The End of an Experiment

I played World of Warcraft for 20 days.

WoW Screenshot

During this time, I spent logged into the game a total of 6 days and 9 hours (plus 1 minute and 7 seconds, if you look closely at the yellow text on the screenshot), which averages to 7.65 hours per day. This is 27.5% higher than my estimate of 6 hours per day that I made on the previous post! Percentage-wise, I spent 31.9% of my real time logged into WoW. In other words, I spent significantly more time on WoW than on sleep.

In these 20 days I leveled from 1 to 70, for an average of 3.5 levels per day. I was a human mage, for those of you interested.

I completed 538 quests, earned 3097 gold (plus 17 silver and 9 copper), landed 17,352 kills, and dealt 30,163,105 damage.

Wow Time Graph Revised

In this time I averaged approximately 5 hours of sleep a night (estimated), pulled two all-nighters (I had never done even one all-nighter before), and took way more naps than I normally do. While I didn’t miss any classes or homework, I did wake up past noon twice (on weekends). But let me emphasize this point: I kept up with school.

Not only was my sleeping schedule messed up, but so was my dining schedule. In these 20 days, I changed from a person who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner quite regularly to someone who eats almost randomly one to three times a day, and not at set times. For example, as I mentioned last post, I ate only two meals total in three consecutive days. (While last post I considered this to be an experiment on its own, I now consider it a result of the WoW experiment.)

Being in a somewhat scientific mood, I asked myself the following question and came up with four answers:

So Why is WoW So Addicting?

  • Customization
  • Progress
  • Optimization
  • Nature


Customization is pretty self-explanatory—you have so many options, not just in the beginning, but at any point of the game. Even before you start, you have the objective of selecting two important features of your character: race and class. At the moment there are 10 races, with five on the Alliance (Humans, Dwarfs, Gnomes, Night Elves, Draenei) and five on the Horde (Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, Undead, Blood Elves). There are also 10 classes, and this choice will have a huge impact on your gameplay. Now, not each race and class combination is available, but there are still a great number of options available even before you start the game. Oh, and within each race, you can customize your appearance.

Once you’re in the game, you can basically choose whatever you want to do. You can complete quests (they’re entirely optional), kill monsters, train professions, explore, or just chat. World of Warcraft is the start of super-interactive virtual reality.

As you gain levels, you choose different items to use. You’ll decide what stat to focus on. At level 10 you specialize into one of three talent trees (there are three unique trees for each class), giving you even more flexibility. Within each talent tree, you’ll make decisions on which talents to learn. And later on, you’ll be able to switch between two different talent trees.

You can choose two primary professions out of a total of 11. They range from Mining to Enchanting, Jewelcrafting to Tailoring, and more.

As you discover the world, you decide which quests you do, which monsters to kill, which areas to explore. You decide what you set as your home. You can visit different capital cities. You can choose to clear dungeons, or fight other players in battlegrounds.

You can trade items, put items up at the Auction House and bid on items there, and how much gold you want from (or for) them.

You start out walking and running, but at higher levels, you can ride a mount, which makes your travels much shorter. In some places, given the right requirements, you can explore the world from the air and travel even more rapidly with a flying mount.

You can fight solo or with a party. Within a fight, you have a wide selection of abilities and spells to choose from. You can play offensively or defensively, or choose not to directly fight at all.

All these customization options give you a vast amount of things to choose from. Because of this, the game really never becomes boring. There is so much content that to explore every secret of the world, every combination of races, classes, and professions, and every style of play, would require infinite time.


When you play this game, almost no matter what you do, you feel as if you are advancing in something. The basic form of progress is leveling, in which you become stronger by having your stats increased, and by which you unlock different gameplay mechanics. In the beginning, your options are relatively limited (though still huge). As you level, you gain new skills, spells, gold, and other abilities. Your ability to kill monsters, complete quests, and even travel around the world increases.

Exploring the world really feels like progress. At first, the map is mostly blank, giving you only an outline of the world. As you travel around, landmarks and regions start appearing on your map.

