‘This very question hit my brain during the worst time possible, just as I got into bed. It’s the type of question that opened up question after question, and gave myself plenty to think about. Normally in this situation, I would try to push it from my mind in order to embrace sleep with open arms, however on this occasion, I welcomed it. And so I thought, and before even realising it, an hour had passed, and I had to be up for work in 6 hours.
The way I looked at it was to consider all of my gaming experiences and which ones really stood out. It wasn’t easy, I’ll say that. What could possibly be so good, so unforgettable that I would be willing to undergo a Men in Black style flash to the retinas in order to witness the pleasure all over again?
Several contenders came first to mind, classics such as:
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time; the first true frustrating game for me, I still hate that stupid owl judging me to this day. Golden Eye; where every time I picked up that N64 controller I was James Bond, and the hilarity of multiplayer messing around with the old toilet glitch on Facility. Metroid Prime; was the first time I really got to play a Metroid game, and to realise how much fun the puzzle solving platform was whilst playing as a kick ass Samus (who later became my favourite character on SSBM for that reason) , TimeSplitters Future Perfect; the realisation of what actually transpires in every mission is closer to you then you think. Call of Duty: World at War; a story that puts you in the place of true war time grit,l and the true struggle of completing it on Veteran, which made the last epic struggle all the more memorable for it.
These to me made a big impact, I would even say they made me the gamer I am today. However, the one to gain the top spot was a game that I had played for years. Since then, I haven’t had anything come close. Playing a game now a days seems to follow a routine of maybe a month max, but after that things can get tiring real fast. So to look back and think, ‘damn, did I spend a lot of time playing it’, is quite rare these days. And to say that without regret is something too. And that game, my fellow readers, was World of Warcraft (Vanilla & The Burning Crusade). Yes, I said it.
I still remember the first day I played, which can’t be said for 95% of the games I play. It was Christmas day, 2005. I was encouraged to pick up and play this game by my IRL friend, AKA Bloodthought, who had recommended me to play. I wasn’t into it, it sounded alright, but it as worth a shot, just to see. Oh how I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into. The experience itself became a flash bulb memory that I don’t think I’ll forget, alongside many others that I would obtain throughout.
That first time playing, just gone 9 years ago now, I can still picture in my mind. Picking carefully what class I wanted to be and the look, and of course the name, for my character, which all took in itself plenty of time. I settled on “Shadowreaper”, it sounded a good rogue name and I was happy with it. No numbers, just me as the original. Although little did I realise that these decisions would stick with a character that I would play for many a year to come (4 years as It happens!). I materialised into the world, a skinny undead rogue, without a clue. My trusty friend instantly turns up to greet me into the world, riding a purple undead warhorse. A warrior after his true right. His gear is bulky, big, and looks bad ass. Whilst there I am, skinny, wearing trousers and a t-shirt and a dagger (more like a knife) that you could probably use to cut your vegetables with over dinner. I didn’t quite release either, that I was going to have to be playing this quite a while before I hit his standards.
What you don’t quite realise, is how big Azeroth is and how small you are. There are no missions in the sense that it’s a pick and choose and teleport there, or click a mission for a loading screen and hey, you’re neatly in the quest area. No, it’s all on foot, and as a starter back then, it really was all on foot until level 40, when you get your first mount. So you really had to make sure you had some boots that were made for some serious walking. The only way to get from one Island to the other (Kalimdor to Eastern Kingdoms) was via Zepplin. This being all completely new to me, I was in awe. Every area within Azeroth had it’s own personality, it’s own characters, it’s own distinct vibe. It was exciting to explore and not know what you would encounter. Every quest had a reward to make it worth its while, whether it be a new piece of gear, some gold, or experience to get me closer to that all important next level and talent point.
Amongst all of this, there was this new experience to me – I wasn’t playing by myself, I didn’t have to invite people round to get some couch play, it was me and thousands of other players at the ready. Something yet again that I had not had a chance to witness. This opened up new doors, new reasons to play, and new people to meet. WoW for me, had a way of creating great memories, and the chance to meet like minded people who were into gaming to have fun, to pass the time and generally dick about, but to also play with some great gamers who knew their shit.
