Lately, I’ve been reading up on the new SimCity game. I’ve been reading reviews and websites, watching videos, enjoying the Let’s All Be Mayor events and generally waiting (not remotely patiently) for the game to be released on March 5th (in North America).

As such, I’ve seen a lot of negative comments from long-time SimCity players. A lot of positive ones, too, but so many negative comments crop up everywhere. Some of the vitriol being spouted reminded me somewhat of WoW forums, to be honest. My first instinct was to tell these people to STFU. I mean, if you don’t like the game, don’t play, right? That’s when I realized what I was thinking and why I was tempted to say these things.

I was annoyed because these negative folks were bringing me down. Here I am, all psyched to go play SimCity and these clowns have the nerve to point out every single potential flaw they see in the game? Feh. Thanks a bunch for messing with my anticipation of the game. I think this is the first game I have been genuinely excited about since Cataclysm. It’s certainly the first one I’ve spent watching videos of and certainly the first one in which I’ve made as much use out of the beta as I possibly could. (Unlike Mists as I barely touched Mists beta.)

However, due to the fact that I stopped playing the SimCity franchise somewhere around SimCity 2000 (and picked up SimCity 4 because I was bored sometime last year — 9 years after its release!), I am quite aware that I am not the hardcore fanbase. I am not part of the community that has kept SimCity alive. I best recall the 1989 version of SimCity and that’s the game I spent hours upon hours playing.

There are others who have been die-hard SimCity players since 1989, who have continued through ten years of no new games from EA/Maxis in the SimCity series. That is definitely not me.

In many cases, however, that is the group that is complaining about various things, from a too-small map size to the always-online component, from glitchy graphics with roads to the fact that there is no subway system in the game.

At some point, while reading these complaints and getting increasingly frustrated with these people, I recognized something pretty clearly: I was *that group* when it comes to WoW.

What do I mean? I mean, I was that crotchety old-time player who remembered 40-man raids and attunements and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about battle pets and scenarios. I was deeply invested in the game, both in terms of my time spent doing game-related things as well as my own emotional investment. Lots of times when Blizzard did something I didn’t like, it felt like a personal attack on my loyalty. It felt as though Blizzard was deliberately doing things to their game to get rid of me, although I do, in fact, know that’s not the case. ;)

Everyone has their own breaking point when changes come to their beloved things. Whether it’s nerfs to the Firelands and Dragon Soul or nerfs to paladins, whether it’s the removal of attunements or the emphasis on dailies, everyone has an opinion. For a vast majority of players, these changes are simply ones you have to roll with. I learned early on in WoW that rolling with the punches is the only way to advance in the game. You have to change, have to adapt, have to deal with things constantly being adjusted. If you can’t, then you’re better off no longer playing.

That’s where all the “if you don’t like the game, don’t play” comments come in. It’s not that easy, and here’s why.

1) Time investment: In my case, when I made my decision to quit, I had been playing WoW since October of 2005. In that time, I had been an officer, a healing lead, a raid leader, a guild master, a blogger and a podcaster. My /played time was well over a year in real time, when you looked at the time played for both my hunter and my paladin combined. In the last couple of years, I easily spent 15+ hours a week on game-related stuff before even logging in to the game to actually play it.

It’s difficult to throw away all that time invested and not play any longer. Trust me. It’s still challenging to me to not log in, particularly on nights when I would normally be raiding when I’m not otherwise occupied. For someone like me who spent at least 15 hours a week on game-related stuff outside of the game, plus another 15 hours a week raiding (9 with Apotheosis, 6 with Choice), plus another 3-5 hours doing Stuff in-game, it was a huge change and part of why I never quit before was because I actually enjoyed spending all that time doing game-related stuff. For a great majority of my time playing WoW, forming these friendships and creating communities and educating people about the game was a delight. I loved pulling up raid strats and then later making my own. I adored pouring over the logs, diving deeply into them to figure out which healer I needed to yell at for blowing us up on Heroic Yor’sahj (stupid Atonement, stupid Lightwell). And it was all wrapped in this greater purpose of getting the team through the content. I was really happy doing that stuff and I really do still miss it. Of all the things I felt I gained while playing WoW, it’s the working with my team aspect I’ve had the most trouble replacing.

So I can understand not wanting to seemingly throw away all that time one has spent being invested in a game/franchise/etc. It makes sense to me.

