Tech Life Ridicule is spoken fear

One Lesson from a Night Elf

I have a thing for addiction.

Based off the number of hits, the articles on my weblog which have touched the most folks deal with forms of technology addiction. The consistent theme I read in articles which refer to NADD and RII is, “Whew, there are others out there like me.”

The articles themselves attempt to paint a semi-humorous picture about behaviors which, when exhibited by someone nearby, would give you cause for concern.

You: “What ARE you doing?”

Me: “Yeah, well, I’m just being myself in a world where keeping pace with technology involves the development of productive neurosises.”

You: “But you’re acting like a freak.”

My professional career is built on a foundation of me being a freak. This weblog is often defined by articles which explain, in great detail, how I manage to continue being a freak. This article will only make me more of a freak.

Level 60

wow-1Been playing Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. A lot. By the time I finish this article, I’m hoping to have taken a Night Elf Hunter to Level 60. My guess is this will involve approximately 17 days or 408 hours of online play time. That’s time where I’ve been doing nothing but staring at the screen and telling a pile of polygons what to do.

I think my Warcraft addiction has been mild compared to others. I’m guessing 17 days (spread over many months) to get to level 60 is nowhere near the record. I’ve pissed off my family at times due to lack of attention, but I don’t think I’ve every played past 2am. I don’t dream about Warcraft and after my first week of playing, I don’t have deep urges to get back to the game.

I did play a ton during the holidays. I do check-in before work to take a look-see at the Auction House. I am active in my guild and I have purchased an item for my Night Elf because, well, it looks good.

If you’ve never played Warcraft, the previous three paragraphs didn’t mean much to you, but I bet you’ve heard of it. I also bet you have an opinion regarding Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (“MMORPG“) games and I’m betting it’s a slightly negative opinion.

Let’s start with that.

Those Fucking Geeks

I didn’t touch online role-playing until Warcraft. If you’re not familiar with the space, all you need to know is they’ve been around in various popular forms since the late 90s. World of Warcraft is the 800 pound gorilla in the space with roughly 6 million subscribers. Think about that for a moment. WOW has more subscribers than there are residents in Los Angeles… with a San Jose thrown in for good measure.

My reasons for trying the game were two-fold. First, I’m a follower of buzz and Warcraft’s popularity had tripped the buzz switch. The presence of a well-supported Mac client helped. My second reason wasn’t as simple. See, as the popularity of MMORPG has risen, I’d found myself ridiculing those who were playing. “What’s the point, it’s not real” “Don’t you guys have lives?” “Nerds!”

I’d heard that ridicule before.

The Silicon Valley thinks fondly of the mid-to-late 80s because those were the golden years. The Mac was revolutionizing the perception of desktop computing. The PC, in it’s various formsm was making great strides at playing catch-up with it’s open architecture and impressive cadre of developers. The computing revolution was on, but my mid- 80s typing class was full of typewriters and folks silently chuckled when I started the class typing 95 words a minute.


Yeah, I was the guy who already had an Apple ][ and moved onto a PC. I was the guy who got called out of my World History class because the principal’s new Mac had a problem. I knew that Pascal was more elegant than BASIC, but I couldn’t tell you why.

“Don’t you have a life?”

At home, my desk was filled with dot matrix print outs of BBS numbers to call. My passwords were scribbled in pencil all over the place. When I wasn’t endlessly dialing busy numbers, my computer sat there running the PBBS software. Dragon Flight was the name of the place.

“What’s the point, it’s not real”

The first point of this article is not to convince you that playing World of Warcraft is tantamount to the strategic advantage a deep appreciation of computers gave me during the 1980s, my first point is simple.

Ridicule is spoken fear fueled by ignorance.

When I found myself internally judging others using the same mind set used on me twenty years ago, I ran out and bought a copy of Warcraft the same day. My seemingly innocent jests regarding those passionate Warcraft folks was based on the fact I had no clue what this MMORPG thing was about, so I fell back on the easiest defense to ignorance… ridicule.

Fuck that. Been a freak before. Willing to do it again.

The Lesson

When you first fire up World of Warcraft, you are presented with a set of choices. Alliance (good guys) or Horde (bad guys)? Boy or girl? Ok, what type of character? Night Elf? Druid? Human? Great. Now, what’s your profession? Hunter? Priest? Warrior? Ok, lastly, let’s define how you look. Long hair? Short or long hair? Fierce face or dopey?

The amount of control Blizzard has given players to construct their characters is phenomenal. And intentional.

My barber shocked the hell out of me last week when he told me was playing Horde Priest. Who the hell cares if Joi Ito and his buddies have replaced their non-existent golf game with long sessions in Molten Core? Those guys are nerds. MY FRACKING BARBER IS A HORDE PRIEST PEOPLE.

