Four and a Half Years

Four and a half years ago I downloaded the World of Warcraft free trial and entered the realm of massively multiplayer online role playing games for the first time. “Don’t worry,” I told my wife, “I just want to see what it’s like. I won’t get addicted or anything.” Addiction is perhaps too strong a word to describe my relationship to MMOs and gaming in general but during these last four and a half years, “unhealthy obsession” would probably be a fair assessment. However after four and a half years of nearly uninterrupted nightly gaming sessions of 2-5 hours each I’m taking a break from video games for a few months and getting my priorities back in order.

While I’m sure it may come as a surprise for many of you, I’ve danced around this decision for a long time now. For many years I’ve prioritized this hobby in such a way that other aspects of my life— my role as a husband, a father, a church member, my vocation, my personal health, etc.— have been subservient to my obsession with MMOs. I’ve been the equivalent of a functioning alcoholic; mindful enough of my responsibilities not to completely neglect them, but so wrapped up in my video games and so protective of my time playing them that these other areas of my life have grossly atrophied.

For too long I’ve justified this behavior, but the reality is I’m not giving my wife and children the attention they deserve. I’m not focusing my resources, time, creativity, and affection on them the way I ought to; how could I? I’ve put my best into MMOs and the surrounding culture and reserved for my family whatever was left.

My relationship with Jesus Christ has also suffered as I’ve worshiped at the alter of my Steam account rather than at the foot of the cross. This more than anything else has crippled me spiritually, mentally, and socially. I’ve also let opportunity for professional growth slip by, let projects around my home go unfinished, and struggled to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle because all of these things have been slotted into my life with the assumption that 9pm -12am every night was off limits for anything but MMOs. And that doesn’t take into consideration the time I spent reading and thinking about the genre.

I want to be clear about something though, I still do not ascribe to the myth that video games are inherently addictive and wrong to enjoy. I believe they can fuel addictive behavior and be the source of its obsession but that makes video games no more responsible for destructive behavior than the a flame ignited by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can be held accountable for burning down a house. I had an obsessive personality before I discovered MMOs, and I will continue to have one long after I’ve moved on.

The obvious implication here is that I will not be playing any MMOs for the next few months so that I can have the hard reset I need to get my priorities right. However I know myself well enough by now that I will also need to remove every other tangental source of gaming that I’ve insulated myself with over the years. I love reading so many of your blogs but for now I’ve removed feedly completely from my phone. MassivelyOP and BioBreak, which have been a staple of mine for years and were my earliest introductions to writing within the genre have been removed from my bookmarks. My own blog will be going dark indefinitely and I am going to take at least a couple weeks away from Twitter as well until I get use to the changes.

As difficult as this decision was to make and as sad as I am to be losing even temporarily my community, my blog, and the many MMO characters and worlds that have endeared themselves to me, I feel a relief that I haven’t felt in years. It’s as though a burden has been lifted and I have a freedom to move and grow again in ways that have been stifled for a long time.

I plan on spending a few weeks journaling privately about where I’d like to see change in my life, what kind, and how I’d like to implement it. Of first importance will be sleep, followed by a return to consistent prayer and Bible study. I also have plans for being more engaged with my children’s home schooling, an opportunity to take a volunteer leadership role at my church, an anniversary trip to plan for my wife and I, and a paradigm shift to flesh out on how I want to lead my team better at work.

This sense of freedom and relief has been the strongest evidence for me indicating how desperately I needed this change. Once I feel rooted in new habits and new priorities, I’ll reconsider the role MMOs should play in my life (if any) as well as this blog. Thank you all for your friendship, your encouragement, your banter, and your support of Waiting For Rez. Things will be quiet here on my front for a while, but you’ll hear from me again before long.

Please look forward to it.


Puzzle Maps in Tree of Savior

As you might expect, most maps in Tree of Savior have NPCs that offer quests, and while some of these characters are off the beaten path or aren’t immediately recognizable as initiating a quest chain, it’s still a pretty standard affair. However a few maps are different, ones I like to refer to as puzzle maps. What is a puzzle map? They are maps with objects you can interact with, some of which will initiate a quest while others if manipulated correctly will unlock an additional boss or area of the map. I’ve passed through a handful of these puzzle maps without trying to sort out what secrets they concealed but recently I found one that I was able to work my way through. Well, I was almost able to work my way through in its entirety; there were a few mysteries I had to leave unsolved.  


