Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Life of Game: Kicking the Habbit

Just over a year ago, I made the fairly crucial error of signing up for a free trial of "World of Warcraft". I'm not going to link that, because if you haven't heard of Warcraft, you are almost definitely living in a cave and therefore not linked to the internet and therefore not reading this post. (I want to make it clear that I in no way intend to insult you if you do in fact live in a cave, which by law, could be classed as a residence.)

Once the free trial had ended, I was persuaded to sign up for a full blown subscribed account by a few friends who wanted to set up their own guild, which struck me as a good idea.

What followed was similar to a Zombie survival style film. First of all we lost a veteran player who actually knew what he was doing, then we moved realms which culled a few more players and then exams hit. Matt and Kris for example went to a festival and stopped playing for the summer and then decided that they quite liked the outside world.

Although the analogy to a Zombie survival style film is actually quite tenuous, but you get the point. I ended up being one of the last people left. I think there are a couple of others, but we all appear to have odd logging on habbits and seem to work different shifts in terms of Warcraft.

The point that I really am trying to get to, is that people quit. I don't mind it when someone stops playing something, or gives something a break, but the thing that makes me furrow my brow a little is when somebody quits as if the game is a large brick of heroine. I am well aware that Everquest, an early online RPG, was dubbed as "Evercrack", and that many people have waxed lyrical about how addictive Warcraft is, but to make such a strong quitting declaration over a computer game seems just a tiny bit extreme.
It is possible that I am quibbling over semantics here, but I recently spoke to a colleague of mine who has quit in this manner, and her reason appears to be that the game is too good and that there are other things that she would like to do. That is in essence, fair enough, but I can't think of a single instance where I have not played a game because it was too good, nor can I think of any time that the presence of a game has prevented me from doing something different that I wanted to do. Admittedly, I've had that "oh, it's daylight again" sensation once or twice, but not to any phenominally unhealthy degree.

It's not even just Warcraft that inspires this level of "kicking the habbit". My occassionally-bordering-on-OCD-when-presented-with-video-games friend Elliott has frequently announced that he is giving up computer games and promptly destroys saved games, uninstalls software and attempts to utilise the CDs as frisbees. All that happens is the feral gamer reawakens after a couple of days of monotony in the real world, hunts around in the garden for discarded CDs and then reinstalls everything, insurring the cycle can repeat.

What I'm really trying to say is that I think it's a real shame that fewer people achieve some degree of compromise with these things and that the only options they really see are on or off. The main element that throws this complaint out of whack is that Warcraft costs money each month, and so taking a more casual approach may seem like you're not getting the most out of it, or quite plainly that £8.99 is just being burnt each month. As well as this, to really get anything out of a game like Warcraft, you really need to put a lot of time into it, with some groups of people expecting you to play every night in order to get a place on raids and such. I'm also aware that this could just be me being bitter about the fact that my gun-slinging-engineering-hunter-cow used to have a small platoon of friends, whereas now it is in fact Fien and myself against the rest of the world.

Whatever the true reason for this feeling of mine is, I would like Warcraft declassified as the class A substance that people think it is and for compromise to muscle it's way into the otherwise binary option of play vs. don't play.

Additional Notes:
The free trial was fun. I think you get a lot out of the game when you know you only have 14 days. It's like a trailer for a film: You get to see some fairly interesting stuff, and you don't get completely bored out of your skull by the clumsy building up sections that have odd pacing.

The guild was called "Balls of Cthulhu". This isn't as offensive as it sounds, but based on the UCL juggling society's name, "Balls", as most of the members were jugglers. Many people have sent me messages saying that the guild name is "awesome" or various alternatives for that word.

Elliott has an incredibly strong Guild Wars addiction. Guild Wars is in fact a much better game, but it requires a little more team work and interaction with strangers than Warcraft, and the thing that I have started to learn about online games is that I tend not to like interacting with other players... I've mentioned that in Warcraft, it is now myself and Fien against the world. This isn't essentially true. It is in fact me against the world, being generally grumpy with anything that doesn't inspire me with confidence in the first 5 seconds of contact, with Fien being a good PR manager for our two person team and dealing with their random requests for help.

When it comes down to it, what I really want to say is "all things in moderation, especially moderation." Maybe all of this is just an issue of willpower, and maybe I am being naive in thinking that I could just stop playing whenever I wanted withouth going 100% cold turkey.

Introductions should be short

If I've learnt anything from my academic career of writing endless meaningless essay based reports (which I possibly haven't) it's that a long introduction can really detroy the rest of what you're writing.

With this in mind, allow me to say my name is David Hing by the online moniker of Ding. I work in administration. I study law. I used to study History. I live in Camden with a girlfriend, a friend, the friend's girlfriend and the friend's girlfriend's three Chinchillas.

To say that I am a geek, although accurate, does not do the statement justice. I am not a geek, I live by the "doctrine of GEEK" (Guardians of Essentially Extraneous Knowledge) but let me reassure anyone still reading this that I do not, in any way, shape or form, take myself seriously.

No, really, I don't. I love fantasy, oddity, science fiction, and all things that belong in the "oh, you're into the dungeons and dragons stuff are you?" category, but it is not my life or raison d'etre.

So in conclusion of this introduction, that's all there is to say. I invite you to read on for additional special features and directors commentary.

Additional Notes:
Long introductions are notoriously bad. Think of any game or film that has built up far too much hype before its release and then disappointed. The go- to example for this would easily be Star Wars, but this is not the place to stomp around in that particular well trodden quadmire. A potential up coming example of long introductions could be this, although I sincerely hope that it isn't.

There are currently preliminary plans for friend and friend's girlfriend to obtain chinchilla number 4. It is black and white and potentially going to be called Daisy and would be joining Merlin, Bernard and Herbert.

The girlfriend, friend, and friend's girlfriend go by the name of Fien, Matt and Kris. It seems slightly strange that I managed to introduce the chinchillas before them, but that's something that I'm sure I'll answer for sooner or later.

I tend to differentiate between Geek (Guardians of Essentially Extraneous Knowledge) and Nerd (Not Entertaining Real Dimmension). A geek enjoys fantasy and such, but realises that it is fabricated. A nerd on the other hand lives for the fantasy at the suffering of reality. I'm sure there may be individuals out there that feel that being a Geek is in fact mere tourism, but that's really just an issue of where you stand on the matter.

I really don't take myself seriously. This is not a lie.