Thursday, April 23, 2009

A tourist in Azeroth

A month ago there was a lot of talking in the blogs about WoW tourism. Eventually it dawned upon me that the label was referring to dedicated WoW players who temporarily tried out other MMOs, found them inferior to WoW and then expressed their view publicly. People who fancy those other games were somewhat upset, I don’t quite understand why, but I they seemed to be afraid that other games didn’t get a fair chance whenever they were evaluated and always compared to WoW.

Whatever. This post isn’t about this kind of tourism. Since I still have plenty of unseen content in WoW, I don’t feel any urge to go for game sightseeing. Instead I’m going to talk about another interpretation of the word “WoW tourist”. You see, when I first heard it I gave it a completely different meaning. A WoW tourist to me is someone who’s on a temporary visit to Azeroth. A WoW tourist will watch and discover, participate in activities to some extent, but still isn’t a “real inhabitant”. He (or she) has his natural home somewhere else; there’s something holding him back, alienating him from the game (or keeping him at a sound distance if you want to put it that way).

And then I started to think about myself. I’m passionate about WoW. (I don’t think anyone has missed that!) This passion has even driven me so far that I feel an urge to rant about it publicly in a blog. How weird isn’t that? WoW is by far the most time consuming activity I do outside of work. I’ve never ever before been close to have a hobby which I’ve offered so many hours, so much love and so much energy.

Against all odds I feel that I’ve found a home in game as well as in the Blogosphere. People have grown used to that WoW players come in all sorts of shapes and most of the ones I’ve met don’t judge you from prejudices but from your actions. I think that I’ve been fully accepted as a citizen of Azeroth.

Still an alien bird
All this said, my gut feeling says I’m still a bit of a tourist, an alien bird who ended up here more or less by accident. If you would put up a gnomish measuring device it would be revealed that I really don’t belong here; I’m an abnormality, like a temporary visitor from the future or an alien spaceship.

For a while I’ve been trying to pinpoint why I feel this way and I think I’m starting to understand it. It’s it’s not about WoW in itself; it’s about gaming in general. My gaming experience is limited to WoW. I haven’t got a clue about anything else – and actually I don’t feel any urgent need to try it out either. In my blogroll you’ll find quite a few general gaming blogs which I follow with great interest – such as Ixobelle, Player versus Developer, Spinksville, Stylish Corpse, not to mention Tobold's. On an intellectual level I enjoy reading their sometimes rather heavy articles about game mechanics in general, not necessarily only in WoW. But that is how far my general interest in computer games goes.

Since I started to play Wow at least three candidates have been launched and (by some) claimed to be the Big Challenge to WoW: LotR, AoC and Warhammer. (We all know the outcome by now). Not once have I considered even downloading a free trials version of it. On the rare occasions when I’ve visited a gaming store, picking up a WoW expansion, I’ve felt as lost as I would have been if I entered sex video store or a heavy metal record shop. I just don’t belong.
When I think about it, I’m pretty sure that there will come one day when I’ll return to the world I came from. I’m a WoWer, but I’m not a gamer if you get the difference. And that is what alienates me.

Still enjoying the magic
Ysharros at Stylish Corpse wrote a beautiful post about her MMO-melancholy, the sadness she feels at the fact that no MMO can keep her hooked for more than 2-4 months any longer.
“Last but not least, there’s the creeping ennui that grows from having done something many many times before. MMOs aren’t substantively different from each other, and part of that magical first MMO experience was, literally, experiencing everything for the first time. That’s just a fact of life and the way we’re built to apprehend the world, but it’s important in terms of the longevity of any given playing experience.”
Reading this I realized that I’m privileged to be in the position where I am. I’m still enjoying the thrill and the magic of my first MMO. I’m not on a week-long-charter; it’s more like a long backpacker trip, going on for years.