WoW Screenshot 4

Completing quests for different factions increases your Reputation with that faction. As your reputation increases, you gain ranks and receive bonuses when dealing with that faction.

At certain levels there are new things you can do. You can unlock the talent panel, the dungeon finder, mounts, as well as the continents of Outland and Northrend.

And then there are Achievements. Doing certain things will earn you Achievements, which increase the number of Achievement points you own. This is addicting as it gives you an incentive to do something that would have otherwise no gameplay value. You are doing it just for the achievement.


When you hit the max level, or are in any fixed situation, you will still want to improve. You do this by optimizing everything. If there’s an item you have that adds 50 armor, and there’s another that is otherwise identical but with 55 armor, you will feel very strongly compelled to obtain the more powerful one. You’ll hunger for the sword that gives 200 damage over the one you have that gives 185.

Within a battle you’ll want to optimize the amount of damage you are doing, to try to finish the battle as quickly as possible. You’ll figure out the optimal order in which you use your abilities, the optimal equipment for doing so, the optimal setup, the optimal environment, etc. You’ll want to be the most efficient.

Even in travel, you’ll want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. You’ll find the optimal route, and you’ll use the fastest mount you can. If you have 5 quests to complete in 5 different locations, you’ll figure out the optimal order in which to complete them as to minimize the traveling time.

You can never be the best. You can always be better.


Of the four reasons I list, this one is the most separate. Largely, WoW is a move away from modernity and towards the old, if not ancient, past. Besides the Dwarf and Gnome engineering projects, which are more funny than representative of technology, the game is almost completely at peace with nature. The Night Elves especially represent a love towards nature, and they guard it with utmost respect.

It happens to match the environmentalist movement happening right now. There are quest lines aimed at stopping a deforestation (of Ashenvale Forest). In The Burning Crusade, the Fel Reaver is a colossal enemy war machine portrayed as highly destructive. In general, many enemies are associated with trying to destroy the environment, and this is an idea that definitely rings in our current society.

World of Warcraft’s scenery in some zones can be very beautiful, and they show a pristine nature that we cannot easily visit in our own world. Therefore, playing WoW is like visiting with nature. Just google wow screenshots and look at the ones that are outside. Some of those areas make you feel that the game world is so close to nature that it is more real than our own. Hence we don’t want to leave it.

Just as WoW is a throwback to nature, it is also a throwback to mythology and the belief in magic. Azeroth is a world of imagination that can seem more convincing than our Earth, and far more mystical.

WoW Screenshot 2

If what we are looking at is a representation of a more primitive way of life, it is no wonder than World of Warcraft is so successful. Even the interface looks ancient: for reading, it is often scrolls and parchment. Even the professions, such as fishing, cooking, and herb gathering, are a nostalgia for an earlier time.


  1. World of Warcraft is a great and successful game, but it is also terribly addicting. It will drain hours per day and affect schedules.
  2. It is addicting because it allows us to not only play a game, but also to experience and live in a new world. This world allows us to connect with nature, or at least, what we perceive to be nature.
  3. In the future, what will dominate virtual reality might not be a virtual reality of the real world, but instead, a virtual representation of an older, more forgotten world, with ties to our ancient past, its history and its traditions.

I thought it was a fun 20 days, but I must tell myself to stop the experiment now, while I still can.

Finally, for a parting to WoW, I created this Halloween screenshot. Enjoy!

WoW Screenshot 3

This experiment, needless to say, has had some major effects on me. I will be trying to get back to normal schedule the next few days. So while I am not going to conduct another experiment like this for some time, I am opening this up to the public as to what my next experiment should be. I’d rather it not be playing another video game. Also, I will not consider anything with drugs or alcohol, etc. If the idea is feasible, and has some worth to it, I’ll consider it.

13 thoughts on “The End of an Experiment

  1. Very interesting read, Sean. I’m glad you can choose to stop playing. I used to play but thankfully I did quit – It really is addicting for all the reasons you listed and maybe more.


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