I started the guild Machiavellis Cat in late 2005. We began raiding in 2006, starting out in Zul’Gurub and moving on to Molten Core and a bit of Blackwing Lair. The guild gradually got more serious about raids, eventually moving into “hard modes” in Wrath of the Lich King and a bit of Cataclysm.
I stepped down as the guild leader and people manager in early 2011 and quit WoW completely (for a while.. you know) shortly after that. While it was just kind of my time, much of the reason I quit was the Icecrown Citadel doldrums at the end of Wrath. ICC, for those not in the know, was “current” content for a year. That’s a long time to be doing the same raid.
It wasn’t very surprising when people stopped showing up after six months of ICC. I would recruit more if for no better reason than a core of us wanted to finish hard modes, but after a while the drifters and quitters started to get to me. I took it personally, even though it wasn’t meant that way. Over time I started to get pretty bitter from logging on only to see yet again a raid of 21 people, a size that meant no progression could happen, and having to apologize for wasting their time or jolly them through old content.
(I should note that although the situation was pretty terrible for me, it’s not any individual player’s fault. People stop playing games, it’s okay.)
It’s only about six months ago that I fully embraced WoW again as my “main game”, and only in the last six weeks that I started organizing very casual flex raids on Saturdays. That is a break of almost three years. I am certainly no longer burned out on WoW or group content.
But the moment I got an inclination of expectations around these new flex runs — reasonable expectations like actually doing them or having fun during our scheduled time — all of the old anxiety came rushing back. My heart started beating a million times each second and my stomach flopped. I started to panic. “Maybe I just shouldn’t make events. Maybe I should stop wanting to try group content. No wait, I know, I’ll just change my name, disappear, and never log on WoW ever again!”
It’s been three years, and although time has rekindled my enjoyment of WoW apparently that enjoyment is contingent on me never again being responsible for anyone’s in-game happiness but my own.
It’s a testament to the power of MMOs — they can create friendships (and relationships in some cases) and opportunities for amazing positive memories. But on the flip side, all that emotional investment can also set up some easy triggers to make us anxious and terrible, and they will linger even years later.