15 Minutes of Fame: Playing WoW with Fark.com's Drew Curtis

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15 Minutes of Fame: Playing WoW with Fark.com's Drew Curtis
From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

You might think that Fark.com founder Drew Curtis is probably too busy a guy to spend much time playing video games, especially a notorious time-gobbler like WoW. You'd be wrong. Curtis thinks WoW is pretty neat and indeed has made World of Warcraft a family affair.

But as the creator of addictively snarky news aggregator site Fark.com, Curtis recognizes the value of when it's important to tune in and when it's cool to tune out. "I'm sorta casual in that I play a couple hours every other day or so when I have time," he explains, "but when I don't, I log the hell off until whatever needs doing gets done. I don't know anyone else who has no trouble just turning it off when they need to, which is kinda weird, I think." He also finds unusually productive times to turn it on -- including "useless conference calls that could have been done with a single email instead." (Potential meeting organizers, beware!)

Hear more on how the master of Fark's snark plays World of Warcraft as we chat with Curtis after the break.

Main character Calas
Guild < Descendants of Draenor>
Realm Deathwing (US-H)

15 Minutes of Fame: So how long have you played WoW, Drew?

Drew Curtis: I started about five years ago, I think, pre-BC, back when the top was level 60.

I guess I qualify as a lifelong gamer. I used to help run a MUD back in the early '90s. A lot of the stuff we figured out back then on our own is still part of the online gaming experience today: guild meetups, problems with game economy, what constitutes a fun puzzle, game balance, etc.

Tell us a little about your playstyle. You've said you actually use WoW as an excuse *not* to go out?!?

I'm part casual, part altaholic. I've got a company to run and three little kids, so I rarely have more than an hour of solid playing time available. I also have zero problems shutting the game off; I figure it'll be there when I get back -- even if I get back two to three years later. I do often play during conference calls however; most could have been handled via emails anyhow.

I don't farm at all; I usually arbitrage the auction house if I do anything to make money.

Aside from being a classic extrovert, I'm also out most nights of the week playing soccer and/or meeting local folks for business-related things. It's very hard for me to stay in once the kids are asleep; I start climbing the walls. So I've started blocking out Saturday nights for WoW playing so I have an excuse to not go out every night of the week. That's probably the opposite problem most people have.

We hear you don't seem to have a problem logging out when there's work to be done, too ... That may qualify you as some sort of freak of nature!

The way I figure it, it'll be there later. Plus, Blizzard always tweaks the game to add new levels of gear that replaces the old, so there's no huge rush. You can shut the game off for a year, then log back in and pick back up where you left off. So there's no hurry.

There must be something in our monkey brains that makes us think there is, though. Next time you go to a Chinese buffet, watch the people as they head to the food. They're always rushing up there, almost running. The food isn't going to run out, but folks haul ass anyhow. Same goes with WoW -- there will be time to play later.

For example, I've got two level 85s at the moment, but I'm sitting out the current heroics/raiding cycle because right now they're pretty damn hard and I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, so I couldn't get into it if I wanted to. Once the next round of content drops into the game with better gear, I figure heroics will be a lot easier to run. I'll probably hop in then. Generally, I'm always one level of content behind.

I also have a pretty good life, so I'm not playing due to escapism.

And your kids play WoW, too, is that right?

Just before my oldest son turned 6, he begged me to let him play Warcraft with me. I told him he'd need to learn how to read first, and that if he did, I'd get him an account. By the time school ended that year, he was at the "mat/cat/sat" level, so I signed him up. Over the next three months, he went from kindergarten to 7th grade reading level -- all from playing Warcraft. He was hell-bent on getting better at the game, and to do that he needed to read, so he learned. I didn't teach him hardly anything, other than helping him sound out words he couldn't read easily.

The following fall, Storm's teacher pulled me aside about three days into the year and asked me what in the world my wife had done to teach Storm how to read so well in such a short time. I made the mistake of telling her what I'd done. She was horrified. Whoops. When I do the same thing with his younger brother next year, I'm keeping that to myself.

Interestingly, he's also learned advanced problem-solving techniques and how to run the auction house. A few months ago, I came home from a night out, and he'd run one of my toons through dozens of randoms all night -- got me a pile of badges and a couple of gear upgrades. It's like having your own live-in gold farmer: "Hey Storm, can you get Daddy's toon up to exalted with Bloodsail?"

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to cure him of:

  1. hitting need on everything, no matter what -- he's a ninja;
  2. blowing money on dumb stuff on the AH -- he loves pets;
  3. queuing as tank when he doesn't know how to tank and isn't geared for it. Makes me wonder when I run in PUGs exactly how prevalent this is with the other tanks I get grouped with. Or maybe they just suck.

By the way, you can tell you're playing with a little kid when the toon doesn't talk. Storm can read everything but he can't spell yet. I didn't realize the two skills weren't related until I saw this.

One of the questions people ask me is am I worried about what he might be exposed to in the game? The answer is no, because I'd rather him encounter confusing stuff with me sitting right there to explain it to him than have him find stuff on his own later when I'm not around.

What about your wife? Does she play, or how does she feel about WoW?

She doesn't, yet. However, she's sort of inclined; she likes the way it looks and knows I have fun with it. She figures she'll have to get into it once our middle son Chance learns to play. We'll have a four-man group at that point. Means I'm going to have to learn to tank.

WoW Insider has submitted a few weird or remarkable things to Fark over the years ... Somehow, though, with the game being aimed today at everyone and their mother, most WoW-related stories don't seem quite Fark-y enough for Fark. What's the view from your side of the fence? Is World of Warcraft and gaming really becoming that mainstream?

It is; the longer the game persists, the less insider the game becomes.

Fark is humor-oriented, and there's two different types we're looking for: 1.) something funny people who understand the game would love (like wowcrendor's stuff), or 2.) something anyone would understand (like Korean kids passing out from playing 72 hours nonstop, or Leeroy). We can put them in either the geek tab or the main page of Fark. We've talked about doing a gaming section on Fark for awhile now, but I'm way too casual of a player to be able to pick good material with any success

Basically anything can become Farkworthy at any time -- context is king.

What's been your favorite WoW-related story on Fark?

It wasn't wow-related, more MMO-related: an article on how MLB players love online games and how they sometimes retaliate during MLB games for stuff that happens on MMOs during downtime. I never get tired of reading it. And I suspect it's still going on. In particular, there's the comment by Doug Glanville, who credited hitting two homers off of Curt Schilling as payback for Schilling's role in the death of his paladin Bing-bong.

Check out more from Curtis and news of "the funny and weird" at Fark.com.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Aron "Nog" Eisenberg to an Olympic medalist and a quadriplegic raider. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.
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