This weekend, we had one of the cornerstones of our guild abruptly quit playing World of Warcraft. This retirement was sudden and unexpected. He was one of our more prolific players with 3 level 70 characters and he was one of the best players on our server. He played all three of his characters at a high level, had a high knowledge of the game and was a great guy and influence on the guild. No real explanation was provided but it is presumable that something drastic took place in his life to warrant such a quick action. This brings up an interesting question for the masses:
How do you know when it's time to quit playing your MMO of choice?
This topic has been breached by most who write about MMOs but the obvious answer is the correct answer. It is the responsibility of any adult player to know when to move on.
The first skill necessary to balance real life and gaming is time management. Without time management, it is difficult to regulate game time and as a result, could infringe on real life obligations. This is a difficult task in respects to high level MMO play in that many guilds require attendance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing although it does put a minimum time expectation on anyone engaging in this content. One must ask themselves if their lives are able to balance the minimum raid requirements.
The second really isn't so much a skill but a realization. Players must realize when the game is no longer fun. I know people who played EQ long after the game held no real fun value for them and as a result, were miserable people playing a game. How utterly ridiculous! Why on Earth did they keep going? For some, it was a sense of obligation to the guild. For others, it was to maintain online friendships. For a select few, it was because they had nothing else to do. The purpose of all MMOs is to have fun. When the game no longer feels fun but feels more like an obligation, in my opinion, it's time to move on. Obligations are reserved for work, family and to one's self; not to an online game. If one holds a position of importance in a guild and burns out, then they need to take the steps necessary to fill the role and exit gracefully. Think of it as a smooth transition from one job to another. It fills the "obligation" to the guild while moving on with your time.
From a personal perspective, I try and play a little each night although there are days when I simply don't have the time to log in. I have a 7 1/2 month old daughter, a wife and two step children. This will often relegate playing the game difficult if not impossible. The key is that WoW is a great game but it's biggest downside is that it requires a fair time investment to progress. I know my life scenario doesn't lend itself to full time raid detail but it does allow me to play a few nights a week and I can still enjoy the game even if it means I don't get to raid Illidan. Sure, I'd enjoy the opportunity to take on some 25 man content but if this doesn't occur because I have things to do outside of WoW, then that is the sacrifice necessary. For the time being, I am enjoying the game. If there ever comes a time when I can't enjoy the game or circumstances don't allow me to enjoy the game, I'll move on. One can take a vested interest and do things right without losing touch of what is important.
I know I have written an entire article about this but it bears repeating; Once the WoW servers come down and no one plays, it doesn't really matter how much Black Temple loot has been accumulated or how much DPS can be achieved with a given spec. In essence, the games are fruitless for not the company kept during that tenure, regardless of how much time was invested. Once again, illustrating the point that the people you meet along the way are the only tangible "gain" you'll ever have the potential to keep in Virtual Worlds. The rest is binary code.
The bottom line is that MMOs are a game. And while they are fun and can be incredible time sinks, it is important to keep it in perspective. And despite what the media would like to portray with addiction allegations, it is all of our responsibility as adult gamers to set a limit or outright quit when necessary. While I am saddened by the departure of my guild mate, I hope he finds solace and success outside of World of Warcraft. I know that the guild of people he left behind will continue to keep in touch, long after World of Warcraft is no more.