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Behind the Curtain: In praise of solitude

Craig Withers

So, I'm back in the saddle. A break to catch my breath and a new alt of a class I've never played before appears to have worked wonders.

The alt in question is a Draenei Shaman. Yes, World of Warcraft again. Try not to hate me. Or not; it's a free Internet.

This'll only be the second time I've played through the Draenei starting area. The last time was a while after The Burning Crusade came out. Long enough after that the rush had died down, but still close enough that the place wasn't deserted. This time however, things are a little different. Death Knights appear to be the alt of choice as far as one looks. I won't lie, I've got one as well, but I've hardly touched her. The old-world starter zones are even more desolate now than at any other time in the game's history.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Let me explain. I love MMOs. I love being part of a great guild with cool people. I enjoy meeting people, and seeing other players going about their business, oblivious to me and everyone else in the game. Having to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge around players in the Auction House and at the Flight Master makes a game feel alive, makes it feel 'real', for lack of a better term. I just wish they'd all shut up.

I'd been running around Azuremyst Isle for a couple of hours, happily following Questhelper, listening to the latest antics of Acquisitions Inc – seriously Tycho, switch dice – when it came time for me to nip to the Exodar. Up until this point, I'd been having a ball. I'd caught up with my guildies, traded the obligatory insults, congratulated a friend on making Officer, started plotting his downfall – the usual stuff you do after going MIA for a few weeks. There must have been only two or three players in the starter zone with me – competition for mobs and resources was minimal to the point of non-existence.

I stepped into the confines of the Exodar, and within sixty seconds, my chat window had filled up with racism, homophobia, painfully bad spelling, and stupid advice. Honestly, if I had to read another question phrased, "How to make X?" I might have started crying. Which is an impressive feat, considering I was only in the Exodar for a grand total of about five minutes.

It's things like this that make me consider all the criticisms that get thrown our way as gamers. The social ineptitude, the bad grammar and all the rest of it; try as I might, I find it difficult to defend our social group. Not impossible, just difficult.

It's a knee-jerk reaction, I know. With the massive amount of players on your average WoW server, the vocal minority of bottom-dwellers drowns out the silent majority of decent, intelligent players with the sense to switch off General Chat. That's the easy answer right there – just opt-out, and you don't have to see the idiots yammering away at each other.

The sad thing is though, for all that that's an easy answer, the background chatter helps bring the game to life. Sometimes just seeing the other players isn't enough. Suffering through ninety-nine percent of the drivel in the General and Trade channels occasionally makes it worthwhile when you come across the one percent of people asking sensible, grammatically correct questions. I'm pretty sure that's how I found my first guild.

My point? I love playing MMOs, but sometimes I like to feel like I'm the only player out there. If everyone on my server could figure that out, and stay silent any time I'm in a city, we'd all get along just fine. Anyone else out there feel the same?

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