Every World of Warcraft player has a different long-term goal. Some just want to play enough to see where the story goes, while others strive to be an unkillable PVP god or top-tier dungeon runner. Me? I dreamed of obtaining the Warglaives of Azzinoth, the iconic blades wielded by Illidan Stormrage - a major figure in Warcraft lore and the final boss of the Black Temple Raid. Just one problem: I had to deal with Illidan himself and have a helping heap of good old-fashioned luck on my side to get them.
It took more than ten years, but I finally have them. And now I'm lost.
A decade of grinding
Loot works differently now, but WoW's former standards should be familiar to anyone who's played an MMO (or Destiny) over the past decade or so. But, just in case you need a refresher, here's how it works: Ideally, ten or more players enter a Raid, fight the bosses, and roll a virtual dice assigned to Need or Greed for the loot that drops. If the item in question is an upgrade from your current gear, roll Need. If you just want it to sell or add to your collection, roll Greed. Although some have argued in the past that if you like it then you shoulda rolled Need on it.
Basically, what this means is that even if you're lucky enough to witness a rare drop, you might not get it if someone beats your rolls. And that's what happened to me every time I played through Black Temple; either the Warglaives wouldn't drop or, if they did, went to someone else. Combined with a weekly lockout system (which meant you could essentially only roll for loot once per week) this meant that even though each Warglaive had a 5% chance to drop per kill, it was impossible to effectively grind for them.
The key word there? "Effectively". Keep in mind this was back in the days before players could simply search for a pick-up group in-game, and before sites like Reddit became ubiquitous. So I was spending hours trying to assemble a Raid or get into one, and hours more fighting my way through the Raid itself (which would more often result in failure than success, and could take multiple days to complete). All for naught.
Once the new expansion, Wrath of the Lich King was out, nobody wanted to run Black Temple anymore. The gear simply wasn't worth the hassle. It wouldn't be until late into the Cataclysm expansion, when Blizzard introduced Transmogrification - which let players keep the stats of one item while making it look like another - that it became worthwhile to run old content again. Even so, finding a group that would rather run legacy content instead of the new hotness was challenging. And, on the rare few times I did, I was met with the same bad luck as before.
Next was Mists of Pandaria and, following that, Warlords of Draenor. At this point my character was powerful enough I could run Black Temple by myself, but I was also older, with more responsibilities, a job, and relationships to maintain. Plus, I'm gonna be honest: I didn't really like either of those expansions, so I stopped subscribing within a few months each time. *shrug* Whattaya gonna do?
Finally there was Legion. 2016's expansion brought me back to WoW with a smile permanently plastered on my face. I loved the new Demon Hunter class, I was excited by the story, and (for the most part) enjoyed the gameplay changes Blizzard had made to classes. Finally, it felt like the stars had aligned. I was strong enough to solo Black Temple, my life had started to settle down so I could dedicate time to the game, and I liked playing.
Every Tuesday night once the servers had been reset and my weekly lockout was up, I would run Black Temple by myself. I was going to get those Warglaives. Week after week went by with no such luck. And then finally, June 2018, more than a year after Legion launched, it happened: the first glaive dropped. I feared it would be years before I got the other, but that too popped up just a few weeks later. I was ecstatic.
Let me amend that statement. I was ecstatic... until I wasn't. Oh sure, you better believe I screencapped my achievement and sent a Snapchat to any friends who would understand or care. And for roughly an hour, I paraded about town to show off my accomplishment, or wielded the blades in battle as I cleared out quests from my journal. They were everything I could have hoped they would be.
But too soon, as quickly as the sense of joy and accomplishment had come, the feeling was gone. I was left wondering, "What do I do now?"
There's a danger to chasing after a singular goal for too long. If that becomes your sole focus, your mindset can shift from enjoyment to attainment. You can lose sight of all the other things a game has to offer and, once you've accomplished your ultimate desire, become lost and aimless.
Maybe you keep hoping for a certain skin to drop in Overwatch or League of Legends. Maybe you want to 100% clear a Dark Souls game, or collect all 999 Power Moons in Super Mario Odyssey. Maybe you want to open every chest and gather every artifact in an Assassin's Creed game (I'm sure that appeals to someone, right?). But what happens when you actually grab hold of those dreams?
I realize now that the Warglaives of Azzinoth weren't my only obsession over my years playing games. There were plenty of times I cheated or took shortcuts just so I could add another Achievement to my Xbox profile or Trophy to my PlayStation ID. Wrap a rubber band around the left thumbstick so my Skyrim character would crouch into a corner and easily level up my Sneaking? Did that. Jumping the Rainbow Road bridge in Mario Kart 64? Oh yeah. I even partook in Destiny's infamous loot cave before it was patched out.
Too often, we treat games like chores or a checklist. I'm clearly guilty of that, but you don't have to be. Next time you find yourself obsessing over that rare piece of loot, that legendary skin, or that trophy you'll get from collecting All The Things, step back and ask yourself if you're still having fun.
If the answer is no, step back and try a new game, or explore your current game in a new way. Play a new class, make different moral choices, try a new loadout. The journey is almost always going to be a better reward than the destination (even when said destination is a pair of sweet-looking glaives).