World of Warcraft
From high above the world, tree tops swaying gently in an afternoon breeze, the world is idyllic, peaceful and inviting. Someday in the not too distant future I will think of this as fly over territory, with its petty problems that will seem relevant for only a short while, a quiet land between coasts, far from well defined territories teeming with evil, corruption and factionalized elements deriving loyalty from repetition. This will become my short term home, and her people will come to me for aid against a growing dark we all sense and share. The warm winds hold a hint of conflict, of battle, of war, and as I drift below the tree line and behind the mask of my avatar I sense the vaporous edges of that conflict wrap me in purpose. To the north, kobolds have taken the mine. To the east, across the thinnest of geographical borders, a softly flowing brook, the Defias Brotherhood have sent their most incompetent and benign followers to hold the crucial ground of a strategic pumpkin patch. As for me, I'm armed with a weapon that may be made of still wet papier-mÃ¢ché, and dressed essentially in a nightgown. I'm barely equipped to pick flowers, much less collect the bloodied skins of wolves.
I begin the quest anew, Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill.
Hours Played: 34 Days (816 hours)
Completed: You're joking
Kobolds killed: All of them
I've been here before, of course, solved the problems of the Northshire Valley with a suspicion that even as I turned in my own sack of kobold candles or mangy fur someone else was standing in line right behind me with their own bag full of candles and fur. And, inevitably when I return the same guys are standing around their pumpkin patch looking tough, and the same kobolds are building mostly harmless camps outside their dank cave and contending with a minor infestation of wolves. It's like a small town bar, full of promises that things will be different tomorrow but sporting the same droopy eyed cast of characters days and years later. Nothing changes in this world, only the small-fry adventurers with dreams of epic loot and dragon slaying, and sometimes for the most fleeting of moments it all seems rather silly.
But the powerful lure of diminishing returns, like a growing tolerance to your favorite narcotic, drives me to escalation through the mine, the pumpkin patch, the trials of the Stonefields and Maclures, murlocs and riverpaws. I am on the fertile field of familiar ground, and expedite the process of youth by managing quests properly so that I get maximum rewards from my kills. I tread the Elwyn Forest with confident feet, and venture forth in a matter of a few hours into the barren fields of Westfall.
The world changes in the span of a bridge, from green and verdant to tan and dry, like crossing from Pennsylvania to Nebraska in a half dozen footsteps. Ah, Farmer Fulbrow, has it really been two years now that we've known one another. Two years that poor Blanchy and your cart have been broken down on the side of the road near evil infested farmhouses. One might think that by now you'd have simply walked to Stormwind, after all it only took me three minutes to get here, but you've got issues that need solving and the convenient exclamation point floating over your head attracts me like a frat boy to Adam Sandler movies.
So the slaughter continues, though now, to supplement my violent inclinations, I've begun picking some of the local foliage and selling it at the auction house to the highest bidder. Slightly better weapons, now with at least marginal degrees of danger should one fall on them or jam them in their eye, become available for the right price, and more bumbling Defias Brotherhood flunkies fall to my Sharpened No. 2 Pencil of the Owl. I upgrade my fireball to the kind of magnitude one achieves by putting too much lighter fluid on charcoals, and an otherwise harmless group of gnolls hanging out by a tree burn under my magical fumblings. I cut off their paws and take them to the local garrison for reasons I'm not comfortable explaining.
My powers, such as they are, begin to grow and I specialize in the art of fire. Death does not concern me, largely because I've been to the other side and the great interdimensional leap from the mortal coil turns out to be barely an inconvenience, much less an experience of mortal transcendence. I wonder what local hooligans think after three of them group up to push their daggers through this cloth smock that I call armor only to see me pop from the ground moments later, requiring little more than a short rest under a tree to recover completely.
I exhaust the tasks of Westfall and move on to the Redridge Mountains, an aptly named place of red dirt, occasional ridge-like rock formation, and yet more gnolls whose paws I eye lustfully. Also, the first hint of Orcish infestation. The local magistrate of Lakeshire pleads the case for his lonely village, though I doubt the resolve of his people, because their bridge has been in a state of repair for nearly two years now and I've not once seen someone trying to fix the structure. Everyone just stands around asking passers by to murder the local wildlife or find something they dropped in the lake. Honestly, for people claiming concern about the well being of the Alliance, most of the folks I've met are good only at directing others and standing in place.
Redridge becomes Duskwood, and gnolls become werewolves. Some guy named Stalvan turns out to be pretty evil, which surprises me not at all, and a guy living at a graveyard turns out to have necromantic plans, which surprises me even less. Some other guy named Mor'ladrim wanders past whatever I'm doing on a regular basis just to kill me. I swear that someday, after I've died and resurrected a few dozen more times, putting figures upon which entire religions are founded to shame, I will come back and burn him with my pyromantic proclivities. I am becoming cynical about the jobs with which I am tasked, and perform them mechanically.
Even my primary source of income has divested itself from the practice of killing, and turns instead to the art of grinding up flowers into vials and selling them as useful potions. There is some market for these elixirs, which are basically crushed up bark and flower petals in a jar, and though I want to name the concoction Dr. John's Brambly Vine and Yellow Flower All Purpose Medicinal Liniment, it just shows up as an arcane elixir or mana potion, which is quite the disappointment to my sensibilities.
The medicine show rolls on through the Wetlands and Stranglethorn Vale, and across the ocean into Hordish territories where over-strong guardians of pointless outposts occasionally make me dead for as much as minutes at a time. These inconvenient deaths afford me a strong dislike for my Orcish counterparts and eventually I decide to make my stand in a place called Arathi Basin. Here is war waged between the two factions of the world, as we lay claim to a surprisingly symmetrical crop of land and kill one another over flags while migrant day workers collect food or metal or something to lead us to an arbitrary victory. Eventually the Horde defeats our stalwart attempts to wrest control of the verdant vale, and we are repelled to a nearby town where, were I so inclined, I could immediately fight the battle in its entirety again. Fight enough times and I might even get some equipment for my bloodletting, but the call of the road is demanding.
I am strong now, have ventured into lands blasted by long fought wars, a prehistoric crater with animate flowers and lumbering dinosaurs, woods dripping with the stinking ooze of corruption. I have laid vicious waste to otherwise cuddly bearlike creatures for the approval of the Timbermaw tribe, which appears to measure a persons worth in how many rival teddy-bears they kill. I have scraped bug goo off an underground hive, while giant wasps fluttered murderously nearby. I have waged war against pirates in a hidden cove at the sea's edge, battled the undead through the streets of Andorhal. Eventually I plumb the depths of the Molten Core and defeat a being that rises from the fiery bosom of the Earth.
The world grows old to me, the conflicts too familiar. I have the blood of a thousand species on my burning hands, and the trappings of my very clothes glow with arcane magics that infuse and embrace me. But, at the edge of my consciousness, I am aware of a lost innocence, and a longing grows for the safe harbors of a backwater church dealing with the minor local menace of kobolds to the north and hapless thugs bogarting the pumpkins to the east. What do they know of Gods who would fight mortals in the pit of the earth, or the spreading scourge of Lordaeron, or even the growing army of orcs just over the nearest mountain range? I dream of innocent times where a few silver at the local merchant spelled a poor man's riches, and the world dissolves.
In this dream of innocence and rebirth, a warrior of irrelevant stature and no renown is born. I am again bodiless above the tree tops, the corner of the world stirring below, peaceful and inviting. I settle in behind new eyes and familiar faces welcome me. The smell of pumpkins waft through the warm breeze.
I am Sisyphus at the bottom of the hill.