Coming Soon to a Campus Near You

Galleons, the following is a theory I made up two or three years ago, at the height of my Left 4 Dead career (and before the second one came out). I think it’s about time I fleshed it out and wrote it down here, for your reading pleasure.

***

Shelley: Ames, there are legions of the risen undead on our heels. These aren’t frat boys, they’re zombies. Animated corpses that would rather suck out your cerebellum than peek at your knickers.

Amy: Oh, fine. Last week it’s “I wish I could find a boy who was interested in my brain and not my body” and now you’re all “Aaaugh zombies!” Seriously, Shel. Make up your damn mind.

Though our generation seems a bit zombie obsessed these last few years, we aren’t so much spending our time trying to create the t-virus (except as a cocktail), learning to shoot a variety of firearms, or stockpiling for the apocalypse we all claim to desire… instead, we’re playing copious amounts of zombie games and discussing increasingly ridiculous plans for how our badass selves will fight off the undead swarm come doomsday.

While I have long since come to terms with the fact that I’m going to die a horrible death come the zombie apocalypse (see this post for more on that), some people are just now beginning to realize that their intensive gaming will not enable them to survive a brain-loving horde. There aren’t going to be ammo piles stashed in office buildings and random sheds. Pistols don’t have unlimited ammo. There isn’t going to be a musical cue signaling the arrival of a mass of zombies. There’s no guarantee zombies won’t be able to open doors. Wrapping a bandage around your leg won’t cure a broken bone or an infected zombie bite. You aren’t going to die and then respawn in a closet a few hundred feet away.

However, I think there is an aspect of the ZA that Valve got right in their Left 4 Dead series: the special infected.

Don’t believe me? I’m about to show you that every special infected from the first game can be found at your typical college party.

Lock and load, galleons.

***

The Tank

This is the guy you cannot fucking miss at the party. He kicks the door open, loudly announcing his presence, and slamming two fifths (Jäger and Jim Beam or Maker’s Mark) down on the table, which will be all-but-drained by the end of the night, leaving the party-goers who manage to maintain their mental faculties while imbibing alcohol wondering just how the hell that son-of-a-bitch isn’t in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

Probably something to do with weight ratios or BMI or something.

Regardless, the Tank (it’s highly likely that pre-ZA, he already had this nickname) is a booze-consuming machine. He’s loud, he’s huge, and he’s always fucking drinking. He brought his own beer bong. By the end of the night, his shirt is getting so soaked with beer and liquor that he will likely end up ripping it off (literally… that shirt’s seams will leap apart like two positive magnetic poles or high school kids when a cop comes up to the car they are making out in and bangs his flashlight on the fogged up window).

Here we see a herd of Tanks at a watering trough:

And this is when his naturally loud, aggressive personality combines with the pints of alcohol churning in his stomach to make him into a drunk, hulking rage machine. Remember, this is the guy who probably peaked in high school. He was on the football team, and in his hometown, he was like a bulky god. But he didn’t get onto a college team, and now his body is going to seed due to the amount of beer he downs every weekend and he overcompensates for his sports failures by being too loud and too in-your-face and willing to fight every man that so much as blinks at him.

Yes, he wants to fight you. Did you accidentally bump him while threading your way through the crowd to the bathroom? Did you grab the last beer out of the fridge? Did you beat him in beer pong? Did you start making out with a girl who may or may not have made eye contact with him at one point during the night when she was trying to find the rest of her ladypack? Did you make the mistake of breathing near him?

Prepare yourself- you’re about to be on the receiving end of some full-on Tank rage.

So, when the ZA rolls around, our Tanks just become stronger and meaner. As if you dumped steroids and three handles of Wild Turkey into their undead bellies, all you have is one pissed off, flesh-eating monstrosity. You no longer have to do anything to become the sorry sack he’s going to turn his blood-drunk anger on- you’re fucked if you are within his line of sight. Announcing his presence with a load roar (which is about the same as when he was alive, actually), he’s upgraded from chair-tossing to rock-hurtling. Still, he’s not much different than he was in life- you’re still trying to avoid him, running if he targets you and hoping some other sorry bastard manages to catch his eye.

