Monday, March 14, 2011

the drunken housewife and her time consuming hobby

Several people (including my own Sober Husband) have requested that I write more about Warcraft. Evidently people, like my husband, who find Warcraft uninteresting and have no desire to play it and who may even make fun of me for playing it so much, cannot get enough of reading about it (probably this is so they can ridicule me all the more).

Over the last couple of months I've been playing Warcraft far too frigging much. Why, pray tell? Because I have entered the more elite ranks of players; I've become that glorious creature, a regular raider (for another point of view, substitute the word "obsessed" for "elite" and "pathetic" for "glorious"). "What the hell is that," you might wonder. Fear not, for I shall explain.

The World of Warcraft is a very large and flexible world. Millions of players around the world participate in it. We are housed on various servers, which are based upon our geographical region and our presumed language of choice. Servers also have distinct personalities: you can choose one where the players can attack each other at any time, or you can pick one where you can turn off the ability of other players to attack you until and unless you yourself make an aggressive move first. There are also "role playing" servers, including a very infamous one known for its cybersex, which I have not myself visited.

People play Warcraft in a number of different ways. You can just quest all the time, which is how I largely spent my first couple of years in Azeroth ("Azeroth" is the name for the virtual world in the game). You can join battlegrounds and fight it out with other players, which I love to do. And you can join with other players to enter dungeons, which we call "instances", to do more complicated and difficult fighting against harder monsters.

I never used to be able to run instances, because I was either not in a guild or in a "social guild" where we just yammered to each other all the time but never grouped up to do anything seriously. (I still miss my old Alliance guild from Drenden, where the wit was always sparkling and the conversation always extremely inappropriate). But then Blizzard brilliantly created a tool to enable players to join up with strangers, either for specific instances or for random ones. Servers are grouped together in "battle nets" or "battle groups", which means that when players join together in these random groups, they meet up with players from other servers whom they might not ever see again. (Random groups are called "pugs", an abbreviation for "pick up groups", and this morning I pugged with some lovely players from Chile, who adored me because I am that rare creature, an American WoW player who speaks Spanish and doesn't go off on a tirade if Spanish is the main language of the pug).

Before Blizzard created that tool, it was very hard for me to get a group together for an instance. I remember the day when FINALLY I was running Zul'Farrak with a decent group when our tank had to quit because his mother insisted he get off the damn computer and go outside to play. Now I run a random at least once a day (by running random dungeons, players earn points which can be amassed and used to trade for really good armor).

Even though I spent far too much time playing Warcraft, I was always what the other players call disparagingly "a casual player." For more serious players, there are two much more challenging ways to play Warcraft, both requiring players to form teams which regularly work together. First there are arenas, where teams of different sizes attack each other. There's a sexist saying in Warcraft, that "chicks quest and guys arena", and there's a lot of truth to that. I've never joined an arena team, although I have talked idly of forming one. Blizzard tries half-assedly to turn arenas into a true sport, with actual seasons and rankings and what-have-you, but so far, like a chick, I've sat it out.

Then there are raids. We call anything a raid which requires a lot of players and which is supposed to be hard to accomplish. Raids are usually either ten players or twenty-five players (although years ago Blizzard created several forty player raids, they seem to have given up on the idea of trying to make us herd 40 catlike players). They need to be well-equipped and to know what they are doing. And what do they do? Blizzard purposefully designed parts of the World of Warcraft to be so difficult that it would take a group of ten or twenty-five players several weeks to conquor them, slaying every monster and gleaning every bit of loot.

The places you go on a raid are beautiful and strange. The developers spent a lot of time and energy on them, and the graphics and ideas can be breathtaking, funny, disgusting, disturbing, or deeply moving. The level of difficulty can be huge: one person's fuckup will usually mean that everyone dies (and when you die, you have to run back as a ghost to your body, and your equipment is damaged. You'll be less powerful until you're able to pay for expensive repairs to your gear).

