Last night I got a call from one of my employees. "This may be the weirdest call you ever get from me but ... you gotta talk me out of buying Cataclysm. I know I shouldn't do it, but the ads are everywhere!"
He's a recovering guild leader who has rediscovered his love for guitar and making music since shutting down his Blizzard account. I think I managed to talk him off the ledge, but we'll see if he shows up for work on time over the next few weeks.
Like him, I find myself drawn back to the flame, but I don't view Blizzard's latest with the jaundiced eye of the former addict. It's more a heady mix of being a gaming hipster (it's too popular now, I liked it in beta) and having seen enough people burn out because they couldn't just be on friendly terms with MMORPGs. They either seemed head over heels in love with the games or completely enraged by them. At least, that's what I try to console myself with as I hear countless inside jokes from a weekly group of friends that enjoy a lot of laughs every Monday as they assault dungeons together. Those bastards found a balance with WoW that I don't think I've ever trusted myself to find.
Like a hammer, video games are neutral tool right until you wrap your hand around the handle. After that, you're either hanging pictures or busting holes in the dry wall. Or clubbing yourself in the head. My relationship with WoW and games like it has always been soured by avoiding a lot of the best parts for fear of letting it take up too much of my time. Even a regular poker night takes planning and execution to get to the fun stuff. Resisting those time sucking elements of putting it all together saddles the genre with having to deliver a really fun gameplay experience without all the social trimmings that most of it is designed toward encouraging. It doesn't just kill my WoW experience, it practically destroys the whole genre before it even has a chance.
Sean Sands has been telling me for months now that Cataclysm fixes a lot of those time sucking issues and gets you into the good stuff faster. There's more gameplay variety too, so even if the party dynamics demand more time than I might be able to give, there should still be something worth the $40 to look forward to.
The same could have been said about the Lich King expansion to some degree -- so why buy Cataclysm now? I miss my friends, mostly. We podcast and chat and do all those good things, but we don't have time to play much like we used to. I can either stand on the sidelines and jeer at them or I can suit up and collect some crab meat. It may only get me through the winter draught until the new year, but that's probably better than standing out in the cold, peeking through the window.