By Alec Meer on November 17th, 2008 at 9:49 pm.
Do forgive me yet another World of Warcraft post, but, as tends to be the case with that all-consuming MMO, I haven’t really had the chance to play much else this last week. My thoughts on Lich King so far are appearing as a series of review diaries on IGN UK ahead of the review proper, and they lobbed the first one up today. Here, though, I want to talk about a very specific aspect of WoW. Over the weekend, you see, I attended my first ever in-game wedding. Aw.
It wasn’t folk I knew, but rather the message went out across Stormwind City’s local chat that a ceremony was about to kick off in the cathedral, and anyone was welcome. I was only buying a new hat from the auction house at the time, so I figured I might as well pop over to see how this kind of thing went down.
Stormwind Cathedral is an odd structure. In theory, its only real purpose is to house the zone’s Priest and Paladin trainers, but it’s a hugely elaborate construct for such a single function. It was only upon arriving at the wedding – playing as my new Death Knight character, and only just remembering to tactfully remove my fearsome horned helmet before the ceremony began – that I realised there was a little more to it than that. The arrangement of NPCs seemed tailored-made towards a wedding – from the pageboy who wandered the aisles to the priest trainer behind the altar. As the groom and his own elected holy man took their places on the stage, there was no mistaking what was happening here.
The crowd was a small one, and seemingly mostly randoms who’d, like me, come to stare. I didn’t get any sense of the story behind this wedding – was this real love, simply roleplaying, or some fragile fusion of the two? Why was the rest of their guild not here? Could it be some divisive Romeo & Juliet tale? – but it was certainly treated with utmost seriousness.
Well, save for by one attendee. A gramatically-challenged gnome wearing a pumpkin on his head rushed the stage, stood atop the altar and repeatedly /yelled obnoxious, illiterate gibberish. There isn’t a grit-jaw-and-tense-shoulders emoticon in WoW, but the stony silence and uncomfortable twitching of the various players made it clear that everyone was irked by the gnome’s dickishness, but had no idea what to do about it. He, quite obviously, thought this whole thing was a bit of a joke. Me? Well, I thought it was weird. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But it was something harmless and sweet and very possibly deeply meaningful to the two people involed, so the fact it was weird didn’t grant anyone the right to try and screw it up for them.
The priest eventually hit upon the idea of suggesting everyone else /ignored the hateful gnome. Silence apparently fell, though the little bastard continued to bounce up and down in the front of the groom. The groom himself had been all but motionless all this time, but finally he performed a tiny rotation towards the rear of the cathedral. And there she was – his puppet-armed bride to be. She hovered nervously in the antechamber for a moment, then walked briskly – too briskly, really – up the aisle. To my great chagrin, she wasn’t wearing a bridal grown, while the Death Knight groom had only shed his armour for some plain trousers and a garish blue shirt. An informal wedding then, though the attending priest took it very seriously. He was doing this one by the book.
Finally, we got some backstory, though entirely in character – so I can’t tell you for sure if the bride was a bride, and the groom a groom, if they knew each other in reality, if they intended to make life imitate this curious art or not. The groom character was once, we heard, a Night Elf Druid, later recruited by the Lich King into the twisted ranks of the Death Knights. Upon his release from Arthas’ hold, he found redemption in the arms of a pretty human priest. Throughout this heavily role-played introduction, the general chat channel buzzed with goldseller spam. I’d say it spoiled the mood, but between the general air of awkwardness and the pinballing gnome interloper, I’m not entirely sure what the mood was in the first place.
Then it was time for the vows. I’d been treating this whole shebang with the utmost respect until now, and was even a little touched despite my innate cynicism. That all fell apart come the groom’s vows, which followed after a loooong pause as he typed them out. Riddled as they were with spelling and grammatical errors, it became miserably clear there was nothing remotely real about this after all. He even spelt ‘promise’ wrong.
Now, I don’t flid out when people spell stuff wrong, whether it’s on or off the internet. It is the way of things, and generally there’s little use in fighting it. If, however, this so-called wedding had been as meaningful as it had hitherto had the trappings of, couldn’t he at least – at the very least – have run his vow through a spellchecker, or shown it to a well-spoken chum? This is supposed to be something you only do once, buddy. A little effort, huh? He spoke words of love, but so garbled that there was no way they’d been pre-prepared. This was surely being made up on the spot. My heart sank. (Of course, there’s every chance the guy had some condition that made spelling tricky for him, but still – I’d wanted this to be the perfect day rather than the ad-hoc muckabout it now seemed).
The bride’s vows were a little better but had a few similar failings, and if she was dismayed by her nearly-husband’s sloppiness she certainly didn’t show it. But I was barely paying attention by that point. This wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. One day, I’ll attend a real MMO wedding. I don’t care if it’s full of cartoon elves – if it’s people doing it because it really means a huge amount to them, I wish them all the best and I’d genuinely love to see it. As the small crowd dissipated idly after some token /cheering, I hit my hearthstone, teleported back to Northrend and wandered off to kill some Shoveltusks. I’d hoped I’d see something that would make WoW seem a little more special, an act of love as demonstrated by a society dramatically and perhaps irrevocably changed by online gaming. Instead, here I was killing pigs in a field again. Maybe that bloody gnome had it right after all.