I miss World of Warcraft. But not enough to play it again.
I recently listened to some of Penny Arcade’s podcasts, and they raised an interesting point. Jerry was spending real-life money for an upgrade in “Oblivion,” a game that no one would see except him. And also, it seems the upgrade didn’t actually DO anything. It just made his horse look pretty. Mike brought up the point that online games had changed his view and that playing single-player games like Kingdom Hearts wasn’t very satisfying to him anymore, because, well, who cares if you beat Kingdom Hearts? On the other hand, having the coolest armor and having the respect of your guildmates and noobs across the server…that’s the kind of respect that is EARNED.
(Note to self: How do I make sure that my nerdy friends who read this aren’t totally bored by my watered-down explanations, while maintaining the interest my nongamer friends who probably don’t understand a word I’m saying anyway? I’m sure I’ll think of something. Ooh, try to work bacon in somehow. Everyone likes bacon!)
I was willing to give the most famous MMORPG a try, even though I had sworn never to play them. For you nongamers, that stands for “massive multi-player online role-playing game,” and I had a personal vendetta against it because developer SquareEnix had released the 11th game of my favorite series, Final Fantasy, on this platform, and they didn’t even ask my opinion.
While I would be plunged into the mystical world I had grown to love, acting as a character designed to my every specification, I would have to TALK to other people! I would have to team up with them to complete quests, barter with them to get deals on some extra armor they had, make fun of Chuck-Norris-inspired catchphrases used in General Chat. This was not something I wanted, so I folded my arms and sent evil mind rays to SquareEnix to change the next FF game back to single-player.
But when I was strapped for an idea for Justin’s birthday, I got him World of Warcraft. As I was introduced to this world, it didn’t look so bad. As mature players often do, Justin was able to team with normal people to complete quests and avoid guild drama. A guild, for the uninformed, is when you group with a few (or hundreds of) people on your server so you will always have like-minded people who need the same quests, and sometimes people can give you their hand-me-down armor and weapons. Guild drama, on the other hand, is when someone fights a battle with you and then steals the bow and arrow that you had fought for hours for, even though they can’t even use it because they’re a damn priest, so you sic your pet panther on them and laugh as it claws their eyes out. Sort of like that. But that doesn’t happen with mature people.
Anyway, one day, Justin had to take a break for some reason, and he was killing some monsters with a friend of his. He had to keep her healed while she was attacked, so he showed me some of the buttons, told his friend that I was stepping in, and went off to eat or sleep or look at the sky or something.
I was terrified. THIS PERSON’S LIFE WAS IN MY HANDS! I couldn’t let down this complete stranger, and I just kept clicking ravenously, keeping her healed, even though she was not necessarily even in a fight. All in all, I learned that the game wasn’t so bad.
I started playing it when I lived in Pittsburgh before my 3 PM – 11 PM shift, and those are some of my best memories of the game, running around Elwynn Forest with the Pure-Moods-like music playing softly and eating Ruffles with french onion dip. It didn’t take me long, though, to realize how different this game is than others I usually like. First, I have always loved games for their storylines. This game had a few weak attempts at a storyline, but only if you enjoyed reading pages and pages of quests that summed up to read:
“My daughter is sick and close to death. The goddess Elune surely looks down upon this house. Perhaps I shouldn’t have made a deal with the demon who walks these forests. Anyway, I need you to kill 4 antivirus trees and bring me 1 trout.
The trout is for me. I’m hungry.”
After a few months of playing “Animal Crossing,” I hit the radish jackpot, and paid off my house and all furniture I could have ever wanted. It was only then that I realized: “Wait…all this game is about is me bringing shit back and forth from house to house. And sometimes tedious digging crap up or fishing for stuff. This sucks!”
It took me until level 40 in WoW to realize: “Wait…this game is just paper dolls for boys! I go out and kill a few bears for some douche NPC who can’t do it himself, all with the hopes that I’ll get a pretty new hat that will impress my guild. This sucks!”
But hearing this Penny Arcade podcast gave me a whole different perspective. If impressing people online means is superficial and means nothing to me, then why do I play single-player games where I don’t even have the CHANCE to superficially impress people? I guess it all comes down to what it means to me.
I explain this for the nongamers, because anyone else knows why we play games. (Really cheesy emotional crap ahead.) Games affect me the way really good music does, or a really kick ass movie or TV episode. Or a book, or a beautiful view on a hike. Or petting a kitten. The game Shenmue has kitten-petting options within it.
When I play a game with a great storyline, I have so much emotionally invested in it that it makes me happy. I look back on countless summers spent indoors beating games with my brother and Jordan, and I have such great memories.
I don’t know, I guess WoW got so diluted after some of the low-level stuff that there wasn’t much of a storyline. And this was also a game where people with the most free time really were the most respected because they *could* play endlessly, and maybe they had a high tolerance for just killing monsters to get experience. I realized that I would never get to the level that the best players got to, and that was discouraging. And if I did get to a really high level and had decent armor, I would have spent a lot of time doing a whole lot of work that was kind of tedious for the most part.
I don’t try to play single-player games to 100%, trying to get every item and every side quest. I have fun with the storyline and leveling up, and fighting the final boss is very satisfying to me. Competing in a mad rush every time a new MMO expansion comes out to get to the new level cap with the new races, just to wait for the situation to repeat itself with no ending in sight is NOT satisfying to me. (See “Foxtrot” comic)
So I quit WoW before the Burning Crusade expansion came out. And like I said, I do miss the FEELING I had, running around with general chat off, doing quests on my own, not really worrying about proving myself to anyone. I’d like to try another MMO someday, one where I could get into the story. I keep my fingers crossed for Star Wars or Star Trek, but I’m also worried that they could bastardize the world beyond all canon, and I wouldn’t enjoy myself.
Or, like Final Fantasy 11, the economy could be destroyed by gold farmers — people who spend their days killing monsters endlessly, then selling the gold for real money, then when all the characters spend real money to be rich in the game, it makes the prices set in the Auction House worthless, forcing everyone to either farm for gold or jump out of a skyscraper like a Depression stock broker.
But I’m no economist. I just want to play a fun game. And, uh, eat bacon.
I miss World of Warcraft. But not enough to play it again.