Friday, February 6, 2009

Why fishing keeps us hooked to WoW

Sometimes I think that I think to little those days. Be it age or laziness, but I tend turn on the auto-pilot function and just let things happen and pass without reflecting much about it. Luckily enough there are other people out there who think for me, and who by provoking me a little help me to wake up as well.

Recently I ran into one of those wonderful people, the thinking-process starters. It was a few lines in an essay by the video game producer and writer Scott Cuthbertson, published in the book “The Battle for Azeroth” (2006), which made me jump. I’ll quote them and you’ll see why:

“Beyond the linear quests and scripted story events, World of Warcraft has one additional element that gives the game its life, and it’s a biggie: Fishing, my favourite in-game recreation. Fishing may seem insignificant next to the allure of those purple, orange and gold rare items or acquiring that full suit of well-matched armor, but it is, I would argue, the most important element of the game.”
My first thought was a complete disapproval. Was this man out of his mind? Was he trying to be funny somehow? Was he a liar? Had he ever tried to level fishing to maximum level? Now, this essay was written pre-TBC, so the fishing max level wasn’t as bad as it is now, but still!

To most players fishing isn’t something you do voluntary for any longer period. It requires more or less your full attention – if you’re tempted to start to read the chat window instead of staring at the wheel, you may miss your catch. So you stare and stare until your eyes bleed. And then you click, loot, swear a bit if it’s the wrong catch, and throw again. The monotony is only broken every ten minutes when you have to apply another lure. It’s not about skill in any normal sense. It’s about your ability to endure total boredom. How dare this Mr Cuthbertson suggest that fishing is the most important element of the game?

Then I read a few more pages and suddenly it dawned upon me that he actually may be right. It turned out that it wasn’t exactly only the fishing in itself that the author found so important, but the principle of it - that players are encouraged to take a break from questing and just relax.

Things to do
Side by side with the traditional questing and dragon killing, WoW offers us a ton of other “things to do”, where all the professions are a good example Thanks to those game elements we can enter the world even if we’re not up for anything particular exiting action. We can slip into Azeroth just to exist there, and we meet a living, breathing world, where we can participate as much or as little as we like. This may sound like common sense, but according to Cuthbertson, actually many other games have failed to adopt this basic level of good game design.

After reading those lines I’ve started to look upon fishing with new, more forgiving eyes. Actually it isn’t quite as bad as I’ve thought previously. Lately I’ve fallen into the habit to go for a little bit of fishing in Grizzly Hills, either before the raid, clearing my mind before what’s to come, or after it, as a way to wind down. I’ve tried not to stare quite so angrily at the float, waiting for it to jump, and not to swear when it lands outside of a pool of Glacial Salmon, the fish I need for my buff food. I try to let go of the instinct to try to be efficient. I relax, enjoy the surroundings, saying hi to the creatures passing by, emptying my mind from all burdens, for once not chasing for any kind of achievement. Because that’s not what fishing is about (unless it’s Sunday afternoon and you’ve joined the weekly fishing competition). To fish is to have an excuse to just be in Azeroth, not doing particularly much. And in its own way, it probably keeps me hooked to the game, either I believe it or not.


krizzlybear said...

Yep. Couldn't agree more. If anything, WoW has become my second msn/facebook/etc.

The social part is what makes MMO's last much longer than it should. And it's also the reason why I am yet to burn out.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I am still in the "I hate fishing camp", but then I fall into that camp in real life.

Then again, I tend to find it hard to switch off...

If I really need to switch off, I book a long Gryphon ride and watch the world float by.

But fishing....
I am either frustrated because a fish hasn't bitten yet, or
frustrated because the fish bit, and I missed it.

At least in RL, there is also the thrill of the fight... don't pull too hard, let out some line... etc.

in WoW it's just all "right click, /yawn"

Klepsacovic said...

Fishing is a relaxing sort of activity. I turn up game volume, go somewhere empty (so I'm not hearing combat or whatnot), and then do whatever. Maybe tab out to read something, talk with friends, or just zone out. Splash, tab, click. It passes the time. Think of when you're in LFG and just sitting in a city. Go fly out a bit and fish somewhere. It's perhaps less exciting than mining and fighting over nodes, but sometimes boring is good.

I think my favorite fishing was back on a PvP server. I'd see a member of the opposing faction and we'd just look at each other, then fish. Fish fish fish. It was a strange sort of calm and peacefulness compared to the usual kill on sight. Sometimes the other person would finish up and then wave before they left.

We couldn't talk to each other or even do anything other than fight, but somehow we connect over the peace of fishing.

Aurik said...

I agree with the sentiment expressed - I enjoy fishing for this exact reason as well as idly floating about looking for mines or herbs or whatever. Sometimes even just 'staring at the mailbox' whilst I chat.

Fishing is a lot easier if you have decent speakers / headphones and turn only your sound effects up. This way you can read guild-chat or watch a show on tv or even read without having to constantly watch the bobber - just click when you hear the splash.

It also helps to know that there are only about three points in the cast where it will ever 'splash' so you don't need to be so tense in between.


Gevlon said...

I like fishing too, but I don't know what the "boredom" part is?

Isn't fishing the action when you go to AH and buy 100 fish with 5 clicks? :-)

BTW my GF likes to fish too, and we leveled fishing up together with cooking. It's not boring at all, if you don't do it longer than 1 lure time.

Hulan said...

I love to fish if my mood is right, it's an excellent way of just chilling out. I usually just put on some good music and chew the fat in gchat. I can do it for hours!

Carra said...

It's so incredibly boring because it's so easy you could train an ape to do it.

