WoW Classics Songs To Be Massively Online To

jakec / 02112019

Tauren running in Mulgore

Memory is learning or nostalgia. Which one you consider a curse and which one you consider a blessing likely changes with your mood, but conventional wisdom is they’re antithetical. Blizzard figured as much too, for a while, while their flagship game transformed over the past 15 years into something barely recognisable. They are proud of this game. The players are less certain. Private, illegal servers hosting the game in a state closer to its original “vanilla” state proliferated, with names as on the nose as “Nostalrius”. Blizzard were moving forward uncertainly (learning) while the messageboards, Jack Shephard-like in their snotty desperation, begged them to offer a way to go back (nostalgia).

This year, they did. World of Warcraft Classic is the game in its close-to-original form. It is everything fans of the original wanted. I was one of those fans. I wanted to go back. The psychology of why is for another time. But as an exercise in recreating the experience as closely as I remembered, I playlisted the songs I listened to back around 2005, when I visited the continents in the first place.

These are a few of those songs. Sometimes you have to go back to move forward.

No Use For A Name - 'For Fiona'

A warlock a few levels below me puts a question in guild chat. “Can any1 make a lesser magic wand? Im still using a dagger lol.” The Lesser Magic Wand is a crucial item for low level spellcasters. Lets them stay away from the fight. Lob hellfire at range. I can’t make one, but I reply anyway. “how much is it on the auction house? i’ll send u some coin.” They check. “25s! way too much, dw man.” 25 silver is almost half the coin I’ve saved in the past few days of levelling. I hit him back. “Sorry m8. I’ll let ya know if i loot one tho.”

“np man, cheers”

A few minutes later I pick up another item that I sell to an NPC for a couple silver.

-

I remember a different game I used to play, Guild Wars, and the people I used to play it with. It was like this one, but crucially, for a 13 year old, free to play. The first two people I spoke to there, besides IRL friends, were Henry and Shannon. Henry lived in North Carolina and Shannon lived in Minnesota and they were older. They were adults. They had jobs. They still played massively multiplayer online roleplaying games. We went through a few of the early missions together. They asked me to get on Skype. I told them my mic was broken so I just listened to them and communicated through the chat. They were friendly. They were generous. Eventually I joined their guild and ended up getting to know their other friends: Rob from Virginia, Josh and Barbie also from North Carolina, and we quested together for years throughout high school. But back when Henry and Shannon and I were moving through those low levels, I didn’t have enough coin to buy my next spell. They both sent me the money. I was shocked and grateful.

Over Skype, Henry laughed. “It’s only video game money.”

-

I went to the closest mailbox and typed in the warlock’s name. I put 25 silver and a bag I’d crafted in a letter. A few hours later, the warlock logged on, checked his mail, and came into the guild chat again. “man, thank u so much. Let me know if u ever need any help!”

“No worries bud,” I wrote. “It’s only video game money.”

Less Than Jake - 'History of a Boring Town'

You can’t understand why the name of your hometown provokes sympathy or confusion until you’ve got some distance. When you’re there, it’s just the whole world. How it is is how the world is. So when people used to tell me that it’s pretty rough I always thought, “compared to what?” The television said there were planes sticking out of buildings and torture prisons staffed by war heroes. Terrible mass chaos far away. Whatever disagreements happened between people in this beachside suburb, whether broken bones, bruised faces, pulled knives or people being set on fire, it never felt exceptional, and I still think this must be a pretty common high school experience.

In the mid aughts, there was nothing to do. Ice hadn’t flooded the southern suburbs like it would a few years later, so what else is there? The only things available to anyone without drugs or a music scene: play video games and/or get a job.

Kev looked like Stephen Merchant if all he slept on was a greasy pillowcase, all tall and thin and weird and acned. George was already almost bald and had a beard like a blacksmith. The older kids looked out for the newbies, showed us which lifers to be wary of and which would let us rip open a Twix without making a thing of it. Down at the loading dock, they smoked cigarettes, and George played Frenzal Rhomb out of his Sony Ericsson, and they talked about all the punk bands they were going into the city to see. One night, Kev gave me a handwritten list of band names. “Go home and get these off KaZaA. Have you got KaZaA?” Of course I’ve got KaZaA. “Good. Look them up.”

For years, kids would ask if I liked Less Than Jake ‘cos they got my name in their name. Dumb, but then, high schoolers. “Nah,” I said. “My friend Kev told me about them.”

Some friends from school, including a new acquaintance called Dylan, had been playing World of Warcraft. I'd made a deal with myself: get a job and you can play. The next week, with enough hours cashed out, I made good on the deal and bought a copy.

Dropkick Murphys - 'Barroom Hero'

Durotar… shit. All brown and orange. Looked more like crayola vomit than the desert it was meant to be. Too late on a school night, I pushed a Troll Priest through the first couple levels. Taking it in. Enjoying the isolation. And then the game rattled with a snare roll. A dialog box on screen: “Apog has challenged you to a duel.” Apog was an Orc Shaman. Level 4. Just a couple of noobs looking for a scrap, I thought. How bad could it be, I thought.

This was a brand new server, but some people were moving from an old one. They were abandoning all the levels and the loot of their old characters and taking only their experience and understanding of the game with them. There is a method to this: Every time a new server opens, it goes through the same lifecycle. At predetermined times, new raids and dungeons open, and there’s glory in being the first guild to complete them. With all the titles already earned on the pre-existing servers, this new one presented fresh opportunities to etch one’s name in history. Apog, I’d find out, was one of these people. And boy, was he.

