I have a confession to make. I’ve seen every episode of Stargate SG-1, the X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Twice. When browsing in Topshop, I give the Lucille Bluth side-eye to girls picking up t-shirts with the words ‘Geek’ and ‘Nerd’ emblazoned across the chest. And yes, I’ve had the occasional suggestive dream about Agent Mulder. However, until this day, I had never breached the final frontier: the World of Warcraft. The world’s most popular MMORPG, now mine to conquer (on a trial basis).
First, I am presented with an introductory video that features a hyper masculine orc fighting to a dramatic orchestral soundtrack. I accidentally-on-purpose skip through this because it reminds me of my step-dad when I accidentally Sky+ a Jennifer Aniston movie over Match of the Day. Up next is character selection. I’ve been experiencing a bit of PMS lately so I decide to forgo the Alliance and join forces with the nefarious Horde. The voiceover mentions something about a gateway of unspeakable evil, and that resonates with me so I figure I’ve made the right choice. Choosing to be a Blood Elf, based solely on character attractiveness, I also select the class of ‘Rogue’, essentially because it seems to mean that I get to wear a cute leather bodysuit. I vaguely wish that my weapon was bigger, but I move swiftly on to actual game play before I let the lack of pastel outfits get me down.
Now that the fun part is over, I attempt to make my way in this new world as best I can. That is, I spend approximately six minutes jogging around aimlessly while whining, “How do I kill things? Why won’t people talk to me?”
After a moderate amount of feverish clicking, I assert my presence by clumsily slaying some large floating fish and a tiger type creature before giving up on my HP and setting my sights on what’s really important: popularity. I’ve been sufficiently immersed in internet culture in my short life to have picked up on two imperatives: first, that the only hope of success for a mediocre gamer lies in guild membership; and second, that I must avoid the trope of the “n00b” and not make an arse out of Eriannis the blood elf, my avatar, my self. The latter goal is, quite obviously, doomed from the start.
I spend a lot of time trying to chat with Talith the Mage, and end our one sided conversation with an indignant, “Fine! Be that way!” before coming to the realisation that he is a non-player character, and I’ve been trying to bond with a complex algorithm somewhere. I finally find a real man in this fantasy world, and the second I try to start a dialogue with him, he sets his status to ‘Away’ and sits down on the forest floor. All boys are the same.
Ultimately, I decide to explore on my own because I’m an independent blood elf who don’t need no kinsmen, and set off towards some kind of wasteland populated with cannibals. A woman in a navel-bearing outfit offers me a quest, but I don’t like her attitude (and have no idea how to accept) so I bid her farewell and accidentally fly away on a large dragonfly.
Upon arrival at my supposed destination, I attempt to leave but am killed twice by ligers. Rolling with the punches, I resurrect my own spirit and relocate to the road, which is littered with the bodies of those with less fortune and bandwidth than I. Walking through one, a dialogue box informs me that it is a ‘Level 2’ corpse. I can sympathise because that’s what I feel like when I wake up in the morning. A self-proclaimed ‘Level 6’ corpse later pops up and I surmise it must be on its way to a 9am lecture after a night on the lash.
After about 20 more minutes of aimless wandering and random instances of character death, I am informed that I have been inexplicably promoted to level two despite not actively doing anything, nor making any real attempts to engage with the world of the game. The same attitude got me through secondary school so I decide to let it slide and carry on. My ego, slightly inflated by my promotion, draws me into battle with a tree that is blatantly in possession of superior powers. Nevertheless, I ignore my avatar’s insistence that she is too weak to win and hurl Lord of the Rings inspired slurs at my new arch nemesis and/or laptop screen. I’m starting to understand the inevitability of death and also seriously considering the possibility of quantum immortality, but for the most part it’s five in the morning and I’ve had three Diet Cokes.
I experience a moment of disillusionment with the game upon realising that I haven’t felt this lost and confused since *NSYNC went on indefinite hiatus, and log out. I return to my computer a few moments later feeling like a failure, and ashamed that I’ve given up. Reminded of a poster that hung in my Leaving Certificate maths class, sneering the phrase “You’re not finished when you lose, you’re finished when you quit!” at me as I sobbed over exponential functions, I hastily google “how to play World of Warcraft”, skim the article and restart the application with a renewed sense of ambition and purpose. Unfortunately, the game freezes upon launch and I realise I’m finished, so I quit.