I watched too much Asmongold, first his YouTube clips channel then graduating to his Twitch livestream, and I got the itch to play World of Warcraft. I’ve walked away from and relapsed to playing that massively multiplayer online game more times than I care to count, each time swearing it would be the last.
So much for iron-willed determination.
I got a month’s worth of game time, which costs $21 Canadian dollars, with the idea that I’d play their “Classic” throwback offering until I got sick of it. That led to loading up my old “retail” characters and then deciding that I wanted to play more seriously.
Slowly, gently. This is how a life is taken.
While I haven’t gone full no-lifer—yet—I did have a funny experience while wandering around the Blood Elf starting zone. Another random traveler saw me and messaged me, and we got to chatting. He (I assume) revealed that he had a side hustle clearing hoarder homes for the local government somewhere in Minnesota. It was at that moment that I realized, despite these past few years of extreme isolation, that I’m not that lonely. I’m not “reveal personal stuff to random strangers in a multiplayer video game” lonely.
I took great comfort in that.
On my way to the gym at 4AM I spotted a fire burning on the street corner a block from my place. It was a homeless man trying to get warm in the 3 degrees outside. He had lit something on fire, right there on the sidewalk across from the hospital, and he was taking turns shuffling into and out of it. When he saw me pull up at the red light, he held out his hands to me and started zombie-walking toward the car.
The light turned green, and I drove on.
Now I can’t get the image of this man out of my head. He must have been in his thirties. He had the sharp features that many red-headed men do, almost fey. He was white. And I wonder now what series of events and choices led to him standing there in a fire. And was he my responsibility, or is that only my ape brain conjuring up guilt over the end product of a string of random happenings that were—apparently—beyond anyone’s control?
It’s time to move.
I still think about livestreaming, and it’s because I spent almost a decade of my life and ten thousand slippery Canadian dollars doing it. There’s a part of me that thinks I should still be doing it, to justify the equipment and experience. But then I think about how it changed the way I socialized and played video games. For me, it was always about providing a quality experience to the viewer. More akin to a professional television broadcast than a goblin-mode “family and friends” gathering. This has always been my mentality when creating content like this, stretching all the way back to when I got my first tape recorder at age six, or my first gig in live radio at sixteen. I wanted to give top-flight entertainment.
That all involved a strict adherence to standards and norms. In livestreaming parlance, that meant the best possible audio, a clean face camera, highest bitrate and resolution of video, and an upright posture that was constantly spewing interesting content regardless of the number of viewers. And so, whenever I’d play a video game—which, let’s be real, for the vast majority of content creators on any given video platform, is the primary occupation—it would be under that harness. There’s no better word for it: a cage that one sits in and filters their experience through. And if you talk to any livestreamer who’s done it for any length of time, from the smallest to the largest, they will tell you that there’s something lesser about playing a video game live on the Internet versus playing alone in the secure comfort of one’s own privacy. Playing live before an audience—even a “zero” audience, which may compound the worsening factors—is a hampering, often ruinous process that sucks some amount of enjoyment out of playing the game. And for someone who’s spent most of his life loving games, this was disastrous. I found myself delaying the gratification of a game because I thought I needed to “save” it for making content. Sure, I could have played the game off-stream first, but I felt that would be disingenuous. Experiencing something for the first time to a live audience, and having truthful reactions, is the essence of enjoyable content. Besides, people can smell bullshit a mile away, and only lunatics will stick around for it.
“But why not record for later broadcast on platforms like YouTube?” you may ask. The harness is still there. It’s a different bit and bridle, and in some cases worse. The act of editing video is a massive labor. And while it can be fun, it dilutes the fun of the game playing and also takes a significant amount of time, time that could be spent playing games. And, as with the livestreaming, it’s hard not to look at the landscape and ask myself, “Why would I contribute?”. If I have something I feel would make for a good video or livestream, it’s guaranteed that at least one other, if not many others, produced similar content already. To think that my so-called unique spin would make such an effort worthwhile is only hubris and ego.
So, I remain in this limbo of “should I, shouldn’t I?” regarding livestreaming and video content production.
Speaking of homework, I’ve got a week left to hand in this semester’s creative writing assignments and then it’s pure freedom until January. It looks like I’ll be spending most of those hours in Azeroth, but you never know. In many ways, the desire to play World of Warcraft is like a fever. It comes on strong and when it burns itself out it tends to move on. My feeling as of right now is that as long as I keep going to the gym, maintaining a clean diet, and sleeping a full eight hours every night, I’ve got nothing to worry about. The moment it—or any other activity, for that matter—impinges on those three disciplines, it’s cause for concern.
Pray for me. See you in 2024.
2023.12.01 – 2023.12.31