“It’s called Warcraft,” my friend tells me. It’s by the same guys that made Starcraft and that creepy horror game you liked.”
I’m intrigued, but still wary – I haven’t forgotten how long he hogged the computer last time.
“Okay, but do you promise I can play first?”
My father asks me what I want for my birthday.
I pause to look up from the book I’m reading, and ask if he could order something called the “Warcraft III Battle Chest” off Amazon. It’s just a passing thought, but I’ve heard from friends that it’s a good game.
When I finally get the chance to play, I’m hooked. I have vague memories of Warcraft II being fun, but this game just blows it out of the water. All my conceptions about “Orcs are Bad, and Humans are Good” get turned on their head.
I love being able to interact with characters such as Jaina Proudmoore. I’m fascinated by this mysterious new race of elves, and this entirely new setting in the world of Azeroth.
My 13 year old self is left clutching the chair in excitement when the final Frozen Throne cinematic concludes. My comprehension of “Warcraft” has been utterly redefined, for the better.
It’s July of 2005, on a hot summer night in Lahore. My cousins and I have just gotten back from a long day of swimming at the gymkhana.
I am immensely excited when one of them offers to show me the game he’s brought with him on his laptop. Of course I’ve heard about it! Owing to the lack of a good computer in the preceding years, I’ve largely dismissed thoughts about being able to play WoW. Still, I’ve made sure to stay up to date on all the tidbits of lore/story about the game as it unfolds.
When he offers me the chance to explore it on my own, I don’t hesitate. Race? Night Elf, of course – they were my favourite race introduced in Warcraft III, and Illidan was one of them! Class? My cousin tells me Priests are very powerful.
Once I’ve finished customising my character’s appearance, I hit Enter. The screen pans to a beautiful forest, as a voice recounts my place and role as a Night Elf in modern society. The clock reads 8:20 pm as I accept my first ever quest in the world.
I blink and turn away from the computer screen momentarily to look at someone telling me that I need to go to bed.
Wait, wasn’t it dark outside when I began playing?
The clock now reads 4:37 am.
When Wrath of the Lich King is announced, I cannot believe my ears. I have never forgotten the final cinematic from The Frozen Throne, and now I get to play a class modelled after Arthas? Count me in!
By this time I’ve managed to procure a laptop that can actually run the game. While visiting a relative in D.C., I stop by a game store in Bethesda and pick up the World of Warcraft Battle Chest.
It is late into Patch 2.4 when Abravayah the Draenei Paladin begins her journey on Dawnbringer server. I fail miserably at some of the later quests on Bloodmyst Isle, but what does that matter when I’m having so much fun? And how very generous it was of that one Level 70 Paladin to help me take down the fearsome Sironas, leader of the renegade Blood Elves!
Once my Paladin reaches Level 55 however, I unceremoniously abandon her in Silithus. It is time.
I’m in 10 man Naxxramas. I’ve barely been Level 80 for a week. My group has just wiped to the “Frogger” slime bridge for the sixth time, my talents/build are probably atrociously wrong and my DPS is terrible.
I could not care less.
We’re all too busy laughing. Not tittering or giggling, mind you: Full on belly laughs that have us clutching our sides, with tears streaming down our eyes. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get any loot, that we don’t kill Gluth that night or that the entire tier goes by without us making much progress – we’re having the time of our lives!
Bladelady, Astarot and the other fine folks of “Fractured”: You are not forgotten.
Time passes. Tiers go by. My incessant curiosity gets the better of me, and before I know it I’m visiting that site everyone uses as a mantra… something-Jerks, I think it was called?
In the interim, I go from being a nobody to joining the top Alliance guild on the server as well as garnering a reputation for being the “best DPS DK” on my little backwater of a server. I discover that the desire to raid and to kill hard bosses only grows in me. It’s a cultivated skill, but one that’s accompanied by an increasing hunger.
I want more. There’s a bigger world out there, and simply ending Icecrown Citadel 25 Heroic with 11/12 bosses down doesn’t satisfy me. I’m forced back down to reality somewhat by the acknowledgement that I’ll never be able to commit to a four or even five day schedule like some guilds do – but perhaps I can still manage three days and be among the best on my server.
With a heavy heart I say goodbye to Dawnbringer, the server that I experienced the largest number of “firsts” on, and indeed the last server that I recall truly being a community unto itself. This is an age before Battle Tag, when players of the opposite faction are mysterious strangers and where you can only hope to talk to a friend if they happen to be logged into a character you recognise.
Still, I take the time to send in-game mail each and every individual I can think of that meant something to me. “I’ll never forget the fun times we spent together”, I say.