However: when the time comes when I’ll be done with it, or Blizzard will start shutting down the servers, it’s not likely that I’ll start to look for new MMOs, switching subscription every second month. Probably I’ll just turn my back to this world altogether, throwing my heart into some other activity, such as mountain trekking or aikido. My hobbies tend to work like that – they’ll last for some years and then suddenly some other aspect of life will call for my attention. I'm one of those that Spinksville talked about the other day, the many players who won't necessarily jump onto the successor of WoW.

But right here, right now, I’m happy to continue the exploration of Azeroth, the MMO concept and the community belonging to it. I’m having a blast. And to all of you real gamers, I just want to say: “thank you” for letting me in and showing me your world, even though I’m just a tourist.


krizzlybear said...

"felt as lost as I would have been if I entered sex video store"

You get used to it after a while, I mean, err... *runs away in embarassment*

Geoffrey said...

I am one of those "real gamers," and I have a complaint against you tourists and the like. Here is my complaint, and please do not take it the wrong way. It is just in response to the tourists'/casuals' typical complaint against the more dedicated gamers.

We "real gamers" are noticing that you "tourists" and "casuals" have been edging us in many desireable real-world attributes. For example, you tend to have mates, tend to be in better shape, tend to have more friends, and generally have more money, because you can afford to dedicate effort to those activities. Well, we "hard core" gamers want these things too.

Similarly to the way that dungeons give badges and other content has been made "casual friendly," we demand that real life be made casual friendly too. So, here is what I propose.

Now, in my case, I play World of Warcraft roughly 15 hours per day. I sleep the full, desireable 8 (I do not want to be unhealthy), so that leaves me a full hour per day for other activities.

Now, I realize that you casuals probably spend an hour or so per day exercising. But I can do some too. I run up and down the stairs at least 3 times per day carrying food, so that should add up after a few months. I want that svelte body then.

You guys probably spend 4 hours or more per day socializing and "hanging out" with family and friends. I, similarly, spend a few minutes per day talking on the phone "for fun" and such. After a year or so, that should earn me a hot girlfriend too.

Finally - about money. The last time I was out of the house was a few months ago, when my mother took me to a party at one of her friends'. This gentleman, as it turns out, is an attorney, and apparently his house is worth something like $1.5 million. I found out that he works at a rate of $800 per hour. Now, I realize that he probably does real life hardcore, 16 hours per day (at least!), but I think that over time, I can grind it out too. I have about 15 waking minutes per day left after eating and other necessities - so I figure I can do telemarking or something like that from the house. Let me see, my calculator says that I only have to work 1875 hours, which will take 20.547 years, and then I will be able to afford a similar house. So, real-life Blizzard better send me a deed in the mail in 20 years, that is all I have to say.

I am going to start a petition, if anyone is interested.

Hagu said...

I love games (bridge, chess, poker, turn-based strategy) and dislike (and play very badly if I were to try) video games. I loved WoW (200+ days played) but am starting to hear the waterfall destination of my canoe trip through WoW. I think that as the developers try to appease the peripatatic crowd who rents the latest video game for a month or two, they risk alienating the much larger, more stable group of players outside the teenage boy demographic. WoW has done an amazing and nearly unique job of appealing to non-video gamers.

My experience is that WotLK has done two things to dramatically attack the things I liked about WoW.

The first is they have devalued my connection to my toons. All this constant changes to spells and abilities along with homogenization has gone from where you identified with the character you played ( and referred on vent to people by their toon, even if you knew their name ) to where choosing priest or paladin is like choosing race car or thimble - a required but irrelevant choice. It just makes bad business sense to me; when you are selling a discretionary entertainment, you should be encouraging brand loyalty. Christmas before last a relative gave me a WoW cap and I wore it even though well past the cap years. I no longer know where it is.

My reaction to a lot of WotLK is that the content is geared more towards video gamers; (by and for teenagers is my description when I am in a less charitable mood.) Lots of movement, vehicles, quick reaction, complicated rotations are things that appeal to one segment of the customer base, but risk alienating a much larger market. I read about Ulduar and had an immediate and visceral dislike. But once you decide that you are not moving on, then why do you need better gear, what's the point of ... Perhaps I am just projecting, but every time I read a developer referring to "skill" it appears to me they are talking about twitchfest reaction time.

