I made something of an interesting purchase last night.
The second (and last) round of 15th Anniversary World of Warcraft server blades went on sale, and I decided to take the plunge and grabbed one. It was a surprisingly quick decision, all told, and other than some latency getting into the store and getting the blade into my cart for checkout, pretty painless. There’s a joke in there about how Blizzard is at their best when taking money from you, but I’m not going to workshop it past that point!
Why did I buy it? Well, despite being a cool runner-up (I really wanted the original round of blades for my home server, but the auction setup and high pricing meant it wasn’t going to happen), it was also a sort of interesting reminder of why I am still engaged with WoW at all.
When I started the game, my life wasn’t exactly in a stellar place, and I needed the escape it provided me with the vanilla gameplay a lot more than I probably realized at the time. My world was a grim, shitty place, but Azeroth certainly wasn’t – or, at least, it was fixable in the ways that it was threatened. I found myself in game for long periods of time and even if it wasn’t always maximally enjoyable, I didn’t always need it to be – it just needed to be better than the alternative.
As things improved, WoW came to serve a different function for me. In Wrath of the Lich King, but especially in early Cataclysm, I was growing professionally, away from one-on-one customer service interactions or helping one coworker at a time, I was going to be training classes of new hires, starting with a virtual class of 35. It was scary, and the introvert in me was scared to death.
Serendipitously, however, my guild shattered and rebuilt, and now I was a raid leader for a 10 player raid. I cut my teeth on that environment, smaller and more casual, but still needing to be clear, assertive, and able to communicate big ideas (those early Cataclysm raids had a fair amount going on!) in a small amount of time. As funny as it sounds, my time in World of Warcraft had a direct, positive linkage to my career – being a raid leader made me a decent training facilitator, and as I got better at one, the other improved as well.
I met good new friends in this time, because the new guild we built from the ashes of my Wrath-era one was tighter-knit and more friendly. I went to a wedding where we had a full table of guildies. We hung out at PAX together, getting drunk on the last night while hanging out with some big YouTubers, and then at PAX East the next year, hung out again playing card games with a group of Riot Games employees. I have random friends in Tennessee and Kansas, two places I’ve never been. Part of why I’m souring a bit on our current guild merged setup is that the closeness is gone – I have a group where I’ve met nearly everyone in person and know them all on a first name basis, and then the new folks – and I imagine some of them feel that too.
But anyways – my point is that in many ways, I’m likely going to be a WoW fan until the game dies or I die, because no matter how many bad decisions Blizzard makes, no matter the number of poorly-implemented and half-baked designs, there’s always this little part of me that feels like my WoW story is an important part of who I am as a person. I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t play WoW now, because it was a catalyst for a lot of positive changes. I’m writing this here, for the largest steady audience I’ve had for any creative endeavor, because I got into the game. I had a lot of positive career growth because of soft skills I learned in game – teaching people payroll math and software usage instead of the precise way we would handle Nefarian 2.0, but there is more crossover there than you think! Then, there is the gratitude I have for the game’s original form, serving as a place for me to rest that wasn’t quite as awful as the real life it helped me escape.
So, in the end, I gave Blizzard what they asked for and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have a dead server blade in a commemorative casing to set in my office on display somewhere (I haven’t picked out a spot yet!). Even as the current game isn’t so great, even as Classic is a casual curiosity for me, I feel like it is worth commemorating the 14+ years I’ve spent playing so far, and the entertainment (and development) I’ve gotten out of the time and money I’ve spent in and on Azeroth.
I mean, I already have one dual-CPU motherboard with 6 RAM slots per CPU nailed to my wall. What’s putting one more on display?