Hearthstone got me bad. I hadn’t been that addicted to a game since tabletop Warhammer 40k many years ago, when I happily focused my thoughts on endlessly tweaking Tyranid army lists. Coincidentally it was that same Warhammer obsession that prompted my then-girlfriend to buy me a PS3 for christmas in a successful attempt to sway me towards an activity we could both enjoy.
Hearthstone provided and scratched that same itch. The colorful personality of the game and endless tweaking in the quest for the perfect deck. I put more hours per day than any other in recent memory. I played whenever I had a small pocket of time. I played while washing the dishes, chopping onions, doing the laundry, and I somehow managed to play one game in the shower. Yes, I insanely washed myself with one hand while holding the other above the water stream to test out whichever new card combination I thought would get me a win.
It’s not just the tweaking that pulled me in. Getting on a hot winning streak is intoxicating. I felt an empathy to gamblers in the process and for the first time in my life I started buying lottery tickets!
Many times I thought it was the best game I had ever played but eventually the opposite started to creep in. I would be so put off by a frustrating losing streak that I would turn it off for a day or more, but I kept coming back.
But now I’ve removed the app from the phone and the urge has left.
Once the initial intoxicating progression of achieving new cards is over you are left the realization that there are certain cards that are simply better than the others. These cards are almost always in the new sets that of course cost money (or loads of time). The allure of crafting my very own effective strategy drifted away and seemed impossible.
I also love playing the Hunter class as it was the cheapest to get into and the most direct. Call me a simpleton but I enjoyed using my personable Beasts much more than stockpiling boring spells. However, Hunter is definitely lacking top-tier decks to properly compete with the best Warrior and other elite classes at the moment.
It also seemed like the meta of the game has been all about easily removing cards. You play a powerhouse minion, they simply remove it, turn it into a sheep, or shuffle it into their deck. You play many small minions and they have a spell for that. It was rock paper scissors but they see your rock before choosing their paper. I understand the strategy is to goad your opponent into using a great removal spell on a lesser minion but the Hunter class is just not well equipped to play the patient game.
I had a hell of a lot of fun getting to this point and am quite happy to get my life back and not have spent an absurd amount of money in the process. If the point of a game is to entertain than Hearthstone provided more than enough bang for my buck. It’s a game I can return to and play wacky decks with friends, but I’ll definitely be wary of falling back into the obsession again. I love video games but spending so much time with one doesn’t feel healthy. All that time I spent dreaming up the perfect Hunter deck could have been spent completing a number of other great games that I could write or talk about, or simply have experienced. Hell I could have written some songs or learned Karate.
I’ve always felt playing games is a fine line of passion and over indulgence. I want to enjoy them as much as possible but also walk away with a good feeling afterwards, instead of hollow overstimulation. I want a balanced life but I also expect and welcome future great games to have a large impact on my time. Hearthstone got out of control and I feel I learned more about myself in the process. And that’s worth a few micro transactions along the way.
Have you been addicted to a game recently?