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Player documents the two-headed monster of his own WoW addiction

Battling the addictive power of World of Warcraft
The slow, viscous slide into a life consumed by gaming has become a media tale standard, usually including a bleary-eyed shot of the player blinking in the thin light of the computer monitor. Penned by journalists unfamiliar with the enveloping nature of MMOs, these stories skitter across the surface of a passion turned fixation. Without an understanding of the many positive forces of games like World of Warcraft, writers are unable to do more than entwine readers within a Lovecraftian tangle of gaming's most mind-numbing temptations, pushing them back into the light at the end with a complete, triumphant rebuke of the game in question.

The tale of Sevrin's descent into and return from Azeroth takes a different turn. A third-year film production student from the United Kingdom, Sevrin hasn't blocked World of Warcraft from his every thought -- instead, he spent months poring over his experiences to create a documentary of his experience. IRL: In Real Life, a short film featured last week on WoW Moviewatch (watch it again after the break), takes a frank look at how incessant gaming nearly pulled a young man's life off track -- and then provided the fuel for the creative project that's helping him move on.

If anyone could understand this kind of rise and fall, this dance with the glamors that wetly suck players into the virtual vortex, only to spit them out coughing and gasping with a renewed appreciation for life, it's fellow WoW Insider reader Keelhaul, aka The Mogfather, the player who racked up an incredible 1 million gold only to turn around and give it all away. "Brilliant," he commented simply on last week's Moviewatch showing of Sevrin's video. "Change a bit of the storyline and that's me as well." We suspect it's many of us, to some degree. Let's look inside at Sevrin's take.



Main character Sevrin
Most recent guild Glory
Former/long-time guild QT Yacht Club
Realm Quel'Thalas (EU)

WoW Insider: Sevrin, tell us about your first experiences in Azeroth. How did this whole journey gets its start?

Sevrin: I started playing 14th February, 2005. I was 15 and studying in high school. I was quite sporty, too -- used to play football (soccer for your American readers!), go out and hang with friends and such, just like any teenager. I played on and off for the first few years and it didn't really affect my life back then; it was just a game.

It wasn't until November 2007 that I created Sevrin, and he has been my main character since. I was in sixth form at this point. I had a lot of problems in sixth form with other people causing issues for me, which meant I didn't enjoy being there at all. I would say although it didn't occur to me at the time, these events with my real life at school led to the start of my addiction, as I started leaving sixth form early to go home and level up and play. For me it was the perfect escape -- people treating me with respect, people I could talk to and have a laugh with, and we all enjoyed this common interest with the game.

A swirl of experiences
You say in your film that you used to wake up, log in, play all day, then fall asleep before doing it all again ...

This started after I finished Sixth Form. At the time, I hadn't been accepted into any universities, so I had nothing planned for the future as such, although towards the end of the summer, I was accepted into university; however, the course would start in two days and I felt like I wasn't ready to start straight away and change my life so suddenly. As I said in the film, I wanted to see the Norwegian Girl, and Wrath of the Lich King was coming out in a matter of months, so those two reasons were in the back of my head as things to do during my gap year.

When I got into my routine of waking up and playing WoW, I almost shut off the rest of the world --stopped going out to socialise, as my friends in QT Yacht Club felt like my real friends who I could get along with properly. As I said in the film too, I made up loads of excuses to avoid going out and telling people I was playing games instead.

... For the majority of my gap year, I was sitting in my room playing WoW. I even declined the opportunity to go on holiday to places like Egypt and Italy because I felt that I couldn't be away because of the guild.

How long did this go on?

This lasted from June 2009 to August 2010.

What specific event or realization made you decide you needed to start reaching outside and being more social?

University. This did feel like an opportunity to let go of my past and start fresh again, make new friends and just enjoy the real world for once.

It took only weeks for you to realize that you weren't going to be able to maintain running a guild and raiding with a more social lifestyle -- yet you kept playing ... Why?

I wanted to still see the content, especially with Icecrown around the corner, and then Cataclysm much later after that. So this prompted me to join another guild to see the content at least. I think I felt that without the hassle of managing a guild, it would free up my time to go out and do things.

A life in Azeroth
What was the final straw, the thing that made you stop playing for once and for all?

It was a combination of things. Firstly it was nearly a year after I discovered I had started playing on Valentine's Day and [yet I was] still single. I was unhappy with myself being out of shape all the time. And boredom, really. I was guildless and logging on to do dailies, which didn't feel like a good use of my time (or my money) at all. Also, my desire to do well on my university course.

