I've played World of Warcraft since the Vanilla beta, when I was a fresh-faced university graduate, and I've definitely had my ups-and-downs with it over the years:
- Vanilla: mained a mage. Looking back it was a horrific slog, but we didn't know any better. You won't catch me playing on the legacy servers anytime soon.
- Burning Crusade: Continued with the mage, and then hunter. Fell in with a fantastic guild, and really enjoyed this expac, especially the Isle of Quel'Danas.
- Wrath of the Lich King:Fantastic guild imploded. Played through most of the expac solo or in a duo, now as a Paladin. Like a lot of people, I consider WotLK a high point in expansion history.
- Cataclysm: Didn't play much at all. Can't even remember what I played, but I have vague memories of a warlock in Vashj'ir. Not a fan.
- Mists of Pandaria: This expansion was fantastic, partially because of the actual content, but mainly because I ditched my EU account, re-started on the US servers and joined the guild I'm still in today, Waypoint. Raided through Siege of Orgrimmar by staying up until 4am; it was glorious. Started maining a druid.
- Warlords of Draenor: Largely sat this expansion out, and now I kind of regret it. Just ran through the bare minimum in it's twilight days to level my druid.
- Legion: ...and here we are today, still playing the druid, still in Waypoint, and I genuinely feel like my enjoyment of WoW is on-par with WotLK and Mists.
A retrospective of sorts
I suppose my World of Warcraft situation is a little atypical. I play on the US servers despite living in the EU, so I don't see my guild in-game very often, though the server is busy enough around the clock that I never have trouble finding people for group content. What is does mean through, is that I'm not a raider. My guild did raid in Legion, and I tried to join them as I did in Mists, but I just couldn't hack the late nights so I dropped out after a few weeks. I'm not even sure if Waypoint will be raiding in Battle for Azeroth, so that's an unresolved issue at the moment.
When Legion dropped, I was in a pretty bad place. I was depressed, I was at the tail-end of being off work sick for a long time, I was spending far too much time in my own house and in my own head. Warcraft became an escape for me -- I realise that isn't necessarily a good thing -- and I threw myself into it. Being signed off work, I felt I had nothing much better to do than log in, smoke too many cigarettes, eat terrible food, and level up while feeling sorry for myself. But being online with my friends and guildmates as we all levelled through the zones really helped. We ran dungeons together, we waved and cheered when we found one-another out in the world, we chatted.
And so slowly I got better, too. I went back to work. I met someone. Then I found a new job. I kept playing World of Warcraft, though at a much less intense pace.
I suppose what I'm trying to get across is that World of Warcraft has always been a part of my adult life, and as long as it's still going, it still will be. Through thick and thin -- and I mean in-game and out -- it's always been a place I can go to and feel some mastery over my environment. When I'm feeling down, it's something that comforts me. It's constantly changing but it's also charmingly the same. You generally know what you're getting. Just due to sheer longevity, Azeroth has become an actual place.
Wait a minute. Is World of Warcraft my Cheers of MMOs? I think I'm okay with that.