November 10, 2008 4:00 PM |
My wife, Amanda, will spend two weekdays and a weekend playing a new release that's coming out; she even wanted to preorder it and get it at midnight. I am not as excited about this as she is. In fact, for a while I was dreading it. This is because she wants the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, and I had become converted to Warhammer Online.
My friend Bill (real name), a friend of mine since I was 10, had leveled up in World of Warcraft while I was in college. I got a review copy of Warhammer Online. "Tell me how it is," he says. "It looks pretty cool." My first verdict was "I don't know", and my second was "I'm not sure but I'm guessing Amanda won't be into it since it's more PVP-oriented".
He comes over to my house to play it for a while. He is not so sure either. I spend a lot more time with it, analyzing it with intent to not only write about it but to give an accurate report to my childhood friend and my wife. Are we going to go over to it?
Amanda has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so I have an insurmountable wave of comfort to topple. Not only does she only want to play one game and wants to stick with what is familiar, she likes repetition. She likes to purchase cloth and then have her character make bandages for ten minutes, knit (IRL), then sell all the bandages to an NPC for a profit.
She likes to repeatedly warm her hands over animals and hit rocks with a pick. She likes to kill the same things and do the exact same scripted moves, even if not the most healthy, over and over again. And she really, really likes leveling characters. She has leveled four paladins extensively, though only one to the highest level.
Meanwhile, Bill just purchased a computer to start playing World of Warcraft again, and he's just got married in the summer. He exudes that "I'm on a budget aura" that one must learn to use when a newlywed; it's clear to me that it had better be worth fifty bucks. But Amanda's not going to move, and he isn't either.
I had quit Warcraft anyway; Warhammer or no, I wasn't interested in going back. The embarrassing truth is that I ragequit from a guild I never wanted to be in over a dispute with a leader. I did it in public; it was the guild Amanda was in. She later found out my accusations against said leader are true. "But raiding is so much fun," she tells me. She stays. It's somewhat awkward. I enjoy my freedom; she goes raiding, I can play whatever I want!
A few weeks later she tells me she didn't think I really meant I was quitting. In a wistful, "I wish you'd buy me flowers" or "you never ______ anymore" kind of tone. Oh God. "It's so awkward playing with Bill without you," she says. Bill had tried to convert his wife; I had told him "I think she's just trying it to make you happy;" if we're all going to start over as alliance instead, she'd better really mean it. I don't want to do all this for her when she doesn't mean it."
"Oh yeah, she means it," he says with newlywed zest. I can tell he is deceived. I sigh. To insist, to really press the truth on him would be cruel.
Recap: I leveled a character to level 70 for the sake of Bill's wife who never wanted to play in the first place, and joined a guild I didn't want to join. Then he slows down his playing time, my guild leader is a jerk and my wife keeps playing with them, and I find out I like Warhammer better, quit Warcraft, and neither of them want to join me. They also want me to come back.
I am bitter.
I persist in playing Warhammer; I like the guild. They are intelligent, affable, down-to-earth. It's very easy to introduce yourself to others in the ventrilo server there; most guilds I've been in have Ventrilo servers that are as awkward as a blind date set up by an oblivious friend's girlfriend.
I have other games I'm interested in playing, other sights to see. I certainly couldn't have gone back to Amanda and Bill's guild, and if I had gone to a new one that would have meant I'd be on a different raiding schedule.
But for the launch of the new Warcraft expansion, my wife and friend want me to come back. I ignore this for a while.
"I really didn't think you meant it," she says a few more times. At least one of these times, she is making the effort to not cry.
Later, not during one of these episodes, I tell her I'll play WoW at launch with her; I also tell her she can get it at midnight and she gets excited. "Okay, make sure to reserve it for us!" she squeals.
She gets so excited her hands start to spasm and her laugh cascades out of her with such strength her eyes narrow and she keeps alternating her weight from leg to leg. She calls the game by her own name for it. "I'm so excited for Hate Town! Hate Town Hate Town Hate Town Hate Town!"
As the weight of this commitment settles on me, I am given one of those brief moments where I learn why I never consider it a big deal that I have baby pink sheets, baby pink blankets, and pillow cases on my bed. Or a New Kids on the Block concert to go to. It is ironic that in what is usually a solitary and meaningless activity, I was given a choice where I could make it anything but.
Categories: Column: The Game Anthropologist