My Gamer Geek Past, Part II - It's a (Not-so) Small World (of Warcraft) After All

If you recall, last time I talked a lot and a lot more about how Blizzard defined the real-time strategy genre of video games with its Warcraft franchise. In three games, you fought your way through 25 years of war on the world of Azeroth, constant battles between the orc-led Horde and human-led Alliance. By the end of Warcraft III, neither side had the advantage, each holding on to what it could by the weakest of grips.

Then Blizzard launched World of Warcraft. Wow. And WoW. Both.

Taking the Warcraft franchise in a whole new direction, WoW puts you in the role of a single character, exploring Azeroth as you will. Instead of building a whole army, you control a single soldier fighting for either the Horde or the Alliance, choosing to be one of eight races (HumanDwarfGnomeNight ElfOrcTrollTaurenUndead) and one of nine classes (warriorroguepriestpaladinmagewarlockshamanhunterdruid). You explore Azeroth, gaining experience by accepting and completing quests at your leisure. Some quests are only meant to give you money/items to use in the game; others advanced storylines short and long, important or trivial, tragic or serious or whimsical.

WoW took the concept of leveling a character from Warcraft III and magnifies it a hundredfold. Now you could level a character to 60, choosing and learning dozens of skills per class. You could pick your play style, making each warrior or mage or druid or shaman unique. You collected new armor and weapons all the time, making your character look like something out of a truly epic story.

You're twice his size, he's twice your awesome.

One of the greatest parts is that you can now explore the towns, cities, regions and landmarks in Azeroth. You can visit the sites where the great battles of Warcrafts I-III took place. You can walk up and touch all the cool things from the earlier games, like the Dark Portal, Stormwind Keep and Blackrock Mountain. You can talk to and interacted with and work for and fight with major lore characters from the Warcraft universe, from Thrall to Jaina Proudmoore to Khadgar to Sylvanas Windrunner. You aren't just playing Warcraft; you can quasi-literally live in the world of Warcraft.

I got started about two years after WoW was released, thanks to my friend Jeff. He had an extra copy of the game, so all I had to supply was the monthly subscription fee and the computer. We'd play once or twice a week. My first real character, one I took past the beginning levels, was a dwarf paladin named Uri. Together with his gnome warlock, we took on anything we saw fearlessly, often dying humorously. In one fabled tale, Jeff unwisely ran into a tower full of harder-than-normal monsters, and I, being the loyal friend, followed. We didn't last long at all, and the debate of "Who is dumber - the man who runs in or the man who follows him" was sparked.

These players are most likely smarter than we ever were.

I played for about six months, then quit for reasons I can't remember. I picked it back up when WoW's first expansion came out, The Burning Crusade. Besides raising the maximum level to 70 (adding new skills for each class), the expansion added two new races - the Blood Elves for the Horde and Draenei for the Alliance. It also added new lands and a whole new planet to explore: Outland, the former home for the Orcs destroyed by the demonic energies the Orcs embraced prior to invading Azeroth. 

In picking the game back up, I got to leveling a different character. I still had the occasional fun with Uri, who had been sitting at level 41 since I quit, but mostly he was boring to me. I'd created a Night Elf rogue named Haldir (I know, I have no originality when it comes to names) back when I started, but didn't play him at all. Then I learned my true passion in the game: sneaking and stabbing.

See, rogues can turn invisible, sneak up on their opponents and literally stab them in the back. Combat as a rogue is quick, close and dirty, and it was a barrel-load of fun. So fun, in fact, that Haldir (whom I had to rename as Haldirr after changing game servers), quickly leveled past Uri and hit 52. I played a lot more than the first time around, finding friends online to level and explore with, seeing new things and getting new loot. I'll never forget the time I got my first epic weapon - the Gut Ripper. Back then, and for a not-max-level character, that was huge. I got it while invading an ogre den with the help of a higher-level mage who didn't need a stabbing thing. With that in one hand and my Black Menace in the other, I was unstoppable.

I think I got my nice shiny purple dagger from this guy

Except by life. My second stint in WoW lasted only about 5 months before I realized that were I to get my proverbial act together, I couldn't keep playing. I was facing some big life events (like marriage and graduating from college), and had to rid myself of as many distractions as necessary. That meant WoW.

Tamara and I decided early on that should room in our budget/schedule allow, I could potentially start playing WoW again. That will never happen, though: even if time/money did allow, I'm not sure I'd be wise to pick it back up. I played it a ton when I had it, and there are, frankly speaking, far more important things to do.

Though it's hard to say "no" to a turban-wearing dwarf with punctuation over his head.
Still, I will always have a spot in my heart/fond memories for italics Warcraft. I still play Warcraft III every so often, and follow the goings on in WoW as if I were still playing. There are times I wish I would have tried to get my rogue to the highest level possible, to take him to fight the Lich King or lead him around the world after it was sundered by the Cataclysm. Instead, I can remember the good WoW times and even try to write about what it might be like to live there.

And then there are Blizzard's cinematics, which I could watch over and over and over. Just go here and here and you'll completely understand.


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