There is an interesting effect going on with my guild. A few of our members have been super serious about gearing up, and done a few Eternity Vault runs. So of course the next logical step was to start up a thread about raiding on the forums, trying to organize a run or two.

The R Word

All of these things are expected in a normal guild.  What was not expected however was the massive knee jerk reaction many of us felt at the mere mention of the “R word” again.  It’s like even talking about it again, made us want to run off screaming into the night.

Problem is many of us are basically in a state of what we have come to call "Raid PTSD". Essentially what I am seeing including myself, are a group of 30 somethings that have been in serious raid groups during our time in WoW. Once we left the game however, we’ve been almost shell shocked about the notion of committing to ANY scheduled playtime.

I was the first to talk about it on the forums, but one by one some of the others chimed in saying essentially the same thing. Was the raid life so traumatic that it left all of us somehow scarred by it? I know personally I find myself cagey about even agreeing to run a specific dungeon on a specific night, let alone carving out a block of my week to devote to raiding.

Real Life Matters

It feels like personally, for seven years I lived my life around the schedule dictated by my raiding. As a result I had to juggle real life to fit into this raiding box, and many times juggle my spouse as well. I am just edgy about the notion of climbing back inside that box again. I had some truly amazing experiences while raiding, but also had some pretty horrible lows as well.

This discussion started over on Google+ this morning, and in it Pete Smith of Dragonchasers cut straight to the truth of it.  It sounds like you’re growing up. I could almost paraphrase your post as "I’ve decided my wife and my marriage are more important than a video game.".  While I had already basically summed this up for myself shortly after leaving WoW, it was pretty powerful to see it written out like that.  Even more overwhelming however, has been the stories of my various friends going through the same things.

I guess what I am finding interesting is, once we all left WoW (or whatever game), each of us has gone through this same experience. One that I am not really seeing mirrored in the rest of the gaming community, or at least not widely talked about. What caused each of us to develop this "Raid PTSD" and others not. Is it because we stopped raiding for a period of time? Is it because we allowed ourselves to get back into the normal rhythm of life?

I am honestly curious if anyone else has gone through this?

8 thoughts on “Raid PTSD

  1. Bel, I’m feeling you on this. Currently, I’m still trying to keep the Friday/Sunday raids up and going on AD because there are people who are totally committed and this is their only game time. However, Kay and I have been enjoying just logging on and grouping on SWTOR. It doesn’t feel like I HAVE to play. And that’s with my wife in the mix, right beside me. It’s not that we cared so much about the gear, we enjoye the folks we’re with.

    And sign me up for the group sessions about PTSD. I think leading a raid (two, actually) has given me cause to be an alcoholic, especially with work and school and family on top. >.<

  2. I think to a certain extent, it depends almost entirely on what endgame content is available as well as the problem with weekly lockouts. With the former, some MMO’s offer nothing but raiding as a decent group activity. With the latter, people can’t simply turn up and do something because they run the risk of being locked out for another group that might need them. I daresay this contributes to the overall problem because you can’t simply turn up on a night that suits you and raid; it has to be in accordance with other people’s schedules or it won’t work.

    Being fair, I moved on from competitive raiding when I ditched WoW. It wasn’t real life that got in the way, it was the fact I was becoming an exclusive, judgemental and elitist bastard who was judging people on their in-game performance. I wasn’t raiding for enjoyment anymore, I was doing it to be competitive and I’d imagine many of your guild mates have these same fears (as Euron mentioned). The solution isn’t easy to find, unfortunately.


    The best time I ever had gaming was during The Burning Crusade. I could basically turn up every night and play heroic dungeons with whoever happened to be online, and it simply didn’t matter because I could do the same thing the following night. Not only that, there were other things to do that interested me such as group questing, dailies, the odd battleground, blacksmithing, exploring and a bit of RP. Given the fact that Outland spawned the game’s biggest growth in subscribers, I think that sudden bout of access to loads of endgame content without a huge time investment was what done it.

    What would be wrong with removing raids altogether, creating endgame dungeons that scaled for different sizes of groups, and had no more than a 24 hour lockout? Under this system you could literally play when you like, not have to worry about that one person being online, yet still get meaningful and challenging content to play.

    Worth thinking about.

  3. Bel,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while (Yojo – Night Elf Rogue from WoW) and had to chime in with this post. I think for two fold – one because I LOVE talking about MMOs and two because I really resonated with your posts and the responses.

    It was interesting reading Rae’s response about playing Ragnarok Online! That was my gateway drug into this digital heroin of MMOs.

    I love gaming and continue to game but LOATHE being forced into a scheduled play time. As you’ve mentioned, the raid experiences are unforgettable because of the companions you group with, but being chained to your computer for 2+ hours and feeling remorse for abandoning your comrades when real life unexpected surprises come up is horrible.

    I think the root of this raid PTSD stems from three core mechanics in MMO gaming: (1) almost all of them are time sinks; (2) there’s no mechanic where the raids enable you to come and go as you please (3) so many aspects of the game lure you into competitively questing for end game gear.

    With respect to the second point: take Modern Warfare for example – it’s arguably a time sink with the 5+ prestige levels. However, matches are done in rounds with no consequence of coming and going as you please after the 20 minute round ends. The unfortunate nature of these MMOs is such that the raids require massive organization and span AT LEAST an hour. I think you could still have more fun in these experiences of massive groups if you could join your group in a large scale battle, feel as though you contributed, AND THEN BE ABLE TO LEAVE AT YOUR LEISURE – without feeling as though you abandoned the cause or your friends (similar to the Modern Warfare match mechanic described above).

