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Monday 31 October 2005

Why play Warcraft? [Lurks]

As may or may not be apparent to readers of this collective textual diarrhea of a web site, the good majority of active members of the 'Death have become somewhat less active in the traditional multiplayer gaming scene that we have been involved in for the last eight years. The reason is that we're hopelessly lost in World of Warcraft, having starting a guild called the Treehugging Hippies. We do have the odd die-hard member that refuses to be sucked in but by and large, we have more people consistently playing WoW than we've had playing any other game in the past.
Given our background, there's a good many that wonder how it has come to pass that this band of aging gamers would lay down their rocket launchers, railguns and Colt M4A1 assault rifles and pick up swords, bows and magical staves instead. The mistake here is to say that it's all about the game itself. To some degree it is - since it really is quite a marvellous game - but it's a bit more than that. I've been wondering how best to explain this, holding out for some sort of killer example if you will. Last Friday that killer example landed in my lap and I relay this experience to you so that you can perhaps understand the attraction of the world of massively multiplayer games.
The Treehugging Hippies has 155 characters of between 90 and 100 real people. That's a lot bigger than EED ever was and, here's the shocker, some of them are girls. One of these ladies is involved in this story however first I need to explain the nature of this experience. I'm not going to tell you about the most amazing battle we had, the most difficult dungeon bested or even a tail of foes vanquished on the PvP battlegrounds. I don't think you can really explain that sort of thing anyway. I'm going to tell you about something that happened in guildchat last Friday. That in turn was something that happened in real life.
Arora in game is a level 60 Night Elf and in real life is an attractive 19 year old gothic waif from Staffordshire. I could link you her bitbucket photosite but having noticed that Slim has perved it out good and proper, she has wisely chosen to restrict access - much as the thought of a stampede of overweight aging gamer blokes oggling her site doesn't appeal obviously. Anyhow, Friday afternoon Arora arrives onto guildchat and explain she's just had the worst half hour of her life.
Following a dramatic paragraph break, I should tell you that I'm having to paraphrase what she told us, the whole story, based on bits snippets and so it's just a best account as I can manage.
It all started when Arora lost her knob. Her door knob, of her bedroom door. Thus locking her out of the rest of the house. However unlikely this may seem, there was no-one else in the house, no telephone to hand, no immediate mechanism to escape and so Arora was locked in and over the course of the next hour, became increasingly agitated and desperate for a way out.
First of all she tried the obvious stuff. You know, getting a coat hanger and hacking at the door, what anyone would do in this scenario but realising this was having no effect, Arora had to get creative. Her boyfriend's work ties, you see where this is going don't you? Yes, that's right, she knotted the ties together to form a chain. Rapunzel, rapunzel, let down your, err, multi-coloured tie-rope. Having fastended this to the window frame and testing it for load baring ability, Arora thought better of this scheme particularly since she's afraid of heights and it was a long way down from this first floor bedroom window. The horror of it all.
Fortunately she had a really good idea. She could gather up all the bedclothes and throw them out the window. Making a sort of fireman's landing out of sheets, blankets and pillows. This is probably also the time to point out that the bedroom faces the front of the house. Picture, if you will, that previous multi-coloured tie-rope snaking down the front of the house, followed later by a tsunami of various linens and blankets. Try keep a straight face boyo because that's what I had to do while being told this story since apparently someone else, on Teamspeak, was so unutterably mean as to let forth an olympic burst of unending laugher when told about this. Beastly, I'm sure you'll agree.
We're not actually done with this tale. When Arora manouvred her lithe and shapely figure (all together boys, phwoar!) out onto the window cill in order to prepare for the leap of doom down to the bedclothes in the front garden... Arora already traumatised from having to confront her fear of heights phobia was cruelly assaulted by another, no less terrifying experience. There was a spider!. It was only small, you understand, but those are the ones to be afraid of. Tarantulas are okay, apparently, but I digress. There was a spider and it was scary.
So Arora spent the latter half of this traumatic period of incarceration, the half hour I remind you that she described as the worst half hour of her life, perched on the window trying to desperately coax the spider away and then contemplating that long drop to freedom. Eventually she did it, eventually Arora emerged victorious and bested her fears and triumphed over this elite quest. Hooray!
The point of this story is that this really happened. Since I heard about it I'm not sure if I've really stopped laughing yet, you know inside. You don't meet people like this in Counter-Strike. Some 14 year old adolescent olympic champion twat on a Battlefield 2 server is not going to let you into their life to give you the sheer unadulterated pleasure of hearing this story. All this unfolded while I was playing the game, slaying goblins and orcs and all that, and the double whammy of the two - this great game populated as it is with real people you just don't get to meet and talk to in real life, that's what this shit is really about.
I'd have a hard time hating Arora which is a sort of pre-requisite frame of mind, in my view, to say wanting to gun her down in Counter-Strike by being just plain better. Rar! Testosterone is good! Rar! That sort of rush, the feeling of being better than someone is something we all know, as blokes, and we love it. However it's a transient thing and being in my 30s, I don't have the stomach to keep that up for hours on end any more. It just doesn't compare, really, to the simple joy of being amusingly lecherous to a foxy lady some 15 years my junior.
I'm not suggesting that this is why we play Warcraft, it's an example. We also have some pretty hard core gaming challenges of stuff that's quite hard and takes real determination and skill to prevail over. The difference is, we're not having to hate people and the goal isn't to fuck people over. The goal is to get together with your mates and meet these challenges together. It all seems a bit more healthy somehow.
Arora is probably reading this too and I hope she doesn't think I'm being too unkind when she sees the point I'm trying to raise here. What I've tried to illustrate here is an example how this game and the people playing it have given me a awful lot more pleasure than any of the games I have played before.
You don't need to be a competitive arsehole to play this game. You can be yourself, you can play it all night and you can meet lots of new and interesting people and not all of them are 200 pound northern nerds called Barry. Not all of them are, anyway.
Anyhow, returning to the plight of Arora, I'm sure you'll all be delighted to know that she escaped with only slight bruising and having emerged the stronger person from this experience was in a good position to deal with the subsequent discovery of a slug on her pillow.


