***Please note: anything in [ ] was a footnote in my word processing document.***
“Why on earth would anyone write a book about their online gaming experiences?” Life has a way of connecting me with people I need in my life who’ll help me through hard times, become a better person, or help me get closer to achieving my goals. One such connection led me to move from Connecticut to Arizona to live with one of my World of Warcraft friends, whom I’d known for years beforehand, but hadn’t met in person, until we united by baggage claim in Tuscon. My family couldn’t comprehend such a decision, even though I knew in my heart of hearts I was making the right decision. The move across the United States has preserved my sanity and, I humbly admit, my life. If I hadn’t started playing World of Warcraft, I would’ve never met Simon or be where I am today.
I’ve done my best to write this book for people who’ve never played any of the games mentioned in the following pages, or any video games in general, can follow along and enjoy the contents. I want to show how awesome the gaming community is, and perhaps persuade a few to join the ranks.
The stories in this book are recounted as accurately as possible with hopefully minimal embellishments—who can resist sometimes?—tarnishing the truth. I never thought I’d write a book about my online gaming experience, and neither did my friends. Everything comes from memory, which can be unreliable at times.
Classic World of Warcraft
Inducted into a Different MMO Community
Halo 2 on Xbox Live reached the end of its appeal. Being a gaming girl, the online gaming community wasn’t always friendly. There’s this puzzling belief held by a fair few boys—not men; they don’t deserve to be called men—that girls don’t play video games. Said boys wholehearted believed I was either a prepubescent boy whose balls hadn’t dropped yet, or I was a fag.
There are morons who don’t believe girls and homosexuals belong in the gaming community.
Too bad for those noobs. [The word “noob” used to be “newb”, which used to be “newbie.” Not only do gamers shorten words, they purposely alter the spelling.]
I got so fed up with being told I was really a twelve-year-old boy that I opened my throat, to make my voice as deep as possible and said over Xbox Live, “Oh, yes, I really am I man. This is my manly voice. See how manly I sound?” I was going ramble more nonsense, but I started coughing. The strain on my larynx was too much.
What’s the kid’s response to my farce?
“Your manly voice sounds realer than your girly voice,” he said in his own prepubescent voice.
Yeah, I blinked at my TV, probably even smacked my forehead. Hell, I might have shot him, too. He deserved no less. I don’t have the most feminine of voices but for the love of gaming, clean your ears and tune yourself into reality! Girls play video games, too, you morons!
Moments like that steadily wore down my enjoyment of Halo 2 and I turned to offline games, including the tabletop game called Warhammer, where I sent whole armies to meet others head-on in war where the winner would be declared only by total annihilation of the enemy.
* * *
I’m a gaming nerd through and through. Not hardcore, perhaps, but lifelong. I grew up on the Nintendo, chasing down the elusive Princess Peach and blowing air into the cartridge through my T-shirt as needed. [Who knows if that trick really worked?] I don’t know how that lumbering lizard with a tortoise shell navigated his way through the dungeons the hero, Mario, had to race through, but I logged endless hours of running, jumping, squishing things, swimming, and shooting fireballs that stood between me and the princess.
Then came Super Mario 3, the Super NES gaming system, and Final Fantasy Games, along with Donkey Kong. I discovered my love of turn-based games where you had to strategize with an arsenal of offensive and defensive moves for multiple characters. Then there was the Gameboy and all sorts of games, especially Pokémon, where my goal was to catch every type of monster, which required teamwork or cheating. Dear god, I still own almost every last version from every generation.
I grew into the Nintendo 64 and fell in love with Ocarina of Time, Super Smash Bros., Diddy Kong Racing, and more. Ocarina of Time was a medieval adventure with a magical ocarina, and one of the most amazing climactic fights between good and evil. Super Smash Bros. was an enjoyable no-think game where you mashed buttons and sent opponents flying off the fighting stage. Diddy Kong Racing was a fun racing game. My favorite character was Timber, a tiger cub, and zooming past the competition time after time on bumper boats.
And then my brother bought a Playstation and Final Fantasy VII (FFVII) [Considered one of the greatest games of all time], and oh man, we were blown away by cutscene graphics, on top of how awesome that game was and still is. Final Fantasy VII was like a novel come to life through a video game. It had action, adventure, romance, mystery, and an excellent character-driven story. At some point I dabbled in Phantasy Star Online but the game didn’t hold me. It was lots of fun running around maps, killing stuff, and building a robot companion with parts found via killing stuff, but I think I was too young to properly enjoy it.
I didn’t return to online gaming until after high school. My brother, Peter, who’s the reason I became a lifelong gamer, has always been good at checking out what’s trending. I forget what game I was playing at the time, besides Warhammer, but one day Pete introduced me to—drumroll—World of Warcraft (WoW).
You saw that coming, right?
Of course you did.
Pete fell in love with WoW [Ah, yes, we shorten the names of games too] and, as always, wanted me to get into it, too. I was in college at the time and reluctant to try another online game. My Halo 2 woes hadn’t been expunged from memory. However, Pete persisted and prodded me to try it, even handed me the player’s guide.
“Ang, you gotta try this game. It’s so much fun!”
I remember sitting in the living room, looking askance at the guide, knowing I’d want to play the game if I started reading it.
Like a sucker, I picked up that pile of shiny pages and started reading about races, classes, macro explanations, and more. I was hooked before I got halfway through.