***

The Smoker

Oh, you know this douchebag. Him and his cronies are the ones you have to fight through to get into the party, moving through a haze of cigarette smoke and inane conversation. He’s the one who, when inside, nods to several cohorts scattered throughout the party, and stands up. As if of one mind, 1/3 of the party-goers suddenly stand up, ambling toward the door as they make their way outside to inhale that sweet, sweet cancer.

Wait… where the fuck did my conversation partner just go? Oh, that’s right- the fucking smokers have snagged them and dragged them outside. They are now spending their time with the hipsters, the wanna-be academics, the assholes who have spent their time in the classroom learning nothing except how to parrot the ideas of their professors. They’ve read one article regarding a current political situation, so they decide to spend thirty minutes arrogantly expounding on the socioeconomic issues currently in play, all the while not really understanding the situation and knowing nothing about the region, the culture, or economics in general.

Smokers are complete cocks. Not only are they incredible windbags, making your brains pour out your ears in a painful stream, but they spend half the night conning cigarettes off anyone and everyone in the immediate vicinity, citing the Smoker’s Code (bum generously and ye shall be bummed to during your own time of need… cancerous karma at its finest) and making promises of repayment they’ll never honor.

So when the ZA rolls around, these guys are fucked. Still hooked on their deathstick habit, they don’t have cigarettes or conversation partners anymore. Those tongues that they used to flap so wantonly on porches and balconies they must now use to ensnare survivors, hoping for one more smoke or someone to listen to their opinions on Derrida.

Come on, buddy. I promise I’ll pay you back when the cure’s found.

After years of useless chatter and chainsmoking, all they are composed of is hot air and smoke. When shot, they explode into their base constituents, desperately sucking in one last lungful of their own filth in an attempt to get another nicotine high.

***

The Boomer

Nobody likes this guy.

This guy wishes he was the Tank. Maybe he played the sports in high school, too. It’s more likely he played the tuba in the band. Or held dungeon delves in his mom’s basement. Whatever his origins, the fact remains that he is now a large, squishy ball of danger. He shows up to the party and proceeds to immediately start the drinking games. Beer Pong. Flip Cup. Quarters. Ride the Bus. Kings (or Waterfall or whatever the fuck you call that dumbshit game). He’s got a case of the cheapest beer he could find, and he’s in it for the long haul. He is always playing a game, always downing a beer. Less aggressive than the Tank, he tends to be quieter, though he’s still actively keeping the beer-based games alive.

Mostly because he’s incapable of any other form of party socialization.

Besides being slightly annoying (one can only be asked to join his Flip Cup team so many times before irritation sets in), this guy really isn’t anything to worry about. For the bulk of the night.

But the more booze that pours into him, the more dangerous he gets. He’s like a time bomb, and it’s only a matter of when this fucker’s gonna blow. And oh, how he’ll blow. The vomit will spew from him like a mighty cannon. A chunky, soupy fountain of vomit will arc through the air, and for just a moment, you’ll almost be impressed.

Until you get hit by the spray.

A serial projectile vomiter, all anyone can really hope for is that the alcohol incapacitates him enough before he lets loose that all he manages to do is soak himself in his shame.

And after the ZA, these poor slobs, their sensitive stomachs full of zombie bile, can do nothing but resort to old habits. Whether the horde is drawn to the scent of the bile or the smell of your humiliation as you wipe the Boomer’s vomit from out of your eyes is up for debate.

***

The Hunter

You see that kid along the wall there? Yeah, I missed him the first time I looked over as well. Dressed mostly in black, his hair a jagged swoop over his eyes, he’s doing his damnedest to not actually interact with anyone at the gathering. His phone may be in his hand, but he’s not actually texting anyone- he’s just updating his Twitter about how lame everyone is and possibly blogging about the futility of trying to socialize with people who just don’t understand what he’s going through.

