I think it was probably the point where a werewolf wearing a top hat and plate armour, and riding a ‘hilarious’ two-seat rickety rocket, had pulled up and hovered alongside my character on the entranceway to Stormwind that I realised that Azeroth was no longer for me. I had been standing there marvelling at the giant Christmas wreaths on the walls of Stormwind, which it has to be said, stood in stark contrast to the fractured ramparts which still glowed from the recent molten assault of the great dragon; the wreaths were so impossibly large that I wondered whether they were a by-product of the giant dragon itself, that perhaps it had simultaneously destroyed half of the human capital while decking other parts of it in festive decorations, as though I were witnessing the aftermath of some sort of screwed-up Azrothian edition of Pimp My Capital City. I pictured the dragon with fluttering eyelashes, hands clasped together and held against one cheek, as it admired its handiwork – elemental destruction set off beautifully against red bows and be-baubled Christmas trees.
New Wave Cataclysm, dharlink, ver’ popular in New York zis season.
Later, I stood in the midst of the fractured city – it having only recently avoided total annihilation by the narrowest of margins – and I watched the NPC winter revellers standing around in their hot pants and boob tubes; saw the line of gargantuan drake and dragon mounts blocking the doorway to the bank; observed the attempts at serious role-play by people who were constantly being blocked from one another’s sight as flying carpets, mammoths and naff-punk trikes were parked inconsiderately on top of them; gawked as characters with weapons large enough to cleave a moon in twain ran around in their underpants as they barked borderline racist /yells; and witnessed a female werewolf in a festive bikini performing the dance moves to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face on top of a nearby mailbox.
At which point my mind snapped. Okay, snapped more. Than usual.
It’s understandable, I suppose: the past year or more of my MMO time has been spent predominantly in Lord of the Rings Online, a quiet and considerate game with, on the whole, a quiet considerate community that stays respectful to the setting of Tolkien’s world, and where the most outlandish thing to happen is if someone in the Prancing Pony breaks out their lute and plays a particularly daring version of Muse’s Exogenesis Part Three. Some particularly salacious sort might even tap their foot to the rhythm. Heaven forefend if one of the female elven characters should flash an ankle at a passing dwarf, the whole server would be a-whisper with the scandal of it for weeks after. Of course it’s not that prudish in reality, but when you visit somewhere such as Azeroth, where the average armour outfit of a female character would be enough to make a veteran porn star blush and consider retiring from modern life to a convent, LotRO seems so terribly reserved. I suppose it’s the contrast that is so dramatic, like a lifelong member of the Amish being bundled into the back of a van and dumped in the middle of a Las Vegas casino (KiaSA lawyers are ready to speak to any TV executives interested in the rights to this new reality TV show, working title: Amishion Impossible); I’m sure spending any length of time in Azeroth would once again slowly desensitise me to the sheer ludicrous mania going on around every corner, but having unceremoniously dumped myself out the back of a van into the middle of Las Azeroth, I found myself forcibly repelled from the game.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with Azeroth, you understand, just like there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with Club 18-30 holidays, or college frat parties, it’s just that once you’ve lived a quieter more reserved life of gentle evenings with a nice glass of red and a good book in front of an open fireplace, it’s hard to go back to whipped cream and beer bongs and some strange man’s penis being repeatedly beaten against your forehead while someone screams in your ear to eat the green jelly out of the lady’s underpants faster. World of Warcraft seems to me to be the College Humour of the MMO world; whether it has always been this way, whether it has slowly developed into this parody of its former self, or whether my world view has changed over the years of playing MMOs and writing about them here, I’m not entirely sure. Did World of Warcraft create its community, or did the community twist World of Warcraft into the bizarre carnival of lunacy that it seems to have become? Perhaps one feeds upon the other, a curious Ouroboros of culture, unable to break away from the self-feeding spiral of one-upmanship in outrageousness.
All I know is that it seems that I have tired of eating green jelly with curly hairs in it, and these days much prefer my MMOs akin to quiet evenings spent with a good book.