Friday, August 01, 2008

Starting World of Warcraft

One of my few rules for my SO about gaming had been “Anything as long as there isn’t a monthly fee.” Gaming is the main activity that my SO does to relax. While he can play the same game over and over again, he does get bored eventually. At which point, a new game or at least new material is in order. Also, we both mostly socialize online and I didn’t want to do anything that might discourage that for either of us.
While I’m embarrassed to admit this, I was jealous of the ‘square headed girlfriend.’ I didn’t want him to stop gaming per se. I just wanted to spend some time with him. Sitting on his bed knitting as he played immersive games didn’t give me a sense of connection.
My vision hasn’t always been good enough to allow me to play computer games. Eventually I just stopped trying. One of the first things my SO bought me after I recovered from cataract surgery was a PlayStation2. I’ve played The Bard’s Tale with glee. Rampage: Total Destruction annoys me but I still love destroying major cities. And Final Fantasy X has been wonderful but I’m no where near done the game. However, we quickly discovered that he and I couldn’t use the PS2 together. If I was positioned so I could see the screen then he couldn’t and vice versa. In a competition, my SO would always win as he has far superior vision and usually better hand function. Using the PS2 together was more an exercise in frustration than a friendly bonding experience.
Around this time I found a series on TV called Rise of the Video Game. My SO and I watched this series together and had a lot of fun talking about it as we watched. Due to our age difference and my blindness, he’d experienced a lot of things that I hadn’t. One of the last games featured was World of Warcraft and we were amazed at how it looked on the screen. The discussion of the game’s popularity with gamers with disabilities and chronic illnesses was also appealing and gave me hope that even I might be able to play.
Initially I tried to find a free MMORPG that would work on both PC and Mac. I had switched from a PC to a Mac when Tiger came out so that I could get my screen access software included with my operating system. Being a multiple OS household means that what works on one machine doesn’t necessarily work on another. My research lead to Second Life which was quickly discarded as inviable. So the search began for something that would work for both of us, as that was the entire point. WoW seemed to be our only option.
We had a serious talk about gaming and money and decided that it might be worth giving WoW a try if it was to become our primary game. We looked at what we were spending on new and used games, guides, and expansions and realized that it wasn’t an insignificant amount. Taking up WoW would mean no buying $10 games, used games, or downloading expansions/modules for already owned games that weren’t free without talking about it. We got the 15 day demo and emailed the one friend we knew who played WoW. He was thrilled and quickly replied with a wealth of help. Eight months later this friend is still amazingly helpful, we’re still playing WoW, and neither of us has spent money on gaming that wasn’t WoW related. (This was a smart financial decision for us.)
I didn’t find a lot of information online about playing WoW with a visual impairment. I may write some posts about it myself. So, I had to figure it out on my own. Addon free, it was rather hard and I’m surprised I stuck with it. I was lucky in that my first interaction with an experienced player who I didn’t know was amazingly positive. I give that player a lot of credit for my staying with the game. My first toon has long since been deleted but I’ve stuck with things partly due to the kindness of others and my own stubbornness.
Once I got my act in gear and made my troll priest I began to work with my SO. He had already taken the time to figure out how the game worked and get used to the mechanics so that he could focus on helping me. Wow. It was amazing to work cooperatively with him on something without fighting over a monitor. While he did know more than I did, we were both getting to explore together and there were things that I was able to learn and pass onto him. Our different play styles and abilities aren’t a disadvantage with cooperative play.
Initially, I didn’t want to play on my own. But, my SO and I have radically different sleep schedules and we each began to play during lonely awake hours. I’m advancing much more slowly than he is, but we have a rule “Don’t compare yourself to sighted players.” I’ve spent time helping his toons level which is one of the few times I ever feel helpful. Gradually I’ve even learned to ask for help when I get stuck. So WoW has helped me as a person and has improved our relationship as well.