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Once upon a time, vanity pets were just companions.

Then one day, someone realised their potential not simply as a casual revenue stream for ActiBlizz, but as a means for a section of the player-base to evolve away from just a fuzzy companion and into the world of attack power and skill sets. Maybe the idea at the start was to capitalise on player’s love of games such as Pokemon. Perhaps all the subsequent developments were simply a logical progression of a section of Warcraft that people wanted, craved and desired. Whatever the rationale, I am aware of the people on my feed who play this ‘game’ and love it. Many of them are so committed to this cause that they have NPC’s named after them, and that’s why this moment, I suspect, has taken so long to finally arrive.

For a while I’ve been worried I’d upset someone for whom this part of the game remains important. I’m not here to criticise them or anyone else, for the things they love but which I have grown first to loathe, then hate. Now, I’ll be honest, I mostly don’t feel anything at all until I talk about it, and then everything is a problem. I look at what used to be a source of entertainment and distraction and realise that, because of the way this game is now being produced, I’m done for good. I’ve made half-hearted attempts to leave in the past, promising I’d finished, but with Legion thought I’d give the whole concept one more try. Then I discovered a coda hidden in data files I’d promised myself not to be spoilt with before they were live, and that was that.

Activision Blizzard have managed to cure me of my addition to pet collecting by doing nothing more than their job.

It all began… well, I suppose it was when you started to hold my hand.

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I was really enthusiastic for Pet Battling back when it was introduced, and a lot of alts were levelled in Pandaria using them. However that was also the Expansion when it became impossible for me to keep up with what the game asked me to do. Deep down, the collecting was everything and numbers ending up being a hindrance. When I had to ask for help for battles, when Guides written by other people became the only way to complete the content… that’s when I wish you’d never held my hand to begin with. If it had remained collecting, I would have just been able to grind stuff alone. Now I needed to rely on other people’s kindness to move forward. It was the same feeling I got when a bunch of lovely people pulled me through the Siege of Orgrimmar and all I had to do was be bottom dps. Unless I can feel I’m contributing, it isn’t gaming.

Then even the collecting became an exercise in patience. Spend X pounds on this game and get this pet. Level to X and get this one. Buy a ticket, and then you’ll have another… and that was without the pets I’d have to buy from the Auction House because I’d never have a chance to run the appropriate content until it was Legacy. Giving me a currency in Warlords that I had to collect to buy more pets pretty much added insult to injury, and in the end I did those dailies without caring. All I was doing was grinding one thing to get another, but with the understanding that somehow, this was what my ‘fun’ had become. That’s not ActiBlizz’ fault, let’s be clear. Many people love this game, I watch them squeal when every new skin is revealed. They make their own versions of Pepe and it’s incredibly endearing that pixels can inspire such devotion. It’s not them that’s the problem. It’s me. The final nail came last week, via a tweet from someone else, when a penny dropped that I suspect had been precariously balanced for some time.

This item is only available by completing 30 Pet Battle World quests. What that means, in effect, is even if I wanted just to collect pets and never battle with them, Activision Blizzard just stuck a finite limit on that freedom. If I wish to exceed the arbitrary ceiling that (presumably) was originally programmed into the system, I have to fight things. Like it or not, I’ll do as I’m told or else I can’t complete the achievements. The carrot at the end of this stick can only be won if I compromise on what I want to do, and once that was grasped? Yeah, there was an awful lot of anger and tears over all the years I spent effectively wasting time over something that bears no resemblance to what I began with. Mostly I’m angry with myself, however, it has nothing to do with blaming anybody else. It’s not even now as if I can just pick up all the wild pets and quest pets and call it a day, because if another Expansion comes along and the only means to extend my inventory is through a bunch of fucking pointless Dailies?