Or write a fishing script in 50 lines of code...
-Press fish button
-Find red feather & move mouse to it
-Find white splash & right click
Repeat at nausa

I none the less did level my fishing to 375 and won the fishing competition, fished up Magical Crawdad ;) I just can't bring myself to levelling it on my DK.

*vlad* said...

If you are finding levelling fishing a bore, try and get some of the Achievements done along the way.
It makes it much more interesting.

kyrilean said...

I turn my camera such that I can pop up the Achievement window and read through achievements I don't have while fishing. Place the cursor on the bobber and listen for the splash.

Also have a friend who maxed fishing on four toons because he got his kids to do it for him. :)

Darraxus said...

To me, fishing is a money making tool....thats all. I only usually fish the schools and cook them up and sell them. It is also incredibly boring.

Dallanna said...

Well, fishing can only be good if you do it the way you described. Me? I decided I wanted to fish for those raid buff foods and made the mistake of leveling fishing from the thirty-somethings to 225 in one night... does a real number on your sanity.

Now, I'm in the 330s and I'm finding it hard mustering up the motivation to do it more for the buffs. Woe is I. :(

Theawàkening said...

I recently picked up fishing (about a week or so ago) and it's now 436 or something crazy like that.

For the longest time I wanted to end my mage's life but once it got up there it actually can earn you a nice chunk of change, especially for me. I like to use Pygmy Suckerfish for my beloved Haste potions :)

Larísa said...

@Krizzlybear: the really smart thing they do is giving us a reason to just exist in Azeroth. To socialize while relaxing.

@Gnomeaggedon: I know the feeling! But slowly, slowly I think I'm converting.

@Klepsacovic: I never thought about that! I've got game sounds really low so the instructions on TS while I'm raiding won't be drenched in spell sounds. So I don't hear the splash. Ofc I should turn up the volume.
Lovely story.

@Aurik: only three points? I had no idea about that. Blogging really learns you a few things about the game.

@Gevlon: Yeah the lure thing is really good. It gives you a decided amount of time and when it's over it's over. I like that.

@Hulan: yes, fishing in the right mood is great. Fishing because you're in a hurry to get buff food for a raid sucks.

@Carra: the difficulty in fishing isn't technical, it's mental.

@Vlad: Yeah I guess I'll do that eventually, but practical things always go first, so I fish for buff food.

@Kyrilean: yeah, I've heard quite a few stories about parents paying there kids to fish. Seems to be the way to go!

@Darraxus: it's all in your mind. How you look at it. I tried to see it from another angel and suddenly it started to make more sense to fish.

@Dallanna: Oh I don't believe in powerlevelling fishing. Very few people would stand doing it for a really long time without losing their taste for it.

@Theawakening: yes, it's really nice that they've combined the salmon you need with the pygme fishes so you get both at once!
Grizzly hills is great for mages!

Syrana said...

I'm still not quite into the "I like fishing" group... yet. I used to find it incredibly boring and requiring too much of my attention. However, with the achievements, it seems more bearable for me to fish for small amounts of time. I still have a hard time doing it when there's a lot of conversation occurring in gchat or whispers.

But, I do love the social aspect. Oftentimes I'll log in and just work on (re)organizing my bank and/or bags while chatting with everyone. That is relaxing, to me. :)

An extra note, Larisa, I really love your posts and am glad I have found your blog. I also love the way you respond to everyone in comments. You give such wonderful attention to your readers and it's a neat personalization of your Inn's experience. :D

Larísa said...

@Syrana: thank you! I'm glad you found your way to this little corner of the Blogosphere.
Actually I enjoy the commenting part as much as I enjoy blog post writing. I don't guarantee I'll give a personal reply to everyone - especially not when people sometimes are commenting on very old posts - but I definitly comment on a majority of the comments. It means a lot to know that the blog author actually has read and cared about your comment. I know that from when I comment on other blogs myself. So I try to treat my guests the same way I like to be treated on other blogs.

Since many of the commenters are "regulars", who come back, that helps a lot to get the pub atomsphere I'm striving for.

Tessy said...

I like fishing in WoW (like it so much actually that I am maxing it out on 2 of my chars.)

I find it relaxing.

And I also like all the wonderful things you can fish up, all the coins in the Dalaran fountain, the things you got in the bag of fishing treasures ( the last is not technically a catch, but you wouldn't have gotten it without fishing in the first place).

Ixobelle said...

i really can't stand fishing but i find myself leveling it on my priest right now. I want to level cooking, and i might as well kill two birds with one stone; but egads, the tedium!

that said, it seems like the loosened the noose a bit. I've noticed the bobber isn't pixel precise anymore, it's now a circular area 'around' the float that will activate hooking (you don't need to be so precise with your cursor anymore), and skillups seem to be more common that I remember. I'm actually sitting at 225 fishing with the 4 quest fish in my bag atm to turn in for artisian. about to log in and go do that, but i won't look back fondly on the process once it's finished.

Esdras said...

I log in for social reasons mainly everything else is secondary.

Raiding and instances and pvp etc are all fun but its the social aspect i love.

Tim Howgego said...

Hmm... does this mean El persuaded you to fish, Larísa? (And yes, I really should write some more as me. Not least finish the article on this topic that I started to draft last year.)

I must confess I was rather surprised to discover the popularity of fishing when I first started writing about it. I think Blizzard are still getting their heads round it. Or maybe I just hope they will eventually work out that fishing (and similar "chill-out") content gives a good ratio of development cost to player immersion/retention?

Larísa said...

@Tim: Wow! I caught a celebrity on my fishing hook!

I'm not sure if it's El, but I'm trying to see things in the game from different perspectives and rid myself of my prejudices. Sometimes I succeed. A little.

I really hope you'll get back to writing more stuff on your non-fishing-blog. You're very cleaver, and write interesting stuff that make you think. Please, give us more!