World Of Warcraft Starter Edition

So as some of my geekier friends would already know, the absurdly popular MMORPG World of Warcraft is now free to play for up to 20 levels. So yesterday I decided to give it another shot (I’ve played the 10-day demo before, years ago, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it).

After going through several options, I settled on my first character: a male tauren paladin (to those of you not in the know, tauren are anthropomorphic cattle, or minotaurs if you prefer). One minute later I decided to try something else, though, and I was back to the character creator. After several more looks at everything, I settled on the next logical choice: a female forsaken warrior (again, for the benefit of the unaware, the Forsaken are a faction of free-willed undead that look like zombies but are as intelligent as any living person).

Tragically, goblins weren’t available for the Starter Edition, or I would have been ALL OVER THAT.

So anyways, I entered the World of Warcraft with my sword-wielding undead gal, who I affectionately named Agoniana. Entering into the world, I was given a bit of background info on what had been going on in the world (and apparently the plot has been advanced quite a bit since the game first game out). The fun ended soon after.

Maybe the fact that DC Universe Online was my first non-horrible MMO spoiled me a bit, but I found everything about WoW tedious and confusing. The controls were hard to get used to, for starters. I spent an inordinate amount of time just trying to figure out how to control the camera view. Worse yet was figuring out where to go and what to do. Finding the first quest was easy enough, since there was a big yellow exclamation point over the guy’s head, but from there the entire game descended into a cloud of tedium and confusion. It feels like everything I accomplish is a complete accident, since I have no idea where I am going. Half the time it turned out the necessary whatevers for my quest were right in front of me and I never noticed it because I’m expecting some kind of symbol or indication of “yes, that there, that’s what you’re after”. In this respect, DC Universe Online does a MUCH better job.

Movement feels slow and cumbersome, though again that’s probably DCUO spoiling me, since all the characters in that game get to fly or run really fast or Spider-Man (yes I know Spider-Man is Marvel, but the Acrobatics movement mode in DCUO is basically exactly the way Spider-Man gets around) their way through the areas when they aren’t fighting.

Even the combat feels bland in comparison to DCUO. In DCUO, you control how the character attacks: when you click, he punches or swings his sword or shoots his gun or whatever, and as you level up you get more elaborate fighting maneuvers. In WoW, you click on the foe, and then watch as your character attacks every few seconds, and sometimes you mix in some special attacks.

It could be that forsaken warrior was just a particularly bad choice to start out with, and that other races or classes are more fun, so I will be giving it another shot, but at this rate it seems highly unlikely that I’ll ever go so far as to pay for the game. Nor can I see what everyone else sees in it.

The Downside To Being A Gamer

Not all that long ago, I wrote a little something defending the habits of gamers as being no less wasteful and negligent than any other hobby. I stand by that argument, inasmuch as I stand by anything I have said in the past; kind of a lot, but not written in stone.

A recent spell of introspection, however, has opened me to some of the negatives of being a gamer*. More specifically, it has drawn my attention to a few behaviors I’ve engaged in on a more consistent basis ever since buying my brand-spanking-new Alienware Aurora computer thing. It’s beautiful and magnificent, let me say outright, but it has had a cost above and beyond the ludicrous price tag.

Whether or not these may also apply to other hobbies of similar time intensity and cost, I don’t know, because I don’t have an awful lot of hobbies (Lord knows writing is an entirely different kettle of fish-shaped crackers). Maybe I’ll be proving my past self dead wrong.

Let it be stated here and now that I’ve never been one to make a highly productive use of my time. I leisure with the best of them, which is to say the worst of them, and whatever fault I find with that is insufficiently repulsive to make me think about changing it. I can’t clearly recall a time in my life where gaming wasn’t at least somewhat important, at least not since we got our first hand-me-down NES at whatever age I happened to be at. While I was exposed to Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda much earlier, it was Super Mario Bros. 3 that sealed the deal with me forever.

