***Please note: anything in [ ] was a footnote in my word processing document.***
I didn’t start making friends until I left the starting zone for another zone called Darkshore, a long strip of land line with ocean on the west, tall mountains on the east, and lots of trees and wildlife in between. [Zone: think of the map of America and calling each state a zone.] Here we had this coastal town that my brother informed me we’d be spending a lot of time in for the next handful of levels. I was accustomed to leveling thanks to all the RPGs I’ve played over the years [RPG: role playing game], but I was used to random encounters like that of the Final Fantasy and Pokémon games, and that was how you leveled. In WoW, there was this thing called questing, where NPCs dished out a to-do list, and quests reward you not only with items, but also with experience points. I fast learned to hunt down those coveted golden exclamation points anywhere I could find them.
Okay, in reality, if someone is standing there with this giant golden exclamation point over his or her head, chances are they’re in Theatre or something, bored enough to do something that ridiculous, or they’re at a gaming convention. In WoW, golden exclamation points attract gamers. Sure, it might sound silly, but it’s an easy way to clue a player in that there’s stuff to do in a particular location.
There are quests called “Group Quests,” which are one way people meet in-game, especially if you’re the type of gamer who must thoroughly complete a game. All quests are optional since there are several ways to reach the maximum level; however, Im the type complete everything in one zone before moving on to the next (called a Completionist). This behavior led me to meeting two people early on, their characters named Heino and Urong.
Heino was this young sweetheart who wasn’t very good at the game, but he was friendly, helpful, and pleasant to spend time with. Urong turned out to be an ass of a twelve-year-old who was respectably good at the game, did lots of martial arts, and was impatient as all god-given hell. Yeah, yeah. He was 12. What did I expect?
A learning curve from Urong, I guess.
When making friends in-game, you can make a window pop up that’s called your friends list, just like your contact list in your cell phone. I added both kids to my friend list, deciding to be patient for Urong, but when he started mistreating Heino and not wanting him to run around with us—he was “bad” by Urong’s standards—I ended up giving Mr. Conceited the boot and hanging out with Heino instead, whom I believe was also 12 at the time, and I was 20.
It was odd at first hanging out with a kid but that’s part of being in an MMO community. You’re mixing with a huge age range. I’ve gamed with children, grandparents, and everything in between.
After Heino, I made friends with two people called Deviant and Chauncey, and Deviant is someone I’m still friends with nine years later. We’re Facebook friends and everything. His real name is Mobeen, a Dubai native who went to college in Buffalo, NY and even worked in NYC for a while. Now he’s back home, working hard towards making it big.
Deviant, whom we all called Dev for short, has always been fascinated with computers, delving into the video game universe around age 12, back in the days of DOS, and playing FIFA, which is a football game for Windows 98. He and his younger brother played together with one person on the mouse and the other on the keyboard.
From FIFA he played Duke Nukem and the original Quake, and during a huge period of his high school life, where they had a PC café/pool hall, he and his friends played a lot of Counterstrike (shooting game)—and by a lot, he means they used to skip school to play. Counterstrike was intense. He and his friends could strategize as a team in real time and attack with different people mastering different skills. Dev was a good sniper and assault rifle dude, someone else was the gung-ho shotgun type, and so on.
From there they got into Warcraft I-III. It was a spillover from the Lord of the Rings movies, and since they all loved those movies, the similar themes drew them to Warcraft. They played the solo campaign first, and they replayed it in multiplayer in the same cafés, until Dev attended university, where he took a lengthy break from gaming, partaking in a lot of frat parties without even being in a fraternity.
One summer, all his friends graduated, leaving him all alone in Buffalo. Sure, he had a cool roommate, but the guy wasn’t much of a gamer, so Dev picked up WoW, since he liked the original Warcraft story, and spent that entire summer playing it. The social aspect of it was great, since he lived in the ass-crack of nowhere, but the game connected him to millions of people. His home city of Dubai is big, with people everywhere, and the move to Buffalo was a total change, so getting into an MMO brought back some semblance of normal as he knew it.
Chauncey is a New Jersey native I don’t know as much about. He fell off the map before the days of Facebook. If he reads this book, he needs to get back in touch!
Chauncey and Deviant were a blast to hang out it with. We all met in Darkshore, yet we spent way too many hours running back and forth across the jungles of Stranglethorn Vale in the days where you didn’t get a mount until level 40, and on top of that, we paused in leveling to earn the gold necessary to buy a mount.
At some point, I set Sekiro aside and rolled a gnome mage named Midgetofdoom. I laughed so hard when WoW let me use that name. Not only was it awesome that no one else on Thrall had thought of it before me, I love using the word “doom.” And what fireball-slinging gnome with green hair isn’t worthy of such a monicker?
I forget why I set aside Sekiro, but I fell in love with my gnome. I’m a caster at heart and love pulverizing enemies from afar. [Caster: one of the play styles available in regards to how you kill things.] Deviant was a hunter, a class that uses bows or guns and has a faithful companion, like a bear or wolf, fighting alongside them. Chauncey was a Night Elf Druid.
Deviant,, got me into PvP [Player versus player]. I remember countless hours running around on the map called Alterac Valley, a snowy place with wolves and harpies, and big bad guys at the opposite ends of the valley that needed killing in order to win the round. No objective is ever right next door.