His comment: “Yeah, so… I playing a healer because, you know, I’m really a healer at heart. I like to take care of people.”

My unspoken thought: “Yeah, but, you’re undead.”

Warcraft is the first online game which can legitimately say they allow you create a compelling virtual self. I knew they’d done this when I spent my hard earned gold on a helmet that gave my character no real value other than it looked good. I knew they’d done this when my barber and I were discussing the pros and cons of soloing versus grouping.

wow-3The lesson is this. Ever so slowly, the value of a virtual self grows. We’re nowhere near the world of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but neither are in the world were the concept of a virtual self is a niche nerd concept. Yeah, Warcraft is rebranded Dungeons and Dragons and folks will continue to play the ridicule card, but Blizzard has demonstrated you can build a complex, long lasting virtual world that world can be enjoyed by anyone.

Someone, I don’t know who, will take the lessons of World of Warcraft and they’ll build the Next Thing which will have even broader appeal. They’ll stay far away from the worst acronym ever, MMORPG, and they’ll help make the idea of virtual selves in virtual worlds as common as your email account. You get to choose where you stand regarding this inevitable development… with knowledge or with ignorance.

17 Responses

  1. Boy, between you and Tom both publicly copping to mild WoW addiction within a few weeks, I’m feeling much better about spending entire weekend afternoons at it.

    I very much agree that somebody (maybe it will be Blizzard) is going to learn some big lessons from this and do something even more universally engaging (read: addictive, even to “normal” people).

  2. Incidentally, I think the hunter class is perfect for casual gamers – so much so that I wonder if it wasn’t added specifically to attract them. You can solo pretty well at any level (high DPS and decent protection starting out, and pets after that) and you’re pretty versatile in groups. You’re helpful enough that people will group with you, but nobody is going to hate you if you have to cut out early (try logging off halfway through an instance if you’re the only healer in the group).

  3. Your barber? Your doctor, man. Your neurologist might be a cross-gendered 60 Horde Undead Mage with 300 Enchanting and 300 Tailoring.

    Then again, he may also have kicked that nasty crack habit months ago, and he might only shiver and sweat for an hour or two after reading this post.

    (wipes forehead.) Yeesh.

  4. Blake 18 years ago



  5. Jared 18 years ago

    At least you have good taste in the choice of class…can’t say so much for your choice of team though 😉

    While I don’t consider myself a MMORPG ‘hardcore player,’ I have casually played the vast majority of the offerings all the way back to Meridian 59. IMNSHO (and at the risk of being called an ubernerd,) WoW didn’t do any one thing better than it’s predecessors.

    Meridian had better guild systems, and was the first graphical MMORPG.

    Ultima Online had a much more detailed economy (although the AH is something I’ve wanted since my UO days.)

    Anarchy Online did instances better (or at least more dynamically.)

    City of Heroes did character customization to the extreme.

    I could go on…but that’s not the point. What WoW did was take the good parts of everything else and do it dang near as well as the last guys (if not ever-so-slightly better.) Then they added on clients, servers, and rulesets that are all engineered such that you don’t need customer service (I’ve NEVER heard of anyone needing to contact a GM, and I wouldn’t even know how to go about contacting one.)

    The real problem with scaling previous MMORPGs has been twofold:

    1. Scaling customer service to handle the volume of tickets

    2. Having enough content to keep players busy.

    WoW handled 1 with solid engineering. I’d bet they handled 2 by engineering good, solid tools for generating items, quests, etc so that their people can crank out the content, too.

  6. Berislav Lopac 18 years ago

    I have never been very fond of computer role-playing games. WoW has a wonderful world, full of depth and interesting things to do, but trust me — no currently available MMORPG can be nearly as immersive and deep as the good old role-playing game, played around a table with your flesh and blood pals.

  7. Can you come and talk to my wife and explain why I play Anarchy Online so much? ight help me out somewhat!

  8. Bryce 18 years ago

    I can’t help but make this comment…

    If all it takes is the collapse of the federal government, the combining of the CIA and the LOC, the privatizing of every industry in the country (including national defense), and the outsourcing of everything we’re good at aside from music, flicks, and code, then I’m all for the Metaverse existing.

    Because, er, really, who wouldn’t want a holodeck they can just goggle into?

    Slightly more on topic, *slightly*, when kids today are going home and turning onto livejournal and World of Warcraft, instead of into the Disney Channel’s Afterschool Homophobia Feel-Good Love-Your-Parents Brainwashing Marathon, I can’t help but feel that maybe, just maybe, this generation is going to be a little less closed minded and ignorant than those before them.

