WoW, we hardly knew ye

November 9, 2006

After a lengthy debate with myself, I decided to leave the World of Warcraft.  Detailed reasons why are noted in my treatise from a few weeks ago.  It was a really tough thing to do, to delete my characters that I worked on for over a year, but I knew it was for the best.  I finally had two level 60s to show for all of my hard work, but I threw it away.  But, oddly enough, I actually feel better.  There’s no more “farming” for reputation with in-game factions for specialty potion recipes or armorsmithing plans, no more 5 hour raids, and no more money being racked up on my credit card.  And, when all is said and done, I really just deleted some data.
Honestly, the worst thing about leaving was that I wouldn’t be able to show off all of my tier 1 raiding armor anymore and/or get better armor (and weapons)  to show off at another time.  That’s honestly all the game boils down to, in the end, and that’s really why I left.  Hours of my life wasted, maybe, but it was a good learning experience — or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Anyway, I’m sure I will miss playing, and it’s going to be pretty different for my girlfriend and I until I adjust to not being able to play when she’s playing.  The only worthwhile benefit of WoW is the friendships you can make.  Maybe I’ll spend more time with friendships in the real world now.

Good bye, WoW.  What a long, strange trip it’s been.

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A Treatise on World of Warcraft (I)

October 26, 2006

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard about World of Warcraft (this will be shortened to WoW from this point on). If you haven’t, just Google it and see. I will try to write this with the reader having the possibility of being someone with little to no exposure to the game. I could get really philosophical about how the game really can be as “real” as reality (and I probably will a little bit), but I mainly just want to outline some of the reasons it sucks people in, etc..

When you first start playing the game, if you’re like me, you get filled with a sense of virtually endless possibilities. You see all the possible combinations of races/classes and think “Man, this could never get old!” And, for a while, it really doesn’t. You spend about 10 levels (out of 60) killing boars, bears, etc. and occasionally you might see an upper-level player with badass armor/weapons and think “Someday, I will achieve this glory.” And, if you devote enough time into the game, you will get to that point. That is, however, where things go downhill.

You sit there, having leveled up your character to 60, having most of your tier 1 raiding set (without really getting into this, it’s basically just to show how far you’ve progressed in the game’s content) and you keep going into instance (dungeon) after instance trying to get more and more gold, better/more armor, and better weapons. An important thing to note at this point about raid instances (10, 20, or 40 players in one dungeon) is that they can sometimes take around 5 hours. So, let’s whittle this down into a clear explanation of means-to-end: You play for hours leveling up your character to 60 just so you can have the opportunity to get better armor and better weapons and skills and such. “Ok so when do you beat the game?,” you ask? You don’t, and that’s where the sucking in comes into play.

Yes, that’s right, you spend hours on end (sometimes getting to the point where it could be more hours per week than a full-time job) try to get better stuff than everyone else. Sure, there’s the aspect of going into new dungeons and seeing new things. But really, when all is said and done, it’s about who has the better weapons and armor. The trick is that there is, and never will be, “the best” armor or weapons. Blizzard (WoW’s production company), will always come out with new content to keep people occupied. So, where does WoW go “wrong”? Why do people talk so much crap about it like it’s heroin in polygonal/pixelated form?

The reason is that it can create a false sense of reality, temporarily boosting people’s egos and bringing them right back down when there’s a new armor set or weapon you “need”. Most people will join a guild, which is basically a large group of like-minded people with the same goal in mind: progressing through the game’s “end-game” content (things you can do only when you’ve hit the level cap of 60). This provides your community and the people that you will spend hours and hours with doing the same thing every week. Basically, you’re spending hours and hours of your life getting nowhere and for no real reason. I will agree with the masses that this is a horrible thing for kids who are at the age where they are forming their social skills and the habits that they will carry throughout their lives. If you’re at a certain point in your life where you can let it be a “hobby” with normal hours, then it can just be something to pass the time.

What I’d like to get into more in future posts is examples (and perhaps screenshots) of the pure geekery that comes out of playing this game “full-time” and how it can really ruin people’s lives if they let it. There’s not much difference between WoW and real life if you think about it. The only thing separating the two, really, is the tangible nature of real life versus the synthetic nature of WoW. Both have their ebbs and flows and ways of “progressing” to no foreseeable end, and both can give you what you want if you look for it in the right places. Think about it.

Anyway, I hope I’ve been somewhat informative… I will get less formal in my subsequent posts and probably even make fun of an in-game person or two. My angle for these posts is to provide all of you who don’t play with an insight into the lives of people who do and have a little fun in the process.

-j


The moons of Risa!

October 13, 2006

Here’s the problem with most MMORPGs, and by severe but not superfluous tangent what will also make Wii a unique and revolutionary product, is that those kinds of games presuppose and requires a certain vocabulary and skill set to play the game and do not represent a fantasy world that one can escape to, which used to be the point of games in general before they became mass-produces and marketed like Hollywood movies. I know what some of you are thinking– “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Well, if you really want it spelled out for you because you’re either thirteen years old and/or are used to vapid conversations comprised largely of acronyms and typed in a chat window in Trillian or WoW, what I mean to say is just that: games like this have been taken over by loser and socially inept teens that have nothing better to do than sit in their parents’ basement wallowing in smug self-satisfaction at how much Gold they have. Well I hate to break it to you, folks. No one cares. Games used to be about an escape, and what prevents me from getting into many online games are two simple facts. If I am going to invest that much time into learning an entirely new lifestyle, vocabulary, language and environment, I think I’d rather be in another country rather than talking to the likes of you. Which brings us to fact number two. You’re playing the game, too. And I don’t really like you. You’re too young, you play the game better than me, and you’re an idiot. Talk to me in ten years once you know what your sexual orientation is, once you actually have a job, once you stop sniffing black markers to get high.

I am filled with joy and cynicism at the idea of playing Star Trek Online. The cynical side of me is worried that the game is simply too good to be true, that it will never be finished, that it is too complex to market, and that it will be overrun by preteens. The joy is obvious. Here is a game that follows the same rules of a world I already know, a world I inadvertently invested years learning about, caring about. And with that comes hope that this world can live forever, and not just in those seven precious seasons of TNG. The trick, which can’t be stated enough, is that they have to do it right. Leave me alone in my quarters or in Ten Forward, let me take my vakay on Risa. And don’t follow the same rules of every other MMORPG. Take a cue from Nintendo and forge your own path, don’t compete on their level, and create something new, what this genre of game should have become, something between The Sims and Diablo with a twist of Patrician. And if you don’t happen to agree, then this game probably will suck and you won’t like it. Which is just as well. I’d rather see this game live and die for its uniqueness than for being just another hack teenie MMORPG jerk-off parade.

-a