My hope for a reprieve is that the next expansion gets here in time to successfully defibrillate my WoW enjoyment, for I shall miss WoW.

HP said...

WoW was my first real MMO but I've always played video games in some form or other so perhaps I would move on to WoW's successor... Who knows?

Pangoria Fallstar said...

@Hagu: Most gamers are now in their late 20s and 30s, and in fact, I believe that is WoW's demographic. Honestly, you can set a kid in front of WoW and they'll play, but I think Free Realms or FusionFall are more for them (free kid/tween/teen, centered MMOs).

Skill, isn't just one thing, Tobold said it best recently.

Furthermore, most fights don't require supremely precise timing (unlike PVP where a split second is where all the magic happens).

Skill in WoW comes from being able to understand what is happening, what is killing you, and what you can do about it.

KNOWING that you can frost nova and step away is a skill. Not standing in Voidzones is a skill, knowing that spirit gives you crit because of molten armor is a skill.

@Geoffrey: You're kidding right? Some of the best gamers I know are paramedics, bodybuilders, and construction workers (go figure). (BTW, sarcasm is hard to read ...)

@Larisa: I know you're not to interested in "gaming" but I'm curious, so if you could play Cakemania, or Bookword Deluxe, I'd love to hear what your impression of what is some of the most popular game types for women.

I can't imagine you playing Resident Evil, but I'd love to get your impression on that as well.

Larísa said...

@Krizzybear: ah I'm old enough not to feel to embarrassed. But it's quite ovous I'm a stranger.

@Geoffrey: I lol'd! Brllliant comment! You haven't thought about becoming a blogger yourself?

However, haven't you read the theories of Gevlon? Grinding is for noobs. Be smarter. Play the AH and save yourself the RL ground... Or wait... hm... didn't something just happen to the stock market..? Maybe not.

@Hagu: don't judge Ulduar just from the vehicle fight. When I did Destructor it felt like any good raidboss in for instance BT. I'm not awesome at quick reaction and lack video gaming experience but I could manage. But I do see your point and can share a bit of your fear actually. By broadening the game, they also sort of dilute the brand. There's a risk that they'll lose the loyal core players eventually, which is a loss. The magic of wow isn't only in the game iteself; it's also in the community and the playerbase.

@Pangoria Fallstar: I have never heard of those games, but a game designed for sterotypic ideas about what women like, and a game with a name like "Cakemania" sounds absolutely horrible to me. (I'm pretty bad at being a woman, I guess.) I've seen my daughter playing Sims, and I feel no interest or urge whatsoever in it myself. I never played much with Barbie dolls (putting on and taking of dresses), doing it online doesn't make it more interesting to me.

Resident Evil DOES sound more attractive to me, but I honestly don't know what it is...

When I play I'm happy to explore sides of my personality that aren't just my "ordinary" self. I love to nuke and kill stuff in the game, quick and painful! In real life I'm a squishy and can't stand watching realistic and violent movies... Even though I've got a pretty soft style of blogging, I'm not sure though that I want my gaming to be all "soft". And mind you: I'm pretty deep into raiding and such. I'm not quite as casual as I may appear.

Geoffrey said...

@Pangoria Fallstar: Construction workers? That's a curious example.

Geoffrey said...

@Larisa: Yes, I was thinking about starting a blog, but as you can see, my non-WoW minutes are accounted for, down to the second.

Klepsacovic said...

I think you're getting used to WoW and perhaps gaming in general more than you realize. 3D Sarth isn't exactly careless carebear stuff. Your blog seems pretty involved too. I hope we'll see you again in WoW2.

Kromus said...

Its scary to me - to think about moving on - but when the moving takes place you dont realise so it isn't scary- its just the thought.

Its wierd thinking that things are constantly changing, including volumes of players and their hobbies- and how you may be the last "orignal member" or "last guildie" on the server. Strange.
Like a dying religion being born into the souls of other communities.

I'll never understand why a deep sadness dwells in me when i think of change.