There is something to be said for a game that even after four or five years of playing it still manages to surprise you. I rolled First Kia on Darkspeare the August before Wrath of the Lich King dropped, so I am coming up on my four-year WoW anniversary in about six weeks or so. I played heavily during Wrath, even dabbled around a bit in ICC, although my guild at the time had not quite gotten its act together enough for serious raiding and I only saw about the first six bosses before I left for Burkina. I’ve done a lot since coming back from Burkina, too – Loremaster AND Explorer on Current Kia, 42 exalted reps, yada yada yada, so on and so forth, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
And yet, as much as I think I might have seen and done it all (except for that thrice-benighted PvP, obviously), every once in awhile I stumble across something and go, “I HAD NO IDEA THAT WAS THERE.”
Like tonight. When I discovered that there’s an entire island north of Icecrown that I had never been to before. Ever.
Now, I do vaguely remember doing some of the Argent dailies on First Kia – I believe I might have managed to become a champion of Darnassus. But I hate jousting. I tend to dislike vehicular quests/combat of any kind, but jousting holds a special amount of hatred in my heart. I know how to do it. I just don’t like it. First, it requires a vehicle and a specialized action bar. No thank you. I can shoot Deadly Arrows much faster and more efficiently than I can wrangle this dumb mount; let me just shoot the baddies. Secondly, and more importantly, while jousting, I have to be in melee range at least some of the time. I believe I have made my opinion of melee (it’s for crazy people) abundantly clear; I don’t want the thing to be able to hit me. Let me shoot it! I have a pretty bow I like to show off, I want to shoot it! LET ME SHOOT IT!
I vaguely remember half-assedly dragging First Kia through the valiant level of one city before saying, “the hell with jousting” and running away like a little girl from the Argent dailies. I did joust in ToC in all its varied and scintillating (where is my sarcasm font when I need it?) incarnations, but that was the end of that experiment. As a result, I never did the champion-level dailies and was never sent north to find tallstrider legs to feed the starving masses. Ten’ll do the trick, won’t it?
So in my continuing quest for nerdpoints, I decided to start working the Argent Tournament and once again got “of Darnassus” for Kia. And just as a thing to do to pass the time, I picked up some of the other dailies whilst working on “of Exodar”. As I read the quest text, I said to myself, “Where the hell is this? I’ve never heard of it.” I perused my map and happened to see as I was gazing over Storm Peaks the quest dot way off to the left, nearly off the map. Intrigued, I clicked on it.
There’s an island up there. An entire island peopled with those guys that turn into a bunch of seaweed when you shoot them. And I had no idea it was there.
It’s at moments like these when I get a glimpse at the sheer magnitude that is World of Warcraft – the game, the world, and the community – that I am forced to drop my jaw and go, “Wow.” In the “I am expressing amazement and awed disbelief” sense of “Wow”, not the “I’m using the acronym for World of Warcraft” one. This world, that sometimes seems to consist mostly of the Dwarven District bank and AH quite a lot of the time, is so much bigger than I often allow it to be.
We get stuck sometimes, especially those of us who are progression raiders, in thinking that the stuff that happens at 85 the only important stuff – where to fish for Lavascale Catfish for raid feasts, which training dummy is the least popular to make it easiest to practice rotations, who has my shoulder enchant, how to find the door to Dragon Soul because, dangit, SOMEONE has to go there first and doors are HARD. These are definitely important things if you are raiding… but they aren’t the only things. The end of the game is important, but it’s only the end of the game.
After all, the middle of the game is good, too.
I’m reminded of His Bearness’s series of posts about playing with his son, Alex. Every time you read one of them, BBB just lights up with the sheer joy of scampering about doing things like blowing goats off mountains. I envy that sort of giddy freedom, because sometimes I think I’ve lost it. Have I forgotten how to enjoy the ride, I wonder? In my dogged pursuit of 85 for my hunter babies have I learned to ignore 29 and 43 and 67? Have I learned to disdain the middle in pursuit of the end?
That is an unmitigated shame. After all, two years ago, the middle was the end, and there was as much joy and excitement and wonder in Northrend as there was when I started playing again last autumn and Cata was a brand-new though half-destroyed world for me. Three months from now, we’ll all be traipsing about Panderia (fingers crossed), and for most of us, that giddy feeling of discovery and excitement will be back (again, fingers crossed) (unless you are ruining it for yourselves playing the beta) (you heathens) (I’m teasing) (No, I’m really not) (Okay, maybe I am a little).
And then, what is now the end will once again become the middle.
So then what, I wonder, will I discover about Cata six months from now that nearly a year hasn’t shown me yet? What undiscovered corner not listed on the Explorer achievement, what unnoticed NPC unimportant to the quest lines but still extremely interesting, what bit of story, what piece of the world will come swinging out from left field while I’m dashing about Panderia to smack me in the face and remind me that Azeroth in all its iterations is so much bigger than the most current expansion? That just because the end of the game is important, I shouldn’t disregard the middle on my way to it?
We’re headed down the track to a new expansion, and when we do, Cataclysm will, like its sisters BC and Wrath, become just a slog that we must push our alts through in order to get to the good stuff in Mists. Here’s a challenge for you: don’t let it happen that way. Don’t let the lure of the end blind and deafen you to the sweetness of the middle. Remember that the middle used to be the end, and that there is good stuff in all of it.