Illness, self pity and WarcraftComments

Having been off sick for three weeks now I'm again forced to think about routine and how enforced changes affect my behaviour and state of mind.

I wouldn't say I was wallowing in self pity but I have certainly been sat on the side dangling my feet in the water. My wife jokes if I'd like a ladder to get out of the hole I've dug myself into.

Unlike the last time I was off, I've tried to keep up to date with podcasts but I've also spent more time playing World of Warcraft with the rest of the family.

I tend to go through phases with WoW, when each new expansion is released I am excited to play the new content but, once I reach the new maximum level, this excitement is quick to dissipate.

There are two distinct aspects to #Warcraft: the solo content in which you just complete the quests and level your character, and then the side where you join with others for more advanced content such as dungeons and raids.

(I'm deliberately leaving PvP - player versus player - out of the this as I've never been any good at it.)

Until recently, we had been part of a guild which would spend time together doing raids and trying to advance as far as we could go. This, unfortunately, broke up meaning that if you wanted to play this content you had to join PUGs (Pick Up Groups) to find enough people to play with.

Having played as a tank for years (the character that goes in first, takes all the damage and controls the encounter) I got frustrated with always being the one who was supposed to know everything, even on brand new content, and then getting blamed or kicked from the group when things didn't go right.

So I stopped raiding and even doing the smaller dungeons (designed for five players) focusing instead on just the solo content. But having been part of even a casual raiding guild meant that the solo side just wasn't enough.

While the solo side is okay and it's fun to follow each new storyline, WoW is an inherently social game - the second M in MMORPG stands for Multiplayer, after all. Settling for the solo content in this way (having spent many late nights with fellow guild members trying to complete just one more boss fight) is what causes the excitement to drop off so quickly.

The past week or so, however, we have been spending time as a group diving into the harder levels of dungeons and it's been enormous fun! So much though that we have renamed our small family guild and are looking to open it out to more members so that we can start raiding again.

Not only has this made playing WoW more enjoyable again but also served as a distraction from being ill and given me a much needed psychological boost so that I can towel off my feet and stop feeling quite so sorry for myself.

And they say playing video games is no good for you!

Illness, self pity and Warcraft

Stranger in the same land

Any gamer who has created and played the same character for any length of time will tell of the attachment they have for it, they can't help but get invested emotionally.

Be it Dungeons and Dragons or its more modern online equivalents, the ability to take control of, and ostensibly become, another "person" and escape to another world - albeit temporarily - is an attractive proposition.

Normally you will only ever see things from one side: it's you versus the world and everything it can throw at you but World of Warcraft broke with this convention allowing you to play from either side. Alliance or Horde.

The difference is that each side are "heroes" fighting for the survival of their people and just happen to be at war with the other guys. It's a classic example of the "red v blue" gaming paradigm: each with their own perspective and convinced of the righteousness of their cause.

This was obviously something Duncan Jones was keen to reflect and portray in the Warcraft movie: the characters were just trying to live their lives whatever side they were on; Alliance or Horde.

He deliberately didn't want the Orcs seen as the bad guys.

The switch

This attachment creates an allegiance to your chosen faction and switching from the Alliance to the Horde was something I swore I'd never do.

Until I did!

I didn't just start a new character but transferred the one I had been playing, developing, and become invested in for so long.

For years.

It may sound crazy, and you may be thinking "it's only a game" but the shift is like moving to a different city, changing jobs and losing contact with everyone you know all at the same time.

The disorientation is more than tangible.

The landscape is familiar but the view is from a completely different perspective. The landmarks are there but your old haunts are forbidden just as other areas, long out of bounds, suddenly open up.

It is like waking up in a parallel world - the same yet not the same.

There is a cognitive dissonance at play where the identity you have built for so long, its loyalties and allegiances, are instantly diametrically opposed to the person you have become.

Now that you have awoken it is almost as though you are fighting through the fog of amnesia, trying to remember who you are; trying to rebuild your sense of identity: fragments appear and pieces of the jigsaw gradually fit together as you explore.

You meet characters that act as though they have known you since the beginning, but you have no clue who they are or where you met. You feel the constant urge to apologise, to say that you just don't remember but have to accept as fact that this is your life now and, for all intents and purposes, always has been.

That old you no longer exists, never did.

Stranger in the same land