All I needed was an excuse, and finally I got it.
Recently the English 794 “Video Game Theory” class and I were assigned to play and comment upon World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. The playing was done in the fine arts computer lab, where 10-day trials of the game were installed on the school iMacs, and the commentary (at least some initial commentary) will be provided right here. I had never played the game prior to this course assignment, though I admit that I would have happily jumped on the opportunity, had I the necessary bandwidth on my home/dorm computer and a few close friends who played the game.
I’ll put together a more complete review of my World of Warcraft (WoW) experience later on, but first I have to answer the question offered by Mr. T(ureaud)—”what’s your game?”:
It’s an interesting question to be sure, because for Mr. T (and the millions who play WoW), it is not the game itself that is so interesting, but how each individual user of the game approaches it and interacts with others. For instance, WoW users do not take control of a pre-determined character in the same way that a user would control Batman in Arkham Asylum, or Cole Phelps in LA Noire. Before they start playing, users create their online “avatars” by selecting one of 12 “races” for their avatar, which range from the familiar mythological (dwarves, elves & taurens) to beings of Middle Earth (orcs, trolls & humans) and creatures I’ve never heard of (draenei and worgens). Users then assign their avatar a “class” and customize the look of their avatar in terms of its colour, hair, gender and size.
For “my game,” I chose to play as “Dyldebeest,” a Tauren Hunter.
“Dyldebeest,” the Tauren Hunter
In choosing the Tauren race, I did not pay much attention to the polarization of the 12 races, which are split into teams of 6—the “Alliance” and “Horde.” It doesn’t take a student of history to spot the similarity with the Allies and Axis of WWII, and the obvious assumption is that the Alliance in WoW=good, and the Horde=evil. But in my experience this is irrelevant, since the point of WoW is to kill nearly anything in your path in order to loot the remains for money, and the game’s back story doesn’t do a good enough job to make me feel more guilty for killing an elf than an orc or a wild rabbit. The Tauren falls under the “Horde” grouping, so if that makes me a bad person, please feel free to pass judgement.
But why a Tauren as opposed to the ever-popular elf, dwarf or troll races? Simple. They are badass. Look at the picture above. That thing’s shoulders barely fit into the frame. The only WoW race that would pose a challenge to the Tauren in battle (in my opinion) would be the “Worgen”—essentially werewolves of a 70/30 split in favour of the wolf. But werewolves tend to have those annoying habits of howling at the moon and urinating in public, so I thought I’d stick with the serene and civilized ways of the Tauren.
More specifically, the Tauren race has a number of traits going for them that, from my perspective, made them the ideal choice for me. Here are the guiding points that I was offered when putting together my avatar (paraphrased by WoWWiki) and my thoughts:
- Their natural body structure grants them not only great strength, but an incredible Endurance to damage.
Awesome. As a n00b, I know I’m going to take some early hits. I need all the help I can get as I wander around blindly.
- Their immune system is compounded with a deep connection to the natural world, thus they have a passive Natural Resistance to everything from poisons and acids to the weather.
Excellent. World of Warcraft is huge, and I’m likely going to spend some time bush-whacking. If I can take advantage of the world around me, I’ll have a significant advantage. I’ve also read that I move pretty slowly, so I’ll probably be stuck in the weather from time to time.
- Being great huntsmen and natural wanderers with a certain natural affinity, the tauren developed a deep knowledge of the botanical life of Azeroth, using it in various shamanistic rituals, as well as for medical treatment. Because of this the tauren are natural herbalists.
This is pretty interesting to me. I don’t really understand the significance, but as I said earlier, I expect to take hits, so medical treatment would be a good thing to have.
- Hunting the kodo and wandering the wilds has not been easy for the tauren, and facing the centaur has made it no easier. All tauren are born with the ability to communicate with the spirits in times of need, beseeching them to shake the earth and stun their enemies. This ability has been nicknamed the War Stomp by the tauren’s enemies.
I like this. I didn’t really want to deal with magic and attack enemies with fire or lightning that comes out of my hands. I want to hit them with hammers, shoot them with arrows and, apparently, hoof-stomp them.That sounds like a rewarding experience.