You meet friends along the way, and most of the time in the most unlikely of places and circumstances. So, to say I met two players that I would later play with for the best part of the following years, is crazy. But I did. So what happened you ask? Well, it all started when I was in the Barrens, on my way to hand in a quest to Ratchet. I come up a cross road, where I chance upon a Tauren Shaman and a Orc Hunter “/dancing” away. Not a care in the world, and chatting away. I initially ran straight past them, but curiosity had me, so I doubled back at the absurdity of it. There was missions to be completing, stuff to do, and no time to waste. Yet, here was this duo, dancing away chatting. I was invited over, Zeidon was his name, and asked to join in on the dancing, he introduced himself, and his accomplice, Grolm. Before I knew it, I had spent the past 20 minutes chatting about general crape, whilst getting to know these two strangers. And to think these were complete strangers, it’s not like you would do such a thing in real life, you’d be considered a creep! But regardless of real life, we chatted, and then we partied up and went about questing, which brings me to the next true joy with WoW. Which is that you never know who you’re going to meet, but whoever it is, everything is better with a motley crew. Whether it’s questing, saving outposts from the opposing team, PVP’ing, or simply joking about exploring. It’s the very reason I turned on my PC nearly every day for the following years to come.
Throughout my time, I was constantly exploring, and as a new player curiosity would always get the better of me. There was countless times you would enter an area, to be a good few steps in, and find yourself face to face with a ‘??’ enemy, either to find yourself running as fast as you can once its locked on, or one shotted there and then, to materialise in the graveyard and the long walk back to your poor corpse. There was no warnings, no heads up, it was all learn from experience and by area if you was out of your depth. Compare this to other games out today, which seem more content with hand holding, otherwise players might get too frustrated, they will have a good ol fashioned moan. The pain and sweat of getting to 60 back then was also no easy feat for a semi casual player new to the world. As a new player, I sucked everything in like a vacuum cleaner, the lore, the quests conversations, the excitement of getting buying and selling in the Auction House. All in all, it took me months to hit 60. I wasn’t rushing my way there, I was taking all the best time, and lapped up the times when I was away and gained the all so important rested buff for bonus exp. Oh the genious behind Blizzard for rewarding players by taking a break for that much needed experience boost..
I also felt that actually hitting 60 was a massive achievement, I had come to adulthood, the rest of the game was my oyster, and the real game could begin. Getting good gear was helpful pre-60, but now you’re 60 it was crucial. It came down to spamming the high end dungeons, PVP’ing, and generally trying to find a raiding guild that played at sociable hours.
Reflecting back then, was to consider the time where it might take you an hour to join Alterac Valley, and you might infact be there for twice that and still not complete it. There was no rushing to the base, it was all pure brawn, a huge battle in the centre for giving and taking ground, horde vs alliance on a grand scale. Occasionally a player with legendary gear would appear as a standard, ralley the troops and charge head long, creating a massacre. Seeing a rogue with thunderfury at this time was when you wanted to be getting out of there. It was glorious.
We also had what could only be called a minor celebrity in WoW terms. And for those of you who ever played on Bloodfeather EU back in the day, you may of heard of/ remember old “Bagdush”, or commonly known as “Fagdush” to the haters. Everyone picked on him, but at the same time, he played damn well, and could lead a PUG raid through nearly anything. He was ruthless but got the job done.
If you’ve read this far, then I salute you. It’s difficult to share such a lengthy experience and sum it up in a matter of paragraphs. Even if I was to say that this entire piece has just scratched the surface of Wow, would still be an understatement of the countless memories.
It’s only until you look back do you truly realise the impact gaming has on you. Some see it as anti-social, some see it as a waste of time. Me? I think it’s what you make of it, as only you can tell if you’re wasting away on it. If you’re having the best gaming experience, then heck, that’s your choice to make.
If I could, I would definitely go back to that first day and do it all again without a second thought. Yet why don’t I go and pick up a copy of the latest expansion? I just couldn’t, whether it’s lack of time, or not wanting to face the changes it has undergone. I’ve done my time and wouldn’t want to kid myself of those golden years.
So my question to you is, what game would you go through and play all over again given the chance? Discuss in the comments section below!