All of that being said, for the last several years I would average maybe one to one and a half hours a day actually playing games on a computer or console. Obviously it would spike when I got a new game, but I’d always either beat it or get bored after a few days and I’d settle back into the median. I did other things with my life in the meantime: make pitiful progress on my guitar playing, watching movies, surf the web for things of at least passable entertainment value.

Lately however, I’ve been gaming a lot more. Like, jumping on the computer as soon as I’m home from work and not removing the headphones until my roommate wants to make dinner. And its mostly because I have this fancy new computer, and with it I can play fancy new games. Like DC Universe Online. That one in particular is a huge time sink for me. Mostly because of the sheer breadth of character options. When I play a game like The Legend of Zelda, my character is Link. He does Link things and goes on his Link quest, and nothing will change that, so my focus is reduced to doing those things. When you can make your own character, though, there is always a part of me wondering “hey, how about I try this now?” with this being anything from a Batman carbon copy to a tiny pink shapeshifting gunslinging pixie to a death metal devil that bursts into flames every few seconds, and so many many things in between. I have played through the first ten levels of that game no less than a dozen times. Which might indicate more of an issue with myself than anything involving gaming itself. Seriously, it kept me up last night; I was just lying there, thinking about what to try next.

With my loss of free time, it of course follows that I devote less time to other activities. My movie attendance has dropped drastically (as have my chances to becoming a half-assed movie critic), my guitar playing is probably as horrible as it was months ago, and while I’m not in any worse shape than I was two months ago, I’m certainly not helping myself out with sitting in front of a monitor even longer than the 8 hours I’m required to do it at work.

Most poignant for me, though, is that my writing has suffered. During my big movie thing, one of my favorite parts about seeing the movies was having something good to write about after the fact. This stupid blog has suffered. Remember when I was going to post on it every day? My writing as a whole has suffered. What was the last thing I wrote, Texas Trip 2011? I was away from my computer for all but one of those posts. Of course even then I was playing my 3DS, but that manages to have a lot less of a hold on me. Maybe because it’s smaller. That’s how psychology works, right?

The problem is I can’t easily justify doing something else. Not after all the money I sank into this glowing madness engine of mine. It seems downright irresponsible to go out to see movies or even spend time doing other things when I have all this computer to play. Because otherwise I just spent all this money for no reason. Not that I’m strapped for cash. More of the principle of the thing I suppose.

The solution, of course, is to alter my thinking on the subject. I need to regard the computer as a long term thing, not something that requires immediate and constant use for fear of dying and missing out. I’m going to have this giant heavy rectangle for the next several years, and it will certainly be my main computer for at least another three or four. And unlike a laptop, it can be upgraded, so that’s even more time. And since it’ll last a while, I don’t need to try to squeeze every last drip of amusement that I can out of it and whatever amount of hours I have between work and sleep.

So no, I definitely won’t be getting Skyrim. Like, ever.

*Okay, so this ended up being a lot more about the crazy glowing rectangle under my desk than about gaming in general, but whatever.

A response to “Why Does America Have So Many ‘Peter Pan’ Men?”

In this article, some person I’ve never heard of named Penny Young Nance complains about how men need to man up and stop being boys, apparently so that women in her office can stop complaining and marry them. While I am all for men being men, people getting married, and shutting up the catty office spinsters, I find it more than slightly annoying that Penny chooses to fixate on grown men who play video games. Annoying, and I suppose a bit predictable.

Without naming a bunch of names, I can’t help but notice that it is a popular tactic of many people of a conservative bent to pick on gamers as being the most childish and immature of people. Only the males, though. Chances are they don’t even know that there are women who play video games. Nope, only pathetic man-boys play video games. It’s a hobby with a very singular demographic.

To be sure, there are immature man-boys who play a lot of video games and refuse to do anything productive with their lives. Some may in fact live in their parent’s basement. But let’s be honest, that is a vastly overstated stereotype with very little basis in reality. Very few parents are wealthy and uncaring enough to support their adult children to their own detriment, let alone the capacity to support a hobby as potentially expensive as gaming.

