A group of my friends started playing WoW just over 2 years ago. I resisted the urge to play for a couple of months, and even stated possible addiction as a reason not to. Then in January of 2007, we decided to play once a week, on a Monday night, as a group of 5 people on Vashj, a low-population PvP server. I made a Hunter.
That worked for me for about 3 weeks, and then I rolled my first alt, a Warlock, on Fenris (a PvE server). In addition to the main guy, I made a banker, who happened to be a Rogue, so I could sell things I picked up on the auction house. I downloaded Auctioneer and BottomScanner, so I could buy items people were selling at below market value, and sell them on again to raise some gold. I'd see a lot of people looking for Enchanting services while I was sitting there watching BottomScanner for bargains, and the idea hit me that I should make my banker an Enchanter too. So then I started to level my banker, and of course I needed another banker to fill in while banker number 1 was out levelling. Meanwhile, my Warlock was getting close to being capped on his professions, so I went out and bought The Burning Crusade expansion.
My Hunter was an Engineer. Several of the low-level Engineering recipes required a fairly rare material, called Fused Wiring. I read somewhere that they were making a new schematic so that Fused Wiring was no longer so rare. It required some materials from Jewelcrafting. So I rolled a new character on Vashj, a Draenei (+5 to Jewelcrafting!) Mage. Fused Wiring galore would soon be mine. It turned out that the schematic required a level of Engineering skill significantly above anything that used the material, but whatever, I could sell it or something.
Our group of 5 had done our time getting ganked by skull-level (10 or more levels above, and generally way more than 10) players in Redridge Mountains and had moved on to that hotbed of PvP, Stranglethorn Vale. One night, we got attacked by a skull, and we downed him. PvP was no longer a one-sided event! The adrenaline flowed every time we got into a scuffle, and I realised then that PvP was for me, and blew most of my Fenris gold making a twink Rogue to play in Warsong Gulch. It wasn't long, though, before I realised that it was the ad-hoc nature of world PvP that I really enjoyed, so I abandoned the PvE toons and started levelling the Mage.
I saw a reasonable amount of PvP when going from 1 - 70. I mostly lost, but it was because Warlocks were the Flavour of the Month, and they were a Mage counter-class. There were other classes I'd lose to as well, which wasn't much fun, but it was ok... it was because I had mobs on me, or there were more than 1 of them, or they were a higher level than me. All that would fix itself when I got to 70. Sometime around a year after I started playing, I got finally there. I wanted to play in the Arena, but didn't really have any gear. So did a lot of battlegrounds. I didn't really enjoy them, but it was something that needed to be done. That's when I learned that Mages really sucked in PvP. So I rolled a Druid.
Levelling the Druid was cool - he had stealth; I had gold to twink him out a bit; he could heal himself. He levelled to 70 pretty quickly. I enjoyed playing Feral - Cat form was just like playing my old Rogue, almost. Once I got him to 70, I didn't use Cat form so much. He could heal in the arena, he could tank in PvE, but really his DPS wasn't that great in Cat, compared to other classes. I remembered fondly the playing style, though: Stealth, Energy, stuns...
So I rolled a Rogue. A friend of mine had a Shaman that he'd got to around 20, and I got him to do Recruit-A-Friend with me. Had to start another account, but that was cool... the Time Value Of Money told me that I'd rather spend a few bucks than a lot more hours to level that Rogue - I really wanted to get up to 70 ASAP, so I could start with the fun. I solo'd her up to L20, which took longer than I'd have liked, and then we grouped up until we hit about 62. The experience gain from the RAF bonus was fantastic... it made the levelling grind a lot more bearable. We got into some PvP scuffles again, and it was great using the Shaman almost as bait while I popped out of stealth to nail the unfortunate Hordie.
The 3.0 patch came around, and with it Achievements. My friend went back to his main, so he could grind up some achievements. I had a few PvE achievements I wanted to get on the Druid, but I would switch between him and the Rogue. As Wrath of the Lich King was released, I had 3 70s and a 64 or so. There was a lot of levelling to be done, but I knew that it needed to happen, or there would be no fun to be had.
I figured since the Druid was one of my favourite characters, I'd take him to 80 first. The long grind began again, and I'd take the Rogue out now and then for a change of scene. Death Knights were everywhere, and I seemed to be able to win against them fairly consistently. Everyone was out levelling together, there was PvP to be had along the way, and I'd be 80 soon. I wanted to get there as quickly as I could, because I didn't want to be the guy who was 5 levels below everyone else, so I played whenever I got the chance.
Then came the Christmas holiday, 2008. We had friends coming from the UK, and I made a deal with my wife that I wouldn't play after they got here. I stuck to my word, assisted by the Nintendo Wii that we got for Christmas. And in that 2-week period, I realised something: I didn't enjoy WoW any more. I actually tried to think back to when I did enjoy it, and I honestly can't remember. There were moments of enjoyment, which punctuated the monotony of levelling, grinding, farming... but they were few and far between.
At New Year, I made the decision that I wasn't going to play it any more. I think maybe I didn't believe it though, as I went back online a few days ago to clean up my characters' mailboxes. That was partly to give some of the stuff I'd gathered to other people in my guild, but partly as a test of my mettle. It turned out to be pretty easy to resist the urge to play.
This morning, I logged on again, and made use of the game's '/played' command. It tells you how long you've been sat at the keyboard, playing the character you're currently controlling. I had made a few other alts over the time, and spent a little time on them, and today I spent just a little more time to work out how long that was.
The answer: 128 days, 22 hours and 25 minutes - not including some characters that I had already deleted. I spent the equivalent of over 4 months playing a computer game, and I'm not sure if I actually enjoyed it.
Vanishing Life, indeed.