Oh, emo boy in the corner. You are such a cocksucker.

With his hood up over his head, he’s completely isolating himself from everyone around him, though at the end of the night, he’ll tell his friends about how awful the party was. How the hell would you know, emo kid? You weren’t really there. You were the scenery, not a party-goer.

Every so often, someone will approach this guy. They’ll make an effort to include him. He’ll respond by viciously tearing them apart with his sarcasm and angst-ridden fuckery. Bitchy, the other person will leave, and the emo kid will roll his eyes, certain that this was proof that everyone at the party is a mindless idiot and he’s better off not even trying to engage people this vapid.

He never ends up in the actual party photographs as he prowls around the fringes of the gathering, avoiding the flashing cameras and phones with a sneer of derision. Nobody will notice, but for twenty minutes or so, he will vanish into the bathroom, taking his own photos of the party…

127 stupid

Fucking

Ridiculously angled

Self-portraits

…Often in mirrors.

When the ZA hits, he has to give up his sharp tongue for a set of wicked sharp claws, but it’s about the same. He prowls around the edges of the mobs, pouncing on some poor sap and ripping them apart.

And he never gives up the hoodie.

***

The Witch


Some of you might be surprised that I feel the Witch is not the emo kid of the ZA. And while a fairly strong case can be made for the whiny bitch being super emo, I say there’s a better explanation.

Galleons, meet the party’s drunk crying chick.

There’s always one. One female that gets too drunk off her wine coolers and the 2 shots of coconut rum she giggled her way through. She doesn’t have the courtesy to just sleep with some random guy or quietly vomit in the bathroom.

Oh fuck no.

Already an emotional basketcase (due to her unfortunate condition of possessing a vagina), this bitch decides to just let loose with the waterworks in the middle of the festivities. Her wailing, ragged sobbing causes everyone to turn slowly, knowing exactly what they’re going to see slumped on the floor of the kitchen. Her hair is disheveled, her makeup running down her face in watery black trails. Clutching her hands to her rapidly reddening face, she starts warbling about being unattractive and how nobody likes her and what an asshole that Mark boy is and how she can’t believe she’s single and how all her friends really hate her… It’s a torrent of unwarranted bitching.

She’s not an emo kid, she’s an attention whore. She needs to be reassured that she’s pretty and fuckable and interesting and that people like her and that Mark is going to call her and if he doesn’t he can just go to hell because she’s an amazing person and he should be honored she’d even consider going out with a guy like that…

Of course, she’s not going to believe a goddamn word that’s said to her, but she’s also not going to shut up until some unfortunate soul gets close enough to try to calm her down. And when they do, she’s going to lash out, physically and verbally, screaming at them and clawing at them to get their goddamn hands off her, she doesn’t need their pity, they don’t understand, just leave her the fuck alone. Somebody is going to be stuck with the unsavory task of pinning her arms to her sides in a half-hug while attempting to soothingly rub her back while she flails like a fish and yells watery obscenities. Eventually, she’ll give in and finish it all with a truly spectacular flood of eye water and I’m so ugly and you’re my best friend and I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Nobody wants that fucking job.

Instead of leaping to crying chick’s side, everyone is going to shuffle their feet, nervously glance around, and try to turn their backs to her and begin a stilted resumption of their previous conversations. People who need to piss walk carefully past her, tip toeing their way around the sobbing female and rushing to the safety of the bathroom. Make no sudden movements. Do not attract her attention. You don’t want to be the one stuck consoling her for an hour and a half.

The ZA happens, and she’s basically the exact same. Only now, instead of just slapping at you, she tears your face off with her terrifying claws.

Bitch be crazy.

***

And really, if you think about it, the rest of the party goers are the same kind of single-minded rabble as a regular ol’ zombie horde. You have to fight your way through them to get anywhere.

It seems parties are probably the best preparation for the ZA. If ever there was an excuse to attend them, dear galleons, I think this is it.