    Then I watch my friend logon to World of Warcraft and get called a ‘n00b fag’ or ‘gimp nigger’ (yes, actually happened) for PvPing some guy when his health was low. What? You’re on a PvP server and you’re complaining when some rogue kills you easily because you were out soloing and your health was low? A rogue you then challenge to a duel and *lose* because you aren’t that good?

    Yeah, ignorance and fear. I suppose it just finds new ways to perpetuate itself.

  9. SWG (star wars galaxies) actually had far more customization than WOW, in terms of character look and feel, and professions (29 originally).

    Then the ‘new game enhancements’ (NGE)came out and everyone left. they ruined the experience. There are plenty of references to the mess out on the web, but for a while there SWG was amazingly playable and terribly addictive.

    Now I’m with the same guild in WOW that used to play on SWG.

    I play a Mage as my main and Rogue as my alt, both human on the Deathwing pvp server.

    My name is Ian, and I’m a WOW addict.

  10. Joe Pellerin 18 years ago

    sometimes ridicule is simply ignorance and stupidity, i think. fear, in some cases, never needs to come into the equation.

    i’ve never played mmorpg’s for two simple reasons:

    1) no interest in becoming another victim of the latest “evercrack”

    2) no money to spend on monthly fees

    3) not enough time or interest

    ok – well that was three. so a fourth reason would be “i’m not smart enough to count”

    a lot of this is the same reasons i don’t get back into d&d… it’s just hard to fit that into a standard 37 y.o.’s lifestyle…

    i did play extensively in the 90’s on a mud (or mush?) – rivamush – which was based on eddings belgariad. that was all-text, and much more like d&d meets zork. i had lots of fun and fell in love with a girl named marti from gainesville who played a drasnian intelligence agent by the name of kalandra. after completing my time with this game, i did feel a bit silly about it all – however, i still miss it sometimes.

    my other experience was with guild wars – it was free, so i thought i’d give it a go. in the end, it was simply not compelling, and i quit quickly.

    the only other interest i’ve had was for ultima online – which i never played, but sounded like the most compelling/realistic online community of all of them. the rank lawlessness of the game as it was structured by the developers led to entire clans of players who banded together to either take advantage of other players – or to protect other players – an ACTUAL economy built of ACTUAL rouges and heroes, and not just people playing characters with those titles. that still compels me! but, my two (aka four) reasons still stand – even though i know that there are free UO servers now.

    *deep breath* that’s all

  11. Joe Pellerin 18 years ago

    p.s. is that giant bluish thing your night elf? he looks like he’s doing a little freestyle jiggin’. a night elf doing a jig. interesting.

  12. Another_Ian 18 years ago

    OK, I’m a little late to the party, but:

    Someone, I don’t know who, will take the lessons of World of Warcraft and they’ll build the Next Thing which will have even broader appeal.

    Um, Second Life?

  13. I gave up EverQuest after a mere six years of serious addiction. Nice posting about WoW, I’ve heard many good things about it. I’m going to put your blog on my rss reader just on the basis of that posting alone!

    MMORPGs are great fun.

    Second Life sucks and is only for “A list” (like Scoble) blogging dorks who are generally full of themselves and have never been exposed to EQ or WoW.

  14. Jason Martens 18 years ago

    What about the Sims? It seems to be WoW, but for a broader audience.

  15. Karkaroth 18 years ago

    I to play world of warcraft and find my self playing till at least 5:00am =[ this game is close to drugs wheres down physical appearence kills ur hygeiene and is taking over my life i wish i was never introduced to the game we so call fun i see it as a prison to get away from things i deal with in real life i am a ll 32 hunter named Karkaroth seeking a way to escape =[

  16. Also, there are a lot of bloggers into Second Life who aren’t “A list” or whatever, and it seems Scoble is put off by SL at the moment because he can’t play with his son in there. Understood.

    has a lot. I’ve never been exposed to EQ or WoW but I know some Residents who do both, there’s even a group called the Feted Inner Horde that crosses over. And I’ve seen some EQ-inspired creations as well.

  17. silvina 17 years ago

    Hi, lol… some ppl call you nerd? Id say anyone can like mmorpg: im a 30 y.o.PhD student and ive played Mu online for over 2 years, beeing a healer… now ive quitted, but came to find wow, and im soloing a hunter now and then to relax a bit…

    I dont think games are great… eventually can make you feel detached from the world, and even more when you make friends and come to belong to a community in them, but as long as you dont get caught in this virtual life, then its great to play them now and then… instead of watching tv! ^_^