anything at all.

In the immortal words of xkcd: FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

I know how easy it is to waste time that way, because I've done it too. I still do it sometimes, more often than I'd like. But your time on this planet is a limited resource, and it is too precious to squander. Most of you reading this are lucky - you still have a lot of time left. But it's finite.

How is this related to World of Warcraft? You can probably guess. Because, as we all know, there are two ways to play.

The first way is to do what you love in the game. Play the character you enjoy, run the content that's fun for you. This doesn't necessarily mean casual play. If you genuinely love high-end raiding or hardcore PVP, if being in the best guild in the world is really what gets you up in the morning, then go with it. Do whatever makes you happy.

But there's another way to play. Going through the motions. Grinding for endless hours to get the next item because you're "supposed" to. Beating bosses you've already beaten a hundred times for yet another chance at that item drop that will allow you to go to the next boss and do it all over again - lather, rinse, repeat. Spending two months saving up the gold for something that makes you say "huh, that's cool" for two minutes.

If you play a game because you love it - because it helps you relax after a stressful day - because it lets you connect with people who are not just guildmates but truly your friends - that's great. I'm all for it.

But if you're bartering away hours and days and weeks of your life in exchange for a better arrangement of pixels on your monitor?




All right. I'm done. I'm getting off my soapbox. Next time I post, it'll be back to the funny stuff. I promise.

All I ask is that every once in a while, you check your /play time, and ask yourself: "Am I getting a good return on this investment?"

If the answer is yes, then keep at it.

But if the answer is no, do something else.

Carpe fucking diem.


Anthony Clarke said...

You know sarge, as a WoW player myself, I have been thinking about quitting. I acknowledge the game is fun for many people, but well...
Let me give an example.
And since you don't know much about WoW (as far as I know), I'll break it down a bit:
There is a maximum level, ten man dungeon which was _the_ place to be for quite a while. On my first time through, I ended up recieving the _best_ weapon to possibly drop from the ten man version of the place. I was thrilled for about a day. Its taken me a year and a half to get to that point, to have about a _day_ of fun? The game lacks rewards. I don't mean theres nothing to accomplish, merely nothing _worth_ accomplishing. I note that I spend a lot of time playing video games, and I am as such joining a sports team. Do you ever contemplate your own life, sarge? Looking back, would you do things differently?

MomentEye said...

Nice try. But I'm not going to fall for it.
I'm not going to go out and get all attached to my squalid little life just so you can enjoy my destruction all the more.


vowdy said...

Demotivation Blizzard customers!


Romana the Explorer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Romana the Explorer said...

Well blogged, sir.

And may I complement you on quoting not only Vergil and Horace but xkcd? As a Classicist and a nerd who is frustrated with the overcommitment or dead-end that is WoW endgame but delighted by the lovely zephyr that wafts through my window, I say to you, kudos.

Anonymous said...

sargey, that was beautiful.

i had visions of terry pratchett dancing in my head.

Anonymous said...

Wise words from the Dark Titan.
But even as the first poster commented about how WoW lacks rewards, I must say.. Life also lacks rewards. My good friend (whom I don't know) Bill Gates, will die on day, and the money he has will do little for him afterwards, in the same way that a married couple that has been together for 70 years, will part at death, (Unless your religious, but that's not a debate I'd like to get into here. )

Surely you of all people, Lord Sargeras, must understand that futility of mortal struggles... attempting to make a difference in a universe so vast that the destruction of an entire galaxy could easily go unnoticed. I do not of course, mean to sound entirely pessimistic, but the actions of humans will amount to nothing in the end. The great void does not notice their trials.

-High Prophet Soumynona

Sargeras said...

@ Anthony Clarke: Of course I have regrets...I could've started destroying things sooner. ;-) But seriously, glad to hear you're branching out. I like video games as much as anyone, but games alone are a pretty shallow way to live your life.

@ Ramona: :-)

@ Soumynona: You seem to equate permanence with importance. Why? Why should the knowledge that you will eventually die, make your current actions less meaningful? Who cares if the "great void" notices your trials; would it matter if it did? Death twitches my ear; live, he says, I am coming.

Marzenia said...

Since content of WoW became so boring and there relly is just one raiding instance I think we will all get more from our real life. I still can enjoy both, have achivements in both as well as friends and good times :)
Like Blizzard's tip says: Take everything in moderation. Even WoW! :P

Anthony Clarke said...

@ sarge

Thanks, the support is great. My family has been supportive also. :)


True, _many_ people enjoy wow and a social life. I do, but in truth I am beginning to enjoy my time in azeroth less and less. I log on and wonder, what will I do now? Enjoy your game though, I hope you have fun. :)

Warraven said...

My father and I just spent the better part of today building PvP gear so we can play arena together as a 2 man team called "Giant Vegetable Pygmies". I have no doubt that the only way we'll win a match is if our opponents are asleep on their keyboards.

