The first pig of a job was getting WoW downloaded. I’m currently living in the sticks and my broadband is both slow and unreliable. I had to use a friend’s connection in the end. The test of tenacity to install the game might be seen to be a learning experience in itself: I began to realise that I had capacity to be more patient than I had ever thought possible.
On first launching the game, I was enthralled by the quality of the graphics and the stunning soundtrack; I listened carefully as what I thought was the exposition was narrated. I then discovered that I was actually watching an advert for Legion – WoW’s latest expansion set…It struck me just how much of what I was doing I was simply doing through trial and error. There were no instructions, no guides (Discovery Principle – Gee); however, as I was to discover, my route into the game was carefully scaffolded.
When I finally did enter WoW, the first thing I had to do was create my character. And then I was in.
It was a dizzying space: full of small, intimate battles, with the clang of swords, the grunts of efforts and silent cries for help in the comms panel at the bottom of the screen. Lyra/I/We (Gee’s three identities) were unable to help. I found my way to Marshal McBride and accepted my first quest – killing spies. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it, so I asked for help and was greeted by silence (turns out I wasn’t communicating properly).
I had no choice but to throw myself into the game and figure out how to kill the spies myself. Of course, I wasn’t doing this myself: the game design ensures that a complete novice is able to operate within it, within a ‘regime of competence’ (Gee). Once I got started, the first challenges were fairly straightforward and allowed me to get used to how to control my weapon (I can, as a Mage, only freeze my enemies), how to loot and also to develop more of a sense of the semiotic domain in which I found myself. At this stage, unless I targeted someone/thing, I wasn’t under threat of attack myself.
During the first few challenges I got a lot of input for a lot of output (Amplification of Input Principle – Gee) and started to think of myself as becoming a little better than a novice. And then I died.