Monday, October 19, 2009

#74 - World of Warcraft

It was the decade when...

nerds still couldn't get laid but were too preoccupied raiding Blackwing Lair and slaying the black dragon Nefarian to care.

Sucking up the leisure time of a whole generation of otherwise able-bodied young men, World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG of all time, took the forumla of the perennial Dorks-Anonymous support group that is Dungeons & Dragons, combined it with the graphical capabilites of the computer, amplified the whole thing using the networking potential of the internet and sealed the deal with the business model of cable-television. The result: A black hole of fantasy ephemera that eats dollars with the same rapaciousness as it does time. The team at Blizzard (World of Warcraft's software company) certainly know what they are doing. Just keep holding that carrot in front of the donkey. Their strategy: Make a massive, complex, densely plotted game without an ending (it can't be "beat,") then charge people a mothly fee to keep playing! And keep playing they do. And playing. And dropping out of college. And playing...

eleven million would be wizards and orcs and elves have invested time and money to join this half-assed middle-earth. What percentage of these subscribers are bespectacled, pimpled males who spent a lot of time jammed in thier Jr. High School locker has yet to be determined by science, but the back-of-the-envelope estimate is high.

Those who play WOW speak in an alternate vocabulary from that of any recognised language on planet earth. But on
Azeroth, it all makes sense. For example if a WOW player were to say this:

I'll tell you why I wont spec my warrior for port: I like PVP and I hate grinding, The Arms/Fury spec keeps my dmg and attack rate high, and I didn't need defense bc my bro is a holy pally and my RGF is a mage with uber CC. I already have a druid tank anyway, and I was our guild's MT all through vanilla WOW + BC WOTLK was my caster phase but I wanna spec for melee dmg in cataclysm. BTW, I don't really have a RGF...yet!

They really mean:

Why won't a girl kiss me? I'm a level-60 Paladin!

Does World of Warcraft offer any positive social value to the world whatsoever? Well, virtual epidemiology, it turns out, is a good model of the real thing. Scientists have looked into the spread of magic diseases in Azeroth as a guide to the effects of real-world outbreaks. I shit thee not. Political organizing is also making a foothold in WOW's virtual reality with various "guilds" having an online rally for a presidential candidate at some snowcapped mountain locale within Warcraft's vast fictional landscape...the fact that the candidate was Ron Paul is moderately curious.

Of course, a total lack of irony is what allows these pseudo-serious dramas of dungeon raiding and dragon slaying to thrive in the imagination; the self-conciousness attendant in humor would be an intrusion of reality, the whole silly house-of-cards would come crashing down. Ironically, the necessary severity with which the game and its players treat the fantasy makes it all the more justifiably risible to an outsider. There was a time not so long-ago when, if an adult man openly and unashamedly admitted a compulsive obsession with a pre-adolesencent fantasy universe -- dwarves and dragons, broadswords and enchantments, knights and gnomes -- the disclosure would be a cause for embarrassment. In the Aughts we have to listen to grown men talk about such things and accept it as legitimate. With World of Warcraft, an entire swath of the population has figured out a way to live in their 7th grade daydreams. The obvious truth, inaccessible it seems to the Warcraft player, is that it is really they who are being played.

You AUGHT to remember...

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