Azeroth: Confessions and emotional investments

The first game I ever played was Pong. It was 1978, and I was twelve years old. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company and flew a lot between Dagenham (Essex, UK) and Detroit, and on one particular trip he arrived home with an Atari 2600. That’s when everything changed. After that it was the ZX81, then the BBC B and an Amiga. The first pay cheque my boyfriend earned after graduating University went on buying a 386 PC with a copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Nearly thirty years on we’re still married, and gaming is a part of everyone’s lives in this house: my 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter are playing Trove together as I type this article.

However, these days I spend quite a lot of time in Azeroth playing World of Warcraft, and that’s what I’ll be talking about during my tenure here.

The MMO was bought initially in order to help me through long nights breast feeding the youngest, and in the end it saved me from myself, after I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. It became a space where I could allow myself to just kick back and relax, and evolved into something more significant as time went on: becoming a GM in a small but committed Guild gave me confidence in the virtual world where none existed in reality. It was a vital first step back on a road to recovery which pushed me to write daily as a means of helping to rationalise how I felt and to deal with the issues I had. In February 2016 I will celebrate seven years of my Warcraft Blog. I know that without this particular game in my life, I’d not be the person I now am.

It’s odd when people ask me to describe the journey I’ve had with games since those early days. Being a woman in what was back then very much a man’s world was always difficult, especially when I could make my 10p last longer in a Galaxians machine than most boys my age. The fascination with playing isn’t rooted nearly as much in the competitive either: those titles rarely appeal for too long. My love exists for the organisation and construction Sims that include Sid Meier titles, Sim City and all the various clones thereof with occasional excursions into the world of Assassin’s Creed. Oh, and then there’s Mariokarts with the kids. When it comes to MMO’s however? I’m pretty much a one world girl, and this surprises a lot of my readership. With so much variety to be had in the virtual world, why don’t I try other things once in a while?

It’s the emotional ties that have doomed me, if I’m honest… I’ve done raiding and I’ve played PvP, and both have a distinct part in my current online persona. However, it is the emotive attachment to the world that compels me to remain attached through thick and thin, that this is a place I have lived and breathed perhaps a little too intensely for my own good over the years. I don’t regret anything that has happened in over a decade, even if some days I probably should have walked away for the keyboard far quicker than I did. Every experience lived, each lesson learned, all hang together with the strength of attachment I have to the characters that accompanied me through it.

That’s why I can’t delete the L90 Human Paladin called Beecham who lives in Ironforge, the last place I logged her out after she hit the cap in Cataclysm. She was levelled with my husband from scratch, a joint project in the fallow period before Pandaria came and a lot changed in the game. We’ve not played that way since, and she remains as a testament to not only what is missed in Blizzard’s flagship title, but what has altered in the lives of both myself and my gaming soul mate. Because you don’t need to travel any more: instant max level boosts have trivialised both that journey and the destination, and Blizzard have paid the price for the arrogant assumption that this didn’t matter. Plot, motivation and emotional attachment are all thin on the ground in Warlords of Draenor. I hope for everyone’s sake that all changes come 2016.

My investments in Azeroth are many and varied: I have an unreasonable amount of Hunters, stupidly organised bank alts who I take a great deal of pride in dressing almost as well as my maxed characters. Transmog is a big deal for me, and making my ‘family’ all distinctive yet separate has become something of an obsession since the feature was introduced. At the base of this too is that same need to make these pixels something more than they are, an extension of my personality, fractured splinters of a soul that shattered into my PC and was never satisfactorily reconstituted. That’s not a problem though, because very few people take the time to put the pieces together. It can be our secret now, just how much of me has leached into the Eastern Kingdoms, what bits of me can be found scattered across Kalimdor over the years.

I know the beautiful places, the niches and sacred spots where I’ll go with each one of them when the servers are finally switched off. Because every character has a home I know implicitly, a story I created for them all even though not a single one of them exists as an RP character. The reason why I don’t play any other MMO’s is simple; I don’t need them. This is my world, and my life, and the beating pulse of the gamer I have now become. Everything else finds its level around here and now, and that is absolutely fine with me.

I don’t need multiple investments: everything I desire exists in Azeroth, and that’s all that really matters.

This is an introduction post by Alternative Chat, our newest addition to the GD family! Help us make her feel welcome and also make sure to check out her blog for all things WoW related!

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