Last week I commemorated EA winning its second Golden Poo award by downloading a copy of Mass Effect and installing it. Well, it’s been less than a week and I’ve finished my first run-through, which took just a bit over 18 hours to accomplish. It also left me thinking that perhaps I need to get out a bit more.
Being truly dedicated to interactive entertainment can all-too easily lead you down the path away from hobby and diversion and right into the depths of treating it like the worst part-time job imaginable. Stat-progression games are the worst, as he time sink of grinding experience to reach the next level or to unlock the next handful of character progression points can act as the kind of motivator that keeps you up until 4 in the morning sometimes. Lucky for me I don’t have to worry about having to report to any office or place of work at 9 AM five days a week, as the work schedule of a freelancer is equivalent to a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, but the raw truth is that getting a good night’s sleep has always been something I’ve sacrificed when it’s come to going on gaming binges; back when I was doing the whole nine-to-five thing I would routinely get by on too little sleep and too much coffee, all because I was hunting down the next achievement or pushing hard for the next level the night before.
As bad as Mass Effect can be in that department – all those planets to explore! – nothing was worse for my strange brand of video game OCD than World of Warcraft. The amount of soul-sucking content that game has is absolutely mind-boggling. From a marketing standpoint it’s brilliant: WoW is a subscription-based game, which means the key to its longevity is creating enough content that takes consistent long-term play over weeks, months, or even years in order to leverage its user base and turn a profit. At the same time it’s like being inside a casino: you can’t remember how long you’ve been inside, all your money is gone, and you’re most likely drunk.
You’d think that when my mind turns to the years I spent playing that game I would become resentful, bitter, and angry at myself about wasting so much time and money. However, you couldn’t be farther from the truth; while I’ve certainly outgrown WoW as a form of entertainment I will always look back on my time in Azeroth with the warmest of memories. May of the friends I’ve made online are still a part of my life today, and even though most of them have moved on from the game just as I have, the wonders of the internet keep us all in touch. On top of that, I happened to meet the very pregnant woman currently snoring on the couch behind me on WoW, and I look forward to boring our daughter with epic tales of how her mother and I ended up getting into all sorts of trouble online for years.