Sunday, January 18, 2009

Game Night

Game night has is a serious event in our home.  Though the location of our residence has changed the game that we play from Dungeons and Dragons to World of Warcraft the enjoyment of the activities is no less.  My boyfriend and I invited many of our friends to come to our home in Pennsylvania for some tabletop fun – Dungeons and Dragons.  We recently relocated to North Carolina.  Now our game night centers on playing an MMORPG – World of Warcraft.  In this paper, I will cover the various differences between these activities as they relate to Dale and me.

                Every Dungeons and Dragons party began earlier in the day with me making or buying food for our guests.  Many times we had pizza, Buffalo wings, chips, coffee, soda, deserts and various snacks.  It was exciting to shop for our group of friends and get everything ready.  The house had to be cleaned; the tables needed to be set up and the necessary supplies had to be brought out (rule books, pencils, calculators and dice).  Long before the event, the adventure had to be prepared by the Dungeon Master – often Dale or myself (but on occasion another friend would run a campaign).  The quests were planned, the monsters were researched and the villains were given a reason to be bent on destruction.

                Playing World of Warcraft takes less time outside of game-time to be prepared.  While it is true that your computer keeps track of your online character’s stats and information, it is helpful to plan out quests, equipment, reputations and enhancements for your character using various websites and tools available on the internet.  Planning your character is exciting and gives you a way to think about the game when you’re away from home.  There is still a lot of food involved, but not on the same scale.  Since we only buy enough for the two of us on game night now, the food tends to be less varied and easier to make.  Having plenty of coffee and soda is still necessary.

Participating in a tabletop RPG is a very social activity.  Dale and I often had four to ten of our good friends gathered in our large, rectangular living room for gaming sessions that lasted from eight to 16 hours long.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday as well.  Many times our friends ended up staying the night so that we could play again on Sunday.  It was crazy, loud and fun.

Playing an MMORPG can be social but in a different way.  Using in game chat and voice software, Dale and I now socialize with WOW players in our guilds.    Guilds are online groups of characters who help each other quest, chitchat, do dungeons together and generally have a good time as a group.  Sometimes World of Warcraft weekends almost reach the same time length as our old Dungeons and Dragons sessions.  When our voice chat is filled with a dozen folks we’ve been playing with for months, WOW can be loud, crazy fun.

You can’t completely plan D&D, players are too creative.  The unexpected events (both good and bad) are the most memorable.  In October of 2006, I had gone all out and planned a Halloween gaming session for our Dungeons and Dragons group.  It was going to be the most planned out night for our gaming group.  The mood was set to spooky.  The apartment was decorated, extra food was made up and the campaign I was going to use was set in a haunted castle complete with a vampire villain.  When our adventuring party crossed paths with the vampire villain, one of our creative players turned him into a sheep.  All of the drama that had been leading up to the encounter fell apart.  It was a huge disappointment to me, as the Dungeon Master to lose the sense of suspense that had been built up, but the game went on.

World of Warcraft can be unpredictable.  Raids are large dungeons that can take hours for a guild to complete.  They are tense but rewarding.  No matter how much a guild leader studies a raid, human unpredictability is a factor and creates memorable moments (both good and bad).  While preparing for a long raid into a haunted mansion (complete with dragons and ghosts), our guild bought the necessary potions, foods and other gear needed.  It was a big event for our guild and we were all excited.   

After hours of hard work we made our way to the final boss, a huge demon who was controlling the castle.  None of us had seen him before, but had heard from other guilds how hard this fight would be.  We would need everyone to focus.  As our guild members drank magic potions, ate foods with magic properties and got themselves ready for the fight we stood near the arched doorway staring at this huge demon prince.  When the fight began, the doors at the archway slammed shut, locking out several of our guild from the fight.  We hadn’t known about the closing doors, or we would have all went into the room at the same time.  Needless to say, our first epic encounter with the demon atop the castle did not good well.

D&D can be expensive – if you make it that way.  Dale and I once tallied up the cost of our Dungeons and Dragons books.  We vowed after, seeing that the books had cost us thousands of dollars, to never add up the cost again.  Between the books, food, supplies and travel (when we went to more far-flung friend’s homes to play) we probably spent ten grand on the few years we had been playing the game.  It was worth it for the many hours of fun and socializing.  It is possible to play D&D with 3 books, pens, pencils, and one set of dice.  We could have made everyone bring their own snacks and drinks and refused to drive to anyone else’s home for sessions. What fun would that have been?

World of Warcraft can be expensive – if you want it to be.  The cost of our gaming computers, our copies of the game, the two expansion packs, the voice servers and our guild websites’ hosting would about equal what we had spent on Dungeons and Dragons for the same amount of time.  We’ve been playing WOW for two years and the total cost is probably around ten grand.  It’s hard to keep track of it all, but we aren’t trying.  It’s expensive and we know it.  It is possible to play World of Warcraft on whatever hand-me-down computer you have with just the original game installed.   We could limit ourselves to only the oldest content in WOW and be left behind the excitement of the new zones, dungeons and raids that are always being added.  What fun would that be?

Game night is not the same now as it used to be for us.  World of Warcraft is a different beast than Dungeons and Dragons.  Both games take planning outside of game time.  D&D is very social while WOW is social in its own way.  D&D and WOW can be played on a shoestring budget, but are more fun when you are not on a budget.  In either game, it is the people and the unpredictable events that are memorable.  Long gaming sessions are possible for both games – it is possible to waste a whole weekend on either activity.  Overall, game night is fun no matter which game we get to play.

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