– smartphone app
– multiple add-ons
– a download manager for the add-ons
– RSS feeds
– various mathcraft sites
– two online item/quest search engines
– a desktop app that evaluates various gear options
– two general reference sites for gear score and other checks
– a preview-type site that warns me of upcoming content changes
And this is all stuff I use on a regular basis.  Like it’s part of the actual game. 
But it’s not.  And I forget that.
Sometimes I like to sit back and think about the people that (still) play the game without all that stuff; those who play it ‘right out of the box’, so to speak.  Those people scare me because they make me wonder if I’m a freak by comparison, if I’ve taken the game too far.  Have I become the proverbial crazy cat lady?

For at least a year I played WoW with no knowledge of/help from/need for all the extras.  I wore white-quality weapons until level 40ish and proudly purchased my gear upgrades (when I had enough money) from whatever guy in the next town had a repair icon on mouseover.  I knew about the thing people referred to as the auction house, where I could purchase…stuff, I guess…but my considerable cynicism and distrustful nature kept me away from it for fear of being taken advantage of.  I ran instances with PuGs and thought I did quite well, despite my talent tree being a total mess.  Blithely I plodded along, all the way to level 40+ and I had a great time doing it. 

So…what happened?  I got serious about it at some point, I think.  That’s my suspicion.  Try as I might, though, I can’t quite put my finger on when it happened exactly.

The only thing that makes me brush my abovementioned fears aside and continue on playing the game in the extras-augmented way I do is the knowledge that I am not alone in my insanity.  Everyone uses all that stuff to play, don’t they?  They talk about it in the general chat, amongst guildies, on forums…  So I can’t be crazy.  Right?  Maybe.

Perhaps crazy’s not the right word, then.  ‘Dependent’ might be more apt.  It’s a case of the classic ‘the more you have, the more you want’ type situation, where I (and a whole whack of others!) got used to playing with all the additional things and now I can’t fathom the game without it.  DPSing without Recount?  Preposterous!  Healing without Healbot?  What a n00b mistake!  Equipping a random purple item that looks like it’s an upgrade without first checking 2 or 3 gear ranking sites?  I must be out of my mind!  Not using DBM in raids?  /gkick!

See what I mean?  Scary.  That being said, it’s a difficult beast to get around because a dependency on/the use of a lot of that stuff is expected now – at least at the endgame, anyway, though Protflashes’ recent SFK experience indicates that much of the endgame’s idiosyncrasies have leaked beyond its borders (has it always been that way, though, or have I just been blind to it this whole time?).  Who knows.

I’m not too sure if I’m complaining about all this or if I’m being nostalgic, to be honest with you.  It’s just strange to go through some old screenshots sometimes and to see the evolution of the – of my – game.  Makes me wonder what I’ve gained by moving in the direction I did.

People, myself included, are obsessed with forward motion; it’s the whole progress thing.  I would assume, then, that by jumping on the bandwagon and getting in on all the WoW-extras, I’ve somehow attained a higher level of understanding of the game and that I’m now playing it on a different level as well.  Sure…  I guess I am, in some ways.  A lot of the stuff I use, I use primarily as a means of improvement.  That’s moving forward/up, isn’t it?  Mechanically it is.  But what more do I get from it?

The weird disconnect there is that I might be playing the game on a ‘different level’ now than I did years ago, but what I want from the game is still the same: enjoyment.  It’s just that, to be able to achieve that now, I feel I need the extras.  In the overall equation, then, I think I’ve lost something; I’ve made it more complicated for myself to achieve the same results.

But maybe that’s not all bad.  I’m just looking for a new goal, a new way to get the same results because the old way isn’t cutting it any more.  I’ve learned more about the game and that’s made some of the earlier goals too easy to achieve, so I’ve changed them up for myself because the medium can’t without penalty.  And that’s normal.  Thing is, I’m not entirely sure the medium hasn’t had a part in that.  How much of it is me/the people playing and how much of it isn’t?  Why can’t I pinpoint the moment where the transition between ignorance and requirement happened for me?  Interesting that a game can be that insidious.

It’s the neatest thing to act as a catalyst for that same transition, too.  A while back I introduced a fellow DPSer that’s relatively new to the game but still quite virginal with respect to its extras/in-depth mechanics to the Recount mod.  He asked me if he was doing well on damage one day and I talked to him about downloading Recount and using it to gauge his performance.  He was instantly fascinated.  I recognized the eager look in his eye and had a moment of self-loathing, aware in that moment that I had damned him.  Since that day, he’s done nothing but stress over the DPS rankings when we group up.

It’s weird.  As the WoW community grows and the availability of extras along with it, we all succumb to this odd sort of gluttony, consuming more and more stuff in search of the same feeling of satisfaction we once felt from so much less.

Bleh.  Enough of that.  Time to go see if there’s any Altoholic updates on Curse…