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.
Rather than grabbing a beer down the street with the guys, he’ll opt to meet up with a friend online and head to the Stonefire Tavern for a cyber-brew and a quick chat with his fellow Paladins. And he’d choose a stroll through Warcraft’s Terokkar Forest over a hike in the White Mountains any day. He even went so far as to ask me to sit with him and watch the “moon over the water” on his monitor. It’s sweet that he wants to include me, but he couldn’t understand why I suggested it might be nicer to look at the real moon outside.
“But this moon is full. The one outside is barely a sliver!” he implored. Point taken.
He spends so much time online, I wonder sometimes if he is cheating on me with the village wench. I see her sashaying around the square in her corset and billowing cleavage, enticing men with her frothing mugs of ale. Do I need to get myself a character and kick her cartoon ass?
Under its spell
Clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School Dr. Maressa Orzack has been quoted as saying that she believes at least 40 percent of Warcraft players are addicted to the game. Orzack has even gone so far as to say that Warcraft, and games like it, should carry labels similar to those on cigarettes, warning of their potential harm to users.
Warcraft’s lure is so potent that it has earned the nickname “War-crack,” and Orzack has said that these games can pose a serious threat to a player’s professional life and personal relationships. All I know is that my boyfriend gets more satisfaction out of being dubbed a “master blacksmith” than he ever got from any real-work accolades, and he seems to bound into bed with adolescent vigor after a particularly bloody raid.
I want my old boyfriend back, but I have no one to blame for losing him but myself. One of my oldest and dearest friends turned him on to the game — and I introduced them. My friend’s wife goes through the same turmoil I do. We listen to plans for upcoming quests over dinner dates as we try to psychically plot a take-back of our men. I dream of kidnapping the two of them and forcing them on a weeklong golf and fishing trip with the guys. No wives or girlfriends — and no video games — just fresh air, exercise, and real human interaction.
But my boyfriend insists that I have the better of the two worlds. He tells me that being a golf widow would be much worse, and that if I tried Warcraft I’d like it. He even muses that it could be something we’d do together. It would be, he says, a bonding experience.
Sorry honey. It’s sweet that you think this could be a way for us to share some quality time, but I think this might just have to be a case of “you do your thing and I’ll do mine.”
Janelle Randazza is an elfin princess who lives on the distant shores of Gloucester, where she works as scribe and oracle for a number of area publications. She can be reached at