World of Warcraft With a Side of Butter

Those of you who know me, in real life and/or through this blog, know that I’m a complete fossil not the most current in areas of popular culture. So you might be surprised to learn that I now know all there is to knowa tonquite a bit…something about World of Warcraft.

"Yup, Gretchen's in my Guild. Why's that so hard to believe?" (orig. image courtesy

“Yup, Gretchen’s in my Guild. Why’s that so hard to believe?” (orig. image courtesy

Why this sudden interest in something I’ve previously only made fun of, in a baffled, old-fogey way? It’s all because of my sleep schedule.

Tuesday night I stayed up till midnight, first playing in a community concert on another island, then riding the late ferry home. Wednesday morning I got up at 4 a.m. to bake.

So: 4 hours’ sleep. At my age, not too many brain cells are ready for minimal function with that kind of rest, let alone following recipes. I had to do SOMETHING to keep myself alert.

So I asked my colleague Ty to explain World of Warcraft to me.

Now you might think this would cause either a) a spontaneous nap, since I couldn’t relate to anything he was telling me, or b) disastrous distraction from my baking, resulting in salty brioches or eggless muffins. But, to my amazement, and probably to Ty’s, a third result occurred: focused fascination.

Every time Ty would answer one of my questions, two new ones would pop up, Sorcerer’s-Apprentice-broom style. Example #1:

ME: So…When you join a Guild, you sort of protect each other?
TY: Yeah, there’s usually someone whose job it is to take the Damage, and someone else to Heal, while…blah blah blah (you don’t think I actually remember this stuff, do you??)

ME: Do you have to agree on those roles in advance? And what if someone says they’re on your team but it’s really just a trap so they can attack you?

Example #2:

ME: So you can choose to be, like, a good guy or a member of the Horde?

TY: Yeah. Kinda depends on how aggressive you like to be…

ME: But even if you’re a troll or an orc or something, you can still be a hero, right? You still have a back story and a conflict and a quest to fulfill just like any other character, right? Wow, this sure turns the fictional model of monolithic antagonist on its head! (yeah, you’re right, I didn’t really say it like that. But that’s what I was thinking, or at least what I started thinking about later once my entire brain got out of bed.)

My point is, it was INTERESTING. The morning flew by. My brioches and muffins came out fine. And my brain has been darting around these questions ever since–questions like:

  • how much internal conflict is necessary to create a well-rounded character? Can your WOW avatar just act and react without you needing to know why s/he acts that way?
  • what does your choice of avatar say about your hopes & dreams & general psychological makeup, including your willingness to put that out there for others to wonder about?
  • if antagonists are the heroes of their own stories, does that fundamentally change the nature of an antagonist?
"I'm SO conflicted!" (orig. image courtesy

“I’m SO conflicted!” (orig. image courtesy

So, lesson learned: asking about popular culture can be at least as fun as plain old getting involved in it. Try being a cultural anthropologist sometime in something you’re a complete moron about–True Blood? manga? dim sum?–and see how much fun you have.

In fact, why don’t you tell me: if there was one bit of pop culture you could get someone to explain to you, what would it be? What–or whom–would you ask?

8 thoughts on “World of Warcraft With a Side of Butter

  1. Ah, see, there’s the rub for me. I don’t want anyone to explain it. I want to jump in and wallow in it myself. LOL. BTW, WOW got me through the last trimester of my last pregnancy. Well, that and a steady flow of Oreos.

  2. Jumping in and wallowing is a great way to learn most games – the death and mayhem isnt real 😛
    On a side note, thinking about antagonists being the hero’s of their own stories was a bit of a light bulb moment for me!

  3. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Of course, I write nonfiction, so it’s kind of my job to be interested, but it’s so easy to get sucked in once you start! No sympathy for people who claim to be bored – they’re just not asking the right questions. 🙂

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