Speak Out with your Geek Out:  Role Playing Games, World of Warcraft, and the Care and Feeding of Souls
WD Robertson

Yeah, I admit it:  I play World of Warcraft. 

And, yeah, I know.  There are a lot of negative tropes associated with the game.  I like “World of Warcrack” the best.  Sometimes I do play WoW too much when I should be doing something useful like the dishes or laundry or mowing what is left of our lawn (which is perhaps the only good thing about a prolonged drought – there’s just not much grass left here). 

I thought I’d put this together after commenting on another’s Speak Out with your Geek Out wall post on Facebook about older geeks (he used the term “Geekzers”).  The oldest geek I know is my mother-in-law, who started playing World of Warcraft at age 72.  She loves it.  Her Draenei Retribution Paladin is a sort of one-woman Extinction Level Event because she kills pretty much everything she finds when she’s out and about doing her Daily Quests.  J

So, I’ll ramble a bit.

The Boring Back Story:  I’ve played tabletop RPGs since 1978 or thereabouts, starting with the TSR “Red Box” Dungeons & Dragons game.  AD&D (first edition), Gamma World, and Boot Hill followed close on.  Twilight: 2000, Skyrealms of Jorune, and Traveller were always my favorites, but I ran a Vampire: the Masquerade (first edition) Chronicle for twelve years or so.  Heck, the first interest my wife and I shared back when we first met was Vampire: the Masquerade.  Despite her favoring the Camarilla and my preference for Sabbat, we hit it off pretty well I think.

Several years ago our tabletop gaming group fizzled for a lot of reasons, all of which were good (moving to take new jobs or finding out that a baby was coming along and would rightly take up all of the soon-to-parents’ free time for the next twenty or thirty years).  My wife and I were set in our ways and were never really interested in the scene at the Friendly Local Gaming Stores, so we focused on 1:1 games (Microlite 20 is great for this) and board games (I highly recommend Arkham Horror if you have a few hours to burn).  Then two or three years ago a former coworker, with whom we used to play Vampire: the Masquerade, turned my wife and me on to the World of Warcraft.  Gaming returned!

Stay with me – I’m going somewhere, I think.  Maybe.  Okay, possibly.  But definitely not definitely.

Anyway, World of Warcraft is cool – sort of like D&D and sort of like a really twisted and hallucinogenic version of Lord of the Rings.  At any rate, my wife and I enjoy it and kept playing after our trial memberships.  It helped that we joined my former coworker’s guild, which was a small group composed mostly of couples who all knew at least one other member offline.  We had a lot of fun with the FasterPussycats* guild on the Whisperwind Realm, Alliance faction.  We all eventually joined a larger guild called Warped Welcome, and FasterPussycats disbanded.

*FasterPussycats was a tribute to a dreadful Russ Meyers movie from 1965 called “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”  Our love of bad movies is what gave the guild members something in common.  We had a brief memorial service when Tura Satana passed away in early 2011.

Warped Welcome is a good guild for my wife and me:  it’s large enough to have regular group events, and it is family friendly.  By family friendly I mean that the founding members made it a priority to discourage bullying, objectionable language and general asshattery.  After demonstrating some degree of proficiency at organizing successful raids on Horde capitals with other former members of the FasterPussycats, I was asked to become a guild officer.  Being a guild officer can be a pain in the butt at times, but I see it as a positive thing. 

A brief aside:  Any group of people can have drama.  Not the good kind of role playing drama, but the bad kind where people disagree with each other, sometimes seriously.  Occasionally these disagreements can turn to true anger. 

As we’re all painfully aware, a big problem with MMORPGs and the internet in general is lack of face to face communication.  This can make disagreement and conflict a lot harder to resolve constructively.  I have, like you, seen many disagreements in various online venues go much further and become much more hostile than would have been the case if both parties were able to sit down, look at each other, and talk things over in person.

There’s not much to be done for it, unfortunately.  Humans are social primates, which means we have an irresistible urge to gather together to aggravate one another.  When we’re online, we do it with our biological safety switches set to “Off.” 

Just saying.

I spend a lot of my “game” time helping other guild members with quests or giving sound financial advice on how to earn enough gold in-game to buy that great new sword.  Like many of the other officers, I act as a sounding board for younger gamers (or just the young at heart) who are having a bad day, or with anyone who simply needs a sympathetic ear.  I also do my best to moderate disputes when they arise between guild members.  We’ve done what we can to foster an environment where everyone can feel welcome, and, to the degree that we are able, where bullying and harassment are not tolerated.  This is a good thing.  

By the way, the name Warped Welcome is a good example of fostering geek teamwork.  Everyone is Welcome, and we’re all Warped to some degree, if only because we’re all running around an online environment as a Night Elf Rogue or a Dwarf Warrior.

I’ve always been a teacher in one form or another, whether actually teaching in grad school or as a Quality Assurance professional advising my colleagues on how best to comply with federal law for manufacturing, testing and shipping medicines.  Sure, killing murlocs and whatnot is good for escapist fun, but being able to help someone else solve a problem or deal with an issue much more important than a game is good for the soul.

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. (Rumi)

So that’s what I do when I play World of Warcraft.  I don’t participate in raids or PUGs very often (too time-consuming) and I don’t PvP much anymore (too hectic).  But I do try to help out so that members of the extended community can, hopefully, have more fun together. 


WD Robertson

Annoying Post Script:  If you have to watch every penny, or if you are prone to obsessive behavior, be careful with these sorts of games.  WoW has a monthly fee, and there is so much to do in the game you could go at it 24 hours a day and never get it all done.  Play hard if that’s your gig, but play responsibly.