I get to PvP with my DAD. It's going to be fucking awesome.

But I'm sure your puny mortal servant here that mans the blog remembers when I decided I was either going to cut back on WoW, stop the stupid grind, or quit it entirely if I couldn't do that. Well, the schedule has gone out the window, but that hasn't stopped me from bringing good ol' Handel's solo for the flute back up to speed despite years of not practicing.

Anyway, enough rambling. Excellent post and it's one I hope people will think about. It is possible to enjoy life with WoW as part of that... but yes, it should never be used to simply pass the time. Enjoy what you do. Time sinks are not worth it.

See: Argent Tourney. *gag*

Franz said...

True, true.
That's why I won't waste much time to write this comment, cos you said it all:
Carpe fucking diem!

P.s.: I quit WoW a few weeks ago, it's the best thing ever!

Sargeras said...

@ Warraven: When do I get to hear this flute solo??

@ Franz: Haha, really? You mean my blog has more staying power than WoW?? :-D

Warraven said...

Sargeras, not only would you set my apartment on fire, not fit through the front door, but I just can't trust that you'll not eat my cats for the sheer hell of it. Please, stay in the Nether.

Your web peon is welcome, however, just so long as he calls first.

Though I warn you, I'm still stumbling over some 16th note runs like I'm falling down the stairs instead of gracefully skipping.

Anonymous said...


An Anonymous once posted:
"We may have no objective relevance to the universe but we do have subjective relevance to each other."

Anonymous said...

O massive dark lord of fiery doom,

Long time reader, first time poster. Just wanted to pipe in with a "hell the fuck yeah."
Well said, my liege. Well said. \m/

Yours in mortality,

Sargeras said...

@ steph: Hell the fuck yeah. :-D

PAUL said...

Hello sargeras

this is very out of character for someone who wills the undoing of existence!

but on a different note

i wrote a creative writing piece for my literature paper about you this year(USING CLEVERLY DISGUISED ANAGRAMS AND METAPHORS) and got an award for it. so this is my obligatory thanks post

thanks from paul

(taking from one is plaguerism, taking from many is research(a being of your calibre counts as many ok its justified in my mind))

Sargeras said...

Groovy. Spread the word, Paul. :-D

Ariedan said...

Well said. I was nodding the entire while.

"Every man must die, but first, he must live."

Vakoto said...

I realized this after first starting to play WoW 2 years ago. I felt like hunting for gear just to raid really took the fun out of the game, and took a loooong break. When I came back and started playing Wrath about a month or two ago, I found the game to be a lot more relaxed, a lot more fun, and so much more to do. It's been quite refreshing ever since, and I enjoy it so much more!

Anonymous said...

Long live Randall!
Kill him gently when you destroy the world, oh great titan.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I love your work. Until now, I had only read your 'conversations' pieces.

Great job.

Too few people can truly understand this concept, and even fewer can pull it off without it being completely cliche or preachy. Keep up the great work, I can't wait to read more.

Anonymous said...

Truly an eye opener and well said Sargeras. While I do enjoy video games I also enjoy the life I have outside the virtual world, the world and people around me. There's so much to be seen and not enough time in the world to see it all but if you sit around all day you won't see anything but the things you see on a screen. While some may say I can just look at it on google, It's a much better experience to smell, touch, and hear the things around you as well. I hope that more will read your posts and look at their lives a little differently

Anonymous said...

I both agree and disagree with what you're saying, but in my opinion, everything we do in life is a waste of time, all that matters, is how you waste it.

Usha said...

Guess better late than never … *looks at the date of the first post*

Done a /played as you suggested and … I will never do a /played again … ever …

Combined came to a total of 567 days on all chars from the last 5 years.

But, still love it, met a lot of nice people of who even outside of wow I have contact with.
Learned more about managing people or crowds with planning and recourses than I ever could in school after started 1 community and 1 raid Guild. Seen all of the endgame places till 25 man Totc and spend countless hours in Stormwind, Darnassus, Iron forge and Dalaran with people and just had fun trying out all we could think of in there.
Sat in Nagrand and just watched the green meadows while I had a good friend of mine next to me or in /w and we talked over everything that mattered, or didn’t mattered.
Lost a friend RL/IG when he had an accident and sadly didn’t made it and shared the grief with people in the digital world as well as outside.

For me, those 13.608+ hours where well spend while balancing between work, family and WoW and still only have 1 character with epic outland flying because the gold and items is what did not mattered to me, but that is my vision.

I know that someday it will end, but if I look back at it, I’ll have many good, fun, sad, and new friends all over the globe to look back to :D

Anonymous said...

I've played for about 3 years now and I have to say that makes a lot of sense. I cant tell you how many times I quite because it got stale, none of my friends were on, my guild was a bunch of asses and I couldn't even muster the strenght to go do a few quests, it's just pathetic to keep playing when the game reaches that level. My advice to the people that are going threw that, just stop playing, be it a week or two or a month. Go out with your friends or just chill and watch some TV at home or something. Sometimes you find you never want to go back, but you will never know if you dont try.

