Wednesday, August 08, 2007

BC: The Untold Story

It occurred to me while writing the entry about Blizzard's announcement of the new expansion for WoW that I never gave proper coverage of the first one. Suddenly, I had this overwhelming need to give it justice. The result is this post.

The reason I didn't say much about The Burning Crusade (BC) expansion, which was an enormous deal in the gaming community at the time, is that I wanted to keep the knowledge that I was actually playing on the down-low. Certain people I know, (namely my parents) had issues with me playing a game - that, for some people, can be very addictive - while I was in school, and paying a hefty price to be there. All secrets have been divulged, so now, a whooping eight months after the fact, here's the previously untold tale of WoW's first expansion.

The night before the game was to launch, (which was at some point in January, a date that doesn't matter) stores like EB Games were open at midnight across North America. I didn't really expect there to be anything like this in Guelph. At the time my new town seemed like the last place you'd expect there to be a healthy WoW fanbase. So, when I found out about a midnight launch at the EB Games in Stone Road Mall, (not more than a 20 minute walk from the animal palace where I was living) Pete and I were all over it. We got there fairly early and snagged a good spot in line, with about 8 people in front of us. By midnight a line had formed behind us that stretched about halfway across the mall. This event was a big thing for us, not only due to the excitement of the game coming out, but the very line we stood in betrayed all kinds of negative stereotypes that people apply to gamers every day. In the video clip I posted earlier from the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert makes statements in his usual satirical style that reflect what are still the masses' opinions about games. (He himself, of course, is not so ignorant, thank goodness.) Such opinions are that most people who enjoy videogames are young, socially awkward teenagers, (and some comment about their complexion is always tossed in) or jobless, sexless adults who live in their mothers' basements or garage-apartments. Anyone who has done minimal research, as I have, knows better. For example, the average gamer-age is currently 33, and 67% of American heads-of-households play games. (Source.)

It's one thing to read such things on the ESA's website, or read tales on the WoW forums about whole families who play together and married couples who met ingame. It's another thing to see those people in real life, standing around with you in a mall in the middle of the night because they're just as excited as you. I had a conversation with a forty-something asian man who said he was taking the following day off sick so he and his son could start exploring the new content together. We wondered what the server stability would be like once everyone got home and logged on, all flocking to the same hot locations in the game world. (As it turned out, there were no significant server issues - my first night playing went off without a hitch.) Also in the crowd was a bearded late-twenty-something fellow who boasted loudly for the entire waiting period about his ingame exploits, such as how he kicked a 12 year old out of his guild for being 12. If I'd met him in game, I'd have probably thought he was the 12 year old. And as for the fairer sex? First in line were two girls about my age - I think I heard them say they arrived three hours early.

I was going to write a brief rundown of the game itself, but that seems completely irrelevant now as the newly-announced second expansion is what's got everyone ticking. On a personal note, I played BC a lot for just under two months. I leveled my main character, the druid, to 66, and in doing so experienced much of the exotic Outland. I also started a Blood Elf mage to play as a sidekick to Peter's new character, a Blood Elf paladin. They were fun days, but a combination of playing so much and suffering drastic game-balancing changes to my druid, (what MMO players call "nerfs") made the novelty wear off by the time my subscription ran out in March. I have not played WoW since.

For more statistics and other research-obtained data about MMORPGs, from demographics to potential psychological effects, everyone should check out Nick Yee's thesis work, called the Daedalus Project. It is by far the most comprehensive and unbiased database dedicated to MMOs on the web. Such is the quality of Yee's work that he was recently featured in an hour-long segment on CNN (click for 8-minute cut) about the future of virtual worlds.

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1 Comments:

At 12:59 AM, Blogger paul said...

lol druid nerfs *eyeroll* :P

 

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