A few seconds after accepting the duel, it was over, terribly.

NOFX - 'Perfect Government'

Dylan’s house was a single storey and almost entirely carpeted place typical to a certain middle-class family of the area on a half acre at the end of a long dirt road. A couple years older than me, he had his learner’s before I’d ever been anywhere I’d want to drive to anyway, which meant in the quasi-farmlands of our hometown with their empty backroads, he essentially had a full license. Fish-tailing down the drag towards his house, spraying stones at the cows grazing in the paddocks and seeing how much he could freak out his adopted life apprentices, he seemed basically as cool as possible. Like if nothing mattered, nothing could touch him. Or the other way around.

We walked into his house and he immediately started howling. “HOW-HOW-HOWWWWW / HOW DID THE CAAAAAT GET SOOOO FAAAAAT!” The ludicrous rhyme bounced off the walls like teenaged sonar, bouncing back to say: no parents. I never met them. I still don’t know where they were, who they were, or what they did. A couple of us took our brick-heavy matte black Toshiba laptops into the computer room and set up. Dylan put on the song he’d been singing: the final, “secret” track from NOFX’s Punk In Drublic, where Fat Mike riffs on random lyrics from their catalogue, doing impressions of people and characters we didn’t understand.

We were all at different levels, but we all played in the same room. We’d been grandfathered into the guild Dylan and his other friends had started on another server and recently recreated on ours. All of them, as well as the rest of the online friends they’d picked up along the way, had transferred here. A storied community we’d barnacled onto. As the guild chat flowed and we go to know our new companions, Dylan told us grand stories. The raids they’d done, the legendary status he’d acquired, the epic loot he’d farmed. Naturally he couldn’t show us, because it was on the other server, and he couldn’t switch characters now because everyone’s grinding to max level and he’d fall behind, but he’ll show you later. He told us all the backstories of everyone in the old guild. We got to know the new members ourselves. I talked to these strangers every day, for hours at a time, for months. When I wasn’t, I was hanging out with Dylan and the others talking about the game. The new friends were nice. But growing deeper into the ones already there was precious.

Flogging Molly - 'Drunken Lullabies'

A few levels later, I was still taking the game at my own pace. Fishing and making armour, fucking around in the PvP battlegrounds, never really knowing what I was doing but enjoying it. Mostly riffing in guild chat. A familiar name popped up in the chat. “Apog has joined the guild.” If he remembered me, he didn’t show it, but we didn’t like each other immediately. My jokes grated on him and his unrelenting efficiency grated on me. He was here to make history. I was here to play a game. He berated me for PvPing instead of grinding out levels. I told him to shut the fuck up. That kind of thing.

Pretty quickly I fell into a faction of the guild with a few other players who only wanted a good time The funniest was a warlock called Foul. He sounded like he was my age and was treated likewise unseriously. A whole guild rule was created just for him: every time you say “lol”, “lmao”, “rofl” or anything like it in voice chat, you donate to the guild. A swear jar for online etiquette. Chat speak was for chat. Voice chat was meant to be proper. Foul and I never amounted to much in the game besides equally annoying the more self-serious players, but months later, after the guild had basically disbanded and familiar faces had left the game, I saw Apog in one of the main cities. He was max level, his armour was huge, and his weapons were glowing with enchantments. He’d left our old guild, and in its place below his name was the name of the server’s most renowned raiding guild. He got his slice of history after all.

Streetlight Manifesto - 'A Better Place, A Better Time'

A few years later I’d stopped playing WoW, got a girlfriend, and started going to places I did want to drive to. The unfortunate circumstance being most of them were places to drink, which seemed a paradox impossible to reconcile, except to those for whom drinking and driving complemented each other just fine. I’d also moved schools. The grinding and questing and LAN parties at Dylan’s house seemed like another world entirely. One night, out with friends who had also stopped playing WoW, some of whom also had girlfriends, some of whom drove, I ran into Dylan.

He seemed drunk as hell. Well, most of us were, most of the time, at that point, anyway. At 18 or 19, or late 17, even, depending on when you started school, pursuing the limits of how late we could stay up for one more dungeon run were replaced by pursuing the limits of our bodies. Naturally, this led to mistakes. But we were still young. Nothing mattered, nothing could touch us. I laughed in Dylan’s face and asked him how many drinks he’d had. Zero, he said. I laughed again. In the intervening years I’d reflected enough to realise that Dylan was probably, if not a pathological liar, the kind of embellisher that lends itself so well to being one kind of teenager with younger friends. He stuttered, slurring his words. “Nah, I got into an accident,” he said. I was still smiling. The story was getting good. His eyes were laser focused but he was struggling to shape the words. An improvised adventure was coming.

Instead, he just pointed to a mark on his throat. “Yeah, it was pretty bad,” was all he said. I slapped him on the shoulder and went to join my friends, disappointed that he was too out of it even to make up something interesting.

The next day I messaged an old friend who used to play with us. I couldn’t ask Dylan himself. He’d just laugh at me back for falling for such an idiotic story. “Hey, weird question,” I said to the friend. “Was Dylan in an accident?”

He told me about the hospital visits. The twisted metal near the paddock fence. The old reckless freak-out driving got a little too reckless, just once. There was talk of misery and miracles. Some things defy explanation when they most need one. Sometimes you never get it in the end.

Everyone becomes an adult many times. Every adult has wanted to go back to before learning what that meant. I haven’t seen Dylan since then. Since we realised that the universe could touch us. And that it mattered.