Hands up if you’ve ever done household chores instead of playing a video game.
(I realise I’m talking to an imagined audience here, you don’t actually have to raise your hands.)
This is something I do quite often. Once upon a time I thought it was the result of some anxiety — that I couldn’t relax properly until dishes were done, kids toys packed up, etc. Now I’m not so sure.
Because there have been games I literally couldn’t stop myself from playing — Dark Souls, Halo 2 — games I played endlessly to my detriment. Then there’s been games I loved but delayed playing, like some weird delayed gratification; this idea that everything had to be perfect before I played. Like I had to light candles, prepare some quality hor d’oeuvres. That tends to be my experience with games I have some sort of personal investment in: like the Zelda series, or Metroid.
This, the thing that is happening right now, is different.
I’ve been downloading World of Warcraft: Legion all morning. It’s possible for me to play, but I’ve been finding every goddamn excuse in the book not to play. My wife and kids are away for the weekend. I have no realistic impediments, but I’m procrastinating hard. Here’s what I’ve done instead of playing World of Warcraft.
— Made two seperate curries. A mango chicken one (very nice) and a vegetarian lentil curry (also quite nice).
— Cleaned the kitchen (twice). Once before making the curries, and again after making the curries.
— Watched a ton of UFC fights.
— Cleaned my Microwave for some reason (it was a bit gross to be fair).
— Cleaned my bins.
— Went for a one hour hike.
Actually — you know what, it’s been a helluva productive day.
And it’s mostly because I’m trying to avoid playing World of Warcraft. A video game I actually quite enjoyed when I last played it. It makes no sense whatsoever.
If I had to explain it, I think it’s the intimidation factor. The fear of having to start from scratch. It’s about the hurdles I know I’ll have to overcome: creating a new character, relearning the controls, going through the opening sections. I’m painfully aware of the dirge one must overcome before getting to the real meat of World of Warcraft. That’s what I’m dreading: not the game itself, getting started in the game.
Alright, bloody hell. Let’s get cracking.
Cut-scenes. Bloody hell. Blizzard cut-scenes man. Why is Blizzard not making movies? Like their own movies.
I’m watching this thing. The good guys are on boats going through space or the sky or god knows what. There are characters I don’t recognise because I know nothing about World of Warcraft lore. I’m imagining this being played on a large screen at Blizzcon and everyone collectively losing their shit. Me? I’m just admiring the craft.
I’m thinking about the Warcraft universe in general and how it’s just so tonally disparate. How it can be dumb as dogshit slapstick one moment, and serious as balls the next. It’s like The Holy Grail mixed with Gladiator. People are okay with this. I’m okay with this.
Is it because of the fandom? I suspect so. If you are eternally consumed with a universe you tend to take it seriously regardless of the intended tone.
Anyway, I tried to make a dumb-ass Panda and I even screwed that up.
This is Serrels. She is a female Panda. I realised too late that Serrels was a level one and I forgot to do that thing where I could trial a level 100 character.
Goddammit. Back to the drawing board.
Meet Serrels 2.0. Or, as I’ve named him: ‘Shreddles’.
Shreddles is a warrior, because I’m too scared to try any other character. Shreddles has armour — I guess because he’s level 100. I dunno. Shreddles is a big motherfucking panda. I’m excited about playing as a big motherfucking panda.
I have a level 100 and I did nothing.
30 minutes later this was happening.
In short, a lot of stuff I didn’t quite understand. I was panda-balls deep in a war I didn’t understand, using a control scheme I’d forgotten how to use. Utterly swamped by a user interface that — quite frankly — scared the shit out of me. I vaguely remembered being able to customise this wall of text on my screen but this second — embroiled in a war with an overwhelming demonic force — didn’t seem like the best time to casually flick through an options screen.
Not that I was having much impact on this titanic battle.. Most of the time I was standing in front of front of some minotaur-looking-bastard, pushing ‘2’ over and over again.
One memorable moment: walking into a new vista. Wow, the view. Spectacular. The scale. Gargantuan. A massive war going on in front of me. The eternal struggle between demon and man; hell-hounds and pandas. This is World of Warcraft.
Then I tried to charge into the fray and accidentally fell off a cliff into a pool of green acid. Thanks Obama.
And that’s basically World of Warcraft in a nutshell for me. Brief moments of awe, followed by the brisk punctuation of reality each and every time I try and match that cinematic scale with movements I’m actually in control of.
Like the time I tried to charge down this super boss on some Leroy Jenkins shit and got one-shotted. Par for the course.
Welcome to Azeroth, Shreddles… you goddamn idiot.