Local Nerds Revisit “Greatest Time of Their Lives”

Will Handke
Total Time Played: 2,640 hours between two characters

First, you’ve to understand what vanilla World of Warcraft is – so World of Warcraft is an online role playing game based on the Warcraft universe which is made by Blizzard Entertainment, a very popular video game company, which is basically just the classic story, as old as time itself, of orcs vs. humans and wizards and dragons. The game allows you to live in that universe and do cool quests inside of it and become a great hero.

I played the game very religiously when it came out in 2004. I participated in closed betas and open betas – so even before the game was officially launched to the public I had been playing it. I would consider this time, from when it launched in 2004 and the two years I played it very religiously, to be the golden age of World of Warcraft. The world was new and big, not everything was perfect, things were hard to do – it took a lot of time to quest and level up and get items – but it felt very rewarding and you were part of a grand world.

Over time as this game developed, they started to add features that would make it a lot easier to level up, make it easier to get items, make it easier to do quests and that allowed them to get a lot more money for Blizzard, but for a lot of “hard core” fans such as myself it seemed like a betrayal to everything that made World of Warcraft so impressive in the first place. So over time there became a movement that took place – among the people that used to play the game during that golden age period I was talking about – to restore World of Warcraft to its earlier principles in order to make the world of Warcraft… great again, as it were.

[On vanilla WoW] you’re definitely interacting with people who have common experiences which has led in a couple of instances in specific situations whereby we’ll cross paths with people whom we actually met when we played the game 12 or 13 years ago when the game first came out. These people are very passionate about the game and the people they used to play with so this particular individual has been helping us level by sending us special item and sending assistance when necessary to get our characters to other levels. This particular person is named Laserd and he’s a human mage though he used to be a hunter if I’m not mistaken and we played on the same server.

There’s a misconception about online games and gaming in general, which is you retreat into these game world in order to retreat from the real world. My particularly favorite memory from World of Warcraft is when all ten of my friends who were playing the game at the time in high school got into a room in Aaron’s basement and played PvP battle arena, which is where you play against other players across the world together, and we basically stomped on all of our opponents. It was a moment, that highlights that misconception because by playing World of Warcraft it actually allowed me to spend much more time with my very close friends and that was the most special and fondly remembered parts about the game.

Austin Hinkle
Total Time Played: at least 5,000 hours between four characters
Bonus: Austin’s PvP sizzle reel from 2005

Vanilla WoW is World of Warcraft in the state of 2006, so before all of the expansions came out, back when it was pure and everything was nerfed to shit, when it was fun to play. And that’s it. The cool thing about it now is it’s mostly made of people like me who played back in the day and really enjoyed it, so there’s a lot of really cool people on the server who are willing to help you out and group with you. I mean, it’s the same core of people that I’m playing with now that I played with back in the day, which is just the Mankato kids. But, there was a guy we met who played with us on our old Warcraft server, which was Deathwing, and he’s been helping us out.

I joined a new guild in the World of Warcraft vanilla server and it’s called Sad Boys, which is named after my perennial favorite Swedish rapper Yung Lean and his group. It’s pretty great. Sad Boys is only 26 members deep and we’re just a leveling guild, so we just do groups in dungeons for like level 20 and 30 characters but we’ll see what happens. Maybe we’ll all hit level 60 again or people will get bored of the game and give up.

It’s nice to go back to the game and play all of the old content again. While it still feels familiar, a lot of things have changed. It’s nice that the content is actually difficult and because you don’t have your crazy gear like back in the day you kind of have to build yourself up again, so it’s fun to relive that experience and also kind of have new challenges of figuring things out. You don’t have all of those quality of life things that you have in the game now like welfare epics and all of the stuff that Blizzard just gives to you. Back in the day you had to work for it.

Ross Pomeroy
Total Time Played: 4,320 hours between three characters

Back in high school when I had lots of time and life was easy I’d play that shit all the time. There was one point where I was, you could say, farming to get a PvP rank because I wanted to be a “Marshall” in my guild. I basically had to play 10 hours a day, seven days a week in order to get that rank. Luckily that week fell during Christmas break so I didn’t have to miss school. Otherwise, that would have been tough to fake a sickness. [Getting Marshall] is a goal and a title that lasts long beyond any paltry high school education.

[Since Vanilla Wow has come out] I’ve made a new character. I’m playing a priest, just like I used to because I do enjoy healing people. There’s just something about having all the responsibility on you. All these DPS’ers like Austin they just kill stuff as fast as possible and it’s sort of very, uhh, kill first and ask questions later kind of style – a very Donald Trump style, maybe. I prefer the more nuances of the game. They just kill, kill, kill without even looking at their health until they’re suddenly like “oh gosh, I’m dying – heal me, heal me!” and that’s my job. I’ve actually got to pay attention to these people.

Playing WoW again is an opportunity that I was looking for and I’m glad I got to take advantage of it. [That it’s vanilla Wow] is important to me, I think, just because of nostalgia. Playing my old character back in high school was the greatest time of my life and it will never be that good again. So I’m glad I get to have a chance to get one measly percent of that back. I think it’s just realistic, it’s not sad. I’m glad to have had the chance to be the best person I could be – the best virtual reality person I could be – and now I get to do it again.

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