Yeah, now I’m getting angry. I need to go back and remember this isn’t life and death, because it isn’t. Someone gleefully telling their feed yesterday they’d finished the most recent Raiding with Leashes achievement yesterday after 4 days was the push I needed to sit down and finally write this post. To be honest with myself once and for all is both hard and very necessary. I don’t resent the time all this new stuff would take to complete, but I’m sure as fuck not going to waste any more on being sucked into a process that has effectively destroyed my love of something that really didn’t need changing, when I stand back and look at the bigger picture. In my own way, I suppose this is my own personal Vanilla server ‘moment’: the decision that was made by designers that shoved this game down a different path has effectively screwed me.

So, how do I deal with this going forward?

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Well, I’ll retweet this 3-4 times today, and that will be it. I won’t talk about it at all, because I don’t, and life will go on. For those of you expecting a big public meltdown or sock accounts to Designers? Nope. Not my style, and as I can’t turn back time and return to just having pets that are that… they’ll stay in my bags, I’ll not summon any of them and I suspect, once I’m comfortable, I’ll cage the rare ones and sell them back to the AH. What will hurt the most is the tabs full of pets I have sitting on Bankalts. I’m almost tempted to ask someone if they want the lot and then sell them all for a couple of gold, just so they don’t sit there and taunt me. Collecting used to be a really important part of my life, until I grasped that if you’re a perfectionist, it’s probably the worst thing you’ll ever do for your sanity.

These days, I find experiences count for an awful lot more than just things. What this experience teaches me is that I should never have been sucked in by the Battles to begin with. That’s a lesson I’ll make sure I don’t repeat again.

6 thoughts on “The End of the Innocence

  1. I struggle with something similar. I loved collecting pets. It was my thing. Some people were mount collectors, I was a pet collector. The whole thing about needing the right pet of the right breed and whatnot to beat certain fights is a pain and has left me feeling like a dumbass because there’s yet another part of the game im not a pro at. This, plus the money I sank into Overwatch for baby Winston, the time I sank into Heroes for Graves and now yet another virtual.ticket for a pet I don’t even like… the fun has gone from collecting for me as well now.

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  2. The limit set on how many pets you can collect is already meaning less – its way more than you need to have one of every pet. You can have up to three copies of most pets, but the max ceiling on pet numbers doesn’t let you have 3 of everything. And this new reward while nearly doubling the limit set still doesn’t let you have 3 of everything.

    So this reward is in reality meaningless. You don’t need it – you will never need it as the pet limit has been increased in each expansion – and sometimes its gone up with each patch where new pets are introduced.

    There are some horders who want lots of duplicate pets – this is for them and them alone. I don’t think its a big deal.

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  3. While I myself despise the enormous grind that goes into Pet Battling, which is the reason why I stay away from this part of the game, there’s something I can’t understand here. How is it that the ability to collect ALL matters more than the ability to COLLECT itself or even than the fact whether you like this particular pet or not? Why sell things you like because you can’t have other things (you might not even like)? Also, even with pet battling in the game, there’s still a substantial amount of pets to collect without putting too much attention into battling. Substantial as in: already being able to consume a lot of time.

    Then again, I’m struggling to wrap my head around the notion of collecting itself, so might be all of this is just something I’ll never truly understand (or perhaps an approach I respectfully disagree with at some level?). Hell, I even throw away concert tickets, unless they look really nice. Yeah, I do collect transmog pieces sometimes, mostly because when I feel like it I can sit down and compose an outfit out of the pieces I have so the bigger the wardrobe the more creative freedom. So in this case collecting is more of a means to an end than end in and of itself.

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  4. This post spoke to me. At heart, I am a collector as well, and I really don’t like the battling aspect of the game. I find it a very tedious grind, but every so often I get this strong push (usually when some new pets that I really like come out) to level a few more up. I definitely have more at max level than the average player, but I definitely don’t have as many as most.

    I used to be the person who had to collect EVERYTHING, then one day I realized that I wouldn’t be able to. I just won’t force myself to do certain things to obtain certain ones. I was no longer interested on being the top collector of my server, and I’m much happier for it. Thank you for sharing and I hope that in time when you stumble upon a random pet, it can make you happy just to have it with no added stress of anything else.

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