So how firm were you with yourself about quitting? Did you delete any characters, close your account ...?

I actually deleted Sevrin several times whilst I played. I regretted it every time though and managed to get him back. I stopped deleting him after a GM told me that if I deleted him again, I wouldn't get him back.

The other thing, and I haven't told anyone this: After I remade QT Yacht Club, I felt so ashamed with myself; in my eyes I was finally free of commitment to the game, and I just started to make the guild again. Whilst I wanted to keep on playing, this made me feel very depressed, so I uninstalled everything to do with Warcraft on my PC and just went to sleep, with no intention of installing it again. This was the day of our very first raid in this new guild. After a two-hour or so sleep, I felt very silly, so I installed it all again and logged on to the raid in time.

When I did quit for good, I uninstalled and deleted everything, which caused me problems when making the film, especially with screenshots and videos. ... I was always making films of our raids in Warcraft and taking photos which would have been useful for the film; however, I had an old friend help me with the screenshots, and some were still online in places.

What are your former guildmates doing now?

I think a lot of them are playing still. A lot of them went on to pretty good guilds in the game.

IRL: In Real Life Do you keep in touch with many of your WoW friends?

I keep in touch with a handful of them, mainly over Facebook. Most of them are the ones who stopped playing too. I've met up with a few of them too and [am] meeting up with others in the future.

Kudos on getting in shape! How much weight did you lose after you quit playing?

When I stopped playing Warcraft, I was 155kg. Now, I'm down to 115kg, and it's still an ongoing process.

And how old are you now, Anthony?

I'm 22!

Let's turn back to your video. Who else worked on this documentary project with you, and what were their roles? What parts of the project did you handle?

I produced, directed, wrote, edited and did all the camera and sound (narration) work for the film. I had two friends from my university directly help with the film; one of them acted as the script supervisor and co-producer, which involved helping with feedback for the film. I had over 20 drafts of the script before I felt the final one was ready to make the film, and he helped me by telling me what worked and what didn't. My other friend also helped me with feedback, but he was also responsible for the shot of the rotating Azeroth at the end of the film.

So how's school going overall?

University is going great! My course, film production, is a lot of fun, which I am doing at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham (England). It involves making films, essentially. My next project is a fictional mythology film, which will be interesting to make. I only have about five months left, though; then it's finished and I will get my degree.

After I screened my film to everyone last week on the big cinema screen, I've had lots of positive comments about it, and I've found that I'm being recognised by people I haven't met before at university, which is great! My social life is back on track, and as I said in the film, I am really enjoying myself!

You knew we'd have to ask: What marks did you get on your film project?

I don't know yet -- this is one of the things about my film that has blown me away, really. I screened it last Wednesday (18th January), and now with all the feedback and views my film has received, it is quite astonishing. I won't know my grade for another three or four weeks. Hoping that it does well!

Sevrin
We do, too! What's next in life?

Next is to enter to big wide world of film making. I want to become a film director. This is something I have always wanted to do from an early age. Things like making this film, seeing how my film has affected people ... I have had comments from people saying they have cried at my film, found it emotional, some have even said they quit the game, whilst others have disagreed about the points I have raised in the film. All of this makes what I do feel worthwhile -- to evoke a reaction from people, it's what I love to do, to entertain with my film. So hopefully, I am going to try and find work doing this professionally, but it is a very competitive industry to be part of, so I'm going to try as hard as possible after I graduate to be part of it!

Give us the big picture here. What are you taking away from this whole experience to apply to your life from here forward?

You know, I have had a lot of comments suggesting I blamed the game for everything and not myself, which is not true. I don't blame the game at all. It helped me become who I am now, to an extent. I had a lot of positive experiences, sharing nerd screams on Ventrilo, to sorting peoples' issues either game-related or personal, that was all quite rewarding. Running a guild made me learn a lot about leadership, organisation, motivation -- all of those things that could be similar to running a business. And all of those skills can be applied to just about anything, especially with my ambition to become a film director. And I made some great friends, too, some that will be around for a long time, no doubt!

Since I quit, I turned my academic life around and started achieving and working up to my potential. This film is proof of that.

I just wanted to thank WoW Insider for this interview and all the comments from WoW Insider readers on my film. I have been reading them all and really appreciate all the feedback I have received from it!

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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