Life — WoW: Classic

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have any interest in playing Vanilla WoW again when they first announced it. After so many years of updates and so many quality of life changes, I wasn’t convinced that nostalgia could save it. There was just so much that the original game was lacking that current players take for granted. Despite this, I knew I’d give it a try just for its own sake.

It’s odd to think about, but how many games are out there that were released specifically as an older version? Even old games that are re-released get remastered with better graphics and less glitches, but WoW Classic required an enormous amount of effort to unmaster. They didn’t even “digitally remaster” the graphics or anything like that, because obviously they wanted it to be as faithful to the original game as it could possibly be.

And, for good or for ill, I’ve been playing it a lot. Nearly all my free time has been spent playing it, (though I’ve still been taking time to keep up with writing projects, blog notwithstanding) and there’s something that I didn’t expect WoW: Classic to revitalize…

Back in the early days from 2004-2007, I would say that World of Warcraft became popular for two reasons. The first is that mechanics-wise, it was the best of its time. There’s little question about that, all you have to do is look at the numbers. But more than that, it was a great way to socialize. After you got home from work, you would log onto the game, see all of your friends online in the guild, and chat with them. Hang out with them. The game made it so easy to connect with people—as well as make new friends.

Fifteen years later, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., we are so globally interconnected that people have rekindled relationships with friends they otherwise never would have met again. (For example, I’m Facebook friends with my best friend from 2nd grade, whom I haven’t seen since.) So, at least in the retail version of World of Warcraft, you really don’t need to talk to people. Partly because the majority the content can be done on your own (or at least it connects you to strangers automatically), but partly because the online connections you have don’t need to be done through an MMO like WoW.

This was my main concern. “You can’t restore a game to its original glory when its glory was so contingent on a tight-knit community,” I said. And I still think some of that is true, but oh boy did I underestimate the players.

In a lot of ways, playing WoW: Classic is like stepping into the past. The chat channels are always full, strangers are constantly inviting you to their parties and guilds, making the same jokes, you name it. If you log in at 5pm realm time, you have to wait about an hour just to log into the server I’m playing on because it’s full. In ways I can’t quite put into words, and in ways I certainly didn’t expect, I feel like I’m once again exploring a world with other people. Something I haven’t really felt in probably any other MMO.

This isn’t a review. If it was, I would tell you how awful the quest design is (which is actually worse than I remember), and how much time you have to waste running back and forth from Point A to Point B to get pitiful amounts of money and experience. I’d tell you how everything is hard, and since there’s so many people around, you have to compete against those around you just to get to the next quest, or how you constantly have to fight your inventory just to be able to maximize profits when you get back to town.

I’ve also been struggling with finding a good game to play lately. I needed a time sink so that I can watch YouTube streams and listen to audiobooks, but everything I had been playing was either tired or too high maintenance to multitask. So this came around at the perfect time.

Review — Citizen Kane

I’ll be honest. I didn’t have an immediate sense of wonder from watching Citizen Kane (1941), and pretty much nothing at all ever stood out as amazing or captivating. I would attribute that feeling to my ignorance of a lot of the elements and techniques used throughout, but to me, it just seemed like an old movie with nothing special. The motif of “Rosebud” propelled a sense of mystery, of course, but with something like this, I knew all along that it had been something to do with his childhood (though I falsely predicted it somehow related to his mother). The nature of the name led everyone in the film to conclude that he must have been referring to a lover, but these were obvious red herrings, because if he was, the solution would have been found immediately and there would have been no film.

I’ll also admit that the exposition in the beginning establishing who Charles Foster Kane was and how he had become such a sensation was pretty boring. Plus, I was confused by the fact that Kane died, and then in the headlines it referred to his manager dying, only to come back to the fact that it really was about Kane who had died. All it did was confuse me.

After the “news sequence” encapsulating Kane’s life concludes and the newspaper studio discusses the fact that they’ll need to investigate what ‘Rosebud’ means, the sequence of events becomes much clearer. We know that Kane is dead, so every time we see him thereafter is a flashback. This is about the life of a once rich and powerful man, not the repercussions of his death afterwards.

I will say that my favorite thing about the entire film was the extraordinary lighting. I know that I couldn’t pick up on all the symbolism it depicted, but enshrouding Kane in darkness as he wrote his promise of honesty and having the entire press room stand in darkness as they discussed the significance of ‘Rosebud’ was very well done—it’s obvious that Welles didn’t put those shots in arbitrarily.

Citizen Kane has some great moments and scenes, and really shines not through its story, but through its presentation. The motivations of each and every character is established succinctly and thoroughly, which is certainly not easy, given how little screen time several characters had. I even felt like I understood many of the characters better than they did themselves — and making your audience feel smart is always a good thing.

As a side note: I looked up the significance of the screaming bird. It’s non diegetic, comes with no warning, and is out of place with everything. At first I thought that something weird had happened with the film. Then I thought it was symbolizing something I understand. Turns out, Welles said he just put it in to wake the audience up before a pivotal moment in the film. I found that interesting because today’s film industry would never do a thing like that to a modern audience.