There’s a classic cognitive psychological study involving a patient, a button, and a reward. The point of the trial is to leave the patient alone in the room with the button, to test how long they’ll go without hitting the switch. The test is a window into the ability — and in some cases, inability — to handle delayed gratification.
Similar trials with monkeys and dogs exist, showing that even the animal kingdom only has so much patience.
I relate with these poor souls, though for different reasons. Blame World of Warcraft. Blame Kosumoth the Hungering. Most of all, blame humanity and its bizarre behavior when gratification rears its ugly head.
This in-depth Reddit thread sums up a two-day chase after a rare mount that may not exist. A group of players from the database and community site WoWhead were on the search for the “reigns of the forgotten hippogryph,” a mount data-mined from hidden files within the game, meaning that the “parts” of the item are in the game but it isn’t necessarily a mount that players can earn at the moment.
These players started digging around the Broken Shore — a high level area within the Broken Isle and World of Warcraft’s new set of zones added in Legion — which released last week. Off the southwest shore of this zone filled with unbeatable, boss-level enemies is an orc that players can interact and talk with.
Why? For rare loot, of course. World of Warcraft players are known for doing ridiculous things for rare items, which includes fishing for hours on end, killing the same boss repeatedly for weeks, and sitting in one spot while waiting for a rare enemy to spawn.
I attempted that last one once, to no avail. I gave up, which is one of three reasonable reactions to these insane quest lines set up by Blizzard. The second response is to persevere. The third? A turn to madness and going down the path of the troll.
In my few hours hunting Kosumoth and waiting to click on orbs I saw all three reactions, not just coming from other players but also myself.
After reading the Reddit thread and wanting glory for myself, I hopped onto my Twitch stream to set sail for adventure. Little did I know what was waiting for me.
There’s a caveat to the activation orbs that turns the quest from a slog and into a test of fortitude. Each orb can only be activated by one person, per realm at a time. This mean that once someone clicks an orb everyone else on the server must wait for the orb’s cooldown to end. According to reports, the cooldown is anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.
The reward for hitting all the orbs is a world quest to kill Kasumoth the Hungering, which gives a rare water mount or a pet.
This leads to waiting and shenanigans, as one can imagine.
I reached the first orb in Aszuna after searching for the entrance for twenty minutes, finally finding an opening under a tree and behind a bush. Another player was leaving just as I dropped into the dank, eerie cave; thus began the waiting game and a test of my patience.
Spoilers: I didn’t last long.
Have no fear though, for I had technology on my side. A World of Warcraft addon called ‘Cross Realm Assist’ allows you to join groups with players from other realms, taking advantage of Blizzard’s attempts to shore up low population server numbers. When your character changes realms it is pulled into a new instance of where you are, giving the possibility of landing on a realm where the orb is ready for the taking.
I got lucky; the first orb was mine to activate. I set sail for the second orb, which sat in a cave along the Stormheim mountainside.
This is where things went poorly.
Much to my surprise, a level 111 elite monster that hits for three million damage per swing guards the second orb cave. This is to say that my tank specialization death knight was shredded like so much cheese upon a grater.
I laughed. The whole thing, including the run back to my corpse, was ridiculous.
Spawning inside the cave, I found the orb camped out by another player. Not sure if he was legitimately waiting, observing the mass hysteria of players looking for loot in all the wrong places, or just trying to cause trouble, I asked the Tauren druid of his intentions.
Surprisingly, my new cow friend was there for valid reasons. Telling me he’d waited in the cave for almost an hour, the druid said that he thought the quest chain was cool and didn’t want to miss experiencing such a unique thing while people were hot and bothered.
I can’t blame the guy. Some of my fondest World of Warcraft memories come from being around insane world events, such as the zombie invasions that preceded the release of the Lich King expansion.
Sometimes the spectacle is the true reward. I mean, for some. Me? I want this stupid jellyfish mount.
I began realm-skipping again after talking to the Tauren a bit more, talking about our mutual experiences of playing the same game for almost a decade. What’s funny and revealing is that shuffling from realm to realm was not unlike the multiverse from DC Comics. Each one revealed a different settings. A cave full of dead bodies. Stacks of players all sitting on top of the orb, just to make sure other players couldn’t click.
My favorite realm saw 20 players all making choo-choo train sounds and activating various toys and pets. Those people seemed alright.
I decided to abandon my fruitless journey through space and time, returning to my original realm. I saw that my druid friend from earlier was leaving as I phased back into existence. He whispered goodbye and that he got his orb activation while I was gone.
I wished him good luck, and began to wait. And wait.
This involved much waiting. After an hour in front of that orb I decided that it was time to give up, but not before leaving my own mark of mischief and grief. I sat a giant pair of wardrums down on the orb, making it all but unclickable.
Satisfied that I properly let out my frustrations over failure, I left. I may return one day, but for now I can’t take the thrill of the hunt that comes along with attempting this quest in the moment.
As it turns out, I just can’t waiting for my reward or press the button. I suppose on this day I’m neither Pavlov nor dog.
Will Harrison is a freelance games writer and critic now living in Austin, Texas. He’s appeared in the Toledo Blade, Venture Beat, Unwinnable Magazine, and routinely shouts about things on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.