I’m what you would call a hardcore casual World of Warcraft player, meaning that I’m fairly shit when comparing rankings, but somehow manage to spend all my free time in Azeroth. I’ve been playing for close to five years, sat through two horrific expansion launches (“Fuck this shit, NEXT launch I’m going on holiday!”) and managed to become the guild master of a fairly serious raiding guild after a strategic coup d’état. For all intents and purposes, World of Warcraft has been a very positive thing in my life, leading to – IRL – marriage and long lasting friendships. My love for the game even took me to Gamescom one year, solely to see the Mists of Pandaria cinematic. With the game’s 10th anniversary having just passed, I thought it would be a good idea to summarize a couple of things I’ve learned from playing so far.
(As you, my eagle eyed reader, may have probably noticed, this article is titled ‘5 things I’ve learned…’. It’s therefore safe to say that it’s highly anecdotal and that your experience may vastly differ from mine.)
People really fucking hate World of Warcraft (and they don’t even know why)
On the rare occasions I do manage to pull myself away from my computer long enough and come in close contact with actual humans, they always seem to want to make some small talk. Considering everyone plays games these days, the conversation usually shifts to that subject within a couple of minutes. And sadly for me, usually it also shifts to a “You play what now!?”-shitfest:
“So, do you like… ehm… play games?”
“Yeah, funny story,” I reply tentatively, knowing what is about to follow. “I play quite a bit of World of Warcraft.”
“Really? Oh, that’s kind of shit. Why?”
“Because it’s fun?”
“Silly. You’re silly. Your game is fucking silly. It’s an amalgamation of fucking shitty silliness.”
Of course, when you ask them why they think so, their arguments are spread so thinly, no one would fucking believe it was butter even if it would lead to a quadruple bypass.
“You like pretend to be an elf or something and prance around. It’s totally unrealistic.”
Uhu, right. All other games in the world revolve around realism. No one has ever pretended to be something they’re not in other games. Roleplay of any kind is not the concept of gaming.
“Fantasy is just fucking stupid.”
That’s true. You’ve read Harry Potter HOW many times? Also, your GoT-related statuses are really starting to annoy me.
“Like, people get insanely addicted. Do you even wash yourself?”
Yes. Also, people get addicted to about anything. 8% of the playerbase are probably well-adjusted adults*.
“You’re such a nerd.”
Fuck. Right where it hurts: my perceived nerdiness.
Come on, we don’t ALL look like that. …All the time.
Until this day, I’ve yet to find someone who hates the game with a burning passion and succeeds making a solid argument for it.
*76,3% of statistics are made up on the spot
The typical WoW-player is not a gamer
People usually assume I’m some manic pixie gamer girl because I’m not completely inept when it comes to World of Warcraft and keep an eye on gaming news. But just because I know–in this case–what I’m talking about does not mean I’m actually good at any other games. Funnily enough, I’m probably the worst opponent you’ll ever have the chance to encounter (except for Tekken 3. To this day, I stand undefeated thanks to my tried and tested ‘press all the buttons at once’ fighting style). Moreover, I’m particularly skilled in headshotting my teammates, I have to ask my significant other to help me with the ‘scary bits with all the shooting and running’ in L.A. Noire and I’ve seen grannies who do a lot better on Candy Crush.
Luckily, I’m not alone. It seems that most people I encounter ingame aren’t actual gamers either. They either started playing by accident and found they liked it or, like me, are just too busy to play any other games. (Worst 60 euros I’ve ever spent? Guild Wars 2.)
There is no instant sisterhood
There was a day when most of my time running around in Azeroth was spent looking for people to play with and talk to. My ex, a Burning Crusade veteran who had stopped playing but needed me to be distracted while he was immersed in Minecraft, set up my account and I started my journey under the pretense that the best thing about the game was the community. Sadly, I joined during the early Cataclysm, so that ‘promised’ great community was rather hard to find.
Anybody out there…?
Typically, people like noob-me ended up in levelling guilds. Great, I thought, people! I remember getting really excited when I found out that there were actually other girls in said guilds. Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and, simply put, naïve, I assumed that it wouldn’t be long before I found the Thelma to my Louise. (Or the Shandris to my Tyrande if you so please.) I imagined us going out for quests, killing orcs, kicking ass and of course, breaking some hearts while we were at it. Well, the only heart that ended up broken was mine, because most women I encountered back then were extremely volatile.
Perhaps it was just a case of meeting the wrong people, but it seemed to me that those leveling guilds all had their extremely territorial resident girls. And, when you happened to set foot on their turf, they would make your life sour, because they were the queen bees, their hive being a bunch of drooling fools who thought gear would buy them an e-girlfriend. (I was initially going to go with ‘make my life living hell’, but that seemed a bit too strong a sentiment.) Maybe it’s because it’s expected that guys will be dicks to you in an online environment that it’s more noticeable when women are. Up until the time I took over as GM in my own guild, I can’t say I had met a woman who would eventually become a good friend. And even then, an ex-officer’s girlfriend actually refused to speak to me because I talked to her man. About recruiting and raiding no less.
No one has ever really ‘quit’ World of Warcraft
Sometimes, I encounter the rarest of species: people who have played World of Warcraft, but supposedly quit. Truth is: no, they haven’t and you can test it. Just start regaling all your online tales and it won’t be long before you notice that little gleam in their eyes. Clutching their bottle of beer, moving a bit closer to you, you can nearly imagine them mouthing ‘please, please, take me back’. Often, they try to hide their burning desire by saying something like ‘I don’t like the direction the game has taken’ or ‘it’s become too casual’. However, if given the chance, time and right amount of friendly coercion, most of them would renew their subscription in a heartbeat.
A couple of months after I first started playing, I quit because of the abovementioned lack of people to play with, making it a damned lonely experience. But every so often, a tiny voice inside my head would try to convince me to start playing again. “You’ll find someone”, it said, “a friend.”
Like any other hobby, it will take over part of your life
Those work orders aren’t gonna place themselves!
That friend turned out to be the man I’m about to marry in May. Other variations of ‘that friend’ are my guildmates, some even travelling to the wedding from all across over Europe. I joke around that I never leave Azeroth, but there’s a certain truth to it. Even though I have a pretty fulfilling (social) life, job and I actually dabble in other (even PHYSICALLY TAXING) hobbies, some of my best times are spent ingame with my pixelated companions. Whether it’s a particularly thrilling and messy raid (oh, Tectus), drunk stories on Mumble or some peaceful levelling with my SO, World of Warcraft rarely gets boring. (Oh, how positively hopeful we all sound at the beginning of an expansion.) Eventually, the game takes over your daily routine, both ingame and offline. No day goes by without checking r/wow, my guild website and a good podcast. This all seems obsessive, but it can happen to anyone if they aren’t careful. And then maybe someday, they could end up writing silly World of Warcraft-related articles for an awesome website.
By the way, nice to meet you.