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MMORPG: a love-hate relationship

I was much too young to really get wrapped into the old Everquest craze that swept the nation in the late 1990s.  Middle and high school life isn’t very conducive to picking up an online alter ego and slashing your way into glory, especially when there’s only one internet connection in your house, and its dialup.  Still, I heard the horror stories.  People, grown men and women who were arrested for child neglect because they kept forgetting to feed their children, whole towns of people up and quitting their jobs to become one with the Everquest machine.  It was a scary time, especially for someone who had been hooked on video games since the first time I plugged River Raid into the old Atari when I was five.


I began my descent into MMO madness without even realizing it.

At Elrood’s urgings I picked up a heavily text-based adventure MUD called Exile, where I spent about six months leveling up to about level seven or so, and spent more time than not wandering into gigantic bees that were way too strong and attacked on sight.  Elrood rose to the ranks of a legend among, uh, MUDders, and I quietly bowed out, bruised and beaten with the understanding that this thing probably wasn’t for me.

The years passed, and the memory of Exile and of those poor, doomed souls who were devoured by Everquest faded, along with the memory of just how bad I was at MMO games.  It was 2004 and I was in college, knee-deep in my sophomore year, and trying hard to convince all my professors and peers that yes, I do actually know what I’m doing, thank you very much.

That was about the time someone sent me the link to Kingdom of Loathing.  The whimsical little game, programmed and written by a group of happy-go-lucky partiers captured my attention right out, and better yet, the text went slower so I could actually tell what was going on.  Kingdom of Loathing is a single player game for the most part, but player-versus-player interactions and clan halls sneak in there too.  It was, I came to realize later, like an MMORPG with training wheels.  It was like someone had slipped marijuana into my candy cigarettes, and then secretly, discretely offered me some heroin.

I needed more.  Something more substantial, that felt permanent. If I had been on crack, I probably would have been shivering on the floor at that point.

So, when I found myself one of three people left on the college campus over a particularly strange summer, I installed World of Warcraft on my computer, once again at Elrood’s urgings.  By the time I rolled out my puny, level one undead warlock, Elrood was a mighty level 48  orc hunter.  He came all the way back from his high level zones to welcome me into the game on my first day.

He then told me we couldn’t adventure together, what with me being a puny, unwashed and undergeared warlock and all, mounted up, and rode into the somewhat murky sunset.  I didn’t see him again for another thirty levels.

Thus began my rocky relationship with World of Warcraft.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I clawed my way up to a somewhat respectable level, battling hundreds of creatures, spending god knows how long traveling between zones, and performing strange tasks, deliveries, and acts of genocide on the various flora and fauna of Azeroth. I had played the ever-loving snot out of Warcraft 3, and the lore, characters, and the feeling that I was just a tiny part in this massive world sucked me in like a man through a jet engine.

Look, you can't really tell but I'm totally a respected hero of the horde. Because... sometimes you have to... dress like a murloc and surrender. These things happen!

With my friends so far ahead of me in levels, I skimmed General Chat to help me fill those party spots to get some of the more difficult quests finished, where I made a certain observation for the first time.

I hate people. Specifically, I hate internet people.  Either people just anonymously bashed their co players, made stupid, horrible, and racist jokes, or just ran back to low-level zones to slaughter everyone who dared raise a hand against them.  As a PVP server resident I expected a fair amount of getting ganked, but when you spend more time running from a level 60 with an attitude problem than you spend traveling between zones, it gets old.

Seriously, Blizzard, three words.  Faster flight paths.

But there was the first blemish in my MMO relationship.  Why, exactly, was I playing an MMO?  It couldn’t be because of the people.  Ha!  No, seriously.  It couldn’t be because of the people. If I never hear another Chuck Norris joke, it’ll be too soon.

But still, I soldiered on, spending much of my time in Azeroth alone, wandering the dark and dusty zones, determined to save the world (of warcraft) from itself.  By the time I got to level 60, the Burning Crusade came out, and I distracted myself from the unfortunate side of the MMOs with sweet, blissful leveling and lore.  But then I hit 70, and it all came crashing down.

I was suddenly unable to improve my character.

Which, y’know, is unfortunate when that’s kinda the point of World of Warcraft.

The only way up for me was to run dungeons over and over and over again.  I could get better gear and items from killing the vaguely evil dudes inside with a small party, which sounded cool in theory.  But by the time I hit 70, everyone had already pretty much tapped out of dungeons and moved to raiding, which is essentially the same thing but with 25 other people.

Since I had no raid gear, most groups refused to allow me into their parties at all.  Which started to grate on me, since I was spending an extraordinary amount of time trying to get into groups with random people, who I hate.

Disillusioned, I tried some other MMOs for a while.  But FFXI was Warcraft’s low-level-advancement problem to the extreme, and I was unable to get above level five without trying to find someone to group with.  And City of Heroes, got a tad bit repetitive after the fifth office building full o’ goons.

So, it was back to Warcraft for me.  I ate up the new, level 70 content as fast as Blizzard could release it, but felt left out since I never got into half of the dungeons in Outland and have never, ever had any desire to try raiding.  I felt like I was being secretly punished for not participating, which was irritating since I’m paying a monthly fee.  If I wanted to feel that bad, I’d just save up the money and buy some hamburger helper.

So good, and yet so terrible. Abandon all hope ye who add a pound of ground meat.

But at the end of the day, the MMO was something to do if I was bored and had too much time on my hands, which is pretty much the norm.  It’s a hateful, spiteful and judgemental creature, but d’aww, I can’t stay mad at it.  I’ve tried to uninstall it several times and came close to canceling my account once (Blizzard’s way to keep people around is to just make Firefox crash when they hit the button.  Nice.) but it’s been there for me for years.  It’s something I know will always be there if I’m ever bored or needing something to play.  It’ll always be there if I’m in too good of a mood and need a reminder as to why I have no faith in humanity.

So that’s my relationship with World of Warcraft, and with MMOs in general.  I like the idea behind them, and they’re a great way to sink a few hours, but I can’t stand to be around that shifty, judgemental whore for too long or else I’ll…  Oh, baby don’t cry.  I didn’t mean it.  Let’s do some daily quests and level our fishing skill, just like we used to.


One Response

  1. […] back to the point, WoW players are serious. Tophat shared his thoughts on the MMO experience and lamented the hardcoreness of end game WoW. This casual vs. hardcore […]

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