Embracing the Casual Life

In spite of the title of this blog, I think some small part of me has long resisted applying the term “casual” to my own gaming activities. Any time I logged into the game, I felt like I needed to be doing something productive – leveling a new class, grinding achievements or mounts, working on reputations and gear and goodness knows what else. The result, I think, was that although I’m now playing with a casual’s time commitment, I was still prioritizing like a hardcore.

I think I’ve finally managed to overcome that mindset.

There is such a thing as a casual hardcore. People who optimize every second they can spend online to get the most out of their end-game content. I could probably do that, but I’d rather sit around and roleplay. It’s been incredibly liberating to let go of all of the things I felt like I had to do. Once in awhile, a friend will extend an invitation to their raiding guild. “If not for this group of people,” they’ll say, “I don’t think I’d be raiding either.” And I want to be clear here – I have absolutely nothing against whatever raid group that invite is for. I have no bones to pick with raiders of any kind, really. I appreciate that there are people out there who can dedicate the time and effort to dive into finely-tuned boss fights and emerge victorious. I am not one of those people anymore.

Are there days I miss raiding? Absolutely. When I look at my meager pile of gold and realize that I’m on the verge of bankrupting myself in-game to get a Grove Warden carry – something that, if this were Wrath of the Lich King or Cataclysm, I and my guild would have already earned – I do miss having a dedicated group. Part of that, though, is missing the dynamic of that group. And if I stop long enough to think about those people, I doubt I would derive the same enjoyment from raiding with them today as I did then. I let a lot of things slide then because I didn’t have the backbone to stick up for myself online. I don’t think I could go back to being a doormat just to experience raiding content.

And so I play the auction house (again, casually), and save up for the mount runs I don’t want to miss out on. I hop into LFR if I’m feeling up to it, or do a few timewalking dungeons here and there. But the true joy of World of Warcraft, for me, is in the people you play with and the experiences you have with them. Just before my girlfriend re-subbed to WoW, we were talking about why she had quit playing in the first place. It essentially boiled down to this – World of Warcraft is not meant to be a single-player game. Sure, there are plenty of mechanics in place these days to enable solo leveling and play. RDF, LFR, Group Finder, the love-them-or-hate-them garrisons. But these are all secondary. An MMORPG is only as good as the people you play with. It seems to me that people who get nostalgic about certain periods in WoW’s history are probably remembering fond times with the people around them, not so much the content or the mechanics of the game.

If you want a single-player game experience worth $15/month, World of Warcraft is not the game for you. If you’ve got a group of good people to play with, to experience the content at whatever level you’re comfortable with (casual, hardcore, roleplayer, pet battler, achievement hunter, whatever your flavor of play), you’ll have a lovely time.

At the end of the day, that’s what keeps this casual playing. The people. The players. The stories. The experience.

All of that for $15/month? Sign me up.

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