I have recently returned from two weeks holiday from the day job. When asked whether I went anywhere, I replied that “No, I had just stayed home and played games.”
“Oh, so you didn’t do anything then?” they say.
This annoys me slightly. Just because I was playing videogames, doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing anything. In fact, I’d specifically taken the holiday then so I could play videogames, or rather one in particular- World of Warcraft.

You see, my holiday deliberately coincided with the release of the latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria. With it came a load of new features and upgrades to the game I love: new levels and quests, a new continent to explore, new upgrades to earn, new systems and reputations and a hundred different things.
And I can see how taking a couple of weeks off to do that might not seem like some people’s idea of fun. But too readily people are ready to declare it a waste, declare that I should be off creating something, not just consuming. Yet I have returned to work not only refreshed but with a wealth of ideas and enthusiasm for my personal projects .
I’ve been terrible for taking holiday ever since I was a contractor. Back then, if you took holiday or had a day ill, you didn’t get paid. It induced a work ethic that even now means I often get to the end of the year with the vast majority of my holiday entitlement still left unclaimed.

I’ve never been a great one for laying on a beach, and the places I really want to visit are discounted for either being too expensive or requiring all the drama of the security theatre at airports ( I’m not saying it isn’t needed, it just tires me out and puts me off flying abroad).
And as for places in the UK, I visit a lot of them whilst out geocaching. Whilst this is a poor caching year for me, going somewhere in the UK feels more like sport than a holiday.
So instead I went to a virtual land. Many of my fellow guildmates took time off work for the expansion as well. And for a couple of weeks we’ve chatted over our voice comms server as we’ve played and help each other through the game.
The expansion went live on the stroke of midnight and a few of us decided that we would powerlevel from level 85 to 90. This meant ignoring quest text and cinematics, hence missing out on a lot of the story. But this expansion was very much geared towards the things you can do once you hit level 90. So I made a very considered decision that for my first level 85 character I would speed through the content and try and level as fast as possible, then take my time with subsequent characters.
There are awards for being the first on your server to level a class and whilst we didn’t think we’d make it, a few of us wanted to give it a serious try. Consequently we were stocked up on food and drink for slow energy release and prolonged playing.
The original plan was for two groups of three, but I got separated from my group right at the start when an Quest giver disappeared for a couple of minutes. I did a good job of trying to keep up, but around level 87 the mobs got a lot harder I found I had to switch my spec from my damage dealing DPS spec to my slower, more able to take a beating, Tank spec. As a result, I then started to slow down and the gap between us widened considerably.

I played for 26 hours straight, taking only short loo breaks. Drink was beside me, as was a cool box with food. By 7pm on the first evening , some 19 hours in, I was ready to drop off, playing on autopilot rather anything else.
The first of my colleagues levelled to 90 around 2am the following day (some 26 hours later) but I was still on the last bar of 88. Defeated, I grabbed some sleep, then taking a further 10 hours the next day to hit 90.
And then the work began: running daily quests for rep, running increasingly difficult dungeons for increasingly higher gear. There is more than enough options to keep a WoW player busy even if they played full time.
If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of oriental fantasy (it’s just not my thing, sorry) and going in I was worried I would hate the setting, but Pandaria is a gorgeous land, some of the best the game has ever seen. From jungles to farmlands to mountain peaks, each level brought you to a new zone with new sights to see. Similarly, the soundtrack sets a new bar for the franchise with tracks that rate amongst my favourite pieces of music of the year. The sound is big, epic and confident. As a result, I’m happy to spend the next 2 years in this expansion.

As it was, minus a weekend away from the computer for Fantasycon, I spent the majority of my holiday levelling or questing in one form or another. By rights I should be burned out long before now, but my farm needs tending, I’m about to hit revered with the Anglers faction and I’m a few precious iLevels short of what I need for Looking for Raid. With less time due to day job and personal projects scheduled for after the holiday, fitting in just that necessary WoW time is going to prove a real challenge.
Thank goodness I’m not like some friends who didn’t take holiday and are still level 87. You’ve got a long way to go, guys!