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It Really Is Crack

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When I was a geek, I spake as a geek, I thought as a geek, I reasoned as a geek; when I became a writer of mainstream news-oriented nonfiction, I put away geekish things.

By the time the whole MMORPG phenomenon took off, I was in the Middle East using pesticide on my bed linens and learning to keep up with deadlines seven time zones away. But this fall, when Wildstorm teamed up with Blizzard Entertainment to create a series of World of Warcraft comic books, I decided it was time to find out what all the fuss is about. If MMORPG had successfully made the jump to print, I could not in good conscience continue to slag it without trying it myself.

So I signed up for a free ten day World of Warcraft trial account. I thought I’d fool around for a couple of hours, come up with a few pithy gamer insults, forget my password, and exit the realm of Azeroth for good. But that is not how things went down, my friends. It’s a testament to the face-melting addictiveness of the game that I no longer know what day it is. I assume I will have to start paying soon.

Like any good drug dealer, Blizzard gave me a few hits for free, but before you know it I will be shelling out the benjamins for my next fix, reduced to a flaccid lump of my former self. Troggs roam my nightmares. I see floating red damage points when I close my eyes. I drift in a digital wilderness wondering what the hell happened.

The thing that gets me is this: there is nothing original about this game. Somebody mixed a little steampunk into Tolkien’s Middle Earth, changed a few names (high elves are night elves; hobbits are gnomes; trolls are troggs--the L’s replaced with a letter a mere 4 spaces away on the keyboard) and went to town. From a storytelling angle, everything about WoW is a rehash of something older and better.

But the sheer richness of the digital environment is so impressive that you don’t even begin to care. The other day (day? night? In my delirium I can’t remember) I was running along a frozen river in my little gnomish avatar when I heard the sound of bells. Around the bend came a blue-skinned elf. We stood there for a long moment, looking at each other, and then ran on, each bent on her own errand.

It was almost poetic.

And I thought, behind this pixelated simulacrum is a real person, completely unknown to me. She could be an overweight shut-in or a pedophiliac old man--the unflattering stereotypes imagined by technophobes--or she could be a brilliant civil engineer pulling down six figures a year. I don’t know. I can’t know. I can only interact, or not.

I’ll tell you what that is. That is effing new media genius. Take people out of their natural environment, put them in an artificial one, and see what kind of relationships emerge. A Gibsonesque digital society cannot be far away. If you’re on WoW and you see a very short brunette magess getting schooled by giant spiders, it might be me. It’s a brave new world.

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Comments

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Dec 22, 2009 at 5:03pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHAAA,,,,that made me laugh out loud!! " BE A GEEK"...." effing new media genius"....

  • Sam Moyerman

    Sam Moyerman Dec 22, 2009 at 5:46pm

    really funny that the comic got you to start playing the game but there was no mention of the comic at all.

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