Finding time to play normal video games as the father of newborn baby boys is tough enough as it is. I was certain my thirst for massively multiplayer online role-playing games would go unquenched in the face of fatherhood. Then I discovered the joy of dailies.
Daily quests have been a feature of World of Warcraft for quite some time now. Quest givers with blue exclamation points over their heads grant special tasks that can be completed once per day, usually aimed towards increasing faction standing, advancing professions, or gathering special currency that can be exchanged for powerful items and equipment.
In the past I've laughed at the people spending their time logging repeating the same quests over and over again in order to earn items that have no real bearing outside of the game. My distaste comes not from the lust for acquiring virtual goods, a desire I know all too well, but rather the idea that there's an entire game world waiting to be explored, and there they were in the same little zone performing the same tasks day in and day out. I felt these dailies were just a form of controlled grinding, and nobody likes grinding.
Then a pair of tiny male screaming feces monsters came into my life.
It's not that I don't have time to play games; it's the guilt. My better half is on leave from work, and I am not, so during the day when I am writing she is busy dual-wielding breast leaches while I sit in my comfortable chair and make sure we have money to spend on food she barely has time to eat, internet she barely has time to surf, and electricity she'd probably prefer to have turned off during the day so I would be free to help out more. She's sleep deprived, frustrated, and has gotten it into her head that saying the names of our children Archer and Seamus over and over again at steadily increasing volumes will somehow get them to stop crying (it does not).
I'm sleep deprived and frustrated as well, but for several hours a day I am forced to sit in front of a computer screen and not get puked on by babies. I'm pretty sure not getting puked on is in my job description. It's an odd company.
So I feel guilty for working. I also feel guilty going to the bathroom, running to the store, taking a shower, or generally looking in any direction in which a baby does not appear (which doesn't account for many directions in our apartment these days.) And yes, I feel guilty about gaming.
But as I write this post, she and the little ones are asleep, and I've just spent a half-hour defending Azeroth from the forces of Ragnaros.
World of Warcraft patch 4.2, Rage of the Firelands, hit servers at the end of June. It's a continuation of quest line from the Cataclysm expansion pack in which the forces of the fiery elemental lord Ragnaros attempted to burn down Mount Hyjal, home of all things green and leafy in Azeroth. Had Ragnaros succeeded, Blizzard would have spent all that time designing the new zone for nothing. Luckily the Mountain Dew-fueled armies of MMO players triumphed.
But that wasn't good enough.
Now that we've stopped Ragnaros from burning the trees, we're heading into his real to tree his burning. That'll show him. The whole patch culminates in a large raid in which well organized groups of like-minded players gather on the World of Warcraft servers to complain about how the raid is structured. Meanwhile, solo players like myself are aiding the war effort by completing daily quests.
These quests begin in an area of Hyjal called The Regrowth, where some of the things Ragnaros and his evil army of orange creatures burned are starting to regrow. Completing quests in this area earns players a currency called Marks of the World Tree. Collect enough, and you unlock access to the Firelands.
In the Firelands you find yourself on the frontline of a raging battle. The forces of Azeroth hold a hill on which they've cheekily planted a tree. Players are given various tasks to help hold the lines, such as healing wounded druids, defeating fire elementals, or planting leafy tentacles that attack anything that looks like it might toast a marshmallow.
BHlizzard has managed to tailor these specialised quests in such a way that even with dozens of players attempting to complete them at one time, there's always plenty of enemies and quest objectives to go around. If you need to kill fire elementals you'll find a constant stream of them flooding the flaming planes. Elite creatures never lock to one player, so as long as you tag them with just one attack, you get credit for the kill. All this while non-player characters clash with the enemy around you, shouting taunts or sounding horrified screams as their life is ripped away. Doesn't that sound fun?
Once you gather enough marks from those quests, you unlock new areas of the Firelands, your tasks becoming more important. You're disrupting major magical ceremonies, destroying powerful weapons, and shooting spiders with magic until they stop moving.
Once you gathern enough marks from those quests, et cetera and so forth, until you've completed all there is to complete and are rewarded with a title and a sexy flaming hippogryph mount that's sure to come in handy months from now when Emily and I transition from parents that jump at the slightest hint of crying to parents that say, "The babies aren't screaming, go make sure they're breathing."
Sure it's a little tedious, and the grand payoff isn't as impressive as throwing acorns in Ragnaros' face like the raiders are doing, but that's not the point. The point is I can participate in a major world-changing event, advancing through a well-cultivated storyline, and earn some rather sweet virtual items just by squeezing in a half-hour of game time a day. Everything I look for in an MMO session in bite-sized, easy-to-explain pieces.
That translates into relatively guilt-free gaming for this MMO-playing father of newborn twins, garnering less ire than I would by participating in more frivolous pursuits, such as showering or eating food that doesn't have some variety of baby fluid on it.
Just don't tell the mother of my children about the Gnome rogue I've been levelling on the side. His name is Gerbil, and I love him.