Right off the bricks, I’d like to be clear- I’ve been clean about four years now, since about a year after Wrath of the Lich King dropped. My experiences in Azeroth (and beyond!) have stayed with me- and I’d like to share some of the valuable life lessons the game has given me.
Lesson One: Situational Awareness
Back in the day, when I first started playing with my friends, I was tossed onto a PvP server. As a freshly-minted Undead Priest, I ended up in a largely out of the way zone to start. It was pretty rare for me to see any sort of Alliance presence with the exception of the odd group of brave (but exceptionally stupid) adventurers on their way to the Scarlet Monastery. At the time, seeing them didn’t worry me- I was close enough to Undercity that stopping to gank a level fifteen fighting gnolls added risk to an already dicey venture. It wasn’t uncommon for people leveling closer to the Plaguelands to call out in zone chat that there was a party headed that way…usually just before or just after the Alliance goons cut them down. It was a dark time, then- ganking was a pastime for many, without even a yelled ‘BREAK YOSELF, FOO!’ to announce your murderous intentions. So there I was, minding my own business watching the Alliance pass without interest, thinking I should live and let live, when suddenly, a paladin stops. Dismounting, she one hit me, and without fanfare, continued on her way. I shrugged it off the first time, and the second…but when it happened a third time, I got to be nervous. I developed the habit of constantly looking over my shoulder, being aware of what was going on around me in addition to what I was fighting and what people were saying on Ventrilo.
At the time, Stranglethorn Vale and Hillsbrad Foothills were also major transit areas. I remember learning the unspoken code of civility- if you were passing through, and you found a member of the opposing faction, you came to a stop a waved. If they waved back, it meant that they didn’t want trouble and you could give each other a wide, wary berth as you passed on your way. If they didn’t respond, they were calling for reinforcements and you had to down them or dash. When you were questing or fighting mobs, you had to have one eye peeled because that was the perfect time to jump someone. In fact, it was considered an ideal time to jump someone of a higher level than you while they were fighting- me and a friend actually went prowling in a slightly-higher level area once to revenge a particularly egregious spree by a particular gnome in the Foothills. We both often leveled together, at least partially for safety- though there wasn’t much we could do most of the time if a level seventy decided he didn’t like the look of my eyeless, mandible-less priest trying to kill something.
Undercity was not a safe haven either. Even before there was an achievement for it, some people would city-raid. While each faction had one particularly hard-to-raid city (Thunder Bluff and Stormwind respectively), it was possible to be minding your own business and get caught up in a raid.You could be sitting there, at the auction house, turning in your leather when out of nowhere forty Alliance could pour down the Undercity pipes or through the far Ogrimmar gates. Players had to be ready to defend themselves, or at least get out of the way. It could be an easy way to get kills by helping defend your city- especially since you respawned so close, and so long as you helped down some of the raiders with area of effect spells or picked away at weaker members you could get a few freebies.
Now, how did this translate into other things? Well, playing the game for years with one eye cocked over your shoulder translates fairly well into games like Dead Space. The knowledge that nothing is safe -not even your home city- imprints heavily in games with a survival element. Having to spot far-off Alliance goons gave me a knack for attention to detail. While I haven’t played for years- admittedly, doing thirty hours of raiding per week sort of caused me to burn out on the game- I still remember it fondly and periodically become nostalgic for it- even the PVP.