The hardest part of the WoW Insider application for me had nothing to do with content, style, or grammar. It had to do with a simple question that was probably added as an afterthought:
“What are you doing in game now?”
When I slammed into that question, I was still level 87, pushing towards a level cap that I had previously sworn off. When Mists came out I dedicated myself to leveling a fresh monk from 1-90 as my new main, investing myself entirely in the task. I made it as far Hyjal before my motivation and drive leaked out of my ears like a grey matter slushie. Before that I could’ve answered that question with aplomb: “I want to get my Brewmaster Monk to 90, gear up through heroics, and lead a raid for my guild.”
But the sample writing? No chance I would’ve been able to put something worthwhile together. Odds are good I might’ve stumbled through three generic sounding pieces that failed to capture either my voice or my spirit, regardless of how many hours I was sinking into the game. Now though, things have changed. I’ve thrown myself wholeheartedly into my writing, coming back to WoW not because I failed at it but in order to improve it. Instead of my hobby driving my craft, my craft has begun to drive my hobby.
The question hasn’t changed, but the way I see it has. Rather than reading it as “What are you doing in game now?” I can’t help but feel like the emphasis has shifted. It’s not about the game anymore, but about the you. “What are you doing in game now?”
To put it in other words, it’s not what I’m doing for the game, but what the game is doing for me.
At no time has that question been more insistent than at level 90. Two months ago, the man who would’ve handily laid out a planned daily grinding routine to maximize his reputation gains wouldn’t have even blinked an eye at the quandary that has had me paralyzed for the last few days. He would’ve simply buried his head in his work, festive visions of sugarplums replaced by gyrating golden question marks. It would’ve been a simple existence, dedicated to the pursuit of fantastic, imagined goals.
It would’ve also been a hollow and pointless one. One driven entirely by the game.
Now though, now that I’ve taken a step back to look at things for what they are, I’ve realized that my plan at level cap has nothing to do with the game proper. Sure, there are things I’d love to do, but all of those can wait. Instead, my plan has everything to do with my relationship to the game and how I can manage it, how I can get what I want from the game without giving myself up like I have in the past.
The key lay in what I do outside of the game. In the past I’ve always found myself driven to the game as a retreat from the stresses of my real life. Work would get tough and, instead of putting in the time there, I’d flee to Azeroth, comfortable in my successes there. It was an easily tapped well of self-esteem when supplies ran low, despite the fact that it ended up being as useful as a mirage in the desert.
Instead, I need to keep pushing myself in my other pursuits, regardless of how tough things get. My coming back to the game isn’t a product of failure, but rather an avenue to success, and it’s vital that I keep this idea first and foremost in my mind. Those countless pajama-clad hours I spent over the summer trying to get that (fucking) Tol’vir bug mount? I could’ve spent them chasing leads, securing interviews, or starting up that video series I was mulling over. The outright terror of attempting all those things can’t send me crawling back again, not this time.
I must approach the verdant fields of Pandaria with a righteous purpose: to capture the essence of the game in something understandable, be it the dissemination of knowledge or the entrapment of some illusive feeling that binds all of us players. Every single thing I do in the game needs to serve this noble goal, the pointless titles and mounts that used to dominate my dreams left to those still in the land of fantasy.
That’s my plan, to blow this thing wide open and finally make this god damn game pay me back for the eight years of my life that it has stolen from me.
That and I wouldn’t mind trying out monk healing. It seems pretty cool.