Next, I had to assign a “class” to my Tauren, and I chose the Hunter class:
Hunter is the only ranged class in game that do mainly physical damage. They can tame pets to help them in a fight. Depending on what type of pet you decide to tame, you get different spec options for your pet… Hunters also have the unique ability of putting down various traps to help the party and handicap their opponent(s). (WoWWiki)
I liked the sound of being able to avoid face-to-face combat with the use of “ranged” weapons, pets and trap-setting. As far as I’m concerned, the more annoying I can be without taking a bunch of damage, the better. Plus, I figured that if an enemy got through my ranged defenses and close enough to strike me, the hulking mass of my Tauren should compensate and I’d just stomp on whatever strength my enemy had left.
Finally, I named my Tauren Hunter “Dyldebeest” (my go-to gaming username, hence the name of this blog), and customized my avatar’s colour and facial hair (went with the braided goatee, obviously).
Below is a chart that shows the different races, the classes available to them, and the “base stats” that work as the foundation of all of the avatars’ abilities. The Tauren is like a stegosaurus—a walking tank with a brain the size of a walnut.
World of Warcraft gives each of its races a pretty in-depth back story, in order to give you a feel for what’s in store during your first few hours of play in your avatar’s “home” territory (eventually, you’ll be able to wander outside of this territory and the back story will mean less and less). The Tauren race has a pleasant history, much of which is modeled after the history of North American aboriginals. WoWWiki (clearly my go-to for everything WoW-related) provides the Tauren back story, as borrowed from the World of Warcraft Guide:
For countless generations, the bestial tauren roamed the plains of the Barrens, hunted the mighty kodos, and sought the wisdom of their eternal goddess, the Earth Mother. Scattered across the land, the wandering tribes were united only by a common hatred for their sworn enemy, the marauding centaur. Seeking aid against the centaur, the chieftain, Cairne Bloodhoof, befriended Warchief Thrall and the other orcs, who had recently journeyed to Kalimdor.
With the orcs’ help, Cairne and his Bloodhoof tribe were able to drive back the centaur and claim the grasslands of Mulgore for their own. For the first time in hundreds of years, the tauren had a land to call their own. Upon the windswept mesa of Thunder Bluff, Cairne built a refuge for his people, where tauren of every tribe is welcome. Over time, the scattered tauren tribes united under Cairne’s rule. There are a few tribes who disagree about the direction their new nation should take, but all agree that Cairne is the wisest and best suited to lead them towards the future.
Though the noble tauren are peaceful in nature, the rites of the Great Hunt are venerated as the heart of their spiritual culture. Every tauren, warrior or otherwise, seeks identity both as a hunter and as a child of the Earth Mother. Having reached the age of maturity, you must test your skills in the wild and prove yourself in the Great Hunt.
Here’s a fly-by of the first territory Tauren users experience when they begin playing WoW:
That pretty much breaks down the initial “character creation” stage in World of Warcraft. While this experience occurred before I even began playing the game, one classmate remarked over my shoulder as I was creating my Tauren, “here it is—the moment of truth. Don’t blow it!” Indeed, having the ability to create an online avatar—a second personality not unlike those created in the infamously popular game Second Life—is perhaps what most effectively draws gamers to WoW. More than the massive world in which players can explore, more than the epic battles that take place between a variety of mythological creatures, and more than the interaction between players that the game offers. Perhaps it is all of these elements combined that truly creates the “second life” (if I may borrow the phrase) that WoW players experience, but I argue that it is with the computer-generated “physical” presence that players most readily identify themselves.
In my next installment of the “Bow to WoW” series I will attempt to provide a more academic approach to the phenomenon of the online avatar, and what it means for not only online gamers, but casual surfers of the web. I will then follow that up with a broad overview of my gameplaying experience with the 10 day trial of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
The Tauren race is clearly based off of the minotaur, which has always been my favourite mythological creature. Wikipedia alert!
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur (Greek: Μῑνώταυρος, Latin:Minotaurus, Etruscan Θevrumineś), as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a manor, as described by Roman poet Ovid, “part man and part bull”. He dwelt at the center of the Cretan Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction built for King Minos of Crete and designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus who were ordered to build it to hold the Minotaur. The Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
“Minotaur.” Wikipedia. 4 Jun 2011. Web. Retrieved 4 Jun 2011 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minotaur>.
WoWWiki. 2011. Web. Retrieved 6 Jun 2011 <http://www.wowwiki.com/Portal:Cataclysm>.