Once upon a time, there was a jarhead. This jarhead, we’ll call him Bear, was issued a set of uniforms in boot camp. Parris Island, oorah.
Amongst this uniform issue were a pair of boots.
Bear wore those boots day and night. Through mud, sleet, icy rain, sand fleas and scorching heat, those boots wore in and then wore on.
For years, those boots were THE boots. The leather got scuffed up to the point that they couldn’t be spit-shined for inspection anymore, but crawling in the boonies will do that, no matter how well you service the leather. Even when I retired them from my ‘inspection kit’, they remained the boots I wore every single day.
There came the inevitable jokes, as new Marines would join the unit, and this old salty Sergeant would laugh about his boots having more time in the field than they had in the Corps.
I didn’t give those old boots much thought. I cleaned them and polished them and kept them in good repair, but I took them for granted. I put ’em on in the morning and took them off at night, and if I thought of them at all it was to be grateful I didn’t have to drop money on more boots. When the heels got worn down, I’d take them into town and get new heels mounted at a cobblers, and kept on marching. They were just boots, you put them on your feet and got about the business of the day.
There finally came a time when those boots just weren’t serviceable anymore. The toes was too roughed up to pass inspection, the leather sides were saturated with the white salt that comes from years of sweat soaking through despite the best care. Bear had to get new boots. :(
The new style of boots now had canvas sides instead of leather. I mourned the passing of my leather-sided boots even as I clung desperately to my last serviceable set of faded cotton camouflage utilities. At the time, they were just switching over to rip-stop poplin cammies, but if your original issue were still serviceable and in good repair, you could wear them. This meant that if you were a salty old Marine, you damn well took care of those original issue, just to have something to wear to drive officers bugshit crazy at inspections. (FYI, cammies aren’t supposed to be faded almost white from years in the sun.)
I bought my new boots, worked some saddle soap in good and strong, polished ’em up, and went out for a quick run to ‘break them in’.
I limped back broke down and sore. It felt like the damn things were trying to kill me with an almost malicious animosity. I could understand how rumors get started about shit being possessed, because those boots tried to kill me.
I’d thought my feet had toughened up in my old boots to the point I could run like wearing boots was nothing, but all along I just had a real well-broken in pair of boots. They were so perfectly suited to me that I never noticed how awesome they were.
They’d faded into the background.
I sure as heck didn’t take my new boots for granted. Those things had my full, complete, and undivided attention. I lavished hours on those pieces of shit trying to break them in before they broke ME in. Fun runs became a misery, simple troop movements became a kind of hell. It took months to break those things in, and I learned a lot about how to heal (heel?) damage done to feet in the meantime. I also learned that when your feet are trashed, everything else gets that much harder to do.
What does any of this have to do with anything?
For one thing, it’s a true story. I always like those.
For another thing, we’ve got a big patch coming out in World of Warcraft tomorrow.
This one is going to be a big one. A lot is going to change. I know Blizzard has said they want to do small patches with great frequency, but you couldn’t prove it by me. People are going to be pleased for the most part, I think, but I’m sure there will be some grumpiness. There always is, and sometimes with good reason.
When a patch first gets announced, everyone goes running off to see what’s inside. What’s changing, what do we get, how will my class look tomorrow, aw damn they’re nerfing cut green gem vendor prices, oh look we get new instances, oh wow are bears really getting Swipe at that level? What new shiny? What?
What I’d like everyone to do, as a favor to me, is to take a deep breath tonight, before it goes live. Take a minute not to think about the changes that lie ahead, not to plan on what you wanna see FIRST, but instead reflect on all the things in the game that are so right, so perfect just the way they are, that we don’t even notice them anymore. Things we take for granted like a pair of comfy old boots.
I know for me, one of those things is simply playing within a game world where I can fly from sea to shining sea, sunrise to sunset, and glory in a seamless world of beauty and wonder.
Azeroth in all of it’s brilliant complexity is a vibrant world, full of rich ecosystems that live and breathe to their own rhythyms. It’s the first game world I ever encountered where I didn’t have a loading screen every 15 minutes when trying to go somewhere. I didn’t have to ‘zone in’ to walk from town to town… I just walked, and the world was there, unfolding before me. Even crazier, there were other people already there!
That town up ahead? People! Real people! Sure, if it was Crossroads, they were probably asshats, but they were still real people! Okay, if it was Crossroads, that’s debatable, but they were not bots! Wait a second… shit, I’m not doing this so well, am I?
You can talk about so much else in the game, but for me, that’s the one key thing that is so easy to take for granted, the one part of the game that is invisible to see. But it’s there for me, and it’s what makes everything else work for me. It’s what the whole game hangs on; my ability to suspend disbelief for the biggest whopper of the game, that the world is real, and huge, and exists somewhere in entirety.
It is a persistent world, and even now when I step back and think about that, it gives me a little thrill of geekdom. Azeroth is an entire persistant virtual world, and at any time in some far-off corner of the globe, someone is doing something for reals. Taming beasts, mining ore, fishing lakes and streams, discovering new villages and exploring secret mountain peaks.
It’s so easy to quibble about the little shit, and after a while of that, it can feel that the entire game is about all these itty bitty little changes and tweaks, with some folks happy and others pissed off.
No matter what happens, for today there is an entire world waiting out there to be discovered… and once explored, to be mastered. There are people from all over the world IN the world, people to be met, people to befriend, people to /ignore and /spit on if that’s what floats your boat.
And I can do it all without having to go out and get in the car, where gas costs $4 bucks a gallon. Screw that.
Maybe you’re tired of the game, and after all these years I wouldn’t blame you a bit.
For me, sometimes, I just gotta step back and do my best Keanu Reeves “Whoa” impersonation. tonight I plan on doing just that.
See you in Neverland!
Oh, and if you made it this far, you deserve a cookie.
Here’s a picture of me with my gaming pal and surfing buddy Sgt Wasson, with me in my faded old school cammies that used to drive the butterbars nuts. You’ll notice that I didn’t even have to have the nametapes on! Look at that smartass grin. Yep, that much ain’t changed. Now that’s old school, baby. Enjoy!