Monday, September 29, 2008

Marvels of the Modern Age: Or, Adventures In Supreme Nerdery

Blogging 'round these parts has, admittedly, been weak lately. It's politics -- as in, I'm fed up with 'em, so am suffering from a bit of intellectual fatigue. Don't worry for me; I'll snap out of it soon, I'm sure.

Anywho, this past weekend, I had an interesting experience that I'd like to relate to my audience: I attended the wedding of a friend who I had never actually met. What's that, you say? How could such a thing happen?

Well, Some of my readers probably know that I am a big "gaming" nerd, of both the offline and the online varieties. The offline pursuits are largely isolated engagements, much like reading a book or going for a quiet walk. But the online games are very much social events. The one on which I spend most of my scant gaming time, The World of Warcraft (celebrity endorsements here, here, and for you Europhiles, here), is in particular notorious for this aspect (known in some circles as World of Warchat). Now, I've never been a particularly social creature, so I keep my virtual attachments even fewer than my "real life" (hereafter RL) ones.

However, through a RL good friend and coworker whom I shall call "Jeff" (and for whom I am known as The Enabler, for my tendency to sucker him into addictive pursuits such as online gaming), I met this other guy, Brad, while playing WoW. Jeff and Brad were old college buddies, a perfectly non-nerd way to know one another. Anywho, Brad, single at the time and very much a night owl, quickly surpassed both Jeff and I with his addiction to the game, and was thus on-line at all hours, available for talking and joint playing and whatnot (and by "talking", I actually mean "talking", as voice chat has long been a feature of this game, both through third-party clients and, more recently, in-game as well). And as people talk on long dungeon crawls and raids into the wee hours of the morning, people get to know each other, so that, before long, I could genuinely call Brad a friend as well.

Now, I enjoy (okay, perhaps "endure") a strained relationship with WoW. I began abusing the drug playing the game back in January of 2005 (Mrs. Red Shirt's worst-lack-of-foresight-in-a-birthday-present gift, ever), a scant 3 months or so after its initial release. I played with extreme casualness (which I would define as less than an hour per day) at first. I kept playing intermittently in this fashion through the summer of 2005, until we learned that my wife was carrying the awesomeness that would become The Wee One. Far from stopping my addiction, this served to intensify it, as Mrs. Red Shirt, in the later stages of her pregnancy, would retire around 8:00 pm, enabling me to play to my heart's content (going to bed around 1:00 AM was not terribly uncommon for me). Even after the Wee One was born, I kept playing, although considerably less so. What with frequent naps on the part of both Mrs. Red Shirt and the Wee One, I could spare time here and there.

It became too much of a juggle, however, around the summer of 2006, so that marked my first "retirement", to many fond and understanding farewells on the part of guild-mates (yes, I was in a guild), which lasted all of, say, six months or so. The makers of the game were releasing an "expansion pack", full of new content and abilities and such, so I just had to experience it all for myself. My former guild welcomed me back, and there was Brad (with whom I had uniquely (among all fellow gamers) maintained email contact during my absence), and my habit continued apace. I also note here that my wife again bought me the expansion pack for my birthday. When will she learn?!? Anywho, I continued playing for another six months, through the summer of 2007, at which point, realizing that I could not commit the time to experience what they call "end game content" (which requires hours of continuous playtime and dedication to "grinding" for the more powerful items in the game), I again "retired", having become bored with the game once again.

And like all addictions, I couldn't keep away from it for long. In the winter of this year, I discovered "pirate servers" -- free servers offered by people of varying integrity and malicious intent, often "hacked" to enable players access to free (both in the time and monetary sense) in-game items and money. Of course, these being hack jobs, they only served as methadone to my smack habit, and very soon thereafter I required "the real stuff" in the form of "retail servers" (i.e., those pay-servers officially sanctioned and run by the parent company, Blizzard Entertainment).

Being back on the sauce got me thinking about people, so I emailed Brad to see what was up with him. "I'm getting married!", he says. Mercifully, not to any of the unsightly female trolls that attempt to woo male gamers (I mean that in RL-terms, of course, rather than reference to the fact that one can play as an actual female troll in-game. It's a well-known fact that only ugly chicks play WoW, unlike all us handsome dudes that spend our time there), but to a long-time RL acquaintance of his, with whom he had recently become romantically involved.

So, fast-forwarding to last week, I attended his wedding in scenic (and powerless, thanks to Hurricane Ike) Dayton, OH. The only picture I had to go on was of him in his pasty-chubby years, and it turns out that he had gotten into shape in the intervening years and had recently gotten a tan, so the only point at which I was sure it was him who I was seeing was when the vows were actually being spoken. It's certainly odd to have a first-time face-to-face meeting with a friend at the receiving line of their wedding, but hey, those are the times we live in.

Two final notes: 1) one of his groomsmen was a fellow WoW player I had met online but not in RL. Through him we established that I was "patient zero": I encouraged Jeff to play, Jeff encouraged Brad to play, and Brad encouraged this guy to play, thus completing the delicate chain of nerd life. 2) Brad came over to chat during a respite from dancing at the reception, trying to encourage several of us to dance. I played my "no dance partner" excuse card (Mrs. Red Shirt being with the Wee One in California at the time), jokingly hinting that unless he were available, I would be a no-go, to which he responded with remarkable glibness, "That's fine, I've always thought of you as a female Night Elf priest anyhow!" (playing off the fact that I spent much of my time playing as... yes, a female Night Elf priest). Trust me. If you're a nerd, that little anecdote is high-freakin'-larious.

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Anonymous Marty said...

Ben, this is wonderful and disturbing. The wonderful part is, of course, the blooming friendship and your part in your heretofore virtual friend's wedding. The disturbing part is pretty much everything else. But you did not lie. The post title says it all. Supreme Nerdery, indeed!

But not nerdy enough. You get a demerit in one of your other nerd occupations, grammar Nazism. In the third paragraph:

"...quickly surpassed both Jeff and I..."


3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So this is really just your novelty blog, huh? So sad.


1:14 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

you're being an ass, Sam.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

WoW is one of those things I'm glad I never got into.

I think my gaming days are over (I come from the Black Castle on a Mac era), and I've already got plenty of other things on which to waste time.

God bless you though.... I know the game is very popular.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Marty said...

I wasted a good chunk of time on Sonic the Hedgehog, Doom (first two versions), Civilization, and the James Bond shoot-em-up games. It's been quite a few years now since I've played any of these, and I still regret the time lost.

And Chris, you'll recall from our 20s the various video games that you actually had to leave home to play: Pac-Man, Breakout, Glalaga and Galaxians, and, of course, Missile Command. Bonus City!

2:41 PM  

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