World of Warcraft has been my main game for years. I first discovered Blizzard's MMO during Cataclysm in 2011, but I didn't play seriously or start raiding until 2012's Mists of Pandaria. I stayed through the big content drought at the end of 2014's Warlords of Draenor, got overexcited about the lore again in 2016's Legion, and somehow managed to remain hopeful that Sylvanas might not turn out to be the asshole she seemed to be in 2018's Battle for Azeroth.
But 2020's Shadowlands was the first expansion that I wasn't particularly excited about. And less than a year after its release, I stopped playing altogether.
I hadn't been happy with WoW for a while. Like many others, I wasn't excited for the covenant system and I wasn't invested in the Shadowlands storyline, especially Sylvanas' role. But WoW has always had its highs and lows, especially once the new expansion excitement wears off and you're waiting for the next patch to drop. It was the Shards of Domination system introduced with the first major update that really pushed me to ask why I was still playing. And of course, shortly after this, Activision-Blizzard's poor treatment of its staff, particularly women, was laid bare.
If Shadowlands hadn't been such a huge disappointment for me, unsubbing from World of Warcraft would have been a tough call. Should you unsub because of the loathing you feel for those responsible for the company's workplace culture, or keep playing and supporting the victims and everyday people working on the games? And then there's your own attachment to WoW to take into consideration. I chose to stop playing. And while the lawsuit certainly wasn't the main reason for that decision, it was ultimately the thing that pushed me to cancel my sub.
My initial plan was to head back to Final Fantasy 14—I adore Final Fantasy games, so theoretically it's the MMO I should be playing anyway. I'd played before for about eight months when A Realm Reborn was first released, so it wasn't my first trip to Eorzea.
Despite seeing FF14's success soar over the last six months, I didn't stay subbed for long. Starting with a fresh character seemed the best way to go, as it's been years since I got my original Bard to level 50 and I've forgotten most of the story. But the whole time I was levelling my shiny new Viera dragoon—I managed to get her to level 45 before I stopped—I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm to play. I had the most fun kitting her out in different glamours, but even that didn't hold my interest for long.
I dipped into Guild Wars 2 not long after that, mostly because Phil and Fraser often talk about it and it's not an MMO I've ever gotten around to playing. But while I kinda enjoyed it, nothing there excited me either. I had some hope that New World might be the game to replace WoW too for a while, but that just felt like a slog right from the get-go.
I've spent most of the latter half of 2021 drifting from one game to another. It's been four months now and I'm beginning to think that I'm looking for a game that doesn't exist. Maybe I can't get back that initial MMO excitement because most MMOs are essentially the same when you get right down to it. But they're also different enough from one another that the thought of having to learn all the systems in a new MMO feels more than a little overwhelming right now.
Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. I had a lot of fun replaying Final Fantasy 12 recently. And funnily enough, I did get that MMO level of excitement earlier this year—but it came from the Iron Gate's survival game, Valheim. I haven't been so excited to jump back into a game for years, and it even overshadowed WoW during February and March to the point where I was only logging in twice a week for raids.
It feels strange not logging into WoW every day, as it's has been part of my daily routine for years. It's seen me through some fairly major life changes, and I've met so many great people in the various guilds I've been part of.
If I ever return to WoW—and trust me, it is tempting—I doubt I'll go back to raiding. Maybe I'll pop back to finish grinding up my Steamweedle Cartel rep to exalted and finally get the Insane achievement. Or head to the Storm Peaks to start seriously camping the time-lost proto-drake mount, which I've been meaning to do for years.
For now, I'll watch with envy as pretty much everyone I know is playing and enjoying FF14. I know the queues for Endwalker have been bad, but I'd honestly love to be able to sit in a queue for a game that I can't wait to play. I miss the excitement of looking forward to finishing work or getting chores done early so I can spend the rest of the day (and night) lost in another world.
Maybe I'm just not ready for another MMO. WoW was such a big part of my life for so long, I'm not sure I've got it in me to commit that sort of time to anything else quite yet.