I learned there were websites that showed how to rapidly complete quests and pretty soon I was speed leveling, which meant more hours and nights playing WoW. This period represented a more intense commitment to the game; the higher I rose in level, the more competent and satisfied I felt. I liked the idea of catching up with my mentors, who noticed that I was "hitting the game hard."
I managed to max out my level without doing a single instance or raid. I needed to be able to quit whenever necessary to help out with my kids or get to bed, so I didn't want to get wrapped up in something that I couldn't easily stop. But once I hit the level cap, I had to find something else to do if I wanted to keep playing. I disliked PvP, in part because my reflexes were so slow that I was truly awful at it, but also because I just didn't enjoy killing other players (or, rather, being dogmeat for them). Many of my WoW friends were into raiding and they convinced me to give it a try. I knew Greg had run into trouble with this particular activity, but it seemed like a real rush, and I didn't think my experiment would be complete without giving it a go.
This phase of my WoW experience was a real transformation. I went from a recreational to a serious player. I had to figure out how to play my role in a raid party, which meant understanding the game at a much more sophisticated level. I consulted with advanced players to learn how to spec and what gear was best. I scoured the internet for the best macros and addons. I put more time into boring repetitive daily quests in order to get the supplies that I needed for raid potions, elixirs and flasks. I found out what buffs were available and why I needed them. All of this required a level of commitment that totally burst my set limits on time and involvement with the game. I had to be ready when my guild was raiding, and I had to show up regularly in order to be considered a valued and reliable team member. This meant that 8 PM until 1 or 2 AM each night no longer belonged to me or my family. I became a more skilled raider as my guild progressed, and the rewards were a sense of accomplishment and loot that improved my character even further.
At this point, I could see more clearly what had so completely absorbed Greg. It didn't seem like that great a leap from my six hour per day WoW habit to Greg's 16 hour one. There were always more preparations to make, better gear and enhancements to craft or acquire, and never-ending nights of more or less successful raiding. I had guild mates who seemed to be playing almost as much as Greg had and I wondered what it was doing to their lives. But I was having fun and didn't want to stop.