A while back I wrote a short post about how the oncoming winter was sapping my will to write.  Today, that happened again, so I’ve put up a piece I wrote a year or so ago.  Oh well.

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This is a story about my relationship with Vinz. He’s a gnome. Yeah, you read it right—and no, he’s not your typical garden variety. He carries little swords, and has a sweet mustache. And when he’s not sitting fireside at the local dwarven bar, he’s out battling fearsome foes and completing quests for major loot and experience points. It’s been a while since we last hung out… I wonder how he’s doing these days…

Let me preface: a few months ago, I downloaded the ten-day trial version of the hit game World of Warcraft. It’s been out since 2005, but in the years following its release, I’d managed to keep the promise I’d made to myself after I saw friend after high school friend lose their social lives to the game, scheduling WoW (their affectionate shorthand for the game) parties almost every weekend. Until recently, I couldn’t understand the draw of these parties. But after watching a roommate get used to eating her dinner in front of the game, I just had to know what WoW was all about.

Initiation into the World of Warcraft is pretty simple—I created an account, downloaded the trial, and before I knew it, I was creating Vinz, the gnome rogue. I clicked “enter world,” planning to exit the world in an hour or so. I left three hours later. In just a few hours, Vinz had explored the frozen wasteland called “Dun Morogh”, gained six levels, acquired a new dagger, a few suits of armor, and learned how to “eviscerate” anything stupid enough to mess with him. I woke up early the next morning to re-enter the World. I still hate myself for it.

But it was so much more than I’d imagined. The World is enormous, made up of a few island continents, each with their own states, each state with a dozen or so regions. To explore the whole world would require having your computer running so often that you’d notice a spike in your electricity bills. The complexity of the game is probably what makes it so addicting. Just take a look at Vinz’s diary and you’ll see what I mean.

Day One. Explored icy forests. Fought wild boars so I could give their severed tusks to a dwarf. He needed them for a stew. I tried some—it was gross.

Day Three. Bought myself a new suit of leather armor today, with a little green cape to match. It gives me 12 armor. Oh—and I learned how to mine copper with the new pickaxe I got.

Day Four. I finally made it to Ironforge, the huge city everyone’s talking about. After I talked to the king dwarf to get directions for my new quest, I flew on a griffin to get back to the forest.

Here’s the thing though. After day four, Vinz started to get a little bored. There are a few things about being in the World that really piss me off. For one, it’s too easy to wind up in a region where you just don’t belong. Like on day five, Vinz tried to kill a few leper gnomes to recover some lost engine parts that they’d stolen from a dwarf friend. But he wasn’t powerful enough to cope with the gross diseases they’d infect him with, and time and time again, he’d die, and have to walk all the way from the graveyard back to his lifeless corpse to be resurrected. Walking around as a ghost isn’t as exciting the fifth or sixth, or fifty-seventh time you try it.

The online nature of WoW also lets you see just how addicted some people can get—a scary warning to me not to get too attached to Vinz. I’d be in the middle of dueling a particularly nasty troll, when all the sudden, another gamer’s zombie character would ride by on a huge elephant. WoW lets you see the other players’ names and levels, which gives the game its mild humor component. One time, Vinz was asked to join something called “The Legion of Waffles” by a scary looking elf named Melkay. Later that day, I saw a message in the game’s integrated chat bar that read, “ask not what you can do for your WoW guild, but what can your WoW guild do for you?”

For some regions, like the gnome leper area, I found myself wishing I’d joined up with the Wafflers. It seems to me that you’re supposed to explore them with friends, who you can connect with online. Having the extra help allows you to fight your way through monsters that would otherwise wipe you out. But that requires an amount of dedication to the game that I wasn’t ready to give. Sure, I wanted Vinz to have some buddies. But I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my social life for his imaginary one.

Eventually the trial version expired, and I decided that continuing Vinz’s online journey wasn’t worth the monthly server fee. We’d had our good times—I’ll always remember his first words, yelled as I instructed him to backstab an unsuspecting boar: “I don’t have the energy for that!” But the satisfaction of seeing him learn new skills and conquer new territories was quickly fading with each successive login. I signed in one evening to see Vinz staring out of the screen at me, beady eyes blinking mechanically, mustache waving in the breeze, fists clenched around two small daggers, and I knew that he was tired of me, too. He deserves better, someone who will let him make friends with dwarves, someone who won’t throw him into battles he can’t win. Trust me, I know those people are out there.

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