An old WoW partner of mine was thinking about getting back into the game, and soon we were talking about playing together again. We both had level 49 Night Elves on Dark Iron which we naturally figured we’d take out of retirement. This 49 is the most advanced character I have. My main had recently been a level 25 Blood Elf on Sargeras. (I couldn’t transfer the 49 over since he’s Alliance, and my Sargeras crew was Horde.)
Now, my life has been crazy for the past several weeks, with lots of travel, an unexpected move out-of-state, and my computer out of commission for a week to boot. With free time being scarce, and my ambitions about actually experincing the endgame one of these days, I was really looking forward to the 24-level boost.
So last week, we brought out the old guns — our 49’s. I logged in and materialized in Ironforge, which I hadn’t seen in years. Spent a while re-speccing our talent trees and re-organizing our action bars, since we hadn’t logged in since the talent wipe. Then it was a quick griffin ride to Burning Steppes, and there we were, ready to go.
We picked a quest and started marching across the map, dodging elementals and worgs on our way. And after about a minute, something strange happened.
“I’m bored,” I said to my friend. “This feels lame, and I don’t understand why.”
“Yeah, this doesn’t feel exciting,” she agreed, also puzzled.
“Let’s roll some new characters. I feel like I walked into the middle of a movie.”
And so we did. We now have a couple of level 16 Draenei, and by the time we’d turned in our first newbie quest I knew it had been the right decision. Everything felt fun, fresh, and exciting. Some of this is perhaps because of the fresh content — the Draenei homelands are beautiful. And some of it is because I like the process of achievement more than the result. I don’t enjoy powerleveling. I guess it’s the Explorer in me.
But in retrospect, I think the biggest disconnect was an identity discontinuity. I identify with my avatars a lot — I think all MMO players do, to some extent. There is an eight-month period of my life from 2005-2006 that is deeply and heavily imprinted on Peppermill, my 49. And stepping back into his shoes just didn’t feel right. Firing up the character was a little nostalgic, like driving by a house you grew up in as a child. But starting to play the character felt a little like I was living in the past. It put me in a different headspace, and it didn’t fit. 2005 James is not 2007 James.
As I write this, it brings to mind some points that Brandon Reinheart made about the Death Knight. (I’d link to the post, but his archive seems to be unavailable.) If Death Knights (or heroic classes in general) are more powerful than other classes, then you reach a point where you need to create a new character (a Death Knight) in order to advance. While this is fun to do sometimes, I don’t think it’s a good thing to steer people away from their main. They can build a strong sense of identity and emotional attachment without which the game is less fun.