Libri Memoria: Examining the Validity of Memoir

I will leave no memoirs. ~Comte de Lautréamont

Orientation at MSU. August of 2006. Two days before the rest of the freshmen were scheduled to pour onto campus, filtering into their dorms and getting blasted during a real Welcome Week (i.e. one without classes or responsibility). I am sitting in a lecture hall in Wells. Beside me, another Samantha is babbling away. We met at the folding table outside, where we signed in and received our plastic bag filled with random MSU information, a pen, and a copy of Jeanette Wall’s memoir, The Glass Castle. The other Samantha latched onto me, immediately making me regret returning her exuberant greeting.

But the four solid hours of mild irritation and homicidal thoughts aren’t what’s important here. It’s that copy of The Glass Castle.

In some kind of attempt to bridge the divide (filled with cheap beer, loud music, and burning couches) between the community of East Lansing and the university students, the “One Book, One Community” program selected a single book every year that was to be the focal point of a series of discussions and events in East Lansing. Freshmen were supposed to read this book and highly encouraged to participate in the activities surrounding it.

However, the ROIAL program wasn’t content with mere encouragement. As part of the required class for freshman members of the program, we had to read this book and attend a variety of those damn events, including a community round-table discussion.

But I digress.

I do that.

Attending said events was torturous for me because I truly loathed the book. It was a story about a neglectful, vaguely abusive family. To me, it felt like a writer from the Lifetime network attempting to be profound.

And failing.

However, with the middle class white women of East Lansing (and the middle-aged white gentlemen with half-assed pretensions at literary appreciation), the book was a big hit.

The book helped solidify an opinion of mine that I’d been fostering for a few years: Memoir is a bullshit genre.

Today, however, as I casually perused a November issue of New York magazine, I found myself rather engrossed in an article about James Frey (infamous author of A Million Little Pieces). While Frey was in agreement with me on the “memoir as bullshit” theory, I found myself mulling the question over for the remainder of the night.

What? My job is incredibly boring.

Perhaps it was because I had never actually given the topic such an intense scrutiny before (instead basing my bulldog opinion on a few poor books), but I found myself re-evaluating my idea of the memoir and its importance as a literary genre.

Don’t worry- I’ll talk you through my change of heart, dear galleons.

***

To begin, it would be helpful to identify exactly what a memoir is. A major problem with memoir as a genre is that it often seems to overlap that of autobiography. So, how do we determine whether someone sat down and wrote their autobiography or their memoir?

The most basic way to tell autobiography from memoir is this: autobiography covers the author’s entire life, while memoir focuses only on a particular portion of it (the portion important to the overall narrative of the memoir).

I like to think of it a bit differently, though. Autobiography is comprised primarily of the researchable facts of a person’s life- the mundane things like when they were born, where they grew up, where they went to school, who they married, their children’s names, etc. When taken in conjunction with the fact that most autobiographies are of quite famous individuals, what we get is a very humanizing portrait of a larger-than-life figure. Those rote facts, those commonplace happenings- they are what help us feel connected to these grand people, as we share similar threads in our own lives.

Memoir, on the other hand, often has the extraordinary, horrific, or otherwise interesting as its focus. Usually written by a relatively unknown individual, a memoir focuses less on those basic, uniting bits of life and more on a special, quite unique part of a person’s life. From the story of a near-death experience to the time in office of a former president (I said these people were usually unknowns, but that’s not always the case), these are stories of a person’s life.

***

Stories.

That’s the important part.

Hold onto that for a moment, as we’re going to be coming back to it.

***

Memoir as a genre has gone through a recent boom in popularity, with beginnings in the early 90s. And, as memoir has become increasingly popular, so too has the genre elicited a slew of complaints (not just by myself):

“Everybody knows that memoirs are bullshit, but they still read them because they have to satisfy the need to force the world into a pretty frame.” ~Paul Constant

Critics of memoir have lashed out at the exhibitionism and unseemliness of the genre. Like dinner guests who violate decorum by talking incessantly about themselves, memoirists are accused of being excessively vain and egotistical.