Anonymous said...

Seems true enough. I always just messed around in WoW, like running Strath so I can get the Piccolo of the Flaming Annoyance, then trying to find a way into Gilneas and sapping Thrall for the heck of it. Then I looked at my guild and noticed they were all in Ulduar/Naxx/Maly. Every. Single. Day.. Noobs. Man, WoW was fun just playing around.

Anonymous said...

I just ran across this...

You list only 2 ways to play this game...

What about the reason I play...

I can get on wow, goof off, have fun, chat with friends, grind if I feel like it, kill some gnomes who need it... all the while saving me from a horrible bar tab or movie ticket or anything else...

I play this game to save money as well as enjoying it... Every hobby I enjoy is expensive...

Racing, I have a 600hp NA trans am... costs me about 100-150 every weekend (when I go racing)

Billards, That's easily close to a 100 a night, tables are 8 an hour, drinks/food are extra

Shooting, I have a XD.45... ammo is stupid expensive and you have to buy it AT the gun range to use it there...

Those are my 3 main hobbies... and all of em can blow hundreds of dollars a weekend... wow costs me 20 a month, 10 for my sub and 10 for my 25mbDown5MBup connection...

Amelia said...

Sargeras's post has sent such a tumult in me, that I could not bring myself to ignore it with silence.

Those of us that live in the "real" world often fall prey to the very grind so many find themselves addicted to in WoW. We wake, we work, we win, we sleep. Indeed, we become lulled into the habit, to the point where, as you mentioned, it loses all enjoyment - all inherent meaning.

And when we begin looking for some higher plane of being in our conduct, even that can become a habit - a delusion, really. In every way we might live, inevitably, we will always look down at our feet, and find the abyss gaping there. Some methods of experience simply hide it better than others.

Of course, one can also view it in this way: humans are unique in their ability to find meaning. More accurately, to seek it. Our uniqueness in this right can be utterly terrifying. Why is it that we, with such bluster and, often, confidence, seek the darkest corners for objective truth?

I, as so many have and do, worry that, ultimately, this "meaning" we see actually is a figment of our mind. Like dreams, it can seem so very real.

Regarding WoW, I have returned to it, after having found one happy construct of meaningfulness collapsed, without explanation. Some could call it an escape. Without doubt, I would call it an escape. But, oddly, I have found another incarnation of meaningfulness within the game existing as a tangent to that which I previously knew.

Understand, that I roleplay - which some consider laughable. I believe many think it the ultimate delusion - trapping oneself in a nonexistent fantasy. But, for some reason, I often find that the more fantastical a story seems, the closer it represents our own minds.

Anyone could write pages in support of or disagreement with that statement. But I mention it as a supplementary point. What I seek to do is add on to Sargeras's note that you should "do whatever makes you happy." I think this is a wonderful place to start. But, in my opinion, we should also recognize that, whatever we might approach, it will always be in the context of our own perspective - our very mind. In this right, as Sargeras said, there is no real difference between playing a video game and being in the real world. We, as individuals, become the axis of meaning for both.

Interestingly, as much as we can appreciate Sargeras's ultimate aim (to create a state of pure chaos by accelerating entropy) we, as humans, will always be bound to defiance.

Thus the tumult is quieted.

- Amelia

Anonymous said...

In some agreeance with Amelia, and while I understand this may well never be read by anyone, or even seen by a coffee-drinking overload of demons... I feel I've got to comment on something I've seen a lot of here.

That being that everyone seems to be quite taken with the idea that we all die, and that we will have no impact. I'd like to dispel that right now. We ALWAYS impact not only those closest too us, but others as well, sometimes in places you never even visited or with people you never knew.

As for WoW, it often takes a bad wrap for some people's mistakes. I used to grind endlessly, and it almost cost me the love of my life. Never again I told her, and now, I putter around on it, among other things. I met her online several years ago, and we've met, and she's someone who truely believes that people should do something for the fun of it. Bold, underline and capital "f" on fun.

I think the thing that this post does, is that it inspires greatness. The thing is, people don't NEED to be great. They should just get enjoyment out of life. I've lived most of my life working, gaming and sleeping, because that's all I truely knew.

If you think of the life of some, they don't get noticed by "the great void" or many people, but they were happy, content souls. If you must look at life as a game, or something to win, I'd have to say that that is the way to "win" it.
I've found true enjoyment out of WoW recently since I changed my outlook on it, and started just having fun with my love, and a bunch of friends.
I still don't go out much, but it's HOW you work, HOW you game, and WHO you do these things with, that matter and make them not only fun, but special moments. I guess what i'm trying to say, is grab a page out of my soulmate's idea, and just try to have fun in everything you do.

- Diber

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