Since the beginning of my writing career, I have found myself in some odd places. Comic Con, on a bus with a James Bond expert and in a motion capture suit being turned into the Hulk to name a few. This, however, takes the cake. I often write for a website devoted to gamers and I'm an avid player myself. A bit unusual for a woman, but I got in early with Pac-Man. I play most of my games on the Xbox 360 and the PS3, so I've never entered the world of the MMORPG. For you non-gamers, that is a "massively multiplayer online role-playing game". So today I found myself at Blizzcon, the convention for Blizzard games, and I've entered the realm of World of Warcraft.
If you haven't heard of WoW, you must be someone who actually leaves your house. Here's how it works: You create a character who either belongs to the Alliance (the good guys) or the Horde (the bad guys) and off you go to a land full of quests and characters. You meet up with friends or are recruited by strangers to go off and complete tasks. You can communicate, quest and fight in real time. And you'd better grab some caffeine before you start because I'm told it only takes one session to get hooked. (The person who told me this was dressed as a large beast with a 4 foot staff and a light-up hat.)
For a noobie like me, this was quite an experience. I was asked to take pictures of people in costume, so I walked around the convention floor, passing people dressed as Blood Elves, and Dwarves. I stopped to ask them if they would pose for me and almost everyone was happy to let me do so. They're an unbelievably friendly bunch, though I was snarled at by a group of what can only be described as pig-men with axes. (Inflatable axes, of course...no weapons allowed on the con floor) Unlike Comic Con in San Diego, there is little to buy here. And the one store had a line that wrapped around several times and continued out the door. Incidentally, the only other line that long was for the alcohol and the Dippin' Dots.
My initial preconception about these MMO fanatics was someone who cannot interact in social situations. A rather large person who sits in front of the computer all day, drinking Mountain Dew through a straw and when venturing out of the house, wears elf ears and a cape. I should explain that as a nerd myself, I'm judging those only slightly nerdier than myself. What I discovered on the con floor is that, while there certainly are those who fit the stereotypical bill, most are anything but. I met doctors, lawyers, teachers and actors (yes, most of those were in costume) who are devout players. One woman told me she started playing to keep in touch with her son who lives across the country. I can only imagine the campaigns...Mom's a Blood Elf, son is a Troll. They enter caves full of dragons and slay them together...all the while gossiping about the neighbors and what Aunt Bea is up to. I met a couple who got married in costume this morning and were coming to the con to celebrate. She was dressed as a golden owl, or at least that's what I thought she was. I even met a woman who nervously told me that she was waiting to meet her online partner. They'd been playing for 2 years and this was the first meeting for them. She'd recently lost 80 lbs in anticipation of this day.
And then, when I couldn't avoid it anymore, I walked over to the computer to give it a shot. I suppose I shouldn't have avoided it so long. It's not like I'm a stranger to planting myself in front of a screen. I mean, I very recently completed a 12 hour session of Rock Band. The demo had me playing as a very high level character and though I had no idea what I was doing, I jumped in by mashing buttons and frantically clicking my mouse. I'm not quite sure how, but I killed some sort of ice beast and climbed onto an indescribable riding creature. Off I went, following my companions down a snow-covered mountain, reading a steady stream of their comments and watching their escapades.
Fine. I admit it. It was a blast. I'm not resigning from my job and devoting my life to WoW costume making or anything. I like sunshine and social interaction. And I'm not saying I'm buying a brand new gaming engine for my computer or anything. But I did stand in line to buy a stuffed Murloc. And a straw for my Mountain Dew.