But, of course, the greatest attack of memoir as a genre comes from the fact that there are a substantial number of “memoirs” out there that are being found to be utter fiction. James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, while probably the most well-known example of memoir fraud, is by no means an isolated incident. Misha Defonseca, author of Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, is not a Holocaust survivor. She didn’t murder a Nazi who tried to rape her, nor was she raised by wolves. Margaret Selzer, author of Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival, lied about her ethnicity, her membership in the Bloods, and she faked a nonprofit organization just to support her book.

That is not to say that all memoirs are false, however. Generalizing like that is a despicable thing to do- the actions of a few individuals shouldn’t color an entire category of authors. And yet, they do.

***

People spend so much time lambasting memoir for the actions of a few authors that they completely ignore what makes memoir such a powerful, important genre. Just why is memoir so popular?

***

“Why We Tell Stories” Lisel Mueller

I
Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

2
We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

3
Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

***

We are storytellers. That is what humans do. We’ve been doing it since time immemorial.

So, when a supposedly learned individual protests memoir because “the concept of a memoir suggests the imposition of a fictional narrative structure onto a life,” I can’t help but want to laugh. Because that’s what we, as a species, do. We spend our lives trying to overlay the chaos of the universe with a series of rules and patterns. We develop systems of belief (or laws of science) to explain the workings of the world around us, because we can’t handle the pure mess of existence. We have religion and philosophy to help us cope. We create routines and traditions to build a sense of order.

One could argue that that’s all civilization is- an attempt at constructed order to mask the wild, chaotic nature of reality.

Stories are one of the ways we create a sense of order in our lives. Stories have a structure, a message, a purpose. They take the random, messy happenings of a life or an event or a situation and make them into something informative, thought-provoking, or emotionally moving.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a veritable connoisseur of folklore, fairy tales, and mythology (as an aside, I finally purchased the book I mention in that post and am currently in the process of reading it… we will be discussing it in greater depth in the near future). And these are perfect examples of people giving a narrative structure to events in order to teach a lesson. We’ve been using these stories for ages to teach children about morality and the world around them.

Memoir is tangential to this, feeding off the same driving urge to impose order in the world around us. Do our lives really have a “narrative structure?” Of course not. Our lives, like the universe, are messy. But even within our own minds, when thinking about our lives, we impose that story structure onto the time we’ve been alive. Memories, as we replay them, unfold as brief story moments. That was not the reality of the moment as we lived it, but it has become the story we tell when looking through the filters of time and knowledge. As Diane Ackerman states in her An Alchemy of Mind:

“…we remember a whole event, not a spray of sensations, everything blends in the large association cortices that make up most of the neocortex.”

So to say that memoir is bullshit for acknowledging this aspect of our brains is preposterous. Back to Ackerman:

“It’s not enough to be startling, beautiful, artful, it has to mean, even if much of life simply is.”

I would argue that, in many ways, memoir is more honest, more truthful, than autobiography could ever be. Memoir blatantly puts out there that this is what happened… but it’s what happened through the lens of the self. Through that associating, pattern-finding, chatty thing called consciousness. This is what happened, and this is what we can learn from it. Because what good are life experiences if we learn nothing from them?

You learn nothing substantial from an autobiography. By stabbing at objective truth (which none of us selfish, subjective beings has any real concept of), it misses the point of sharing your life, your past, your experiences. Or even, not just of sharing them, but examining them yourself. The choices we make, the situations we muddle through, the people we meet… we have memories of them for a reason. Memory is a learning tool. We use it to build templates of the world, to develop mechanisms for dealing with common (and uncommon) situations, to help find those patterns we so desperately need in order to stay sane.

So, the most natural way to sit down and write a chronicle of a portion of your life is to do so with that imposition of narrative structure, as that is how our memories are. And to choose a portion of your life that, in retrospect, has meaning or importance or something to be learned about life or the human condition… well, to be perfectly frank, if you aren’t sharing something like that, what’s the point of publishing your memoir?

