This might be just a little bit embarrassing, but by way of introduction this week, I'd like to reprint the note this week's featured player emailed us last December in response to a call-out for WoW-playing honors students. Its summary of achievements really can't be beat.
Today, Kuhfleisch (Kirin Tor) is an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M University at Galveston. He's still keeping up the grades, still keeping up the extracurriculars -- and still keeping up World of Warcraft.
Hello Lisa, I'm 17, and ... I've played World of Warcraft since late Burning Crusade while maintaining a 91.2 GPA. I've even taken several Advanced Placement courses, which offer me college credit including world history, human geography, literature and composition, and physics.
In addition to completing multiple 10-man hard modes of Icecrown Citadel, I've taken on a lot of other responsibilities as a student. I've been a National Honors Society member for three years along with a member and co-captain of an award winning robotics program sponsored by FIRST. On top of that, I don a swimsuit after school for the varsity level swim team. I've played trombone throughout my years of WoW (nine years of the trombone total), playing in the school's jazz band, symphonic band, symphonic orchestra, and marching band, in which I also hold the position of associate drum major. Just this year, I became one of the founding members of the Math Honors Society, in which I spend my mornings before school tutoring other students who just don't quite understand the work. As another bit of school community service, I head over to the middle school as a co-coach, mentor, and former member of the FIRST Lego League robotics club/team.
Now, as if my schedule outside of World of Warcraft wasn't busy enough, I'm a second-degree black belt who has studied martial arts for nearly 13 years while also teaching classes, aiding at seminars, and working with disabled/mentally impaired individuals. You'd think I'd have no time for anything at this point, but somehow I squeeze in another job cooking in a New York City restaurant. It's more of an on-call basis, but I cook, wait tables, and assist in instructing cooking classes as well. For my summers, I will admit I do end up taking small breaks from WoW, but it's allowed me to see the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Egypt, and a decent amount of other countries/places. It's also given me time to become a certified SCUBA diver who's Rescue certified and qualified as an Emergency First Responder as well as picking up some International Yacht Training sailing certifications.
Oh, did I mention I have four 80's and a 72?
Main character Kuhfleisch
Realm Kirin Tor (US-H)
15 Minutes of Fame: Kuhfleisch, how did you get started in World of Warcraft? How old were you?
Kuhfleisch: I first started playing WoW in eighth grade. I was 13 years old and my best friend to this day had finally convinced me to create a trial account. Up until that point (don't laugh too much), I had gone through a Runescape and MapleStory binge. Even more amusing was the fact that I was still using a computer with Windows ME. (OK, even I laugh at that.)
So what sort of content did you enjoy back then?
I joined my best friend's guild, Wombat Wevolution. It had a decent-size playerbase, and they were just starting to tackle 25-man raids when I joined. They had quite a few others who were leveling at the time, and I really enjoyed instances with all of these people. I quickly became engulfed in the game, and I was fascinated by raiding since the early levels. I absolutely hated questing, although I did find it more enjoyable once I hit the Outland. During that whole time, I was playing my mage Teaguee and had a really good mentor who I'm still friends with to this day, Letanius. After all, someone has to foster a hatred of warlocks in a young mage's mind.
Long story short, I loved BC. All of the people I played with were fantastic, and to all of them who may be reading this, I can't even express how much fun that year was in game. My first shot at Karazhan was exhilarating, and it continued all the way through the very last hours of BC where we were still racking up attempts on Kael'thas.
At most, I was raiding four days a week and spending a substantial amount of time preparing for those raids. This was during the end of BC and at one or two points in time during Wrath. I simply haven't been able to do that at all in Cataclysm.
How would you describe your playstyle now?
Now, I'd say I'm pretty casual about the entire game. I wish I had some more time to play, but real life is so exciting, interesting, and unimaginably fun that I can't seem to find more hours in the day. I have had the time to do a few raids since the school year started in mid- to late August. Prior to that, I took a one-month hiatus for an internship in the Caribbean. I got my divemaster certification and sat around on a really pretty sailing yacht. Rough hiatus, ain't it?
Alts don't really exist to me at the moment. I have my paladin, Kuhfleish, that I raid with as prot, and my beloved mage, who has turned into my PVP character. I mainly do 2v2s with my best friend who I mentioned earlier, Aherm, a disc priest. Other than that, I have some characters sitting at random levels ranging from 20 to 84.
What do your parents think about WoW and your gaming? Did you ever have to negotiate with them over your gaming time?
I never did quite "negotiate" times. I've always been pretty independent, and my parents have been divorced, leaving me to live with my father. And when you put two guys in a house that they have to themselves, not many rules and regulations get laid down. Usually I was given enough trust to raid when I felt like it, but all hell would break loose if my grades slipped or if I started shirking off responsibilities. My mother usually respected the fact that I'd need a night to just chill out and raid, and as such, I usually took advantage of that.
