Though I didn’t see it mentioned in any paper, today was a Big Day for gamer guyz and girlz all around the world. Today, Blizzard launched The Burning Crusade, its much-anticipated expansion for the online gaming phenomenon known as World of Warcraft.
Officially, the launch started at midnight last night, and that is why, at ten-thirty p.m., I found myself traversing the icy highway and pulling into a spot near the door in the nearly-empty acres of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Yes, I was prepared to wait in line for ninety full minutes just to ensure that I would get my hands on two all-important copies of The Burning Crusade for me and my honey. I was definitely not going to leave without at least one. (I’m sure I could have come up with an appropriate contest of skillz to determine who got dibs on it. Something like speed-loading the dishwasher, perhaps.)
Walking into Wal-Mart late at night is like walking backstage at a play. Stockmen are running around, pushing huge pallets of merchandise and filling up the depleted shelves with new boxes of Rice-a-roni and jugs of laundry detergent. The guy who drives the industrial floor cleaner (or, as I think of it, the Pine-Sol Zamboni), is making wide swaths across the floor, wiping away the evidence of forty-thousand muddy snow boots and leaving paths of pleasing streak-free shine in his wake. Customers are few, and employees shout freely back and forth to one another, enjoying the near emptiness of the store*.
I took a quick spin past the electronics department. There were four people there, milling around between the game consoles and the wireless computer mice, and since I knew there to be at least forty copies of the game available, I took it as a sign that it was safe for me to do some grocery shopping before getting in line. Around 11:20, I made my way back to the electronics desk. Gamers were gathered in small clumps here and there all the way around the counter, maybe twenty in all. It was time to stake out my territory.
I haven’t waited in line for anything since high school. I felt a little giddy as I looked around and assessed all the many shapes and sizes and voices of my fellow WoW players. Sidling up to one group, I started eavesdropping on a heated conversation about the relative merits of epic PvP weapons and the new quest reward items. It wasn’t long before I was joining in with the rest of them, asking questions about new game content and proudly tossing out offhanded references to my own gaming accomplishments.
There were all kinds of gaming geeks there: Stereotypical Nerdy Geeks, Lone-Wolf-Solo-Gamer Geeks, Almost-Too-Cool-and-Good-Looking-to-Be-Called-a-Geek Geeks. There were husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and clusters of thirty-somethings whose friendships were forged in the fires of Molten Core and seasoned in pitched battle on the fields of Alterac Valley.
I have to say, it was pretty cool.
Our group grew bigger and louder as the magic hour approached, and I know that inside we were all fearing that there wouldn’t be enough copies to go around. Going home empty handed was not a part of anyone’s plan, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a little PvP** action breaking out right there in the middle of the computer accessories aisle. Fortunately for us (and for all of those delicate electronic devices), when the clock chimed midnight and the nervous employee rolled out a cart piled high with glowing green boxes, there was plenty for all, with a few to spare.
In a matter of seconds, the pile of games diminished and the group dispersed, flying off into the night (after a frenzied rush on the chips and beverage aisles) with their copies of the cherished expansion clutched amorously in their hands.
I, too, floated out past the checkout stand and into my car without touching the ground, already tingling with anticipation and lamenting the ten minute drive home before I could start uploading my precious cargo.
I felt like part of a really weird club.
I wish I could tell you that after installing the new software on my computer, I very sensibly went to bed in order to be well-rested for the next day. The truth is that Paul and I, two adults who undoubtedly know better, stayed up past three a.m. reveling in the delights of an expanded Azeroth.
Some things are just worth being foolish for.
*Once, in college, my friend Sheila and I spent the night in a Wal-Mart. But that is a story for another post.
**Player vs. Player