Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Started With The Game...

Yesterday marked the 5th Anniversary of World of Warcraft. (Side note: the release date was November 23, 2004 - just a slight coincidence about the 23rd...) I would like to sit here and say... it doesn't feel like it's been 5 years but yes, yes it has felt like it. It's interesting how much a piece of software has played a big part in my life. Here's a condensed look back.

It started the day of the release. My boyfriend at the time... hmm... I don't remember if he was my boyfriend or just a friend - we went back and forth a lot. Ross was waiting at a store for the midnight release of World of Warcraft. I remember thinking he was so silly to be standing out in the cold waiting for some stupid video game. A few days later he came to my house, game in hand to install it on my computer. His justification was so that he could check in to the game when he was over. I watched the cinematic with him and it was so beautiful... almost exciting. He casually offered me a slot on his character list to play my own. I created a human priest and, because I didn't know any better, named her Brittany. From the moment I logged in I was hooked. It was beautiful. The music... the ambiance... Everything. I had logged into Northshire Valley and fell in love with it. Even in a recent interview with Jeff Kaplan, the former lead game designer of WoW, mentions this. He says "As silly as it sounds, if I had to go back and look at one moment that made me think, 'This is something special'. It wasn’t one of the big, grand moments where Arthas stormed into Lordaeron and killed his father or anything like that. It was actually just the first time that I walked down the road in Elwynn in the game and I remember looking around and I walked into Goldshire and just thought, 'This is so beautiful and it feels so real and so fantastic.' And I think it’s a lot of the little, understated moments and the coolness of the world that are really what sort of stick with me in terms of what makes Warcraft special." Thinking about entering the world now, it brings back such strangely happy memories. I was such a n00b.

I bounced around on the server for awhile, figuratively and literally. Slowly I realized what PvP and PvE meant and I had created Brittany on a PvE server. I thought it would be fun to try out a PvP server so I landed on Skullcrusher. Eventually I fell into the WoW curse. I was raiding in a "serious" guild. I would have to rush home to raid, stay up late (thankfully it was an East Coast server so it wasn't TOO late) and turn right around the next day and do the same thing. It was a lot of fun sometimes... but the curse part comes in when you've got a raid leader with a huge e-peen and a lisp who constantly yells over Vent because his guild can't handle the adds on Nefarian. At the same time though... there is nothing like downing a boss that you have been dying to kill.

The game caused me to make a giant u-turn around the United States and in my life. I saw something in someone that wasn't there. Sadly for me and everyone involved... it took such a huge change for me to see it. But in the end it was the best decision ever. I moved back to California... landed a job with my dream company, a beautiful townhouse apartment and a better life. I didn't take the game so seriously anymore. It became more of a hobby than something I woke up for. And then I met Ian.

I got Ian's story about his WoW experience the other day. A friend of his - the guy who would introduce us - called him up one day to ask him a favor. For some reason he was busy and couldn't log in or couldn't register (Ian can't remember) and he wanted Ian to log in for him. He started playing and was hooked from there. Eventually he was a tank for one of the best raiding guilds on Mannoroth. How he got from Mannoroth to Skullcrusher I'm not sure. But I was introduced to Ian about 2 years after release. Just like me, he was becoming disillusioned with hardcore raiding. We started "hanging out"... and getting to know each other. He was a big reason the game began to be fun again. It was no longer a chore to play it. We had fun swimming around each continent in Azeroth. He helped me become not so much of a n00b. I still don't have the video game gene that he seems to have but maybe our offspring will get it. I can't do "video game" moves... but I can definitely stand in one place and heal a group! Ian and I got to know each other really well through the game. The rest is history.

The game itself has definitely changed. I remember when you had to take a portal to get to the other continent because the boats weren't working... If you wanted to get to a city far away, you had many stops in your flight and each time you landed you had to click to get to the next stop. Nowadays you can go from Tanaris to Darnassus with one click and go afk for 15 minutes. Burn out still happens. People were burnt out right before the expansion of Burning Crusade... then again before Wrath of the Lich King. I'm sure this will be a trend that continues. For some odd reason... the game continues to be interesting. It isn't all consuming anymore but it still holds a special place for us.

It has such massive appeal it's crazy. I remember being at Disneyland with Bill, standing in line for the Haunted Mansion. I was telling him that I found one of the pumpkin bags for Halloween. A lady in front of us turned around and asked me where I got it. She was standing in line with her 5 year old daughter. I thought for sure she was mistaken and thought it was a bag we found at Disneyland or something. I explained it was in World of Warcraft... and she goes "Oh yeah, we play too. We just haven't found one yet". She was this sweet 30-something year old soccer mom type. Not at all someone you would peg to play. I was on a bus taking me from the airport back to my car and this family got on. They were just getting back from a vacation in Hawaii. The dad immediately got on his cell phone and apparently called his arena buddy he plays with. He told him how long it would be until he got home and that he wanted to get in a few arena rounds that night. As of December 2008, WoW had 11.8 million subscribers. Macaulay Culkin, Curt Shilling, Mila Kunis, Dave Chapelle, Vin Diesel, and Jimmy Fallon all play it. The 2009 Cy Young award winning pitcher Zack Greinke plays it. It appeals to many different types of people. Ian and I play it somewhat casually now and will probably continue to in the future. If/When we quit... we're taking away some pretty fond memories (yes, we're that geeky)... It started with the game. Happy Anniversary!

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