Truth in writing is not always about pure fact. We are emotional creatures, and the importance of emotional truth and resonance in writing is something we need to factor heavily into discussions and criticisms of non-fiction. And while I’m not condoning the actions of the Freys and Selzers out there, I find that I have to stand up for the genre as a whole. In memoir, there is truth. In memoir, there is meaning. And as we spend our entire lives searching for meaning and purpose, I think these glimpses of the truths of our existence are among the most important pieces of literature being created.

We’ll end with a quote by Lisa Dale Norton:

“Memoir is the close inspection of some slim aspect of one’s lived experience in which the writer uses every writerly technique available to craft a compelling story that explores the human dilemma and in the process unearths some truth central to his life.”

The University of WoW: A Guide For New Students

Song of the moment: Wrath of the Lich King (Main Title) from the WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Soundtrack

I haven’t shared my good news with you, blogosphereland, but I finally dinged 80 in WoW this week. For the record, there was no accompanying rush of joy or achievement. I mostly just stared at the place where my experience bar used to be and felt exhausted. I closed my computer and went to sleep.

Since that moment, I’ve gradually come to terms with being level 80. It’s not exciting. It’s not really special (even though it’s my first 80 character [I flat-out refuse to say ‘toon’]). In a lot of regards, it really feels like a whole new game now, and I’m back to square one.

Oh goody.

I like to imagine WoW is similar to the college experience, and the game content is set up like coursework. So, for your amusement (but mostly my amusement), here’s my breakdown of WoW in college terms [note that I’m a Horde girl all the way, so this is all from a Horde character’s perspective- suck it, Alliance]:

Freshman Year

Levels 1-58 are like freshman year of college.

First, it’s orientation (i.e. Mulgore/Tirisfal Glades/Durotar/Eversong Woods) to acclimate you to your new environment and what will be expected of you in the years to come. Everything’s shiny and new, and you get excited every time you kill a little trash mob or get a new weapon/piece of armor (in much the same way freshmen in college happily finish little bullshit assignments and short papers).

After you’re orientated properly, it’s time to get into your introductory courses. Yes, you are going to be spending a ton of time here. Yes, they are a complete waste of time. And yes, they are boring as sin. Can someone say The FUCKING Barrens? Also, Silverpine Forest and The Ghostlands and such.

It is here, in these intro courses, that we supposedly learn the fundamentals that will serve us later in the game. Exactly how countless hours of repetitive killing and dinky quests will serve you in the future can be outlined in the handbook in very vague terms that really amount to nothing- the university just likes to torture you.

I suppose they could come in handy for the really stupid kids, but they shouldn’t be here, should they? They should’ve just accepted their lot in life as burger flippers and not come into my game to spam trade chat with asinine comments.

Here, in the bowels of freshmen hell, you will encounter your first group projects- dungeons. It’s time to suit up with some fellow nervous freshies and work together to battle your way through tougher monsters than you ever face outside these dreaded instances. You’ll have to study up before tackling these areas- they contain special traps and bosses with weaknesses you have to learn to exploit. But the rewards are high if you succeed, for here is where the best and shiniest loot of the game is to be found. You can only 4.0 the semester if you survive these group excursions.

After level 25 or so, the world really opens up to you. You start exploring the campus, with classes in far corners of your known world, in buildings with names you’ve never heard of (like Dustwallow Marsh and Tanaris and the ever-dreaded Stranglethorn Vale). You better learn the bus system around these parts (i.e. find your flight points), otherwise it’s a hell of a long run between classes.

Thankfully, at level 20 you were smart enough to buy yourself a bike (a mount), so now getting to classes is quicker and easier than it was before. You’re going to be really thankful for your new ride, because Azeroth is huge (and you’re only in The Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor right now). And, at 40, you get to upgrade to an even faster ride. Hello, speedster!