But let’s not waste time arguing semantics and stereotypes. There is a much bigger issue here, which is why, after over three decades, gaming is still stigmatized. Penny cites that the undesirable gamer man-boys spend hours at a time playing games, when they should be doing things like going to college and working. Pardon me, Penny, but what strange world do you come from where men do nothing but eat, sleep, and work? Do they not have free time in whatever whitewashed suburb you apparently come from? Surely your menfolk participate in such wholesome activities as sitting in a boat drinking beer (fishing), standing in the driveway drinking beer (working on the car), and sitting on the couch drinking beer (watching the game)?

Did it not occur to you that there are a lot of time-wasting hobbies out there that all of us who don’t work 80 hour weeks engage in? Some of us like to stare at a lake that may or may not have any living creatures in it, while others of us prefer to stare at a blinking screen. How is one better than the other? Is it the fact that we don’t drink beer while gaming? Because let me assure you, a lot of guys do (I’m told Mario Kart takes on strange new dimensions while under the influence, but since I play to win I’ve never bothered to try it myself).

I haven’t even touched the fact that every gamer I have ever met does in fact have a full time job or is currently pursuing their education. In some cases both. Many of them are also in a healthy relationship. Maybe if you and your gal pals looked at gaming for what it actually was, a hobby no different from any other fun but ultimately arbitrary hobby, you wouldn’t have so much trouble finding a man.

Dating is hard when you cut the dating pool to pieces because of baseless stereotypes. Funny how that works.

Woops!

While in the shower this morning, it occurred to me that I went to bed without making a blog post! I’m not really sure how that happened, as I was even mulling over what I should actually write about. Originally, the plan was to write about karaoke, but I managed to completely forget about that as well until it was about an hour too late to get there. I’m sure you all missed me terribly, those of you who happen to both be reading this and have attended the karaoke thing last night. Rest assured that I missed you too, and regret not remembering it sooner.

Oh well, it’s not a complete bust: I did manage to get some half way decent sleep last night, and I had some fun playing computer games, though my inner consumer is beginning to demand something novel to experience. Unfortunately it’ll have to wait, because as best as I can tell nothing I really want will be out until November (Super Mario 3D Land!!!), and I don’t even know when Diablo III is coming out (though they are starting beta testing soon so I guess that is a good sign).

Going back to Super Mario 3D Land, though, this is really a game that should have been out months ago. It cannot be overstated how important it is to have a strong title to come with a new game system, whether console or portable. I waited months to get the 3DS simply because it had pretty much nothing I was interested it, and when I did finally get it (along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D) it was still too soon, because a couple months later they slashed the price by $80. That’s like two more games I could have bought, but wouldn’t because there’s nothing good yet. And no, Dead or Alive and Street Fighter are not good, or at least they aren’t what I actually want in a game (I actually bought Street Fighter IV for the 3DS under some insane assumption that this time I wouldn’t lose horribly at it against the easiest computer opponents). The only fighting games I could get get into were Killer Instinct and the Super Smash Bros. games, and the latter is really more of a party game than a proper fighting game.

In effect, it can be noted that I tend to make a fair number of mistakes, and furthermore that I am not the most discerning of shoppers. Then again, I’m not in debt or living above my means, so I can afford to make some poor purchasing decisions. Which is to say I can literally afford it, because I have lots of money, because I am a absurdly wealthy Roman prince. Going by world standards of wealth, I’m not even exaggerating, though by strictly American standards I would be. Really, I just keep my expenses very low, so I have lots of leftover for the occasional frivolous purchase.

Speaking of frivolous, I’ve decided I’m going to get an electric bass sooner or later. Just because I think they are cool and I want one to play around on. I don’t expect to become some kind of magical bass expert or anything, but I’ve always liked them and I think it would be fun. Hopefully I’m not wrong, because I’ve kind of already made up my mind about it.