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You don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy games like World of Warcraft

Kylessa_Elune

Rawr

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft off and on for several years (…and just for the record: yes, I’m a girl and no, I don’t live in my parent’s basement). I resisted the pull of MMOs long before I ever found WoW, largely due to the fact that I do not consider myself a “social” gamer. It’s not that I feel I should be wearing a sign that reads, “Does Not Play Well With Others,” it’s just that when I play video games, I find it difficult to immerse myself within the story that is unfolding on my screen if I’m having to drown out the insipid chatter of 13 year olds yelling, “DOOD, I JUST PWND U!” Okay…maybe I should be wearing a sign…

When I play socially, I like to play with people I know. Maybe I’ve seen Meet the Parents one too many times…you have to be in my circle of trust before I’ll give you gun cover with my AK-47 as you dive through a slavering group of hungry zombies. I’m not an elitist bitch, I swear, but when the smoke clears, I’d rather give that virtual high-five to someone who doesn’t sound like they’ve been playing Russian roulette with the English language.

When I was first introduced to WoW, I expected its gaming community to be filled to the rafters with trite in-your-face commentary, thus ruining my gaming experience. What I didn’t expect is how easy it would be to drown out the background noise and actually become absorbed with the rich story, entertaining quests, and challenging dungeons. And once I did, I was pleasantly surprised when I became acquainted with some real nice folks.

I thought that by playing a MMO, that meant you had to be a social butterfly, join an uber-guild, start speaking l33t, and otherwise act like a giant tool. And while some people choose to play like that, it’s not those people that shape my gaming experience. Multi-player games, at least in my pre-WoW opinion, were games that you could play in co-op or death match modes with a small, select group of friends, thus placing your overall game play in a shiny, protective bubble. But with technologies like XboxLive and other online gaming collaboratives combined with cheap high-speed internet, the art of social gaming has quickly become a standard way to play.

There are over 11.4 million World of Warcraft subscribers – people that open themselves up to one of the largest online gaming experiences currently available. I’m one of them. I can choose to quest solo, or I can dip into the multi-player pool if I want. I can be as social (or anti-social) as I want. I can play with people I know in the Really-Real-World, or join an unknown group of nameless avatars. The great thing is that it’s entirely up to me to play the game however I want.

Remember, all things (including video games) should be taken in moderation. If you’re on a 36-hour straight WoW bender, it might be time to step away from the keyboard and get some fresh air. Ragnaros will still be there when you get back.

Santa baby, put some Skyrim under the tree for me…

Skyrim Dragonborn

You are the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn. Slaying dragons is in your blood.

When I was a kid, I remember the feeling of utter anticipation as Christmas approached. As the day of ultimate joy and merriment neared, I would become a restless, fidgety zombie, fueled by sugar and plagued by visions of the piles of presents that would await my brother and I on Christmas morning (…in my visions, my present-pile was always larger than his).

Waiting for the release of the next installment in the Elder Scrolls series is just like that…only worse because now I’m an adult, and if I run around in excited circles chanting and foaming at the mouth, someone is going to lock me away or treat me for rabies.

I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that Skyrim is this year’s most anticipated game release. The exceptional talent at Bethesda Studios have been hard at work since 2008 to deliver into our eager hands the fifth chapter in the Elder Scrolls series. Set in the frigid northern reaches of Tamriel, the province of Skyrim is beset with civil unrest over the possibility of seceding from the Empire. As foretold within the pages of prophecies known as the Elder Scrolls, the God of Destruction, Alduin, has arisen and torments the nation with his minions. Black dragons fill the skies, bringing terror and chaos throughout the realm.

Like the series predecessors, you will begin the game in prison for unknown crimes. Your transgressions aren’t really important as you get to start the game with a clean slate absolved of your sins. You are the last of the Dovahkiin, the Dragonborn race. As the name implies, fighting dragons is in your genes and what you do best, and you are humanity’s best hope at quelling the dark forces that threaten to sunder the land.

Skyrim is powered by the all-new Creation engine, built internally by the folks at Bethesda to showcase the game’s breathtaking mechanics. Featuring advanced draw-distance renders, you will be able to openly view the vast scenery that encompasses approximately 16 miles. Dynamic lighting delivers a heightened sense of realism not only in the minutely detailed landscape, but also in the characters and creatures that inhabit the world.

Speaking of creatures…the Radiant AI system that controls NPCs has been improved as well, offering more natural interactions with the locals in the game. Conversations with NPCs will now be delivered real-time, meaning that while you’re grilling the tavern barkeep for the latest rumors in town, he’ll be answering your inquiries while pouring drinks for the drunken bar patrons. Bethesda promises to breathe new life into the way characters and creatures react and interact with the world around them.

Dragons (yes, dragons!) play an integral part of the game as well, for what would be the point of being the last of the Dragonborn if there were no dragons to slay? Encounters with these titanic beasties will be randomly generated and not all meetings will result in a battle, although the ones that do will require you to use all of your skills to be victorious. Doing so will reward you with a powerful form of magic that only a Dovahkiin can use – the Dragon Shout.

The Elder Scrolls series has always been known for its highly detailed and colossal living worlds, and Skyrim will be no exception. With five major cities even larger than the ones featured in Oblivion, not to mention dozens of smaller towns and over 150 dungeons that scale to your level, the hand-crafted world of Skyrim is guaranteed to clock massive amounts of game play hours.

Skyrim Horse

The world of Skyrim is huge. Having a trusty steed will get you where you need to go faster.

For more information on Skyrim and to check out a drool-worthy trailer, click here. Until then, I’ll be climbing the walls in anxious anticipation and trying hard to stay off of Santa’s shit-list. Christmas comes early this year with the release of Skyrim on 11-11-11.

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