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Past Experiences from a Virtual World

By December 8, 2010May 29th, 2016Personal Stories

I mentioned in a previous article that I used to play World of Warcraft, probably a total of seven months over six years. Though I rarely play anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my more interesting and/or amusing experiences within the game.

Before I begin, you should know that in most games, whenever I have the option to play a character that heals others, I take it. It is simply the function I enjoy the most. I like monitoring the health of others, healing them when they’re getting attacked, saving them where they would have normally died. Some games, including World of Warcraft, allow you to resurrect dead players, another mechanic I enjoy. Overall, it’s often a stressful job, because other players treat you as a goalkeeper of sorts. A healer’s entire job is to make sure no one dies, but sometimes there’s just too much damage being dealt, and someone does die. Often, the healer gets harassed for this, but it isn’t always his fault. Sometimes the player got himself killed by making a poor decision, or it was just bad luck. Regardless of the stress, the complexities, it is simply what I like to do, so in most games, that’s what I do.

Wandering around in spirit form

Photo by Eleonore H.

World of Warcraft supports player versus player (PVP), meaning players can fight against each other pretty much anywhere, provided you’re playing on a server that allows that. Seeking more realism, I decided to join a PVP server as a member of the Horde, the more evil-looking faction. The good guys, known as the Alliance, were just too good for me. So, as I was working on leveling my character, I would occasionally cross paths with members of the Alliance. Upon seeing me, they would usually chase after me until they successfully killed my character. Death, in World of Warcraft, is not final. Instead, it is merely an inconvenience – you have to spend in-game money repairing your gear, and you have to walk back (as a spirit) to your corpse. Thing is, if the guy that killed you wants to, he can easily hang around your corpse, waiting for you to rise. As soon as you do, he can kill you all over again, while you’re weak, and keep doing that until he gets bored. As the guy getting killed, you can choose to resurrect somewhere else, stopping the repeated deaths, but the cost of this option is usually not desirable.

Photo by Heather Hopkins

Because of the repeated deaths I endured, I came to dislike the PVP system. I liked the realism it offered, but I felt it opened the door to far too much griefing. I therefore decided, fairly early on, that I would not fight members of the Alliance. Yes, I resided on a PVP server, but it didn’t mean I had to indulge in a system that I felt was broken. So, whenever I spotted members of the Alliance – regardless of their experience level, I would either wave, or salute them. It is impossible to chat with members of the opposite faction, seeing as they speak different in-game languages. Put simply, this meant I was limited to physical actions, like waving and saluting.

Photo by Rob Wynne

The result of my unique approach? Half the time, the Alliance would disregard my friendly greeting, and proceed to attack me. Usually, when this happened, I would just let them continue, while I shook my head “no”. That, or I would burst into dance while being struck repeatedly. Sometimes, this strategy would make them stop. Other times, they didn’t care, and continued until I was dead. Thankfully, the other half of my encounters were really great – the Alliance would reciprocate the greeting, and we would either go our own way, or collaborate. Now, collaborating between factions is pretty tricky, but it is always cool when you manage to find a friendly enemy that will work with you. For example, I remember a time where I was waiting for an non-player enemy to spawn, and so was the Alliance member. Since only one enemy will appear (at a time), only one of us can get the credit for the kill. Since I was there first, when the enemy spawned, the Alliance guy waited for me to start the attack, which marked the target in my favor. If anything dropped from that enemy, I would get the reward, as well as credit for the kill. So, after I hit the enemy once, the Alliance guy stepped in, and helped me fight it. There was no way the game would reward him, as it was marked in my name, and he’s part of the opposite faction… but he did it anyway. When the creature died, I got credit, and technically could have left right there. The Alliance guy, however, would have to wait before the target reappeared. Rather than leave, I stuck around and helped him defeat it, as a gesture of thanks. This unique approach to PVP quickly became one of the most enjoyable elements of the game, for me. I really liked that I possessed the power to eliminate most enemies, but refused to indulge, choosing to be friendly instead.

Unfortunately, not everyone shared the same views as I did. I know of one particular guy that is a perfect example of this: when he spotted an enemy, he’d chase after them as long as he needed to, just to kill them. Often, he’d stick around and kill them a few additional times, just for the sake of it. Let’s call this guy Alex. I rarely spoke to Alex, but when I did – it was usually when I renewed my World of Warcraft subscription. In the game, he was ridiculously rich and powerful, and would sometimes offer to help me progress. I appreciated this, and would accept his help. Aside from his World of Warcraft aggression, we got along pretty decently in real life. Still, I never truly realized how far he’d take this aggression, until one particular scenario came up.