Let me take a moment to explain that playing video games requires a loose grip on reality. Death is temporary, physics don’t function quite like they do in reality, and there’s always an excuse to run around and kill things for hours on end. It’s so different from reality it boggles my mind that some people insist that playing lots of video games makes people violent. Until you can run from a real-world graveyard back to your body in order to resurrect yourself, those who blaspheme violent games have a rather weak argument, but let me expound on that later.
Part of the unreality of WoW is that you kill the same target over and over, until the mindless repetition bores you. Chauncey, Deviant, and I charged across Alterac Valley, dodging around the oncoming opposition and invading the enemy base, and overwhelming General Drak’Thar and seizing victory.
PvP has become hugely competitive worldwide. There are tournaments and professional gamers—yes, professional. People are paid to run around and kill other players, tournaments are broadcasted through television and live streaming (meaning people can watch it on their computers), and millions of dollars are dished out every year. Professional gaming can be a career, a very unlikely one, but one nonetheless. So, if your parents ever try to convince you that video games are a waste of time, show them some videos of WoW Arena or League of Legends tournaments and the prizes people win. And if the odds of that happening to you seem too astronomical, just say, “But mom, what if I decide to become a surgeon? It’s been statistically proven that surgeons who grew up playing video games perform surgery better than those who didn’t. All that practice with hand-eye-screen coordination paid off.” Google it if you don’t believe me.
I’m not a huge fan of PvP. I like to mind my own business while I run around one zone or another, or do group missions with my guild. Part of the reason is, I humbly admit, I hate getting outsmarted. In my formative days of WoW, I was a bit of a sore loser, but I’ve matured over time to the point where I love playing League of Legends, which is a pure PvP game. The other problem was (and still is) the balance of WoW PvP is heavily gear dependent, meaning it’s not so much about skill as it is about the armor and weapons you don. The better the gear, the harder you hit and the more punishment you can take.
On top of that, the size of the opposing teams was a constant struggle to keep balanced. Thrall hosted far more Horde than Alliance players, and it seemed like more adults rolled Horde side, and the children gravitated towards Alliance, so my chat box was often overloaded with whiners and complainers when PvPing [Horde: the faction opposing the Alliance]. No matter how many times I tried to give instruction or help, I’d often be snapped at by the complainer with phrases like, “You can’t tell me what to do! Stfu noob.” [stfu: shut the f#$k up] Of course, this was typed in one run-on sentence and without any punctuation, and maybe even in all capital letters, the silent way of shouting at other players.
Dev was a hardcore PvPer with quite a few victories under his belt, and he had an arch PvP nemesis, a female Orc rogue named Motoko. Dev being a hunter, rogues are naturally their worst enemy. Rogues can go invisible and sneak up on you, but hunters can lay traps and dash out of the danger zone. However, rogues are escape artists and can leap back into the fray. It’s a delicate balance and skilled players from either class can put up quite the fight.
At one point Dev actually created a Horde toon to talk to Motoko, who turned out to be “a pretty chill guy.” Motoko was just an alt that happened to be leveling up at the same time and pace as him. Shortly after their new friendship, Blizzard mixed a bunch of servers together for a bigger PvP pool, and their legendary rivalry died. However, the prowess of PvP guilds, like Death from Above, will never be forgotten.
Back in classic WoW, players had a choice of Alterac Valley, the objective being to kill the enemy general before yours is killed, Warsong Gulch, a game of capture-the-flag, and Arathi Basin, a king-of-the-hill game with five locations to fight for control over until a certain amount of resources have been accrued. Dev and the rogue would completely ignore the PvP objectives, hunt each other down and do nothing but try to kill each other match after match. Didn’t matter if a teammate was running towards them with a flag, screaming, “Help me!” while enemies gave chase. All that mattered was seeing who could kill the other more.
Dev was quite the active participator in WoW forums, where people would discuss hunters and what was getting nerfed. Hunters were complained about endlessly. They could hit so hard and stay out of harm’s way frustratingly well. He never complained about the nerds [nerf: a stat reduction to damage output, healing, or survivability]; just the changes that forced him to constantly adjust his talent points or change his specalization (spec for short; the way you play your character). He poured a huge amount of thought into each spec to provide the max damage output. While writing this book, I learned that he and Chauncey used to do this deep spec thought stuff while stoned. “It made everything much more interesting.”
While Dev was killing his heart out, Chauncey was always there for us with his healing capabilities when we got attacked, and we helped each other quest outside of PvP while we talked about life. The only bad part was that Chauncey used to do some really dumb things because he was so stoned all the time. Dev admits he smoked a lot of weed at that point in his life as well but it’s all good. No harm was done, other than dying in game now and then.
I remember questing with them in a zone called Ashenvale, this place rich in vibrant flora and colossal trees. Suddenly, Chauncey runs into a twenty-foot-wide trunk and continues to run in place. I stopped and waited for him to correct his path but, after enough time to make me wonder, I asked, “You lagging?”
Chauncey’s gangly legs stopped pumping and he took in his surroundings. “Sorry, man. I’m so stoned.”
“I got distracted by all the pretty colors.”