Currently I am on a ten man raid team. My raid team meets twice a week, from 9:00 to 11:30 p.m. my time (the players are scattered around the world). This is my second raid team, the first fell apart after a month or two, but thankfully one of the other players from that first group took the lead in organizing a second raid team for that time slot. I love playing with this group: the players are intelligent, adult, and respectful of one another. When I tried raiding on another server with another character, I got upset regularly as a couple of the other players, extremely experienced raiders, tended to lord it over the more casual players. I felt there was a healthy sprinkling of sexism in that, as well as arrogance which was often appropriate (these players were indeed strong and highly experienced with better equipment), but at times misguided. For example (and here I get more technical), another player was always trying to micromanage my paladin's buffs, despite the fact that he had no understanding of the paladin class mechanics. Every time he'd bitch me out for not giving raid buffs, when at that time paladin buffs were by class only. No matter how many times I explained that paladin buffs were class buffs, not raid buffs, he never learned that and continued to try to correct me. I felt my intelligence was always being insulted, and it was maddening coming from someone who never could be made to realize that he was making factual errors in his criticisms. But my current team is composed of only gracious players, who have nothing but politely worded encouragement and gentle constructive criticism.

Being on a raid team is like having a part-time job. You need to be on time and prepared. You should be logged in, fully repaired, with plenty of expensive elixirs and food (elixirs and top end food give your character heightened abilities for an hour). You should study the fight ahead of time (there are endless tutorials players create on Youtube). We talk to each other both by typing and by speaking; I bought an annoying headset with a microphone and headphones just for raiding. (My family members are united by a hatred of hearing my fellow raiders talk on the voice program we all call "vent", but they love hearing my isolated, out-of-context remarks. Their amused laughter often forms the background when I'm making cogent remarks into my microphone such as "he blew me right off the platform" or "I'm putting my mammoth up for repairs").

And you need to have the time blocked out, without interruptions. I could never have raided when the children were smaller. I remember trying group things in the past and having to have the Sober Husband explain to my group that I'd been called away for a child emergency. Now that they are older, I can shout directions at them while still manipulating my elemental shaman. I do still run into more trouble than the average raider, though. Often I have to ask, "Could you please repeat that? I have a lot of parrot aggro over here; I can't hear you over the birds." This past weekend during a particular intense moment, Pigwidgeon the idiotic African grey parrot decided to join me. I already had Al the moronic orange tabby kneading my chest and Frowst, our majestic trophy cat, leaning against my arm, and Pig divebombed us all, landing on my head. The cats flinched. Al dug his claws in my cleavage. Piggle squawked and awkwardly looked for footing around my head. Through it all I kept playing, not missing a beat as my shaman waged war against a massive air spirit with a rather threatening pelvic undulation. After all, a raider must maintain focus.


Fellmama said...

Most of the initial WoW players came from things like Everquest, where 70- or 90-player raids were common, so 40 seemed quite radically small at the time. Then Blizzard realized that your average player has the attention span of a goldfish.

Also, Molten Core was boring as tar.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Ha, I still have never run Molten Core, ever. I finally did Blackwing Lair over the weekend, helping out a guildie with retro leanings who needed something from there for one of those paladin quests no one ever does any more. BWL must have been awesome back in the day, with that huge room of little dragons where you run in slow motion.

I never played EQ. I was too busy with a baby in its heyday. I cannot imagine a 70 player raid working effectively. Lord, you can't even get a bg group to frigging defend their towers, no matter how many times you explain the idea, so how you coordinate that many for a boss fight is beyond me.

A college friend just mocked me for this blog entry by email, saying I'm "so 2005." Well, precious, back in the year 2005 I had a frigging three year-old, and I was crazy-busy. I had to work a shift a week at the three year-old's preschool, and little Iris was in kindergarten, and the husband was working two jobs trying to pay for little Lola's speech therapy, and I was going insane rushing around all the time. It wasn't until my little angels were older and less time consuming that I was able to take up MMPORGs.

Yvette said...

The night we downed the lich king, all peeps in my house were in the bed. Just as we reached the final stage the cat jumps up on my keyboard and in my sweeping gesture to remove him, he dug his claw into my hand and so I received my Kingslayer title bleeding profusely in real life. I was on such a high that I ran into the bedroom where my daughter and husband were fast asleep, leaped on the bed, did a victory dance, and was consequently treated to an eyeroll and the comment, "Is that blood running down your hand?".

Amy said...

This is a great post. I love your World of Warcraft stories.

Tracy said...

I love the WoW posts!