  1. A game like WoW (which I curse god daily I can't really fit into the current life given long working hours and very young kids) is the sort of game I think (I hope) that I will spend my retirement playing or at least when the kids are upstairs sulking to Marilyn Manson telling them what a twat I am. I really look forward, at that point, to probably a close-to-the-dream reality of a gaming experience given how much the tech and gaming worlds will have gone on. The people that play and the size of the extended family is very pleasurable. At the same time, to emphasise something that you refer to, I'm convinced that a really significant contributor here is that WoW is, apart from being an extremely well executed game of its genre, is not HvH.
    Human v Human that is. Lurks post reminds me of the way that I explained to non-gaming friends what being in a clan was like. It's the blend of different people from different backgrounds who would probably not have met under normal social moires but devoid of all the normal human shit of do you *look* like my kind of person, do you *sound* like my kind of person that governs shit.
    So a clan is a guild is a group in the online world. The thing is that they are on your side and part of your group and it feels pretty good and you get to be good friends with people. Witness Eat Electric Death's real life expenditure of the annual gross national product of Guatamala in the bars of London, Dublin and Amsterdam.
    I think a key component of good humour and enjoyment of these games is that they are non HvH. Now at an AmLan or HouLan or Voltfest we will always have some very good shouty sessions of playing each other. But broadly what people like about these games is that it's not the slag-fest of facing off on a clan on a particular match and the intra-team criticism of "ffs where are you" sort of thing. If it's your team versus the mmorpg world chars then you're all in the same boat. If it's versus other peeps PvP then largely these games are still much much gentler than the "I'm being beat by twats who are sledging me".
    A good bit of supporting evidence is our experience with Ravenshield. There's been lots of shouty "ffs" behaviour in Electric Death for years on HvH games. Playing Ravenshield as the first proper co-op HvC(omputer) game as a big team still constitutes some of the best laughs and pant-wetting sessions we ever did.
    Then you get to WoW and the mental and planning skillz requirements vs twitch skillz requirements and you can see why the church is wider. It's a game that will appeal to a more diverse bunch of people.

  2. Have to agree there - good post & follow up. The time thing's definitely a factor for me (I'm still one of the 1:4000000 not in WoW). I find it easier to get sucked into "just one more map" at the moment than settling into a good 3hr quest. Raven Shield was a hoot when we played it & a well timed "whatwasthat?" still raises a smile. A friend & I recently bought Brothers In Arms Earned In Blood on the strength of the co-op. Our first outing was blighted by the typical Ubi soft open a gazillion ports nonsense & ended in faliure. It took a reply to my forum post from one of the devs to get up & running. Yet more ports to open which aren't in the manual. Should be fun next time though.

  3. Am, the common term is PvP, and wow is. So shuts up :)

  4. A good thing about the PvP in wow is that if it doesn't interest you then it is extremely easy to ignore that side of things totally, like I do.
    Maybe in the future I will try that a bit more, but in the meantime, I can always start another character instead. :-)

  5. Slim that's willful even by your standard of enjoyment of pissing on people's chips. You referred to "PvP" which of course is the correct term but which if you look a bit closer you will also see in my post I referred to once to as the radically different term "PvP".

    The reason I used HvH as a term was to point out that it's the direct human contact and immediacy of identifiable team vs team conflict in fps's that is totally different to WoW. The problem with FPS's is the Human versus Human issue that leads to often a high temperature environment. This isn't the same in the MMORPG world of WoW where PvP is totally different from HvH (for want of a better term) which leads to a different temperature, enjoyment and all that that Lurk was talking about. I'm really just comparing online gaming genres.

    In WoW the PvP is a) electable - you can choose not to do it both from a server AND / OR a participation point of view and b) its manifestation if you choose to do it is with opponents who can't actually talk to you and c) its frequency is but a small part of the game experience. So the game leads itself, for this but I also grant you many more reasons, to a collaborative, co-operative enjoyment frame of mind than an FPS.
    Gimmie my chips back you bastard.....

  6. Am, the correct term is FPSes, not fps's. So shuts up :)

  7. Damn you and your trouser-exactitude. I'm not willing to give up on the grammatical correction of Slim. There's United Nation's treaties that suggest corrections of Slims need to be done due to historical crimes against sensibility. But we're not perfect damnit. Innit.