Refugees From Azeroth


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

13 responses »

  1. Dude. I totally want to hear about the night you spent in Wal*Mart during your college days.

    Glad you got what you were after! 🙂

    (Pine Sol Zamboni. LMAO.)

  2. Ok, there are several things that I can (and probably will) comment on!

    1) Loved the Pine-Sol Zamboni comment, like Karyn did 🙂

    2) Michael has been talking about the expansion of WoW, but I’ve only sort-of listened to it because I am not an avid player. I tried it once, when you mentioned it about a year ago, but it just didn’t grab me. I can’t wait to see what you have to say once you’ve had the chance to play Viva Pinata 🙂

    3) You absolutely have to blog about your Walmart sleepover!!!

    4) I think it’s safe to say that you are, indeed, part of ‘that’ group – the one with geeks in various shapes and sizes. I can understand waiting in line at someplace like Best Buy or even Circuit City, but Walmart?!? Granted, it was for a good cause, but still…Walmart?!?

    Hope you get at least a little bit of sleep this week 🙂

  3. I have never played a video game of the kind you describe here. I love your devotion and the fact that you stayed up past 3 a.m. playing this new game with your husband actually moved me. It’s a great story.

  4. I loved comparing late night Wal-Mart to being backstage at a play. It’s very much like that. You almost expect not to have to check out.

    And I do seem to recall your 24hour Wal-Mart adventure in college. You and Sheila really set the bar on that one!

  5. Oh, if only my son had you as a mother, he would be the happiest boy in the world. Instead he has one that just for the life of her cannot get her mind around science fiction anything, and to top it off with some sort of video game? yeah, not so much for me. I do love that you and Paul play together. That’s really really cool.

  6. I am very impressed with your dedication! Ryan, on the other hand, pre-ordered his copy some time ago on Amazon, but was told yesterday (I think) that he wouldn’t be getting his copy until the 20th. Annoyed, he canceled the order, but then reinstated it since our computers aren’t even hooked up right now because of a large monstrosity we recently purchased. Ryan owes part of his powers of persuasion to you guys, by way of the let’s spend our tax return a bit early! Hope to be gaming with you again soon!!

  7. I just wanted to let you know that I now have a tracking number for BC. I am excited about getting to follow its journey across our fruited plains. I hope there are no blizzards on its route to my floppy drive. I anticipate its arrival by making hurried preprations. Such as defragging my hard-drive, using compressed air to remove dust, deleting unneeded programs, and buying a pool table (oh, did I type that). I feel a little left out, but I have always been known to arrive late to the party. In the meantime, kill a horde or two for me.

  8. Three things you will never see mention of in my blog:
    1) video games
    2) Wal-mart
    3) being awake at 3 am

    (At least we have scrapbooking in common.) 🙂

  9. Okay, so I have to say that this is one part of you I don’t really relate to…but I am glad you are having so much fun! When Tim and I were first married, we would spend hours and hours playing Crash Bandicoot of all things- but I don’t think I would have waited in line for it. 🙂 Happy gaming!
    P.S. I was up at 3 a.m., 4:30, and 5:45, but not by choice!

  10. Have to add something else; tonight at church I looked down and on the pew in front of me was a stack of the games. One of the guys at church works for EB Games and had a bunch to give to people, I guess. I stood there, singing “Make me a servant,” while trying to make out the images on the front cover. And it reminded me … of you. 🙂

  11. wow. My son is really into WOW, but I haven’t started up on it because I would undoubtedly get sucked in. I must excert control in my life on some things…strawberry wafer cookies excluded.

    We pre orderd the game, it was delivered to our door. 🙂

  12. I haven’t posted here before, but I linked to this from another blog. I think you would remember from Harding–Corrie Brown–I married Jon (Jonny) Albright. We too are avid WOW players. And I see Ryan and Regina play, too? I will have to find what server all of you play on! Small world! Hope you are doing well!

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