Photo by Heather Hopkin

We had begun an arena fight, one which featured multiple monsters. As we were fighting the first, we noticed a few Alliance members had arrived, and were watching us from the stands. They were a party of three, and were not making a move against us, even though we were in a vulnerable position. To me, this probably meant that they were waiting for their turn to fight in the arena. After a while, they ran in and started attacking the monsters with us, effectively speeding up the process. I thought this was pretty cool, and I liked that Alex was not attacking them, even though he was much more powerful. They helped us kill all monsters, and as I was casually going through the rewards I got for killing them, I heard Alex on voice chat say the following, in a slightly panicked voice: “Matt, run away, fast!”. I immediately hopped on my horse, and rode out of there, while Alex explained, with a laugh, that he had attacked the three Alliance members that helped us. He eventually killed them all, and stuck around to do it a few times more. From that point on, I understood that he really didn’t care, at all, he just enjoyed griefing, harassing people. The game, unfortunately, allowed people like that to thrive, despite efforts taken against it. Thankfully, nothing was stopping me from continuing my unique approach to PVP, so I kept my subscription active.

Finally, after years of on-and-off playing, I decided I would quit once and for all. Rather than just cancel my subscription, I decided I would give away all my in-game money and belongings. Now, the game has fairly large cities, which are commonly packed with players. I went to the largest Horde city, and proceeded to announce my giveaway. Players came running from all over the place, eagerly wanting to receive free stuff. After I ran out of money and belongings, I sold all the clothes off my back and gave away the money from that too. Then, I logged out, deleted my character, and cancelled my account. Giving stuff away was a lot of fun, and it remains one of my better memories of the game, interestingly.

Photo by notfrancois

For a long time, that was it… until I returned following the release of a new expansion pack. Seeing as I deleted my old character, I had to start a new one. After a while of playing with the new character, I decided to see if the company behind World of Warcraft, Blizzard, would be willing to restore my old character. I e-mailed them, explaining the situation, and they agreed to restore the old character, free of charge. When I logged in as him, I quickly realized life was not going to be easy, as that character. There he was, standing wearing only a pair of boxers, with zero cash and only two or so items in his bag. I realized, at that point, that he was pretty much a homeless person… in World of Warcraft.

Photo by Rob Wynne

It didn’t help that I was isolated from my friends, seeing as they mostly all migrated from that particular server. Had they been there, I would have had an easy solution – borrow money from a friend. Since I couldn’t, I decided to try and fight weak creatures in an attempt to get some more stuff to sell. Among my two belongings was a skinning knife, which could be used as weapon, though it was not meant to be. Though a terrible weapon, it at least allowed me to slowly kill weak creatures and get the loose change and cheap gear they were carrying. It didn’t take long for me to give up on this approach, as it was taking far too long. My next idea was something I was hoping to avoid… I decided I would try and ask other players for money. In other words, I would be a beggar… in World of Warcraft.

There I was, wearing a plain white shirt I got for mere cents, and a pair of boxers, begging random strangers for money. Most of whom, by the way, were heavily armored and well-off. Though I explained why I was completely out of cash and gear, most people ignored me. Some used the opportunity to be cruel: one guy walked up, showed me he had a lot of money, and then walked off without giving me any. Then, when I started to give up hope, another guy came up to me, told me to stay where I was, and then ran off. At first, I really didn’t know what he was up to, but after three minutes or so, he came back with some spare cash, but more importantly: clothes, which he had crafted himself, specifically for a healer. (Tailoring was available as a profession in game, allowing players to actually create clothing, provided they actually had the proper ingredients.) I expressed my thanks, and was able to return to playing the game normally. I can only imagine how long I would have had to wait, had it not been for that one guy.

I started it all as a simple healer, one who evolved into a promoter of peace. Then, eventually, I became homeless, had to beg, and was restored to humanity through the kindness of a stranger. Quite a story, and yet, it all happened in a virtual world. Seeing as it involved me being homeless and resorting to begging, I think I’m happy with it remaining virtual.

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