I’m retiring from World of Warcraft.

(It’s not just because of the issues brought to light by Rob Pardo’s recent interview and comments, although that’s part of it.)

Mostly, I realized this week that a lot of why I was playing WOW was nostalgia. I first started playing in February 2005, when my friend fade brought me a copy from her store in California (back then, Blizzard hadn’t predicted how massively popular WOW would be, and it was incredibly difficult to find for a few months). I even remember what got me to try it: her description of the harvest golems in Westfall. Thottbot had screenshots, but she told me I really had to see them in action and hear the sound effects. So I threw down the $64.19 (sales tax!) and bought a copy, and I was hooked.

My first character was a human warrior named Corver. He made it to level 15 before I rolled an alt. As far as I know he still exists; he started on Lightbringer, but between server splits and migrations I have no idea where he is now.

My first character to reach the massive wealth level of 1 gold was Lishan, a night elf hunter. She was also my first character to level 20.

The first character I really took seriously was an undead priest named Stazane. I leveled her as Shadow, and made it to Arathi Highlands before meeting some friends at college (the second time – long story) and creating a character on their (PVP) server.

That character – a Tauren hunter named Takareg – was my first character to reach level 60, a little while after Burning Crusade launched. I busted my ass to get him to level 60 so that I could join a Molten Core run my friends were putting together.

Takareg is currently level 65, and sitting in Zangarmarsh with his pet gorilla. He likes it there, I think.

Soon after that, the guild fell apart, and I joined another group of friends on a different PVP server (they wanted to play Alliance characters, and back then you had to pick a faction and stick with it on PVP servers). I’d created Theande, a Draenei priest, on Burning Crusade’s launch day, and she became my main. (Looking back, I wonder what I was thinking, maining a priest on a PVP server.)

Theande was my first character to reach the level cap, and the first character I raided with. I spent hours grinding battlegrounds to get an epic mace, which helped me get into heroic dungeons and thereby into raids. When I fell out with that group of friends, I stuck with Theande, transferring her to a PVE server and joining a raiding guild there. (In fact, Theande has been through two server transfers, ending up on the role-playing server Moon Guard.)

Theande was my first character to 70, to 80, to 85, and to 90. She’s not my only level-capped character; I’ve brought one death knight, Sisuphe, to 80 during Wrath; a different one, Ixtamna, to 85 during Cataclysm, along with Rusted, a goblin shaman and my first Horde level-capped character; and a paladin, Rolastra, to 90 just a week or so ago.

All of my characters have stories and meaningful names (part of why I ended up on an RP server). Tiryns, my faithful rogue (now level 70!), is named after an ancient Greek city, and lost her father when he was corrupted by the Nightmare. Ixtamna, named for an Aztec god, was a druid before the Scourge killed her, and still prefers to dress in leather when she can. (She misses being able to heal.) Rusted Screwloose, the goblin shaman, should have been Trade Princess and won’t let anyone forget it.

I put so much meaning into WOW that it seems almost like losing a chunk of myself to walk away from it.

But ultimately, WOW isn’t the game I got excited about when I was 25 – and even if I could turn it back into that game, it wouldn’t make me 25 again. I know all of these characters, and I don’t need to keep grinding away levels in order to keep them close. I can continue to write their stories if I want to – or just revisit them now and then as old friends.

For now, Rolastra’s training with the Shado-Pan to prepare for the next big threat to the world. Tiryns is camped out at Stars’ Rest, keeping an eye on the dragonflights. Rusted is in Orgrimmar working on gadgets and trinkets.

And Theande is sitting in her farm in Halfhill, tending her crops and fishing in Jogu’s pond, laughing and drinking with Farmer Joon and the Tillers, or just leaning back and watching the Vale, her Weathered Fishing Hat tilted down to shade her eyes.

It’s a nice retirement.

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