See that handsome fella over there? That’s me. A representation of me, at least. Y’see, for the past 5 years, I’ve been firmly mired in a fantasy world of Blizzard Entertainment’s crafting. I’m one of the 1.7 million subscribers to World of Warcraft.
Since I first cracked The Hobbit in middle school, I’ve been obsessed with fantasy. After I polished off Lord of the Rings, I took on Dragonlance, Pern, and whatever Piers Anthony had come up with that month. But in my mind, that intrepid band of forever-whining, hard-drinking dwarves shooing a dragon off their front lawn would always be the epitome of fantasy.
Once I got to FSU, video games started to creep in to my regular rotation and I discovered Blizzard’s first runaway hit, Warcraft II, a real-time-strategy game that was essentially Risk, but with dragons, knights, orcs, and, YES, hard-drinking dwarves whos only purpose was to blow shit sky-high. Needless to say, it scratched many itches. To this day, it’s the only video game that I’ve dreamed about – working out the solution to a particularly difficult end-game map while I slept.
After college, Blizzard and I parted ways for a while, but the world they’d created, Azeroth, would still pop up in my head now and then. What had drawn me in was not just the gameplay, but the backstory. Every scenario had a purpose, and every unit, irregardless of how disposable they were, had a personality. The desire to beat the game wasn’t what kept me playing, it was wanting to progress to see what was around the next corner (be it a troll witch doctor, forgotten temple, or cursed undead frost dragon).
So when the opportunity presented itself to roll my own hard-drinking, gun-obsessed dwarf to wander around and explore Azeroth on my own terms, I jumped at the chance.
So why did i choose to stare at dwarven ass for hundreds of hours over several years? (Yes, I see him over there, don’t say anything, it’ll only encourage him.)
Stomson (he’s a Hunter, y’see…it’s a literary allusion…well, I didn’t say it was a good one) was the unruly git I’d pictured in my head back when I first cracked The Hobbit; well, as close as Blizzard would let me get, at least. The thing about WoW is that, while it hews closely to standard fantasy tropes, it has its own very distinctive visual style and a decidedly modern sense of humor. Undead characters rock out and do air guitar when they dance, Elves whine about what the humidity is doing to their pretty hair, and Dwarves, well they fumble their way through bad pick-up lines and shoot at anything that moves. Once I was in, that old desire to see what was around the next corner was suddenly all too immediate. I could go anywhere I wanted (as long as the local wildlife didn’t kill me)! I could hop a ride on a gryphon and see dragons! I could trade with goblins with unexplainable Brooklyn accents!
It’s that variety that’s kept me coming back, night after night. Sure, the basic gameplay is, well, basic. You run around, select things to attack, and press a couple buttons till they’re dead. There’s no arm-flailing or conversation trees here. The brilliant bit is that it doesn’t have to remain basic. You don’t even have to level up by killing stuff. Just poking around and discovering new parts of the world will give you the experience you need to advance your character. The social aspect can’t be denied either – my brother plays and it’s our verbal jabbing that I look forward to as well. In fact…*sigh*…
What is it, Stomson?
Why aren’t ya talking more about ME?
Well, your entire personality is a figment of my imagination, so it seemed somewhat self-aggrandizing to-
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! I’ve seen more, done more, in all my years than you’ll ever do, lad! Oh, the slimy beasts I’ve run from on the beaches of Kalimdor! The dragons that I’ve viewed from afar in the hazy twilight of Duskwood! The vile demon siege engines that attempted to catch me as I mounted my homemade flying machine and tore off through the ruined world of Outland!
Is there anything that you stayed and fought?
Oi! Have ya ever been skewered by a poison-laced claw or scraped by the edge of a ragged scimitar? Those things HURT!
*sigh* Listen, you saw the article I did a few posts back, yes? The one about the new in-game gryphon pets?
If I get you one will you shut up so that I can finish this post?
Oooo – did you see the wyvern pet? I was always jealous o’ the Horde and their wee sky kitties. Me ma always said, she said, Stomson, you canna have a wee sky kitty now shut yer trap and drink yer ale!
Fine, a wyvern then.
Och, but then gryphons, they’re such noble beasties; dutifully carrying us to and fro on their fuzzy backs…
You do realize I can sell off all your gear and give the resultant gold to the Night Elf druid that’s two slots down from you.
But a wyvern is gREAt! Fine! Coun’na be happier! You go on and type yer pretty words now.
There, that’s better.
What’s great is that the team at Blizzard really cares about the world they’re creating. They constantly throw things in that make no sense, from a time/money perspective. Did they get a lot of return on investment by letting you get plastered with a crew of pirates and turned into a skeleton on the Day of the Dead? Nope. Was it fun? If you have to ask, you didn’t read the previous sentence.
World of Warcraft is “just another video game” to help me tune out the annoying bits of adult life. But there are times when it’s just as effective in transporting me mentally to another place as any book. That I still look forward to logging in, week after week, and that I’m still finding corners of the world that have to be uncovered is a testament to the programmers and the community that’s grown up around the game. I’m sure years from now, when WoW has been winnowed down to 1 server from its high of 100+ and I’m watching the lights wink out one by one, I’ll be sad; but I’ll sure as Hell have had a lot of fun along the way.
Bring more ale!
*groan* See you online!