15 Mar 2010

Nostalgia Is A Double Edged Sword

Two of my characters have been trekking though Thousand needles recently. Jupplar has been going back to the Old World to grind some gathering skills, while my Blood Elf mage has been finishing the quests at Freewind Post and the Mirage Raceway. All the while this nagging reminder kept on creeping up in the back of my mind. All this is going to change.

Don’t get me wrong though – change is not always a bad thing. The planned Gnomeregan Offensive is something I’m looking forward to enormously, partly because it closes a storyline that’s been left hanging since I first rolled my Gnome mage five years ago.

At level five you get a class quest to introduce you to your trainer. All the Gnomish ones have a similar feel to them – they talk about either preparing for an impending offensive to take back Gnomeregan or helping to resettle the evacuated population. The mage one – Glyphic Memorandum – starts with a letter.

To: New Students of the Arcane Arts:
You are required to seek out and study under the gnome Marryk Nurribit until such time comes that you are called upon to aid your people in re-establishing themselves in a new habitation. Please, without trepidation, prepare yourself for rigorous testing procedures and a difficult acclimation process as you find a domicile and/or any form of companionship with the local denizens.

Questions regarding your duties and abilities should be directed to Marrek Nurribit.

From a roleplay point of view, every Gnome’s life has been building up to the Offensive. It’ll be the most exciting thing to happen to the race, with the possible exception of Gnome priests becoming playable in Cataclysm. While I’m expecting the landscape and questing around Gnomeregan to change and become some kind of starter area, I’m not worried about it. For me it feels like the end of a chapter rather than the end of a story.

Nostalgia can cut both ways though. A fond memory of mine is when the guild I was in took a break from running dungeons to pay a visit to the Mirage Raceway. I remember watching the races and cheering on the Gnomish rocket-car, eating ice-cream and buying a chicken. Being there again on new characters reminded me of the good times we had, but then up crept the reminder that the entire zone will change.

Outside of Warcraft, I sometimes visit places that I haven’t been to for a time. They remind me of events that happened in my past, both the good and the bad. Places like where I grew up, where I used to meet up with friends as a kid. Places like where I heard the news my grandfather died, or where I struggled through difficult times in my life. Sometimes when I return to a place the entire landscape has changed; the buildings have been bulldozed or the green fields have turned to office blocks. It’s weird and possibly a touch melodramatic, but it feels like the memory I have no longer has an anchor – that the reality of it has started to fade.

The crazy thing is that I feel the same thing about some locations in-game as well. I know that Cataclysm is coming and that with it large changes will be made to the game world. I also know that logically it’s a great thing – quest hubs that have been problematic for years will get remade, huge unused locations will be brought to life and we’ll finally be able to use flying mounts everywhere. But at the same time I won’t be able to go back to the races, sit on the benches and cheer on the rocket cars.

Now I know I should get over myself – after all, it’s just a game. None of it is real – it’s all just bits and bytes, people and pixels. Then again, just because the environment is virtual doesn’t make the emotion any less real. The pride in getting a strong arena ranking, the cheer of taking down a new raid boss – they’re still real emotions that shouldn’t feel any less valid because they’re in a virtual setting. The fun we have with others, either as silliness in guildchat or testing new skills in dungeons, is just as authentic.

I’m still looking forward to Cataclysm and the changes it’ll bring. Being part of an evolving and changing world is more than I was hoping for when I started playing, even though I surprise myself when I realise I’ve been playing this for five years. The bittersweet taste is something that will fade in time, as new experiences flood in and push the old ones into the dusty corners at the back of my mind. For now, I’m making sure that my screenshots folder is backed up.

See you at the races.

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