Seven years later, it’s still true – I haven’t.
I’m quite worried: The Death Knight theorycrafter whose blog I’ve been visiting quite regularly has announced that Cataclysm‘s endgame does not interest them! Their Unholy and Frost threads have already been locked, and it seems that pwnwear.com (a site once populated by Tanking Death Knights) has fallen to the wayside.
What shall our community do? Wherever will I go to rant now?
On a whim, I make a Twitter account as my Warcraft self. Before long, I’m embroiled in a lengthy series of tweets with a European DK named Fengore and a US DK named Heartless, the latter of whom has taken on the job of taking over the Elitist Jerks Unholy thread.
We rant and rave to one another, but bemoan the character limits of Twitter. Surely there has to be an easier way to do this?
May 11th, 2011: #Acherus is born.
A community forms.
May 11th: 2016: #Acherus celebrates its 5th birthday.
It changes the very landscape of how class communities in the World of Warcraft endgame populace function. No matter how distinct their conduct or their functionality, every other class or role community operating within an IRC or Discord framework owes their existence to #Acherus – to the model we pioneered.
I could not be more proud.
I get a PM from a name that I’m vaguely familiar with- something to do with Druids, Beta threads and the new Purgatory talent being in a different row than it actually is.
“Hi Magdalena, I really appreciate your feedback on the Unholy thread. I’m a developer working on World of Warcraft, would you mind giving me some feedback on some changes we’d like to introduce to the class next patch?”
I roll my eyes. Obviously this is somebody’s idea of a joke. My cursor hovers over the /kick button, but a small, nagging doubt remains in the back of my mind.
Pushing aside better judgement, I type “Would you mind emailing me at [address] to verify that you are who you say you are?”
Five minutes later, I’m looking at an email with a blizzard.com address.
As I mentioned, we’re interested in feedback on some prospective Unholy changes for the next patch.
In retrospect, I suppose it’s mostly a good thing I didn’t click.
It’s another warm summer night, around eight years after that first time. My guild is progressing on Ra-den, the final boss of the Throne of Thunder raid. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re confident that we can achieve a server first kill with a respectable U.S. ranking.
Patch 5.4 has been on the PTR for some time now, and there’s a new build being datamined tonight. We’ve just hit break time at 11 pm EST, and I’m only half listening to the chatter in Mumble.
Suddenly, I hear “Oh my God! Is this helm named after Mags?!”
I refuse to believe it until someone links me the actual item. As I typed out in the comments section then, I’ll repeat now: “Floored and honoured!”
“Hi there, I was wondering if you could tell me how this talent works?”
“Could you recommend what piece of gear I should use?”
And a whole lot more.
Friends come, friends go. I build memories.
I enjoy the minutiae of actual gameplay as much as I enjoy working in the service of a community that I helped build from the ground up. I discover other roles besides DPS. I discover other classes.
I conquer the most challenging bosses within the tier they’re introduced – admittedly that’s not saying much in the context of 5.4 or 6.2, but still deeply satisfying as a whole. Through all of Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, I get used to seeing the words “Realm First!” pop up on my screen, and it feels good. I develop a deep love for extreme soloing and taking on challenges that few players ever thought possible.
World of Warcraft is an omnipresent force that accompanies both some of the best and some of the worst times within the past decade of my life. It accompanies me as I move continents, timezones, trade academic settings for real world jobs and as I begin to settle into routines that I realise will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.
I am cynical. Disillusioned. Upset.
My words seem hollow, my ability to affect the change I want insignificant. I know, I know – nothing good lasts forever. That doesn’t make the rapid succession of blows any easier.
I decide to write a long letter to someone that I know is under no obligation to respond or to even acknowledge what I have to say. Nonetheless, my respect for this person demands that I say what I do.
“I guess the gist of what I wanted to say to you is: Thank you. Thank you for helping to create and maintain a game in which I was able to lose myself for so many hours, and forget about some of life’s own traumas… No matter what my opinion of WoW’s current direction, I will never deny the good times and the people that this game has introduced me to. I credit you with a good deal of the fact that this enjoyment has been able to last this long.”
I send it off without much thought to whether it will get a response – but it does. Promptly. More than that, the response is beyond anything I could ever have dared to dream of. It ends with a line I have to read several times to truly comprehend.
“In any case, please do keep in touch. I have come to respect you enormously.”
It is rare for me to encounter something that renders me speechless, but this does it. Is it really possible to be able to end things on a higher note?
I think I’ll log into World of Warcraft one more time.