The region was called Galeed Plateau and it was a map covered in pillars, some of which would begin a quest while others gave me an object to collect. Still more of these pillars provided cryptically assigned numbers to the goddesses, humans, and demons. The latter turned out to be a part of another quest I ran into later in my exploration of the map, in which I had to type in chat the number sequence provided by those three pillars while standing in front of another pillar on the opposite side of the zone. However since I could change the number assignment (so that the first was 3 instead of 2 or the second 2 instead of 1) even a second play through would require that I pay attention to what the pillars actually say.


Toward the very end of Galeed Plateau I found another pillar that I was certain had not been there before. It initiated a quest that had me collect glowing moss but when I came back, the pillar was gone. I’m not sure if this is a bug or intended but given the nature of these types of maps, it’s very possible it is the latter and the quest is on some kind of timer. Regardless, this map and all the quests that can be discovered if you simply spend some time walking around and interacting with things illustrate how important exploration is in Tree of Savior. No, it’s not a big open world like Black Desert, but it does have mysteries to solve and hidden treasures to discover and I like the incentive that provides to simply roam around and check out every nook and cranny.


The End of an Age (of Wushu)

I wish I had been able to experience Age of Wushu when it initially launched. So much of what has been missing from my experience would be alleviated by the presence of other players yet I’ve seen only one, and that in Shaolin, the entire time I’ve been playing. I really enjoy the setting, the world building, and the clunky yet strategic combat system but for a sandbox world intended to be played with others, the loneliness is palpable.

Perhaps there were others online, but they were all on some end game continent that I would eventually reach in a few months, but with the way Age of Wushu plays, I desperately needed other players right away. Or perhaps if I had found a player run stall or marketplace where I could have purchased some of the items I needed, I would have been able to manage, however if such stalls were available I was unable to identify them and the only marketplace UI I found appeared to have nothing in it.


Maybe I’m just missing something all together, something that would readily be fixed with a little research but to what end? Ultimately that’s what lead me to the decision to pass on Age of Wushu and give Black Desert another try, the realization that I was fighting an uphill battle with a game that apparently did not want me to play it for an experience I could have been getting elsewhere and easier. Yes, that’s right. Age of Wushu makes Black Desert’s systems appear simple and user friendly by comparison.

So what lead to this realization? A few things really but it all began with bag space. After the 48 hour waiting period my Shaolin character was finally deleted and I was able to start over as a Tangmen. With the offline cultivation from the Jianghu VIP service I was able to elevate my inner skills to 10 which along the way opened up my school storyline. This meant that I was not left feeling quite as directionless as I had been before.

At this point I was having a good time with the game despite feeling the limitations from an 18 slot item bag. I had learned from my first play through not to open any of the bags of goodies I received for leveling or being a new player because they quickly crowded my inventory space. Better to hold onto them until later when additional bags become available and my inventory was expanded. I even checked the cash shop for bags and they were available— $12 for 36 additional slots in all four tabs— but the price was for a 30 day rental of said bags so that was not an option.


A little research and I realized I could either make them as a tailor or buy them from another player. With no other players in sight I went to town to learn to make my own. Here in lies another problem though. I also needed to be able to cook my own food to keep my nutrition levels up and already had the skill but I was not able to learn both cooking and tailoring. What’s more, my cooking profession and the farming skill required to harvest cooking materials plus the quest rewards I was receiving created a never ending mini game of “what else can I discard.”

Suffice it to say, the combination of having to be self reliant in a game built around cooperation and the lack of sufficient storage lead me to the realization that despite my interest in Age of Wushu, the end result was not going to be worth the struggle, not on an apparently dead server anyway. And with Snail Games tying the Jianghu VIP service to the server and not the account, switching to see if another server was more populated was not an option. I would have even considered buying the baggage space were it permanent at that price but not as a rental.


Instead, I decided to cut my losses and give Black Desert another try. They’re vastly different and as I said I would have liked to have been apart of Age of Wushu when it first began. So much of what I experienced would have been different when other players were prevalent and trading, guilding, and mutual protection was readily available. I will miss Grandma Tang and seeing the beggars and street sweepers in town, and I’ll have to go elsewhere if I want to kidnap another player whilst they’re offline, but otherwise Age of Wushu simply made it too difficult for me to get into the game. From the limited baggage space, the lack of other players, and a subscription style service tied to a specific server, the effort wasn’t going to be worth the reward. And that’s unfortunate, because underneath it all Age of Wushu appears to be an MMO that I would really like have liked to explore.