Burnout, Part II: Game/Life Blur

Back when I was in University, my diet consisted mainly of stir fries, perogies, and hot dogs. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I was a student on a budget with very limited culinary skills, so fine dining was out of the question. My sister came to visit me one day and drove me to the magical land of Costco where I stocked up on cheap groceries. One of the items I purchased was a case of Pillsbury Pizza Pops. This wasn’t the pack of four you’d normally get, no, this was a case containing 24 glorious pops of pizza-ey deliciousness.  It was such a good deal that I just couldn’t pass it up.

For the next week, I ate nothing but Pizza Pops. The first few days were great; I was in absolute dietary bliss. Over the following days, the deliciousness slowly began to fade.  Had I been rational, I would have recognized what was happening and left the Pizza Pops in the freezer to be enjoyed again at future meals.  Instead, I kept eating them.  By the time there were just a few Pizza Pops remaining in the case, it was safe to say that my enjoyment of the once-tasty treat had plummeted to levels lower than the depths of hell itself.

While choking down the next to last Pizza Pop, I bit down on something rubbery.  I spit the unknown rubbery object down onto my plate for closer inspection. There, staring back up at me was the nastiest piece of gristle meat I have ever seen to this day.  It was a grey, funky piece of something with little tiny tube-y veins protruding from it, and it was the wake-up call I needed.  Despite once loving them, to this day, some 12 or 13 years later, I have not eaten a Pizza Pop, nor do I want to. I had learned a valuable lesson.

Leading up to the release of Wrath of Lich King, my little circle of friends was discussing our plans for the expansion. To me, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to blow through the content as quickly as possible just so they could sit at level 80 doing the same grinds they did when level 70 was the cap.  One friend countered that that’s where “all the good stuff is”, and said his enjoyment of the game increases at the level cap.  True to his word, he was level 80 within a week.

So how fun is life at level 80? A few days ago, roughly a month after the expansion’s release, he has cancelled his World of Warcraft account. When I asked him why, he replied:

I canceled my WoW account because my emotions were getting the best of me. I was getting worked up over little stupid things that shouldn’t matter. I wasn’t having fun when these kinds of things started happening and decided that I needed a break.

I can’t say for sure what happened, but I think I’ve got a fairly good idea, and it wasn’t a surprise to me that he stopped enjoying the game.  What I saw was someone devoting the majority of his free time to WoW; getting home from work and playing until he went to bed, because he had to get to level 80 as quickly as possible.  When you log in because you feel you have to, rather than want to, then you’re no longer playing a game; you’re going to work.  When you log on as soon as you get home from your actual place of work and go until you head off to bed, well, that makes for a pretty long work day.  Consider also that once reaching level 80 he wasn’t done, his game was “just starting”. There was no break in between.

Now, take all of that, and throw in a guild officer role on top of it. I know first hand that my friend was not an officer in title only, he took the role very seriously.  He was constantly helping out the guild, both in game, through its website, and probably through other channels of which I’m unaware. While he was a tremendous asset to the guild, it meant that there probably wasn’t much room at all for his own personal enjoyment of the game.  There were issues starting to crop up in the guild which I’ll explore in my next post which drove my friend over the edge; the events which served as his grey, nasty piece of gristle meat.

Fortunately, my friend knew when to say enough was enough and step back from the game. It’s unfortunate that it got to the point it did however.  Too many people seem to forget that these games are supposed to be a break from the stresses of your day.  If they’re the cause of your stress, then you’re burned out, and need to step away. Put down that Pizza Pop, and save it for another day.

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