Content warning for Alcoholism.
My friend Belghast has written up a blog post called World of Warcraft: Then and Now. It’s a fun idea, looking at our past selves as chronicled by the video games we played then. Unfortunately I don’t have a single screenshot from my time in vanilla WoW. They’re all lost to the world, I’m afraid. I also don’t have very many pictures to show you what I looked like then. Most photos were lost when Myspace came tumbling down. I’m sorry!
It was the year 2004, and I was still enjoying my time in Dark Age of Camelot immensely and didn’t want to move on. My friends had other plans, of course. At the time, I was twenty and had just started my sophomore year of university. I had my own room and so I didn’t need to worry about keeping a roommate up all night long, which was great because my previous one would yell and freak out at me (she even threw a shoe at me once) because she hated the sound of my mechanical keyboard. The single room life was definitely for me, because I had adopted the not-so-healthy habit of binge-playing on MMORPGs until 3 or 4 AM.
For those of who are wondering, as you read this, how I managed to get to my classes and survive university living this way…well, I didn’t. I flunked out. But I don’t blame World of Warcraft for that. I just hated school, and was going through some pretty intense mental health problems that weren’t being addressed. Going home was the only real way to get myself back in order. But before I went home, I had Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft.
When I played DAoC, I didn’t have a choice in what faction I played. My friends made that decision simple – they all played Albion. Not what I would have picked for myself (I preferred the look of Hibernia), but if I wanted to play with anyone besides myself, Albion it had to be. I adored the game world. I borrowed the discs (there were like, 4 or 5 of them I think?) from my ex-boyfriend’s father. For context: my sorority sister introduced me to MMOs, though I knew they existed. My sorority sister also happened to be the real sister of my boyfriend at the time. Their father gave me the discs so I could try the free demo, and of course I was hooked.
I was also insufferably bad at the game.
I had a penchant for running off on my own little adventures. If I saw some nice looking trees off in the distance, I was there. If I saw that I could ride a horse somewhere, I would get on without a care of the destination. This made me difficult to play with, so my sorority sister would have one of her several male suitors “babysit” me for a couple hours while she got to do something fun (i.e. raiding).
To her, I was no better than a child. To me, I was just having a blast getting fully immersed in a 3D game world I never thought I’d experience until then. Everything was so magical and so, so cool. As an avid reader and former AOL-chatroom RPer of the 90s, nothing could beat running through an actual field with other players. Being able to SEE the other players instead of just their usernames in the chatrooms. Being able to actually see that their hair was brown and their eyes green rather than rely on some fanciful biography they wrote up for themselves in the bio section.
If you’re currently sitting there scratching your head as you read about AOL chatrooms, I found a great reddit thread full of people reminiscing. While I can’t promise it’ll explain anything, it does make for a fun read so give it a look!
Anyway, World of Warcraft’s beta entered the scene and there were murmurings of people leaving DAoC for it. I was less than thrilled. After all, I had only been on the game for about three months, and already I was being told that we were all done here, wrap it up! I hadn’t even managed to hit level cap, because I wasn’t very good at MMOs back then. Leveling was a very slow process, and when you kept getting distracted by the scenery, it made it even longer.
I didn’t know what World of Warcraft even was, I just knew that I didn’t really love the graphics. I preferred DAoC’s more realistic (at the time, cough) approach to the art style. WoW was…cartoony. And a bunch of the women were in metal bikinis, which made me think of those cheesy fantasy novel covers from the 80s.
Disclaimer: Some of those books were excellent, bad covers and all. You really cannot judge a book by its cover, so I’m not digging on the novels’ content. Just the covers themselves!
I had no idea that World of Warcraft was already a popular and successful IP in the form of the Warcraft series. RTS games weren’t on my list of preferred game genres then, and I was also primarily a console player. I missed out when they were brand new, but I went back and played through WCIII a year or two after WoW came out and I was not disappointed.
So, we finally made the jump to WoW and I was grumpy.
I hated starting over, and I was grumpier still because I wanted to roll a tauren druid and my friends said no. We were going Alliance. Again, I wasn’t afforded the option of playing the faction and character I wanted and it was strongly encouraged I play a human (my friend had control issues, if you haven’t figured that out by now). I made a human warlock for…whatever reason. I don’t know what my actual reasons were for making it, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. So after running around Westfall in frustration, I deleted her and started all over again. By the this point my friends were running ahead of me and starting over was risky, but I wanted to play what I wanted to play.
So I made a night elf hunter named Minuet. I got this character to level 35, and then called it quits with her, citing boredom. I finally went back and made a night elf druid by the name of Feorain, which finally stuck. I should have just gone with my gut and played the class I wanted to play from the get-go! When I insisted on playing a druid, my friend said “of course you would want to play the class that shifts into animals.” As if this was a bad thing!
I even raided on that character with a pretty big and popular raid group. Those tales, I’ll save for another blog post.
I credit World of Warcraft for actually helping me, not hindering me. A lot of people cite that WoW ruined their relationships, it cost them their jobs, it made them addicts. I get it, I really do. Because I was definitely enthralled with the game to the point where for years, it was all I ever wanted to play. All my friends were on WoW. But in university, I was deeply depressed and circling the drain. I was out every night drinking and partying (I am a recovering alcoholic, little known fact about me I guess?) and getting into all sorts of trouble. World of Warcraft came out, and instead of drinking my face off every night, I just played the game instead.
I am not advocating that replacing one addiction with another is a good thing. Oh no, it is NOT. However, it was pretty evident to me by the time I made it to age 25 that I was just lucky I didn’t die in university. Seriously, it was that bad. I’m glad I didn’t accidentally die or get murdered. I didn’t made great choices. WoW kept me inside my room and off the bottle so I am glad it came out when it did.
I’m looking forward to logging in tomorrow and hanging out in a fantasy world that used to be so, so important to me and a lot of other people. I’m envious of the people who had a healthier relationship with the game. For those of you who didn’t have a healthy relationship with it: I hope that things are better now, and that you CAN have a better relationship with the game.