Sunday, May 25, 2008

Like a goddamn toothpick...

...that's how easy I snapped. Caved. Crumbled. It was disgusting. Years of rigid defense crafted of iron-tongued arguments and witful snobbery, dashed like the courage of an Aquilonian slave under the might of Cimmerian steel. Here's how it went down.

Since the inception of Everquest I have been an outspoken mud slinger of the MMORPG. I've seen co-workers fall into the dreaded tar pits of warm, monitor screen glow, forever gone and waving the banner of loot and rare drops. I've lost friends at the unrelenting hands of coordinated raids and group quests, eyes crusted the next day after 11 hour sessions acrosss the plains of Azeroth. I've always loved games, and always made time to give them the dedication they deserve in my life, but the time-sink that is the MMORPG has been an intimidating precipice that I have steered clear of since the start.

My big gripe with them, and always a delicious trump card when arguing my point for not playing them, is the monthly fees associated with the game. I always figured if I paid for the system (PC), and paid for the game disc, I should be able to play as much as I fucking want to. Adding a monthly internet service fee on top of the regular internet service I'm already paying for is insulting. That's just too much money to play one game when there are so many others out there, not to mention other humans to interact with, beers to drink, kitties to pet, and so on. I look at it with the diamond cut logic of the "nine to fiver" condescendingly watching the crack addict dig through the gutters for apple cores from the comfort of my SUV. From this lofty vantage point, the choice to try crack-cocaine and see what all the fuss is about is clearly unwise. But once you're in the shit, sudddenly the gutter isn't that big of a deal when there's delectable crack spoils to be had. Make sense?

The other prime motivational means of avoidance has been the fact that I am well aware of my own weakness and susceptability to the gravitational force of the RPG. I know with grim certainty that if I were to indulge in the MMORPG, my fall from grace would be swift, violent, and decisive, leaving me a 300 pound, unwashed, patchy-bearded poster child for unhealth. I loved the Warcraft games, and I consider it a monumental personal feat of will power that I never so much as asked a friend to try a game of WoW on their account. I knew the consequences would be dire, and rather than flirt with the succubus I shut my eyes and ran the other way.

And then I heard about Age of Conan. The visceral and immensely detailed MMORPG based on the world Robert E. Howard crafted over decades of masterful authorship, seemingly just for guys like me who could use a little more blood and beheading with our Tolkien, and a little less poetry and song with our marauding warriors. I avoided the previews and screen shots in the following months like a recently recovered alcoholic avoids bars and nightlife. I ignored the guild planning and class plotting "water cooler talk" taking place during breaks at work, hoping I could possibly enjoy the fruits vicariously as a fly on the wall from the back row.
And then the fateful day arrived... I arrive to work and as I pass my co-workers' office I happen to look in and see a big red box with a shimmering golden lion head on the front, AGE OF CONAN: Hyborian Adventures proudly declaring the contents nestled within the special edition limited release. I had to peek. They were abuzz. The install was already under way. I drooled over the packaging, the map of Hyboria included, the art work. We talked, I chided, they rallied, trying to get me on board their slave vessel. I balked, left, and fought back the tears. Pondered, doubted, wrestled with years of logic I had defended like a goddamn citadel, and then made the last mistake before my epic tumble into the forrays of MMORPG... I returned to their office and watched character creation.

Now for normal RPG nerds the character creation in AOC is already top notch. The level of customization available to the player is a fucking bouquet of scars, wrinkles, skin tones, markings, hair cuts, and facial features. I was already 60% sold, but when I saw the available geographical selection where one could opt between Cimmerian, Aquilonian, or Stygian, and that selection would then offer an entirely new original pallet of selections with which to customize your character's look (based on the region they're from!) I swooned. The developers had done their research, and they knew that if I had an unnatural obsession with how inhumanly bad ass the sect of Set followers were, and that if I so desired I could create my own follower of Set with the unique features and cultural genetic traits of generations of Stygian blood, I could do so. With relish. It was a glimpse into an interactive experience within one of my all time favorite fantasy worlds. The damage was done, and I caved like a diabetic in Baskin Robins. Twenty minutes later I had procurred the disc, signed up with Funcom, and committed to 3 months service... just to try it out.
I think my one saving grace that will keep me free of the perils that come with embracing the pure amount of raw time I could possibly sacrifice in the name of Hyborian domination is the fact that I can only play this game at work. My home computer is a Mac lap top and I'd like to think that if I tried to install the 40 GB game on the poor little guy, the screen would manifest into a giant boxing glove that would continuously punch me in the face until I cancelled the install. Buying a PC at home for this game is completely out of the question. Not only do I not want a big old PC in my tiny apartment, even if I got to that level of desperation I already know how quickly that conversation would be snuffed by Maria. The task before me now is balancing my work time with Conan, and making sure that "playing a little during lunch" doesn't snowball into a legitimate issue that will involve HR.

So there it is. It was nice knowing you all, and now you know why
I no longer exist. If you need me for anything urgent, please contact the Stygian Tempest of Set traipsing across the Hyborian plains in search of Cimmerian allies and nubile blood with which to wet his cudgel... at least for the next 3 months...