Should I Max Level at Launch World of Warcraft Lich King Classic?

Shitty Game Design

My short answer is “no”. As a psychiatrist who diagnoses, treats and supports gamers with gaming disorder, I professionally cannot condone anyone to binge on a video game in order to start enjoying the game. This type of game design philosophy is at best tortuous and at it’s worst outright predatory.

It’s like saying to someone, “hey, you’re invited to my wedding, but before you come, you must finish this box of cask wine 2 hrs beforehand”. Like redditor “Ctrl_Alt_Explode” said “I think it’s a shitty design philosophy” in response to a quote “the game doesn’t start till you reach max level”.

Pre-drinking with cask wine seems like a terrible idea

Warcraft aka “Warcrack”

Even though I would consider myself an avid gamer, I’ve never actually played World of Warcraft (WoW). I’ve simply been too afraid to even start playing. Also, it was released in 2004, when I was in 4th year medical school and was more interested in the opposite sex and passing exams than the virtual world. By the time, I got around to consider playing it, I’m pretty sure my PC was not powerful enough to play and I just didn’t understand the whole subscription model of playing. It was only 4 years later, as a junior medical officer did I come across my first patient with a WoW addiction. With the return of WoW Classic, I’ve come across more gamers, mostly adults who have struggled to leave this game. The one phrase that I keep hearing is “nostalgia”, which is a very powerful motivation to play. I’ve even written a blog post about Warcraft Widows here.

“Should I max level at launch?”

I am currently working with a person who has been successfully moderating their WoW gaming time, juggling a busy work and family life. I have cautioned them, that the upcoming release of Lich King Classic (arguably the most infamous expansion) could be a major trigger into a gaming relapse. They asked me today, “should I max level at launch”? They explained to me that to get to max level, it requires players to essentially dedicate 2x 16hour days grinding on the release date with their team. Some of their guild have already scheduled in annual leave to prepare for this launch and made it clear that playing to max level “you’re not doing anything fun”. Only until then can they enjoy playing the game casually. Having heard this, I made 3 statements:

  1. Is it possible to cheat to max level?
  2. Would grinding properly to max level be worth it?
  3. I can’t guarantee that this binge won’t harm your brain.
Purists will probably hate the idea of using a bot, but is grinding worth it?

Cheating to Max Level

Apparently cheating with software or bots is possible but risky. You run the risk of getting caught and being banned for 3 months. We both laughed at this and recognised the actual benefit of being banned. Another safer way of getting experience points without having to actually play would be to hand over your account to someone you trust with your personal details and your characters to play it for you. I’m not sure how this can be done but apparently there is a “follow” function within the game? The reason why I suggested this, is that once their character maxes out, they won’t feel left behind when compared to the rest of their guild. Also, this is essentially outsourcing the gruelling time required to max out your character. It’s like outsourcing your drinking binge at the expense of someone else’s liver. Not exactly, ethical, but neither is predatory game design.

Is grinding to Max Level worth it?

Is it worth all the hard work they have put into moderating their current gaming time (that is having a tight weekly gaming schedule of 8hrs per week and weekends off)? Is it worth the risk to their personal life? Sure, if you are single, teenager living with your parents, you have a lot less to lose than a husband/father/employer/employee.

I can’t guarantee a binge won’t harm your brain

Sometimes when working with people with gaming disorder, there is a lot of bargaining, justification and wake up calls. Simply put, the game designers have the science of random reward reinforcement down to a fine art. They know how to hook you, make gaming a habit and part of your life. Unfortunately, for some gamers, these hobbies then become a hazard to their health and for a small portion of people cause harm. Do you really want the game designers to have this level of control over your life? Cravings and boredom are unpleasant side effects of withdrawal and can lead to increased gaming to cope with these feelings and can ultimately lead to relapse, regret and rewiring of vulnerable reward systems in the brain.

If you need help quitting World of Warcraft, video games or have a loved one with an unhealthy habit. My books are open all you need is a referral from your GP.