So as active participation in Tam’s Christmas-present-syphilis-like-meme of bloggy exchange, I drew:
What was your “piece of wonder” moment (or moments) – the experience that defines everything that keeps you logging into WoW, the one you remember when you ask yourself “why am I playing this again”?
Is that all, Tam? Sure we don’t want the answer to life, the universe, and everything, too? (I have it on good authority that it’s 42.)
I’ve been thinking about it a lot since he posited the question to me. And it’s made me realize that we humans (in our crazy, singular way) create relationships with everything around us. The obvious ones are those we have with other living creatures (those who can feel those same connections back at us), but we also create relationships with our homes, our workplaces, our jobs, our hobbies. We have the same ups and downs, the same ebbs and flows of interest and disinterest, love and irritation. And WoW is not immune to this. Just take a look around at the WoW bloggers – we write feverishly, we are quiet for months, we vow to step away from the game, we come back from absences, we move on for good.
So just as there are a million moments and indescribable points of love and rage and perfection and failure between my husband and myself, between my career and me, between my family and me, there exists a million little reasons why the connection holds between WoW and myself as well.
The truth is that I have always been a channel-changer. My husband, who is more stolid when it comes to games, doesn’t share my impulsive desire to stop playing halfway through or, worse, just before the final boss (see: all Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, dozens of rented and purchased games, countless started-and-abandoned Civilizations, etc.) My relationships with games are always hot, heavy and short-lived. The idea of having a game I played pretty much nonstop for multiple years was ridiculous. Yet in WoW I have just that – a game I play every week, if not every day, and have done so for two years now with no end in sight.
So, this being the case, I have to ask myself, why? Where was the moment (or moments) that turned World of Warcraft from yet another computer distraction, loved and abandoned just as quickly, into something more?
And in looking for that moment, I discovered the two-pronged “why”. The first reason is one shared by many others when it comes to WoW. It is the people I play with, the people I write to, the human relationships that have changed or come out of my little game relationship. I have played MMOs before, but always in competition, never with a shared goal, and that, as they say, has made all the difference. I never went in much for team sports, but in WoW I see the appeal of a shared path among many, not just the two-against-the-world mentality that I espoused when I got married. Not to mention the fact that these shared goals bring together people from all over who have become friends outside of the game as well.
The other reason is the thing that is always busy causing bloggers and internet commentators such hysteria – WoW never stays the same. It is always changing, developing, evolving, for good and bad. It is never boring – even when it has moments of drudgery. There is always another patch, another instance, another boss, another expansion, another goal to reach for, another puzzle to piece together. It has no end, no guy-gets-the-girl, bad-guy-is-blown-to-bits finale. The story goes on. And so do I, eager to see the next dilemma, read the next chapter, kill the next ONE TRUE EVIL.
So even though there is no one moment of defining clarity where my brain went “Eureka! This is the one true reason why I play!”, here are a few moments of mini-definition:
- Stepping off the boat onto the dock at Auberdine for the first time. It may sound silly, but up until then I don’t think the “world” aspect had really hit me. Once I got there, though, I was completely awed and excited and overwhelmed by everything in Darkshore – my first step away from the starting land my toon had come from…it was a magical experience. And it started to give me a sense of how big Azeroth really is.
- The “good night” drink in the Ironforge inn. When my pally and I found another couple to play with (creating our Fantastic Foursome), we would log on in the evenings, play as a big happy group for a few hours, and then hearth back to Ironforge, where we would do our auctioning, repairing, training, etc, and then meet up in the Ironforge inn, sit down at the table which seats four, and drink, talk about our day, give a round of /hugs, and log off. We did not use Ventrilo or the ingame chat at the time, so this was when we had extended chats, learned more about each other, and let real life into the virtual world. At one point I realized that I looked forward to our “good night” drinks each night, that these two people we had met in a fantasy were actually important to me in real life. Now we have seen each other through medical emergencies, personal crises, and real-life accomplishments as well as all the virtual ones. We talk regularly on the phone. But back then we just had the Ironforge inn, a little routine that bespoke of much more.
- My first 10-man Naxx raid. I had never healed in a raid before, and I only knew two people in the raid besides my husband. All of a sudden I was thrown into this group of people who all knew each other well, made ribald jokes that had me cracking up, and watched all the same TV shows I did. Plus they kicked ass and took names in the amazing, complex raid dungeon that was Naxxramas, and I was a part of it. A useful part. I was so high off of that first run, I never wanted to stop raiding.
- “The Dedicated Few”. Eight of us went into Naxx “just for funsies” on a Saturday night. Most of us were geared in Ulduar pretties, and we were bringing a baby tank (non-Ulduar-ed) with us who had never been to Naxx before. We figured, “What the hell, we’ll see how it goes…” Three hours, a large pizza, countless jokes, some terrified tree-as-bear action during the Gluth fight, and dozens of easy camaraderie pulls later, we had downed every single boss in that place, including the Four Horsemen and KT. It was one of the first times I felt fully confident healing a raid – I knew I could do it and my reflexes were razor-sharp and agreed with me. And our baby tank? Even having never seen or read up on most of Naxx, he got The Safety Dance on the first go.
- Learning to fly. There were three of us who got flying for the first time together (this was before my baby druid made it to 70). We mounted our gryphons together and flew over Outland in jaw-dropped amazement. I’d always thought Nagrand was beautiful, but from the air? It was amazing. We swooped and soared and marveled for a while before my pally decided to test whether one could mount while falling. We flew up to the highest mountaintop we could find and watched as he flew out a little ways from us, made his gryphon disappear and plummeted like a stone to his death. It was hilarious.
- The resto druid haste nerf in the latest patch. I had to respec Taz and pay more attention to how I healed with her. Autopilot didn’t cut it. It can be frustrating as hell and thank goodness for that. WoW always challenges me to find new ways of doing what I did in-game before.
WoW will probably not be in my life forever. (So few things are for any of us, after all.) But it’s made an impression. It’s brought me together with people whom I otherwise never would have met. It’s inspired laughter, frustration, accomplishment, writing, and love. And it gives me moments every time I play.
P.S. Merry Christmas, Tam.
P.P.S. How could I have forgotten? My pally reminded me of one of my earliest defining moments for WoW this evening:
- Learning to pay it forward. My pally and I were in Darkshore, questing away, when we came across “The Absent-Minded Prospector” quest chain. We tried protecting that little guy over and over again to no avail until a Night Elf druid tons of levels above us showed up, partied with us, and carried us through the escort. Afterwards we thanked him, and he said, “Don’t worry about it. Just make sure to help lowbies when you see them. After all, they could be me.” We were both thunderstruck. This fellow player gained nothing from helping us, wasn’t rude or infantile, and wanted us to help others. Maybe WoW was going to be a different kind of gaming experience after all. Turns out it was…and it continues to be.