Or, The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together.
I didn't want it to come to this. In fact, I didn't want to admit to this at all, but I think I have to say something now because this thing is taking up a good chunk of my time (not to mention infiltrating my dreams).
For the better part of a year now my family - starting with my father and nephew and then extending on to my sister-in-law - have been pestering me to start playing an online game called World of Warcraft (WoW). There's a technical name for this thing - MUD? MORG? Somethinglikethat. It's one of those games that you play online with people who are also online in the game at the same time.
You fight monsters and humanoids and demons and stuff, and you get money and treasures (of varying degrees of worth) while doing so. I figured it was basically an online version of the Dungeons & Dragons that my brother and I used to play when we were kids.
(Yes, I was a D&D geek.)
Anyway, I resisted my family's constant and unrelenting pressure to play WoW for a few reasons. First, I didn't want to spend $15 a month on a game. Second, I just didn't have time to devote to playing the game - I'm a busy girl with a busy life. Finally, and most importantly, my computer did not have a good enough video card to handle the game software.
So these were my outs every time someone would start trying to pressure me to play. "I can't, my video card isn't good enough." Then my dad said he'd buy me a new video card, but I countered with "I don't want to disconnect everything and bring my computer down to you so you can put in the new card."
HE countered with the suggestion that he'd just come up to my place and install the card there. I volleyed back with my "no time" excuse.
But they kept at me. Whenever we'd all be together for dinner, or at one of Alex's football games, they'd all be talking about WoW. ALL of them - my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephew. They all played, and they often played together, helping each other out with quests and battles.
So after awhile I started getting curious about it. One day when I was over at my brother's house I asked Alex to show me what the game was like. He signed on as one of his characters, and I signed on as one of his mom's characters, and we walked around killing things. I'm not a natural at video games, so it was overwhelming and difficult to understand, I couldn't really navigate around very well using the mouse, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing.
But, it was also fun.
So then I started thinking, maybe. Maybe I'd be interested in playing. But still there was the video card problem, and the money problem, and the time problem. I solved the money problem by dropping my Netflix account to the bare minimum (according to my sister-in-law, once I started playing WoW I "wouldn't have time to watch movies, anyway" - or, as it turns out, much of anything). My family solved the computer issues for my birthday, buying me the game software and a new video card, AND coming up to my place for my birthday dinner and installing the card in my computer.
Then I had no excuse.
We went to dinner at Old Chicago on my birthday and we started discussing which names I should use for my characters. We made a list, and when we got back (after all of the game updates and patches had finished downloading/installing), I created my account.
Then the hard part begins - what do you want to be? First you chose the race of your character - human, dwarf, gnome or night elf. Gnomes and dwarves were out, on account of being vertically challenged and in the case of dwarves - blindingly ugly. Humans were kind of boring, but night elves looked super cool, so that's what I chose.
Next, you select your class, and my options for night elves were Hunter, Druid, Warrior, Priest, and Rogue. Given my shifty nature, I chose to be a rogue.
Finally, the moment of truth - selecting a name. I was very happy to get my first choice, Amygdala.
And thus began my descent into the most time-consumingly obsessive activity I currently have in my life.
I should have taken a screenshot of Amygdala when she had head-to-toe black armor and red glowing daggers, because she looked SHARP (other players in the game would constantly whisper, or message, me to ask how I accomplished the all-black look). But I didn't. So here's what she looks like right now, at level 28 (out of 60):
Dig the ears and the tribal face markings! She's rocking a sword in her right (main) hand and a poisoned dagger in her left.
One oddity I ran across last weekend - some random player whispered me and asked if I'd give him a lap dance. Yeah, I know - the hell? So that was my response - "The hell?" He said he'd give me 5 gold (decent coin) if I'd unequip all of my gear (basically stripping my character down to underclothes) and dance for him.
(Incidentally, the Tauren female and Gnome male dances crack me up.)
But anyway, none of this is why I'm actually composing this post. I'm writing about this because of the strange, and yet undeniably positive, way this has bonded my family.
As long as he's playing this game, my nephew and I will always have a common bond to talk about. I call my dad or brother for tips on how to do things that I don't understand. Both my sister-in-law and nephew have met up my characters (I have second character now, a human paladin named Strictnine) in one of the worlds within the game to help out with quests that are too difficult for me to accomplish on my own.
And yes, maybe we're talking about imaginary fantasy characters and CGI monsters that we "kill," and "loot" that we "equip." Maybe we're not talking about our feelings, or our philosophical views on life, or the geopolitical state of the world. But we're talking. More importantly, we're sharing an experience that is giving us lasting memories that include each other.
Like the night that Terri helped run Strictnine around between two continents so I could get flight points and finish the Children's Week quest so I could get my very own pet piglet (whom I renamed "Hamhock" rather than the game-generated "Mr. Wiggles").
Or the time that Terri, Alex and my dad all helped me go through a place called the Deadmines ("Mommy, mommy, can we do Deadmines today?!"), an "instance" (sort of a game within the game) that would let me pick up a lot of decent loot that I could either use or sell to build up my cash reserve. Alex also ran me over to a world that I'd never been to before so that I could complete a quest specifically given to rogues.
And on and on. Right now my dad's paladin and Amygdala are in Duskwood working on a multi-part quest (Stalvan) that has us killing a lot of undead things. That's right - I'm gaming with my dad.
In fact, my dad said something very sweet one night when we were slaying undead warriors. I was getting dogpiled by some undead and he came over and helped kill them. So I thanked him for that and he said, "I always try to protect you."
Me, his kid. Not my character.
Like I said, when I first started playing I didn't know what I was doing and depended on the kindness of strangers (other players) a lot. Now that I'm a decently high level, it's fun to repay that help in kind. I was off in a very easy place (Elwynn Forest) for my level, because I had picked up the skinning profession and wanted to level it up quickly by killing stuff with one blow. So I was happily beating the hell out of level 5 boars, when two people asked if I could help them finish a quest.
I went in, smacked around the beasties that were giving them problems, and was their hero ... if only for 15 minutes.