... I don't think my parents ever knew how deep I was into the game. At certain points, I did have to stop and think about whether I was doing the right thing. After all, you can only spend so many hours playing a game before you start neglecting other activities.
Sounds like the voice of experience. What did you discover slipping, and what did it take to catch and rectify the situation?
My grades slipped a little bit, which wasn't too big of a problem. I think a student who generally has over a 3.5 GPA is allowed to have one bad quarter in his high school career due to negligence. Other than that, it was little things that added up, like spending a bit less time with family, not playing with my dog Zeke as much. I was even a bit less proactive when it came to my martial arts classes. Nothing in and of itself was particularly horrible, but when looked at as a whole, I was quite a bit more reserved.
I also particularly remember that for a little while, I took refuge in the game. My father and I clash quite often, especially since it was just the two of us in the house -- and trust me, an entire two-story house becomes very small when its two inhabitants are annoyed at each other. I could almost relate it to being addicted to a pain medication; it was a way to put the troubles behind me for a bit and get away from the real world.
In the end, and purely due to my own decisions and conclusions, I had decided how I wanted to live and how I wanted to spend my days. Other people could mention something about me being withdrawn, but it didn't matter. I had to want the change in order to facilitate it.
Putting that behind me (this was most noticeable in my junior year), I had a very successful high school career. I had a fantastic senior year, too. Between the swim team, being captain of the robotics team, and all of the music-related activities, it was constantly interesting. I had time to really polish my martial arts and found my own way again.
I also ended up being the most successful high school student, in my own opinion. I was making up to $30 an hour teaching martial arts and cooking professionally in New York City. I made weekend trips to go diving in about six different states along the coast. I got to foster my passion for music through jazz quite often, seeing various shows, going to all different kinds of venues, and racking up quite the repertoire of contacts.
What's the method to your madness of keeping it all in balance?
"Madness" is an understatement.
School, in my opinion, has actually gotten easier. I can plan my day solely around what I need to get done and what classes I have. If I know I have a four-hour break between my Marine Engineering Basics class and my Engineering Calculus Lab, I know I can get that History extra credit done, or the homework that's due in less than an hour ...
Every week, I have sailing practice on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and then the occasional practice and/or regatta on the weekend. Practices usually start between 2 and 3 p.m. and go until about 6:30. Regattas can sometimes be trips lasting from Friday morning to Sunday evening, depending on where we have to travel to.
I'm also the student director of the Sea Aggie Band, which practices at least twice a week, plus its jazz band component and all of the other duties that come with it. As if it couldn't get any busier, I've got to maintain at least a 3.5 to stay in the honors program, which is hard enough with a 17-credit-hour schedule.
If I raid, it's usually when I get back from sailing and after I eat a million calories or so. Basically, I get to play WoW during the prime time hours, which is kind of nice sometimes. Just hop on and raid. Eat, sleep, sail, raid. Sounds good to me.
How has your WoW playing changed from high school to college in terms of playstyle or content you tackle, and why?
I've had to cut back on the time I commit quite a bit. The content I go after hasn't changed. I'll always love raiding with a side of warlock flambée in the Arena.
How much WoW time would you say you get now over the course of a week?
It varies a lot. Just last night, I ended up hopping on for three hours and jumped into a raid that was short one person. (My only stipulation was that my guildies had to figure out one of my homework problems before I sent the file in ... hehe.) I usually TRY to sit down about twice a week and raid (about six hours total) and fill my quota as far as Arenas go (so about another two hours). Other times, I'll just hop on and fiddle around a bit between classes.
I've met a few other ex-WoW aficionados, but I haven't found any that still play. A sizeable group of people seem to be into League of Legends, but I haven't ventured too far into the game yet. I've decided that if I'm going to play a game, I'm going to play it right and devote what time I actually have to that one game. So yes, I do play League of Legends occasionally with friends on campus.
What does your girlfriend think about gaming? Does she play?
Let's make this plain and simple. I have a PC that I've built from the ground up. She has this silly little thing that has a glowing piece of fruit on it. 'Nuff said.
Joking aside, I would like to get her started on WoW soon, but she's doing a double major. As of right now, she doesn't play any other games.
How old are you now, and what exactly is your major and what you're studying?
I am 18 years old and I am a maritime engineering technology student at Texas A&M University at Galveston. In essence, I am on the working end of engineering. You would not find me at the drawing board designing systems for ships; however, you could find me putting those ideas in place. This includes the manufacturing, repair, and service of everything from oil tankers to container ships (which is probably how the shirt on your back made it into the United States in the first place).
There's plenty of options as to what I can do after I graduate, and right now I'm keeping them all open, but I'm pretty sure I want to spend some time at sea. If only I could get some better internet out there.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from a player battling Alzheimer's disease to Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), gaming industry insider Liz Danforth and El of El's Extreme Anglin'. Know someone else we should feature? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.