A message is typed in the wrong chatbox. A simple question baffles the players who weren't meant to read it, as it was clearly meant for a private conversation. “Where am I? Why can't I see myself on the screen? I think my character has become a man?”
The moment passes, before another misguided message is posted, “Oh. Nevermind, there was a taller player standing in front of me.”
This isn't some low-achieving troll trying to get a rise out of the more experienced players. No, this was my first experience with an MMO. I had my beautiful Tauren huntress step to the side, and suddenly the issue was resolved. No longer did I have to worry about why I was suddenly a large, clearly male slab of beef. I just spawned in the most confusing way possible for a newbie such as myself.
I had never played an MMO before, and my previous experience with online gaming had been kept to matches of Left 4 Dead 2 or Kitty Cannon. This was a whole new ball game. In fact, since the massive success of World of Warcraft, I really hadn't given the game much thought aside from it being a punchline on some of the forums that I frequented. Basically, what I knew was that the game seemed addictive. Poop-socking was apparently a thing. I was also under the impression that if I played a female character, there was a good chance I would get some free swag? Turns out that first impressions can be deceiving.
With these incorrect notions in mind, I found it a little bit daunting when my boyfriend's sister-in-law and brother suggested that all four of us started playing together. It took some time to coax me up to the mouse and keyboard, but after having seen how much enjoyment my university roommate got from WoW, and being enticed by the idea of making my very own character, I decided why not?
After all, the family that raids together stays together. Or...something like that.
So, I began to design my otherwordly avatar, a Tauren huntress named Jahdelle. Aside from a few things that I wish had been available to females of the species (bigger horns? Nose rings? I guess Earthmother raised me better than that...) I was really pleased with how she turned out.
The beginning quests nearly scared me off of the game. While my boyfriend and his brother were off doing really cool Goblin things that included explosions and what I can only imagine was a Mission Impossible themed starting quest (with dragons!), I chased around pigs and returned somebody's lost dog to them. I think I also picked some flowers at some point. I don't know how I was ever able to handle all of that excitement.
I'm lucky that I play with some very experienced people. When we finally got to the point where we could run dungeons, I was very happy to have extra advice and tips. My little group assured me that they were ready for any questions that I might have as a new player, but I'm not sure they were prepared for the level of “new” that I brought to the table. I think some of my favourite inquiries included “why am I stuck on the top of this door frame?” and “What's this red thing floating above my head? It looks like a cross between a cobra and a hot air balloon.”
Once I got my feet (or hooves, as it were) under me, I really began to enjoy the gaming experience. I developed the confidence to start playing on my own, and soon had to create a different character so that I didn't out-level my primary group during our off time. I really love dungeoning, both with my family and on my own. There's always a lingering question of what will happen next, and while most of the dungeon runs that I've done have been successful, there are still those frustrating times when I fall off of a cliff or get lost and the group goes on without me. I tread water and try my best to find them (because I'm a stubborn cow-lady who don't need no help), inevitably still being just as lost when the dungeon has been completed. It happens to everybody, right? Right?
I'm drawn to the loot and treasures that litter the dungeons of Azeroth. It's like opening a digital blind bag everytime you complete a quest. More than casting spells, or shooting things with arrows or guns, my favorite thing by far is dressing Jahdelle up in all of the different bits and bobs that I get while playing. Sometimes she looks really cool! Most times, well most times she looks silly. And that's fine by me. I snicker to myself, and keep going.
I also can't help but love the music, and the settings are breath taking and awe inspiring, too.
World of Warcraft was something that was completely out of my comfort zone. One of my main worries, since I'm not the strongest gamer, was that I'd be terrible at the game, and more experienced players would pick on me. But really, that's never been the case. Any strangers I've played with online have been, at best, incredibly supportive and at their worst, apathetic and unhelpful. But never mean or abusive.
What surprised me the most, however, was just how close I would grow to my character. Jahdelle is somebody whose always there when I need some alone time adventuring amongst savannahs and mountains, but she also brings me closer to my boyfriend and his family. She allows me to do things that I can't do in real life, and makes me laugh when I make her dance or type in the 'moo' command. It's a sort of fangirl-like appreciation that makes me wish I could find somebody to draw fanart of her, or bring her to life in other ways.
While I can't see myself getting overly obsessed with the game, I can appreciate it for what it is; a fun pass time with a great sense of scale and adventure. There's certainly aspects that I'd like to see changed; including more diverse character creation options, and creepier areas to explore, but those feel like footnotes on an otherwise incredibly enjoyable experience. I never thought I would say this, but I'm really glad that I gave World of Warcraft a try, and stepped outside of what would otherwise be my comfort zone.