Chances are that if you browsed any gaming forum board in the mid-late 2000s, you’ve heard of ‘Leeroy Jenkins’. In all the video’s glorious 12 pixels, a team of people playing World of Warcraft — a massively multiplayer online role-playing fantasy game, is strategically planning for a difficult room within a dungeon. Waiting around is a boring man’s game, as seen by Leeroy’s charge into battle, David and Goliath style. It’s no surprise that everyone on the team died within seconds and channeled their blame to Leeroy. A devastating defeat for sure, but in his words, “At least I have chicken”.
The Leeroy Jenkins video was the first I’ve seen of the game World of Warcraft. My eldest brother, Alex, showed it to me when I was nine and it was the funniest thing in the world. Our age gap is seven years, so there was not a lot that we could relate to on the same level at the time. Video games have always been the medium where I could spend time with both of my brothers — none of us were very talkative and it was a perfect talking point. There’s a uniqueness to games where polar opposite personalities can come together and still have an enjoyable time and to me, this is anecdotally true.
Before getting into it, we need to talk about the gaming room. Imagine you’re in a quaint tile-floored basement with a bay-windowed desk, except that the centerpiece is a window well covered by a beautiful painting of Venice that matches the mellow color scheme of the room. Now, in front of that painting shove a massive monitor and desktop computer tower that blocks out any natural light that might’ve shown through the tarp-like painting. Distasteful, sure, but it proved a point that we never really focused that much on the atmosphere. At night the basement would be pitch black with exception of the blue light-emitting monitor dead center and the sidekick laptop screen on the left bay. The 10-inch screen could take you virtually anywhere with a decent internet connection, and so ‘anywhere’ is where we went.
A significant part of my childhood can be chronicled through the various expansions that WoW has been through. These are new releases of content that come out every few years and add new areas to explore, experience to gain, and people to yell at in all caps if they share a different viewpoint than you. Currently, the game is sitting at seven expansions with an eighth releasing November of this year. Growing up playing this game on and off for years with my brother has influenced me even into adulthood, both good and bad.
My journey starts with ‘Wrath of the Lich King’. If you don’t know anything about MMO’s (Massively Multiplayer Online), the gist of them is that you’re often doing a mix of new and repetitive activities in a shared online world of people. Some people hate it, but I live for grinding (this might explain why I don’t mind studying for actuarial exams). A valuable note is that there’s no finite end to the game — there’s always more to achieve. There are so many ways you can experience the game, and so my brother and I made it our goal to achieve the maximum level for the given expansion. I don’t want to dive too much further into game mechanics, but hopefully, this can give some context as to how we were able to binge-play for countless nights.
During this period, I explored my music taste for the first time. Alex would throw on background music while we were playing which resembled what he’d discovered from concerts to bring back and show to me. Distorted guitar riffs ruptured through cheap speakers throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning. 80’s rock dominated the majority of the soundwaves, however, there’s should be an honorable mention of a newer band. Silversun Pickups was a regular band of choice that had just released Carnavas, one of my favorite albums of all time. We’d listen to the album on repeat and since then, whenever I hear a song from the album come on I’ll see myself right next to the Venice painting, remembering a simpler time. My taste grew into alternative and indie rock which I absolutely love to this day and don’t think I’d connect as strongly to without WoW.
Like going to a midnight movie release, waiting for the newest expansion to release to the game was invigorating. We’d strategize weeks in advance for how we wanted to go about maximizing efficiency to see the new end-game content as soon as possible. To really get the most out of the game, you needed to commit a ridiculous amount of time to play. Did I lose out on some childhood opportunities because I dwelled in a basement for an entire summer? Absolutely. Looking back, would I do it differently? Absolutely not.
During ‘Cataclysm’, I learned what it meant to be a degenerate. I spent double-digit hours a day playing a single video game because that’s what I assumed kids did. I was ~10 years old and had no structure at all. The amount of Dr. Pepper and A&W consumed on a daily basis was repulsive and not one of my proudest accomplishments. WoW taught me what it meant to lose yourself to something and although I think I turned out okay, there’s always a memory that pops up when I’m getting too unorganized as an adult. I’m glad that occurred early in my life when everything’s supposed to be fun and there are no consequences because it’s something always on my radar now. WoW has helped me grow into a more structured person.
‘Mists of Pandaria’ marked the end of an era. The autumn color scheme in the cover art resembled what was happening at that time in my life. Like the change in hue of the leaves, my relationship to the game was beginning to shift. Alex had moved out to college and we were at different points in life. Half of the experience was having someone else to play with which took most of the appeal away from playing. I barely played during this expansion and haven’t really touched the game since then in a significant way. WoW got buried in a time capsule with no expectation to be dug up anytime soon. As the medium of communicating with Alex got cut, so did the communication itself. I learned how important it is to keep in contact with family.
To this day, it’s up in the air as to whether I was a kid having fun with his brother or a crippling gaming addict. The former sounds much rosier, but regardless of characterization, WoW shaped me into who I am today in ways I probably don’t even know. Playing was a blissful, worry-free, and reminiscent time that I’ll randomly remember and smile looking back upon. Hopefully, I was able to jog some memory of simpler times in your life and you don’t leave this wondering why you bothered reading from a reformed basement dweller.