Along the way, you’ll want to pick up some study guides to help you out. These ‘professions,’ if leveled at the same rate as your character, will help you craft your own gear, make money, heal yourself, catch and cook your own food. Believe me, it’s hard to adventure without having something to help you when you’re in a jam. Like SparkNotes, the right professions can make or break you when it’s crunch time.

Sometimes, you’re gonna want to party. After all, this is college. And there are huge parties organized all the time! Festivals occur every month at UW (that’s University of WoW), from the monthly Darkmoon Faire to the holiday extravaganzas. At these gatherings, you will sample the finest spirits Azeroth brewers have to offer, as well as specialty dishes. You’ll dance. You’ll get hammered. You’ll flirt outrageously with other revelers. You’ll get fancy new clothes and pets. All in all, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard week (or month) of class work.

As you progress through your 100-level courses, things gradually start to get more difficult. Group projects are longer and harder. You actually have to study before exams (i.e. large quest lines with elite bosses at the end). You aren’t going to be sleeping enough (you never have the health/mana potions you need), you aren’t eating properly (whatever you can scrounge up over a campfire or buy off a shady vendor in some pissant military post or backwards village), and you’re cranky (for the love of Thrall, where the fuck is the mob I’m supposed to be killing?!).

Don’t worry- everyone has to go through this. Eventually, though, you hit 58, and the next part of the college experience begins.

Study Abroad

Time to dig out your passport and prepare to travel! Levels 58-70 are your chance to experience a whole new world… literally.

Outland isn’t in Azeroth. That’s right, you’re hopping over to a whole ‘nother world for a few levels. With breathtaking views and expansive new continents, it’s time to break out your best gear and prepare for a whirlwind tour of this crazy land.

Here, the challenges are all harder, but they are similar to coursework you’ve done before. You know the basics- now it’s time to fine-tune them. The dungeons require more teamwork. The quests are more complex (…sometimes). The mobs are tougher. But the rewards are higher than they’ve ever been.

Did I mention you can fly now? That’s right, flying mounts are introduced at 60. Goodbye bike, hello helicopter! Your friends are sure going to be jealous of you next year, aren’t they?

Don’t forget to check out the local flavor. While the military post where you land isn’t terrible exciting (you know, except for the demons swarming at you and scaring the pants off you… damn locals), a short jaunt away is Shattrath City, home of two rival gangs (the Scryers and Aldor), as well as a motley assortment of gypsy vagabonds. It’s dangerous. It’s shady. It’s fun as hell. Also, the pub often features live entertainment. So grab a drink, enjoy the Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftans (a bitchin’ rock band who got their start back in Warcraft III), and give Haris Pilton’s little dog a good kick if you see it.

You’re going to be inundated with the history and culture of these new lands. Sure, you grew up hearing stories of Azeroth’s past. You know the legends there. You know the big names (Arthas, Jaina, Thrall, Sylvanas, Uthar, Gromm, Illidian, Tyrande, Alexstraza, Ysera). You know their deeds. But this is a whole new world- the shattered remains of the planet Draenor is steeped in its own bloody, fascinating history. So grab your #2 pencils of intellect, because the ancestral home of the Orcs has a lot of history for you to catch up on.

And yes, there will be a test.

Sophomore Year

Back from your sojourn abroad, it’s time for your second year of university life. Levels 70-80 are spent in the far, cold reaches of campus in a place called Northrend. It’s right there, on the campus you’ve come to know, but this year all your classes are further away. Time to move to a new dorm (Dalaran) and make new friends (The Argent Crusade, Knights of the Ebon Blade, The Oracles).

But don’t worry about the transition- UW will ensure you are in the finest hands. Your advisers are the best the university has to offer its students. Alexstraza herself and Garrosh Hellscream lead the pack. You’ll also recognize returning professor Hemet Nesingwary, who teaches one of the core 200-level courses.

Classwork is starting to get more specialized now, but have no fear- you’re prepared for it. It takes a lot more outside of class time to pass every exam and quiz, so be prepared to buckle down and work your ass off.

