On being a widow of World of Warcraft

How one woman lost her boyfriend to blood elves and orcs
By JANELLE RANDAZZA  |  February 7, 2007


There has to be some sort of support group for this. I am a woman scorned — not for the love of another woman but for the love of Warcraft. The World of Warcraft, also known as WoW to its denizens, is the medieval-themed, multi-player, online role-playing game that picked up where Dungeons & Dragons left off, imprisoning the minds of more than eight million players and siphoning them from the arms of their loved ones.

I know. My boyfriend has been playing the thing night and day for more than a year now.

WoW is more than just a game: it’s an all-consuming mania that starts as a lark and turns into an addiction, as evidenced by the thousands of online message-board postings from wives, husbands, parents, and friends who have been abandoned for late-night “guild meetings” and all-night point-accumulating “quests.” And after last month’s release of the game’s much-anticipated expansion, fervent gamers have more dungeons to raid, lands to quest in, and mobs to slay, making the future pretty bleak for significant others.

It’s not that I mind that my boyfriend never comes to bed before 3 am anymore, that he’s stopped calling back most of his friends, or that we can barely have a conversation without him bringing up the cool new Blood Elf he met during last night’s “burning crusade.” I really don’t mind that stuff, not much anyway.

I fall asleep better on my own, and he always comes to bed eventually, waking me with a kiss on the forehead every night. He’s meeting interesting people, I suppose, and I equate the glimmer in his eyes when he tells me about his character’s new plated armor to the one I get when I show him the sweater I scored at Filene’s Basement. He doesn’t glaze over when I tell him about my bargain shopping; he at least deserves some feigned enthusiasm for swiping a spear and magic helmet off a dead troll.

The problem isn’t the game itself; it’s that I feel I’ve been had.

Virtual trumps reality
This is a guy who used to navigate through conversations with enviable skill. He could talk about anything from woodworking to Lead Belly, to fine art, to surfcasting. He was dynamic and indefinable. He was a poet in a Red Sox cap. He could change a tire while eulogizing the merits of Riojan reds. He was the last guy you would expect to lose his soul to a video game. He seemed so strong, so vital, so immune.

Now I look at a shell of the guy I fell in love with and see a drone in his place. Sometimes it’s like a parasite has sucked the life out of him and inhabited his frenzied mouse-finger. Warcraft has become more than a quirky pastime; it’s grown into a complete lifestyle.

For months I’ve been strategically leaving out books and articles that I hope will distract him for a night and break the Warcraft spell, but he prefers to devour the contents of his Warcraft Atlas and Encyclopedia instead, memorizing every map and battle cry.

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