My recent blunders into Wildstar’s raiding scene were more of a happenstance than anything, a surprise to myself first and foremost. At the end of 2013 my plans for this year were quite clear: play TESO, ignore Wildstar. Fast forward, I find myself not only among few remaining bloggers in our blogosphere still subbed to Carbine’s MMO, but attuned to raids and geared for endgame. I’ve written about my first raiding experiences here but having gone through a streak of heavy back pains these past weeks, I’ve decided to put an early end to a raiding career that I never meant to have. Too scary is the prospect of another episode of what I have come to call my “post-WoW raider back” since I left WoW in 2010.
Not many MMO raiders and ex-raiders (myself included) speak of whatever physical backlash, temporary or permanent, they may have experienced due to their focus on top tier PVE/PVP endgame. I’m not saying that every MMO player or raider is like me in terms of poor posture control, but I suspect that there are many among us who come to know such side-effects after reaching a certain age latest. If you’ve raided in a competitive and dedicated manner consistently over several years, it’s hard to avoid any form of physical repercussion for so much sedetary amusement. I remember a time when my youth would cradle me in blissful ignorance of such concerns, yet after I had turned 28 years old with five years of WoW raiding (12 hours a week on average) on my literal back, the physical reality of my hobby caught up with me. I’ve always had issues with my neck but from that point in time my back pains took a life of their own and spread to the rest of my body in one neurological fun fest.
Combined with was generally a deeply troubling and stressful time in my life, a fact that must be emphasized, my unhealthy way of slouching through long-session gameplay (during which I ignored all warning signs for lack of judgement) turned into a chronic pain condition that, after the usual series of medical examinations, is fair to say will never leave me. After quitting WoW and spending considerably less focus time in front of the computer, as well as regular massage therapy and healthier living, I’ve been able to recover slowly from the more acute and crippling pains that used to overshadow my life for at least three full years. I know I have partly my lack of discipline to blame – I have never been great at self-control when it comes to the things I love doing (and I am hardly a sports-fan either). I also realize that many people gamers or not, deal with backpains which are always multicausal; in a way, what happened five years ago opened my eyes to a variety of issues I had ignored for too long in my life. Treating myself better in every sense was one consequence, so in retrospective I’d like to see my time spent raiding as a catalyst, rather than the root cause of all the pain.
Nonetheless, my gametime is something I will always have to control in the future, no matter how tempting some aspects of MMOs might be. I’ve tried the whole “getting up during biobreaks”- and “loading-screen workout”- routines and for me, they simply don’t work. I can spend half a day casually at the PC, blogging, podcasting and carousing Steam, but raiding puts me into a state of emergency in which I grow tense and too absorbed to notice lousy posture. I don’t think there’s any gaming activity quite like online coop when it comes to demanding exceptional focus from each individual. If you ever get up from such a session and feel the pang in the back of your neck, don’t ignore it.
Alas, I have been there, done that and no epic pixel nor fleeting friendships were worth the physical pain that was caused or amplified. I love MMOs and the competitive aspects of online games but if beating endgame and obtaining shinies require me to sit still and focus in front of a screen for 3-4 hours on end, then I am happy to leave such feats to a younger generation – a generation hopefully wiser than me. Hindsight is 20/20 – and the story of how much their bodies must hurt is never told in Surrogates or similarly intriguing movies about virtual life.
Thus my raiding chapter for Wildstar is officially closed.