by Eleanor Broussard
My brother's eyes gleamed mischievously. I tilted my head as he approached with his hands behind his back and his shoulders hunched in anticipation. With a dramatic flourish, he presented me with a small glossy box. A violet-skinned woman with pointed ears and luminous eyes leered at me from the cover. Above her face, in sturdy golden letters, the title "World of Warcraft" embellished the box. I shrieked delightedly, leaping up from my chair. We chattered with mutual excitement as he popped the download disk into the computer. Since elementary school, my brother and I had been fans of all the games Blizzard Entertainment had released. Throughout the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo series, their games had proved to be of unfailingly high quality and endless replayability. With twitching hands my brother and I watched the download bar slowly progress. The time had come for us to experience their first Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game.
MMORPGs are expansive online fantasy worlds that allow people all across the planet to connect and play with each other. Players design themselves a virtual body called an avatar and navigate through the world of the game, completing challenges and either collaborating or competing with fellow players. The players of these games come from all walks of life, each with their own set of reasons for playing. Some enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with defeating enemies and collecting loot. Some play for the friendships they build with other players. Others use the game to immerse themselves in a fantasy world and enjoy an escape from reality.
At last the download bar filled and my brother launched the game. He hastily logged in and began to design his avatar, a blue-skinned troll shaman with a flaming orange Mohawk. The heavy click of the accept button sounded and we were plunged head first into the world of the game. For the next four hours, my brother and I quested in the fascinating world of Azeroth, slaying boars and beasts, and pausing every few minutes to "Ooh" and "Ahh" at the stunningly lush graphics.
Because MMORPGs are so vast and immersive it is easy to forget the world around you when youâre playing. They are also carefully designed in a way that encourages players to play and keep playing. Every quest leads to another and, unlike traditional games, there isn't an end to it all. Even if your character is the highest level possible and you've completed the majority of the quests there's a whole world of rare items and equipment that you still haven't obtained. Patches containing new content are often released and even if you feel your character has reached its maximum potential, there's always the possibility of starting a new character.
Soon the time came for me to design my own character. Unlike my brother, who had created his avatar on a "Player Vs Player" server, I chose to join a "Roleplaying" server. On PVP servers you are constantly at risk of being attacked by other players of the opposing faction. I was less excited about combat, and more interested in being immersed in the fantasy of the world. On an RP server you create more than just a cool looking avatar. From your imagination and experiences in the game, you mold a fully fleshed-out character with personality, emotions, and a backstory. As you play the game, you are encouraged to speak, dress, and emote as if you really were this character.
My character was Baracilla LaSalle, a fiery eyed warlock-in-training. She began as a slightly arrogant woman of twenty-four years who was obsessed with mastering her dark craft. The more I played, the more Baracilla developed. Through interaction with other characters her beliefs and habits slowly evolved and she became richer and more layered. By far, the most dramatic change in her character and storyline took place when she fell in love. The previously rigid, unsentimental Baracilla found herself entirely bewildered and disarmed by a charming pirate named Felmarius. Baracilla's outlook on life was turned upside down by their romance. Everything, even her Warlock training, seemed to pale in the face of her beloved. Unfortunately, he was soon called away to sea by his crew. He left, promising to write to her, but Baracilla received a single hopeful letter and then never heard from him again. She managed to overcome her despair by embarking on a new life as a pirate, assembling a crew for herself, and scouring the seas in search of her lost beloved. Her resolve was hardened by a vow never to love again until the day she was reunited with him.
Sighing, I heaved myself out of the computer chair and wandered into the kitchen. The scent of dinner lingered in the air, but the pots and pans were cold, only speckled with remnants of a stir-fry meal. I frowned. It seemed like only five minutes ago that my mother had called for me to come grab food. I glanced at the clock. My stomach rumbled in anguish. It was almost 10pm. I glanced at my backpack by the front door. One by one, the memory of each of my homework assignments rose to the surface of my mind like hideous swamp monsters. Groaning, I dragged my backpack upstairs to my bedroom and unpacked my books. I pulled out a worksheet and pen and settled down to work. Drumming my pen on my knee, I pondered to myself whether Baracilla's newest crewmates had a proper pair of swashbuckling boots. I doodled an elf in the worksheet margin. Her flowing hair mingled among the algebra problems. My eyes gradually grew heavy. The Stormwind City theme music echoed in my brain as I succumbed to the warm darkness behind my eyelids.
MMORPGs can be amazingly fun, but it's extremely important that they are played responsibly. Cases of addiction to these types of games increase every year. MMORPGs are more addictive than regular games because of their powerful social component and the fact that they do not end. If you join an organization of players, you make friendships that you feel obligated to maintain. You make promises and plans with your fellow players that in turn take away from your time with "real-life" friends. Some quests just cannot be completed within a healthy amount of time, but you push on anyway, because you don't want to abandon your comrades. If you reach the point where you spend more time playing the game than doing any other activity, the affairs of the game begin to seem more important real-life ones. When you aren't playing the game, you're thinking about it, and you're plagued with a constant nagging worry that you may be missing out on something in the game world. It's an extremely unhealthy state to be in and it will almost inevitably cause your life to train-wreck.
It was a typical Saturday afternoon. I was seated at the computer, adventuring contentedly in Azeroth, when my father suddenly appeared in the doorway. Without so much as a greeting, he began to lecture me about not doing my share of the housework. Irked, I hastily agreed to do more, but he insisted that I get off the computer and start immediately. In a matter of minutes, our exchange deteriorated into a shouting fest. I logged off angrily and headed for the refuge of my bedroom. As I was running up the stairs my father shouted "That's it! No more! You're done with this game!" Horrified, I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn't hear it. Bewildered, seething with anger, and not bothering to find a pair of shoes, I burst from the house, fleeing barefoot down into the ravine and through the woods.
The grass in the clearing was moist like my cheeks. After scrambling over rocks and logs, streams, mud pits, and poison ivy for the past hour, I had at last come to rest, and I was grateful for the green softness beneath me. I hugged my knees, teeth clenching and unclenching with the tremors of a bottled up fury. My friends had been taken from me. My hard earnings and accomplishments were to be rendered void. Picking feebly at the tiny burrs in my skirt, I stared down at the muddy gash in my foot. This was my revenge. The sarcastic applause of the leaves filled my ears.
As the sun began to sink behind the trees I made the decision to return home. There was no escaping reality. As I stepped through the door, both my parents embraced me in frustration and relief. After a solemn discussion, I retreated to my bed. From that night onward I was weaned off the World of Warcraft. Looking back now, I can recognize how delusional I had become. I had rejected the real world for the fantasy world of a video game. Even so, I sometimes catch myself longing for the sense of purpose, prestige, and freedom that I felt when I was adventuring in Azeroth. I think I will always feel a pull towards the game. Nothing else has helped me to forget the stresses of my life quite so effectively, but I will never allow myself to go back. I'm best off living in one world at a time.
English Composition 1, Fall '07