We’ve covered at length the fact that all is not well up at the Hardcore end of the World of Warcraft demographic, but have not yet considered the flipside of the playtime coin. For many casual players, this is the best Azeroth has ever been, and they’re having an incredible time playing a richly immersive and compelling storyline for the first time since Mists of Pandaria.
However, for some of us, there’s simply too much to do, and the choice has been stark: select what’s doable in your available time and ignore the rest, or else you’ll simply be overwhelmed with the depth of content on offer. It is to these people that we point our focus this week, for the minimalist concept, applied to Warcraft, is well worth both time and effort to both explain and dissect.
With more distraction than ever before, is it possible to even practice effective minimalism in Warcraft?
Less is Indeed More
Many of you will know minimalism as an art movement that began in post-World War II western art, but more recently it’s become a way of expressing disapproval of the rampant consumerism of the modern world: an intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. There are websites across the internet expounding the benefits, urging people to de-clutter and remove items of no real value and to promote the value of self above the material demonstrations of wealth and achievement.
It’s a lifestyle I very much ascribe to. I used to be a voracious collector in my youth but age and children has taken away the need to hoard and as I have become older, what matters most to me is rarely defined by ‘things.’
In World of Warcraft, there’s a phenomenal amount of ‘things’ to collect, complete and aspire to, and often scant significance is placed on rewards that don’t have an item level attached to them. That means for someone like me, paring back on the stuff I work to complete gives the ability to concentrate more on the joy and satisfaction gained from completing only a small portion of the complete product.
Again, in my past, I would have felt compelled to finish every quest or not leave an expansion’s content until I’d done all it all ‘at level.’ Since time is now a luxury I do not possess to be online more than a couple of nights a week, there are hard decisions to be made. It is entirely possible to still play, but without a focus on everything at once.
Pick Your Moments Carefully
If you want to play this way, there is some work needing to be done before you choose to begin. I’ve always enjoyed planning ahead and with a large number of alts to go through, that has in part been necessary even before I start factoring time into the equation.
Now, I’ve decided to utilize this technique to help try and get a number of my family to level 110 so I can complete the various profession quests. First up is my second string Hunter (Herbalism/Mining) who I’d ineffectively poked and managed to drag to 101 before giving up in despair.
This time I reduced the areas of potential stress before I began. No, I don’t need to grind AP in order to casually level an alt. I’m not going in dungeons (even if the profession quests ask for it) until I’m at max level and have done some World Questing. Nothing is more important than me enjoying what I’m doing, and if that changes then the answer is not just to slog through, but to stop and reassess what is being done.
More importantly, I undertook a massive clearance of my alt’s bank, threw away anything useless and sold everything else. I did it with vanity banks too, and in total over the last weekend made 30k gold.
The Key to Success is Honesty
For many years, I lied to myself about what this game really meant, and for at least the last couple of years I was a guild master there was little or no enjoyment gained from any part of the process.
Once I was able to extricate myself from that level of responsibility, a long period passed where nothing really made me happy, even though I’d state the opposite because it mattered more to me to be seen to be enjoying myself with other people than really uncovering my own desires and objectives. However, Warlords of Draenor reset a lot of thoughts and feelings for me and taught some valuable lessons on the merits of pinning all your hopes on things that are beyond your control.
Now Legion provides so much content I’m forced to pick and choose, and this doesn’t mean that it fails on any level, despite what haters might try and convince me of. Now I can be really honest and see everything for what it is, it becomes incredibly simple to isolate what matters and concentrate on those areas.
That means mounts and toy collecting when there’s a chance to, but focusing exclusively on the alts until 7.2 comes around. Once the new patch hits (and we’re getting pretty close on the PTR to that happening) I can then play my main character and an alt on differing nights until the latter is 110, then I’ll start on the next one.
Not Being Deflected is Important
Usually, once I’ve maxed an alt there’d be an immediate desire to gear them to a suitable standard before starting to level the next one, but this time around I am not particularly concerned with this happening via World Quests. In fact, what I’d like to do forms another part of my Minimalism goals: using my professions to create armor for everyone.
The whole point of having all these characters with appropriate skills should be to create useable gear for them, and now I have all the raw materials piling up to produce the items, the minimalist solution here shouldn’t be to spend lots of time with World Quests completing the task. I will make it myself, and gain satisfaction from the process.
This is what makes me more excited than anything else, that finally there are quests in-game that not only give my professions real purpose but also allow me to create completely viably geared alts simply using the stuff I collect for myself. In effect, it is the reason I began to play seriously back in Vanilla.
For a long time, I was self-sustaining via Leatherworking, the process of crafting gear more important than either raiding or dungeons. This now gives me the opportunity to make that history a new reality, and to move my collective family forwards in a direction that is entirely of my own manufacture, in more ways than one.
As more and more distractions vie for our time and effort, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed with the choices presented to us. One of the major criticisms of Legion from the more vocal objectors in my social media timelines is that there is too much work, that grinds are excessive and ultimately pointless.
The problem with that argument is simple: that’s what MMO’s have been about since Day One. The whole point to all of this is to keep you logged in and to push you to play whilst spending money. Blizzard’s entire modus operandi is to do just that; make a profit from people playing.
However, in amongst the cash and the incentives are a group of players that I like to champion wherever possible: it isn’t just people like me playing a stripped down version of the game that gets to be recognized as minimalism.
The Ironman players are a dedicated group who only use gray and white items to make their journeys, and if they die whilst out in the world it is very much Game Over and you start again from scratch. The Roleplayers have never needed that much to make existence their own and to live and breathe the true alternate realities in Azeroth as they see them. All these are riffs on the same minimalist song: play the game in a manner that focuses on the things that are most valued.
It is easy to be swayed and influenced by the push for glory, the lure of competitive play, and the desire to be better/best/the Best in your particular field. Except there comes a point where inevitably you will not be able to play the game in the manner that once was the norm. Whether it be because of a job, a baby, a marriage or even a new career, there are many ways that this game sometimes has to change to be accommodated in your own version of existence.
For many, this change can mean the end of your relationship, except with minimalism in Warcraft that doesn’t have to be the case. For me, I have a debt of gratitude to Broximar, my online friend, who first introduced the concept to me for decluttering my real life. I’ve taken the time to absorb the concepts and find a means by which I can use them to help improve various parts of my existence. I’m trying not to sound too evangelical right now, but the ideas have done wonders for me in what has been a difficult time with World of Warcraft.
This may be the best thing I’ve done with gaming for quite some time.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Legion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday