So I Earned the "What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been" the other day. I am sure many others, upon getting their Violet Proto-Drake, have done some kind of retrospective. Well, here is mine.
So in May and June of 2006, a good friend from work and I were taking a class to improve our computer networking skills. I knew he played World of Warcraft and we had discussed the game, which he really enjoyed. But I wasn't interested. "I'm not a gamer," I would always say. Of course, I had played video and computer games, like SimCity, Age of Empires, SoulCaliber; but I didn't consider myself very good and it certainly didn't take up much of my time. There was a young woman in the class who had played a bit, her husband was an avid WoW player, as well. She would "accuse" me of being a WoW-playing nerd. I denied it, of course--too many years spent with that label in the school system. Anyway, my friend was about to prove me a liar.
In late June, he came over to my house and simply said, "Try it." So I installed it and tried it. The opening cinematic was amazing. I roled a Dwarf hunter named Oakheart, fascinated by the customization choices of the character screen. (Of course, I have come to realize how rudimentary it is.) I watched and listened as the narrator explained my people's history and my "background," finally settling on the now-familiar close third-person view of the game, where I would follow all my characters most of the time. The intro NPC beckoned me to my first quest with the Yellow exclamation point above his head. The world of Cold Ridge Valley and the zone of Dun Morogh seemed so huge, Azeroth seemed like it would be gigantic. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to have that feeling again. But even playing subsequent games like LOTRO, STO, and AoC have not held the same sense of wonder of those first few months of WoW.
I was quickly hooked, buying my subscription for $30 through the WoW website a week before I saw it available for $20 at Walmart. (o.O) I didn't stick with Oakheart, as you, Dear Reader, may already know. I quickly became an altoholic, strangely settling on my fourth alliance toon, Rowanblaze, a human shadow priest. She had a twin sister, Hollyhammer, who was actually my second alliance toon. I didn't even really like her name that much. It has since grown on me, I have even taken on "Rowan" as my nom de blog. My second level 80, Hazelwingut, is my fifth alliance toon. I don't have a ton of 80s, because I have veered off into Horde territory for extended periods, but not long enough to hit 80. Pawpawmojo on Terenas, at 63, is my highest level Horde character.
"Try it." Within ten minutes, he was addicted to The Glow. He would go on to hook a friend of his back in the States, making the third generation of conversion from my "missionary." I don't have those characters anymore, I didn't like the PvP server and the bullying it engendered, both in me and in others. Plus, I was no longer involved with my German friends. Because of the distance in time and geography, I lost those friends, but kept the memory.
This side-trip into PvP realms meant that I had no top level toons when The Burning Crusade came out in late January, 2007. I still went and got the game. Luckily for me, that was an icy day, and I had been sent home from work, so I could install the expansion and play my first Blood Elf and Draenei characters. I held off after seeing the chaos of hundreds of people playing the starting zones. I didn't get out to Outland with Rowanblaze until months later, but it was awesome when I did. During this time, I invested in a nice desktop computer to play the game on, the first of a few such purchases to improve my gameplay experience. Summer 2007 came with a job change and more frequent travel. With plenty of time on my hands, I played for hours a day--a casual addict. I read the novels, became very familiar with the lore, and enjoyed the in-game story developments all more for it, I believe. Having so many alts, I am sure I have earned the Loremaster title as a player, even though not on any individual toon. Sometimes I wish they had Account-level Achievements for just that reason. I daresay I know the lore better than anyone else in my guild, where one of the raid leaders refers to Malygos as "she" and Onyxia as "he." He knows the fights, but not the reason for them, IMHO.
Anyway, Rowanblaze and I progressed through the levels to Outland with Hazelwingnut following close behind, eventually hitting 70. As a potential healer, I was in demand for raiding, so I respec'd to Discipline; avoiding the Holy cliche, I hoped. Plus, it fit my "repentant shadow" RP character development. So I began raiding Karazhan with my guild. I had a lot of fun, but we never really got past it to the higher level raid instances before I decided I didn't have time to devote to the raid. When Wrath of the Lich King was released, I was ready to jump straight into Northrend. I attacked it from both directions, Rowan in the Borean Tundra and Hazel in the Howling Fjord. BTW, the Borean Lore Achievement is a LIE!
I don't play WoW so much anymore. Star Trek Online is a lot of fun, and I don't feel like I have "done it all before." LOTRO and AoC were less interesting. I have had a couple trips that precluded any gameplay and that has helped curb my habit. I also have new things in my life that mean I don't devote so much time to online gaming. I look forward to Cataclysm and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I also hope to blog a little more often than I have been recently. More stories, maybe more insights into this long strange trip all of us are on.