Life’s not all work, though. Now that you’re settled into the routine of life at UW, it’s time to get involved in some extracurricular activities. Perhaps you’ve dabbled in PvP combat in arenas in the past, but now it’s time to compete in Wintergrasp, an outdoor world PvP match. It’s tough, it’s dangerous, and it’s thrilling. But, on the plus side, it’ll really build up your reputation among the university elite (no, not the elites), and you’ll win some sweet honors if you succeed.

Survive finals week (i.e. the last hellish levels before 80) and you’re through the horrible prereq classes! Now, the real work begins.

Junior Year

It’s a whole new game now that you’re an upperclassman. Without all that pesky required coursework (leveling), you get to really specialize in your chosen major.

Oh, that’s right- we haven’t really discussed your major much up till this point. Mostly that’s because your coursework through the first half of your university experience have been general requirements. But we have experienced a few low-level major courses, and now it’s time to really decide on your specialization and focus your energy on it.

Remember those first documents you filled out before you even stepped on the UW campus? Well, that’s where you first decided your major (character class). You had a lot (or a fair amount) of options, but you picked the one that seemed like the best fit for you and your future.

Well, now it’s time to flesh out that major. You may have noticed that UW has three tracks within each major that you can specialize in. So pick a track and select your classes (talents). These classes give you a wealth of new skills to use as you battle your way through your 300-level courses (i.e. rep grinding and heroics).

Some of you may have decided to double major (have multiple alts) at UW. This is a wonderful decision and will help you become a versatile player, but note that it will probably take you longer to graduate if you are pursuing two majors (leveling two or more characters at once).

This is also a great time for some electives to round out your schedule (namely, gathering achievements). They’ll allow you to experience the length and breadth of campus and academia, and they look really nice on your final transcript.

Also, make sure you’re in at least one extracurricular group (guild) that interests you. You’ll make great friends/allies that will act as your support web through your senior year, and it looks fantastic on the ol’ resume.

Senior Year

This is the year you’ve all been waiting for- your final year at UW.

You’re level 80 now. You’re geared with the best stuff Azeroth has to offer. You have the knowledge and power to tackle your final classes before graduating.

This year will be different than those that came before. Instead of tons of classes with busywork and exams and assignments, you’re only going to be in one course- your senior thesis/project. You must complete this before you can graduate.

Your final project is your toughest challenge to date of your academic career. You’ll spend this year polishing your skills/gear, gathering your friends/classmates/group members/guildies, and researching your ass off.

Finally, when you are ready, it’s time for the end-game content- the battle with Arthas the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel. It’s going to be brutal. It’s going to take everything you’ve learned in your time at UW, as well as a little luck, but if you studied hard and are strong enough, you’ll master this challenge.

Well, that’s it, you’re thinking. I mean, sure, you can take a year and farm for materials to make some money in the AH before leaving for good. But after this, there’s nothing else.

Or is there? UW is currently perfecting their graduate program, so if you stick around for the release of Cataclysm, your going to have the chance to continue your education. The campus is being renovated. New degree programs are being added. If I were you, I’d fork over the cash for tuition, because it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

***

Okay, halfway through writing this entry, I realized my attempt at a joking comparison between WoW and college started to feel like an extended Blizzard recruitment article.

So it goes, I guess.

I Can’t Top This For Halloween, I Really Can’t

Found on MLIA:

I grew up in a college town, and one Halloween our doorbell rang and we opened the door expecting to see trickortreater—but what was in front of our open door—was another door! Like, a full-on wooden door, that had a sign that said “Please knock.” So we did, and the door swung open to reveal a bunch of college dudes dressed as really old grandmothers, curlers in their hair, etc, who proceeded to coo over our “costumes” and tell us we were “such cute trick or treaters!” One even pinched my cheek. Then THEY gave US candy, closed their door, picked it up and walked to the next house.

Pretty hilarious, no?