    With respect to the third point: look at your gear at a lower level in most games, you like something out of a my little pony pre school fairy tale. Your armor is pink, flimsy and your character is aesthetically gimped. While you trot bare footed in this huge fantasy world, others fly over top on dragons (literally) with glowing robes and staffs and titles of grandeur above their characters. This of course makes sense with the MMO business model – to entice you to partake in this raid mechanic to continue your subscription to a never ending, always fading finish line. In this fantasy realm, the game is geared towards making that in game status desirable.

    I have yet to partake in the new star wars; but when I do, I will seek all of you out to enjoy your company of casually grouping. Until then, I HIDE from it by playing Skyrim, suffering from raid PTSD, in dire fear that if I pick up Star Wars, I will inevitably return to raiding as I’ve always done with my returns to WoW!

  4. I hate the side of me that comes out in raiding, I really do not like it. The competitive person in me is not nice and I know that. I was not nice when I wrestled in school and as such I stay the hell away from following sports regularly and so on. I get rather quite when raiding because I tend to bottle up frustrations that I have with performance. I think that I have gotten much better with it. But its the door I fear to open because of it. I like being very much a calm and reasonable person. So I kinda despise anything that takes that rationality from me.

    I think that doing the occasional operation and mostly sticking with flash-points is something I would be fine with. But like many have said I am enjoying the game as I play it now, and because of that I really feel no need to try and change the way I play in order to do a raid.

  5. I think what you have is a change in priorities and some burnout – it’s /normal/ to go through a stressful situation and then decide, afterward, that you don’t want to really go through that again. If the rewards aren’t enough for the stress, then you avoid the situation. That’s not PTSD, it’s normal brain functioning that lets you weigh cost vs reward. If, after going through a lot of raiding, you guys have all said “you know, I’m just not feeling like its worth making XYZ sacrifices to do the raid”, that’s a decision you’ve come to – for whatever reason. Growing up, better priorities, new job, didn’t really like it, hate your class, whatever. It’s especially normal if you were really involved/immersed in raiding for awhile.

    Think of it as returning to a place of balance. You don’t weigh games with as much importance as you once did, especially now that raiding isn’t a new and always exciting thing anymore. ESPECIALLY if the people who are claiming to have “raid PTSD” (which is a name I kind of find a little distasteful, honestly) are still gaming casually. It just seems like you have different priorities as a group. End game is only one aspect of the game.

  6. While I don’t really have a family, per se, that I should be prioritizing over a video game, there were so many other things in my life that I was letting fall by the wayside in favor of focusing all of my efforts on raiding.

    It was most apparent to me when I looked back at my deviantart account. I had this pretty impressive growth in style and trek through different digital mediums, right up until I started playing Ragnarok Online—then everything just dropped off. In my more lucid moments, I would look back and miss being able to rummage through other people’s galleries and decide what to work on next, or dash out some more chibi caricatures of my friends.

    I think the major source of my “Raid PTSD” with WoW stems from the fact that for so long I tried to use advancement in raiding stature as a means to develop bonds with certain friends of mine and impress them enough to let me into their inner sanctum of online gaming. When I continually found myself being shut out for people they had not only never met before, but known for shorter periods of time than me, I decided to take it to the next level and prove that I could be a “hard core” raider, essentially abandoning everything else in my life that was expendable at the time for the sake of downing bosses and getting shiny pixels.

    It’s taken a lot of time being outside of the game for me to cool off and reset my perspectives on things to realize that it was never really about the raiding to begin with. The mentality of “hard core” raiding is kind of a vicious cycle in itself, as it generally breeds harmful mentalities in those around you, whether it’s the similar “MUST KILL ALL THE THINGS AND GET ALL THE LOOT” attitude or “the only time I’ll get to play this game with my friends is if I raid so I guess I’ll focus on doing that” attitude.

    A couple of nights here lately I’ve just come home and doodled on my tablet, watched TV or even just frittered around on some insignificant alts in TOR. I like not having the stress to any particular thing at given time, and I really like the fact that I have guild mates that share this philosophy or “enlightenment” :)

  7. This is not a raiding-exclusive problem; it’s a burnout problem. Saying that one has had an epiphany is a convenient excuse for not putting oneself into a harmful situation that one would REALLY like to put oneself into. Of all those who claim this raid PTSD, how many are still gaming? How many are still gaming in intervals compared to other gamers? In relation to other hardcore raiders? Or in relation to a “casual” gamer? If people really came to the understanding that spending time with family is more important, then ALL gaming time would drop precipitously, I would imagine. Instead, the lack of interest in reliving the stress of organizing and participating in a raid that precludes participation in other activities — ANY other activities — is a normal outcome of such intense immersion for an extended period of time.

    (Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist. I just like to use big words and talk out my ass)

    • Honestly all of the people who have chimed in are still happily gaming on a semi-nightly basis. Happy to run instances and quest, and all the normal MMO things. But when the topic of raiding comes up, we all kinda tense at the notion. A good number of the folks that were cagey about raiding, have 50s, are working on another character now, and play pretty seriously, but just are in no rush to move into the end game.

      And honestly, the PTSD part was mostly a joke between us. However something is going on, and we are mighty gunshy about raiding.

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