40-man raids were a bitch. You try herding a highly-skilled, unpaid work force of forty human beings onto their computers for fifty hours a week. Do it for two months straight – on the same adrenaline-incinerating, brain-draining, repetitive failures – all trying to kill the same fleshy eye-beast nobody actually cares that much about.
It was absolute, cankerous, black-hearted evil. Which ranked it among those rare pleasures that lift off from the realm of guilty, transforming themselves into something more. Rabid pleasure? Unhinged and questionably sane pleasure?
At that point, it didn’t really matter.
I would soon join a hardcore raid guild: the throbbing shaft in the World of Warcraft. Full to bursting with those lenient miscreants who grind like nobody’s watching. The vast majority of these were unemployed men. There were two women, I was told, though they seemed invariably to suffer from the harassment-mitigating “microphone problems.”
There was Ezbake, our belligerent guild leader. He directed us like the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket. There was the near-silent Piroshky, the Russian National living in New York City on an expired student visa. He was the main tank, meaning that of the forty people in a raid, the menageries of monsters we fought would focus their swords, claws, oozes and bad breath on Piroshky. Gehenna, rated as one of the best damage-dealing rogues in North America, was a black man living with his mother in Louisiana. One of our best-outfitted healers, Nilhouse, had just defected to us from an older guild, Grisly Retribution. I quickly learned, in the Dragoons, this was the constant worry: that doling out too much loot to any one player would get them picked up by Grisly Retribution, or even The Cold, hardcore raid guilds presumably depraved as us.
Little did I suspect that this patchwork of improbable demographics would lead me down such a delightfully dark path. That alongside their sloppy racism, sexism, petty selfishness, and blunt force ignorance, we would share one pristine moment. The kind that stands out, in a life.
Right, well, first there was the Act of God. I’d been so good in Hawaiʻi. My roommates gamed, they’d all picked up World of Warcraft the day it came out. I’d gone without a computer for months, using campus computer labs where necessary, enjoying mischievous shenanigans with my fellow studentry, in the sunshine. Then it came; Wakiki suffered its worst flooding in 80 years. That trickling little stream outside our dorm had turned into class-5 rapids, an unfordable, biologically hazardous, brown-and-white hell torrent that came within five feet of our dorm. The geriatric electrical system was the first to go, sending portions, and finally the whole of our campus into nightmarish darkness. Ancient archival maps, heirlooms of the Hawaiʻian islands, were being spread out and across the campus mall, floating in a hearty stew of desks, chairs, and an unknowable number of books.
Even after a long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, every campus computer lab I knew of still closed indefinitely, many of the computers washed out for good – I suddenly seemed the most backwards asshole on this island. “Not even a goddamned cellphone? Who does he think he is?”
I needed a computer. Nothing but a custom-built speed beast with blinking blue LED lights and World of Warcraft would do.