Vanilla Journal: Day 14, The "F" In "Fun"
January 21st, 2017
/played: 6 days, 12 hours
Nearly two weeks after Vanilla’s release and I’m still questing, even with a mucoid nostril pleading with me to take a nap. As of this writing I’m 36, trudging through grime and sludge in the heart of darkness: Stranglethorn Vale. Most people say, “I play games to have fun,” but they’ve never been to Vanilla's STV, a callous bloodbath where Horde and Alliance curb-stomp one another, firing off spells after you /wave or /blink, or any other salutation offered as a sign of mutual respect—doesn’t work. I tried to be a pacifist, to quest nonstop, but it’s a PvP server and one too many ganks has made me as monstrous as everyone else.
The word of the day is “Frustration,” i.e. “the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.” Thanks Google. I hear that Frustration is the antithesis of fun: a crimson brick wall that rises to smash and tumble over player’s progress. But I want bricks in my face. After they splash over me I build a monument to myself, to my journey, to the countless rogues that earred me while I was trying to hand in quests at Nesingwary, until I finally sneak past them and level up.
Frustration is the “F” in “Fun.”
When I play an MMORPG I don’t want to be an automaton, mindlessly moving between zones, washing over mobs with the same spam-skillset, focused on my second monitor playing Netflix rather than the game itself. “To have the power of a god is to be bored.” We can learn from epics: the Hero’s Journey—from Gilgamesh to Skywalker—is a story of transformation, the overcoming of Frustration, of trials that test both patience and skill. And Vanilla is one of the few MMORPGs that makes you walk the monomyth.
Every pull is life or death. Attract too many mobs and you’re swarmed by ravenous army ants devouring every living thing in their path (unless you’re a mage). Got to be tactical: scope out the area, make sure you can back up without falling into some other creature’s murderous mandibles. And that’s not taking into account paranoia fueled by the opposing faction. They're always lurking behind a tree, waiting for you to unload skills before swooping in for your scalp.
And you’re not safe in a dungeon either.
We were running Stockades, a claustrophobic prison where riotous rebels have overthrown the system. Each cell is tightly packed three to four, all elites, all pose a threat if not managed tactically. Because every single mob matters. Every single pack can wipe your group if somebody in the party isn’t fulfilling their role, or pulls one too many. Missteps send you to the graveyard, and kill morale.
An army's effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than any of the other factors combined. -Napoleon
The romantic poet writes the flower is an object of delicate beauty; the poet ought to have tried harmonizing a Vanilla party: as thin and fragile as a microscope slide. The slightest insult, Need roll, or sneaky chest loot, can trample a group. And without party finder you need your party to stay whole, to be somewhat congenial. Fingers-crossed the gnome rogue in your group isn’t a shitter that ninja-loots gear he doesn’t need, fostering tension and resentment, and rotting the party from within just before the fight with Mekgineer Thermaplugg.
I imagine there are people who will read this entry and say, “why the hell would I want to play a game where I’ll be frustrated?” And my answer to the skeptics is... nothing of lasting value in life comes easily. We cherish personal struggles where we succeed, and savor stories displaying the triumph of adversity: the journalist with locked-in-syndrome who writes a book by blinking each letter of the alphabet to his nurse: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Whether we’re cognizant of it or not, we crave challenge. It makes those serendipitous moments where everything goes right infinitely more valuable: the perfect party, the right price, back-to-back questing uninterrupted. You sweat and slip and tumble on your way to the top of the mountain because the view is beautiful, made all the sweeter by the bruises you wear with pride. If a brick wall lays in your path, hurdle towards it.
When you step back from Vanilla, after marching through war-zones and twisting dungeon tunnels, after being ganked again and again by the same rogue, the judgment you utter isn’t “Frustration.”
Entries (so far):