Early on in my infatuation/immersion in WoW, I was struggling playing the game – initially, priests were hard to level up even for good players, and I wasn’t one of those. It took me forever to figure out how to do certain things, like cast spells, and I didn’t even figure out how to gather plants or use rest to gain xp more quickly until I hit level 13. I’m not always completely certain what kept me going in the game, but I do remember the moment when I thought, wow, this world is beautiful: landing at the flight post at Sentinel Hill in Westfall, with a full moon. My character dismounted, and I pointed my camera up, and caught the digitized moon in its glory.
It was breathtaking. I’m a little concerned about even thinking that, let alone typing it into the forever memory of the web.
You might not see it, but at that moment I thought that this was a world that would lodge itself in my mind.
I played WoW pretty consistently for a year, mostly as a healer, and even raided through Blackwing Lair. I gave the game up at that point, mostly because it was taking too much of my time, but as I prepare for a conference this week I’ve been revisiting the digital world, reading up on games, including one that I think I would enjoy, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
As I was watching a video to get a sense of gameplay, I happened upon a scene shot at night. Again, I felt that sense of awe, even as I watched the blocky planes of geometrical precision that developers had attempted to make look like a landscape scroll by the character on the screen.
The memories came flooding back, and I wondered why they were so powerful – was there something about that moment in my life, a sense of freedom, perhaps? I don’t remember that now – I just remember thinking that I needed to turn the student game off and go to bed. I also remember having to willfully ignore the flaws in the representations – even though the graphics were pretty amazing, they were still just graphics. I’ve spent nights under the stars, so I shouldn’t have been that impressed by fakes.
But I was, and to a certain extent I still am. I guess that one unexplored emotion (among scholars, anyway) for gamers is a sense of peace and tranquility from immersing oneself in the gamescape, a true getting away that used to take money or misanthropy to achieve, but which can now be found in a computer or tv screen.
And who’s to say it’s not real in some important sense?