2) Emotional investment: Seven years was a long-ass time for me to play WoW. I can’t imagine how some of these SimCity people feel after playing the games religiously since 1989. One must become very much attached to various concepts. I guess it’s probably something like what feral druids went through in Mists, with the separation of Guardian spec from Feral spec. I know some druids were pleased that they were finally getting a real tanking spec that was separate from kitties, but I know that some other druids were upset to lose some of the functionality. After eight years of having feral being the tank-spec for druids, I can imagine it was a really difficult thing for some druids to give up. One sort of starts to take for granted certain things about their classes, I think. Imagine if they got rid of Divine Shield. Paladins would go apeshit. I would go apeshit and I don’t even play anymore. (And don’t get me started on the removal of Divine Intervention. I still miss it. Shout-out to Euphie, my RL Friend the Resto Druid and Walks, all of whom I DIed more times during Wrath than I ever did in the two previous expansions combined.)

I imagine the same thing can be said for the long-time SimCity player. There’s a certain level of comfort when looking at the UI and seeing the familiar RCI (Residential/Commercial/Industrial) demand bars. There’s something nice and familiar about zoning and drawing roads on the map and the like. But this version of SimCity has some other things to think about, such as City Specializations, which may take precedence over the types of zones you drop in your city, despite the demand. There’s also regional play, meaning your citizens can end up working in another city while living in yours, so you can ignore the industrial demand because, hey, your citizens can go work at the dirty factories down the highway from your clean, pristine city. This is a significant change from previous versions, as I understand it.

3) The Breaking Point Arrives: Sometimes, no matter how much logical sense a change makes, it feels wrong. That’s where the breaking points come in. At which point can you no longer stomach changes that feel wrong to you? I mean, I dealt with the removal of Divine Intervention because I understood that people were abusing it (apparently, using it on someone with a Mark of Blood on Saurfang was popular), but it still felt wrong. I’m sure the removal really boiled down to “how can we prevent DI from making this encounter trivial?” and that’s unfortunate, but it’s what happened.

I kept playing, despite being disappointed, because I cared more about just DI in the game. I cared about a LOT more, not the least of which was my plan to revive Apotheosis.

At some point, however, my problems with the game’s direction became greater than my affection for it.

The major issue in leading up to an individual’s breaking point is, I think, that up until that point, you think you can do something to enact change. At least, that’s my view. The only way to enact change is to be vocal and clear about what you don’t like and, wherever possible, offer potential solutions.

When the nerfs to Firelands came out, since that was a huge turning point for me, personally, there were a ton of suggestions thrown out there as to how to “better” nerf the game. Among them, suggestions to not flat-out nerf things, but perhaps the places where people are struggling (tornadoes on Alysrazor, for example).

When T13 came out and LFR was introduced, we all thought “well, finally, there’s a raid level for people who don’t have time to commit to an organized raiding group, they’ll leave normals and heroics alone”. Wrong. The normal-modes were pretty easy anyhow and then nerfs were implemented at the fairly steady rate of 5% per month over six months, despite assurances that the nerfs would only continue if Blizzard saw a need for them.

If Firelands was a turning point for me, then Dragon Soul was the breaking point. It was at that time, when the Dragon Soul nerfs came out, that I really began considering no longer playing after Cataclysm had ended. Unless something big happened to convince me to keep playing, I was done raiding and likely done playing entirely, once my Annual Pass had expired. And that’s what ended up happening. No raiding, no real interest in Pandaria and no more obligation to pay Blizzard led to my account cancellation. Seeya, Blizz.

CLOSURE

It took a lot, though. I persevered through guilds breaking up and reforming and breaking up again. I dealt with abusive raid leaders and terrible GMs. I dealt with performing well under pressure on a shitty computer. I went through nerfs and buffs and class redesigns and buggy, buggy encounters. And finally, I’d had enough. But it took a lot to get me to that point.

So when I see people yelling at the disappointed or upset SimCity players, telling them “don’t buy the game, if you don’t like it!”, I suddenly feel for the disappointed players. They’re upset because they’re passionate. They’re somewhere between being upset and working towards changing what they don’t like and being upset enough to not even buy the new game. Some of these people are the equivalent of me when Firelands nerfs came out. And some are me post-DS nerfs.

I guess my point here is that I’ve suddenly gained a ton of empathy for these angry and upset and disappointed long-time SimCity players. And telling something to “just quit” isn’t helpful. When it comes to something about which you’re passionate, the way I was about WoW for so very long, one has to find their own breaking points and can only quit at that point, I think. It’s really about mourning the loss of what you once loved and then moving on. It’s something that’s different for everyone and people will get to that point at different times and, eventually, will quit. I started mourning in Firelands and learned to accept things after Heroic Dragon Soul was cleared and the focus in our guild moved towards the new expansion.

But you know, even when you do quit, it’s still not easy to let go of all the time and emotion you put into that activity. If nothing else, trust me on that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still feel pretty twitchy on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 9pm ET if I’m not otherwise occupied. :)