I remember when BC came out and everyone was working on getting keys for Karazhan. Our guild had two tanks: one of whom refused to help anyone except his girlfriend and her two brothers, so everything fell on the other tank. The LFG tool would have been super awesome then.

There's some nostalgia for the Molten Core days. I was a warlock back then. The guild locks had their own channel, we made fun of the raid leader who couldn't type but refused to use Vent... Going back now, you don't really get a sense of what it was like.

Have you seen the new raid content? The guild I was in was couldn't get anything together (due to high levels of alternating apathy and crazy), so I've just seen one boss in Baradin Hold.

(Also, I -still- hold a grudge against BWL. :D)

Fellmama said...

When I first started playing, I joined a guild that had MC on farm. My computer was terrible, so I just stood there with my face to the wall and did my best to heal things. I still have only the vaguest idea of which bosses are where and that sort of thing. But let me tell you, you did not miss much.

EQ was a project for Really Serious Raiders, people who had no lives or other hobbies. I've heard stories of phone chains being arranged across the globe so as to kill world bosses--people getting up at 3 AM, leaving work early, all sorts of insanity.

Quandarius said...

Allow me to heap on additional praise for your WoW posts... particularly your attempts to explain the appeal to those who haven't played the game. I do solo quests (48 Worgen Hunter), mostly because I find it convenient when I have a spare hour, and have a low tolerance for the kind of experienced gamer arrogance you describe. But this post has almost convinced me to try a random dungeon. I wish I could find a guild that's oriented toward questers, though. All the good guilds seem to focused on raiding, which I just don't have enough time for. (How in the world do you ever get as much reading done as you do?)

the Drunken Housewife said...

Quandarius, I think pugs are better at lower levels. It gets a lot jerkier when you move into the lvl 85 and particularly heroics. I think you might have a lot of fun at your lvl in pugs, and I hope you'll try some.

I don't know what server you're on, but there are some fun social guilds on lots of servers. I actually had a great time playign with a wonderful social guild that I just got from a random solicitation. That guild kind of fell apart, sadly, but for a long time, we had a lot of fun together.

Kikaboo said...

Hello am a 39 year old female with four grown kids, I have been playing for 4 years now and my husband also plays my kids think were are big geeks but hey we love it. I liked your post, knowing that there are many adults who like this game feels good.

Jen said...

Love your WoW stories. I'm a 51 yr. old woman who has been playing for 3 years. Did hard core raiding during Wrath; 6 days per week. Hubby plays and so does one daughter. During Wrath hubby and daughter sat on either side of me and are healers. I'm an enhancement shammy on my main. I had to turn up my vent to drown out the two healers int he room freaking out and yelling at the screen and each other. LOL We all still play, but more casually these days. Who says women don't play WoW...and we are not fat an ugly as opposed to what TC might say. ;)

Sharon Worster said...

I'm just like you but I don't drink!! lol I don't do dungeons or raids because I don't think I'm good enough. One of my toons is in a guild but it's a bunch of annoying little kids that like to say dick a lot. I'm in Winterhoof and prefer my hunters over everything else. Love your post!

Amy said...

I love this! It's nice to read about what other people think about WoW too! And I love the animal part. I don't have any children, and my husband is more than understanding about my love of WoW (my main is also an elemental Shaman!), but our 4 dogs and 4 cats don't always feel the same way. My dogs have learned that they can keep my hand away from my mouse with their head and unless I'm into something very important, I will give in and give them the loving they want! :-)

Lilpuddin said...

My hubby and I used to raid 5 or 6 nights a week before we had our first daughter. Now we just both play casually. :( We used to have a really great raid team that had 2 other couples on it and had fun doing Naxx , even if it took us days to get the "safety dance" in the plague quarter!

Paula Johnson said...

I'm 62 years old and a gamer from the D & D first days. I started out when our oldest son was gifted D & D set when it first came out and have slowed from time to time, but never quit. That son now runs his own server for WoW and I play there but not nearly as much as I would like. Much time is now taken babysitting 2 grandsons, ages 1 and 2. Really cuts into my fun LOL. I enjoyed your post so much! Hopefully I can get back into my games soon. My Druid Night Elf, Willowisp is beginning to think I have deserted her.