Saturday, September 24, 2016

World of Warcraft and its Noobs

I've been playing some World of Warcraft (abbreviated WoW) because I want to see how the new expansion, titled Legion, plays—I like it much better than the previous Warlords of Draenor.

It's a little tricky for me to play Warcraft because my laptop and my desktop both run Linux. A couple of years ago I became so exasperated with the slowness Windows 8.1 that I finally exorcised Microsoft from my life. I even called up Microsoft support and told them that ever since they installed 8.1 on my system, it's been slow as my grandmother on the Interstate, and they said, "If you pay us $60, we'll check it out." I told them I wasn't going to pay them to fix a system they broke, which was the end of that conversation.

Eliminating Microsoft sounds easier said than done because Microsoft products are everywhere, looking over your shoulder, and peering deep into your life—rather like Facebook, the friendly face of NSA, Big Brother, the privacy violators.

Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor in Jason Bourne.
The latest chapter of the Jason Bourne franchise features a be-hoodied precocious under-thirty billionaire who has sold his soul along with the private lives of his billions of users to the US intelligence community. This Mark Zuckerberg figure, named Aaron Kalloor, is played by Riz Ahmed, aka Riz MC in his rapper persona, who played the wrongfully arrested Nasir Khan in HBO's The Night Of. Actors consider being typecast a dead end to their careers, but they seem to enjoy playing roles that advance their favorite causes, and here's an actor who just came off a role that rose questions racial injustice in the so-called justice system now raising the question of whether we can trust Zuckerberg (or Kalloor) with our private lives. Just how many of those profile questions have you answered on Facebook? Where did you work between the McDonald's gig and the position at Martin-Marietta? Ahmed is doing a great job as a Jack of all Iconoclasts, which perfectly fits his upcoming role as Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

A character on HBO's Silicon Valley makes an interesting observation about programmers:
They always travel in groups of five, these programmers. There's always:
  • a tall skinny white guy,
  • short skinny Asian guy,
  • fat guy with the pony tail,
  • some guy with crazy facial hair,
  • then an East Indian guy.
Aaron Kalloor is that East Indian guy gone rogue straight to super-star status. (Groups of five, by the way, has long been the optimal group size in IT ever since IBM did a sociological study about the efficiency of work groups and came up with the number of five.)

Now of course it's not Bourne but Snowden, courtesy of Oliver Stone, whom we should be watching: the only thing the US loves more than its dirty secrets is hunting down and forever locking up the soul that spills those secrets.

I've never been too worried about surveillance in cyberspace because watching me comes with its own punishment—go ahead, bore yourself to death. And I never was a Bill Gates hater—hate, like blood, is a big expense—nor did I engage in that silly debate—which now more than ever seems to have originated out of a Steve Jobs cult of personality—over whether PC's or Apples were better. I got paid a lot of money for working on PC's, so as far as I was concerned, the debate began and ended with my salary. But what finally threw the needle in my eye as far as Microsoft goes was Windows 8.1. Its retarded performance was well documented across the Web, as were a thousand home-brewed solutions for fixing it—none of them any more effective than drinking vinegar to cure cancer. Yet Microsoft never acknowledged the problem existed, so they were fucking with the two most precious things in my life: my machine and the truth.

Even now, with Windows 10, which putatively ends Microsoft's embarrassment of 8.1, people struggle to trick Windows into reverting back to Windows 7.

Because I threw off the Microsoft yoke, I have Linux on my desktop and laptop machines. Blizzard, who makes World of Warcraft, supports only PC and Apple versions of its game. There are, however, ways to run software for the PC on a Linux machine. One of them is called WINE (WINdows Emulator), which creates the illusion of a PC inside my Linux machine, and for a while I was able to run WoW that way. Increasingly sophisticated and complex releases of both Wow and Linux made the homebrewed approach with WINE increasingly difficult, and though solutions were scattered all over the Web, the techies sharing their solutions could not write clearly or completely enough to make their solutions useful to me. I worked twenty-five years as a computer programmer, so my technical background might help me find an answer eventually, but it's also important not to get diverted in an eddy of technical problems but to stay focused on writing. So finally I found a commercial product called CrossOver from Codeweavers that uses Wine as its platform, but every conceivable contingency has supposedly been accounted for, so it works when no other solution will, and I don't have to go out to the Web searching for Linux and WINE arcana. I've been using CrossOver on a free-trial basis, but today I have to decide:

  1. Pay for CrossOver.
  2. Buy a new Windows machine for playing WoW.
  3. Or give WoW up.

Eventually I will need a good Windows machine whether I play WoW or not. I want a solid gaming machine, but I'm also going to get a special camera so I can photograph my notebooks, and this too requires a Windows machine. I figure this is an opportunity to buy and assemble a fast gaming machine component by component—there's a Web site called that will guide me on putting compatible parts together. But for now, I'm most likely going to go with the commercial Wine solution because it's only $60.

Even though the commercial WINE runs pretty well most of the time, there is occasional slowness, and sometimes it crashes. The other day I was in-game aboard a flying airship—like the old wooden ships that sailed the seas, only this floats in the air—and I was given a quest that required that I click on the Captain to start. I clicked several times, but nothing happened. I felt I might be stuck. There was another player bouncing around on the ship.

"Are you stuck?" I asked.

"No. Noob," he said. Noob comes from newbie, a new player. Within the WoW culture, noob is not just a matter of fact statement that I am a new player, but it labels me as an object for derision, shaming, and hatred. It pins me as a butt for tricks calculated to capitalize upon my naïveté in the game. I'm used to this sort of abuse now—I just figure, ah, here's another kid whose trashy parents have done nothing to enlighten him. When people start to play, they are likely kids, but people have grown up playing this game, which was release twelve years ago. Nearly a third of the players are 20 or under.

According to Statista, the "distribution of World of Warcraft players in 2013, by age group was:

  • Ages 16-20 account for 29% of WoW's players.
  • 20-25 37%
  • 25-30 18%
  • 30-40 9%
  • 40-50 1%
  • >50 0.5%

So as you can see, the elder group to which I belong is drastically outnumbered and is subject to a lot of abuse from the youthful groups. It's also interesting to note that the vanilla players—vanilla refers to the original release before any of the expansion packs came along—is now distributed among the age groups between 20 and 30. Vanilla players almost universally look back at the vanilla version, when the game was difficult and challenging, in the same nostalgic way a grownup who, in his youth, had to walk to school barefoot.

So I have a lot of fun playing WoW, but these rude kids make a downside.