Sunday, February 11, 2007

As if WoW Wasn't Socially Wierd Enough

It's the nearest weekend to Valentine's Day. And Blizzard knows it. Apparently, during my hiatus from WoW, they came up with all kinds of automatic in-game events triggered by real-world holidays. They did Christmas even back when I originally played, and I had heard they added in a haloween festival of some sort after I left, but clearly, things have now gone crazy.

In-game Valentine's Day ORGIES.

Well, ok, not exactly. And certainly not explicit. But here's what I spent most of the day doing - Seducing various women (and occasionally men) of the police forces and chambers of commerce of the (virtual) world.

I hadn't ever quite thought I would say that.

It all started innocently enough. As I was checking my paladin's mail and taking care of his auctions, I noticed a new dwarf NPC out in front of the bank in Ironforge with an exclamation point over his head. Being the quest-hungry dork I am, I of course went to go see what epic tale of adventure would occupy the rest of my day today.

It began, as many quests do, innocently enough. The dwarf went to Stormwind recently and met a human girl, and he couldn't get his mind off her ever since, so he wanted me (a complete stranger) to deliver a little love note to her, since as he put it, "the mail is too full." Shrug.

Many might have seen this task as too trivial for a holy warrior of the light who had about 90 other things he needed to do, but being the shrewd guy I am, I knew that, in the parlance of our times, one thing would inevitably lead to another, and another. Such is the way that Blizzard often gets big balls rolling down steep hills: Deceptively slowly at first.

But I had no idea how right I was.

Upon arrival in Stormwind, I immediately noticed something was different. I had already taken note of many red candles and pink, heart-shaped paper cutouts adorning various shops and such in Ironforge, and thought "oh, Valentine decorations. Ok." But there was just.. a lot of activity in Stormwind that usually wasn't there. People were racing around, seemingly in circles, to seemingly random NPCs. The NPC would suddenly start giggling like a schoolboy/girl, and a big heart would appear over the player who apparently must have said something very naughty indeed, and then the player would run off to another random NPC.

By the time I arrived in the trade district, the random drive-by antics had thickened into a churning knot of humanity. Well, with all the other races mixed in, too, but you get the point. Never had I seen Stormwind so crowded and bustling. Usually, when the city is crowded, at least half the people are just standing around, waiting, looking, or chatting... but no. This time, dozens upon dozens of people scrambling like mad in every direction, like a freshly kicked anthill. It was enough to make you crosseyed.

I finally made it to the object of our lovelorn dwarf's desire, a cute Human girl (though it's hard to really get much meaning out of adjectives when all female humans share the exact same dimensions, proportions, and mass) out in the trade district plaza. I casually flipped the soot-stained valentine from the bearded forgemonkey at her, and noticed another new human nearby with another big yellow "!" over his head.

The guy turned out to be a real piece of work. He had noticed that, for some reason, people were acting funny ("Gee, you don't say," I thought, as another 50 people bustled and jostled around me). He was worried that whatever was going on would affect the city guards as well, leaving Stormwind vulnerable to attack, or crime, or whatever. So off I went to check it out, at his bequest.

I found a nearby guard, looking for all the world as normal as usual in her white and blue Stormwind armor and tabard, but when I spoke to her she made a comment on my smell. Beg pardon? I've mushed people under my big bad hammer for less than that! But the comment was that she might be a lot more "interested" in me if I might dab on some cologne.

And wouldn't you know it, enterprising individuals that they are, the innkeepers had suddenly started stocking cologne (and perfume for the ladies, and little valentine gift cards).

So I stocked up, spritzed myself with some toilet water, and immediately was jacked in to the Matrix of Love.

I could see it. There was something in this stinkjuice I just squirted on myself that allowed me to detect the ardor of those around me. The seemingly "random" visitations of the sloshing masses wasn't random at all, it was a mad scramble to see who could first get to each conquest as he or she came into heat. And let me tell you, buddy, all of Stormwind was one big Red Light District, and business was booming. I went back to the guard I spoke to earlier, to suddenly have her gush all over me and shower me with adoration and a smartly packed valentine box containing all kinds of junior-high tokens of affection. There were handfuls of rose petals to throw, cupid arrows, friendship bracelets, and to top it all off a big cardboard valentine card like the one Lisa Simpson gave Ralph Wiggum: "I choo choo choose you" (or so I imagined it said).

Armed with this evidence, I returned to Silas B. Worrywart to confirm his worst fears: the guards were now not so much as patrolling the streets as they were "cruising for love."

The next few hours are difficult to sort out, but it involved cologne, valentines, and a whole string of anonymous Stormwind denizens. All I have to say is, the cobblestone streets of Stormwind must have excellent drainage, given my activities and the fact that a couple hundred other folk were up to exactly the same shenanigans. But at the end, I had great big boxes and bags full of cards, letters, and homemade baked goods, which for some reason I was inexplicably compelled to pack together in one gigantic yet easy to handle package. A catalogued and compiled locker of evidence of my "conquest" of Stormwind, or at least the fairer half of it.

And yet there was more. The same unknown source of knowledge that bade me pack my trophies into organized stacks and then into a single container labeled "Stormwind" also hinted that similar situations were afoot in the other capitals of the Alliance.

With this startling epiphany, it was back to Ironforge as fast as a clanky tram could carry me.

I found that, while slightly less crowded, Ironforge was in a similar state of amorous activity. Compelled by the desire to not leave a job unfinished, I set about putting together an "Ironforge" box to keep with my "Stormwind" box. But I ran into an interesting, and rather awkward, obstacle.

Have you ever, once in your life, seen a female guard in Ironforge?

After a quick lap of "making the rounds" in the concentric subterranean city, It occurred to me that my visitations were all to civilians, and that my box would not be filled until I had an equal number of prizes claimed from the constabulary.

But there are no female guards, I argued with myself.

And I paused on that reflection.

There are no female guards in Ironforge...

So... what do they do to pass the long, cold, snowy northern nights when all the players have shuffled off to bed? Could it be possible that the most rugged and manliest of races perhaps had a military reminiscent to that of ancient Greece?? Perish the thought! But... what if it were true? Maybe that busybody in Stormwind really was on to something. Who knows what kind of tawdry wormcans I would open in the course of my investigation.

Steeled by the clarion call of duty, I resolved that I must grudgingly see for myself.

One bottle of perfume, a big stack of valentines and a lifetime of shame later, I found I couldn't fit anything else into my Ironforge package, nor could I ever look another Ironforge guardsman in the face again.

So what do you do, when you've just spent an evening emasculating yourself by flirting with bearded dwarves? You go away. Far away. And if possible, do something immediately to reassure yourself of your own masculinity.

So, I found myself arriving in the night elf capital of Darnassus, with a quiet little hope that the situation would be similar, and a great deal of mental images of stern-looking nuns from paladin school scolding me for my behavior and impure thoughts.

Not only had the valentine affliction spread easily to the already-sexual-imagery-soaked shores of Teldrassil, but an acute shortage of adventurer traffic had created a sizeable army of lovelorn, desperate elf girls.

The remainder of this section is self-censored for fear of losing my paladin license. But if there is a sudden rash of short elf children with copious facial hair in the near future, you don't know a damned thing, you got that?

So by the end of the trip, I staggered back into my home neighborhood in Ironforge, drained, disheveled and even a little tender. But for my, er, efforts... I had amassed a giant box of cards, letters, and handmade tokens of affection from every corner of alliance territory.

Which has been seized and is labeled exhibits A through Q in my excommunication trial.

Anybody got a minute to be a character witness?

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