There’s a very perverse psychology at work when I play most video games. I want escapism, but not too much escapism. The escape must be in the setting and the events, rather than in the avatar. The avatar needs to be the anchor to reality.
From the day he was rolled, my paladin was a blood elf. When I first made the character, I knew I was going Horde, so the race I was going to play as was a foregone conclusion. This was a useful diversion for all the eventual hate — the unending font of immaturity — that blood elves tend to attract; it wasn’t my fault, I only had one choice to play as.
Truth is though that I really was more than happy to play a blood elf in TBC. Not only did they have a great storyline — pre-Sunwell redemption was a really fun time to be a belf what with all the god-eating and the rampant sacrilege — but also they weren’t some goofy monster. Blood elves were a cool-looking and effective medium for immersing myself in the game. For all the hate they engender, they (well, the males at least) are the most realistic depiction of an average real-life human being in WoW. Except for the giant hands, but that’s neither here not there.
Cataclysm came out and the option to race change to tauren presented itself. I had previously tried to play a tauren when I rolled a druid in late Wrath, but I didn’t get further than level 40 with it. I just hated the massive clunky model so much that it made it impossible for me to connect with the character. I didn’t pick up that druid again until Cataclysm allowed trolls druids, which reignited my old love affair with the troll race (lest ye accuse me of simple anthropocentrism).
I still stayed as a blood elf, but the old standby excuse of “I had no other option” evaporated. Not that I really needed much of an excuse at that point, my enthusiasm for the benighted sin’dorei being quite well established by then. That may be an understatement.
Then late last year I became a blueshirt – I think that’s the proper use of that term, right? — and I had to make a choice between human, dwarf, and draenei. (I’m being charitable describing it as a choice, for the record; I think I’d rather play a tauren than a space goat, and dwarves are much to too disproportionate for my liking.)
I must admit, I was really unhappy with playing a human male at first. They were bulbous, clunky, and their animations are just about as ancient as you can get in WoW. As a result, I immediately committed myself to farming up an Orb of the Sin’dorei post-haste so that I could escape from my corporeal torment for even just a small window of time every thirty minutes.
Not only that, but let’s be honest, playing as a human in WoW is like playing as the Americans in Civilization (or, insert your own real-life country — sorry Canadians). It’s about as vanilla a choice as you can make. Everything is already familiar with regards to your avatar, there’s no real opportunity for a new perspective. Despite how human-like the blood elves are, there’s still that intangible sense of otherness (might be the absurd eyebrows) that makes them seem exotic and different.
I should also probably state that playing a female character was off the table. Not out of some deep-seated misogyny, thank you very much, but just that I could not really connect with the character in the same way if it was the opposite sex. Plus, who wants to deal with the potential threat of a pervy whisper? Not me, no thanks.
Anyway, much like the song goes in My Fair Lady, I grew accustomed to [his] face. (Well, aside from the hint of a cleft palate, which had to be covered up Stacy Keach-style with some facial hair.)
The trick, I ultimately learned, was how you gear out a human male to “smooth out the curves”, so to speak. Thicker boots and gauntlets hide the weirdly tumescent calves and forearms. The silhouette smooths out and the human male model becomes distinctly less gorilla-like and much more like an action hero that might have hit the creatine a little too much. I could live with that.
Also, time is like an ocean, and it eventual erodes everything in its path — including foolish by-proxy narcissism — so I may have finally just let the visual equivalent of olfactory fatigue take its course.
Fast forward to the other day and I was staring at the character select screen for a mage that I was preparing to roll. If this was a Horde character, I would by default have chosen a blood elf — I mean, what other race is more perfect for the mage class that side of the aisle?
For Alliance-side, the choice was much more muddled. A lot of their races gel really well with the mage class, there were so many options! And yet, weirdly, deep down I felt like the only correct choice for me was going to ultimately be human.
I set up the eventual transmog I wanted to use for the character, the Valorous Kirin Tor set, in wowhead’s model viewer and swapped the displayed model over and over from human to gnome to dwarf to human to worgen to night elf to human. It only felt right as human, though some adjustments were going to have to be made to the boots and gloves.
I was struck by how weird it was to go from leaving claw marks on the ground all the way from the gates of Silvermoon to Stormwind’s canals, and then suddenly be consumed by this desire that nothing else was appropriate for me than the most white bread of WoW’s races.
These days I don’t even use the Orb of the Sin’dorei anymore, it gathers dust in my bags aside from being brought out to bother Vosskah with blood elves in our guild killshots. Truthfully, it’s kind of disconcerting when I use the item and suddenly Rhidach drops 100 pounds and his left shoulder begins to hover a few inches in the air (are they ever going to fix that shoulder bug?). There may be a form of Stockholm Syndrome at play here. I can’t help but feel something is horribly wrong.
That said, if Blizzard added high elves to the Alliance tomorrow (or if Jaina didn’t ruin my life forever), I’d be first in line to fork over cash for a race change back to my twig-shaped paladin. The call of the hair is far too strong. And so I feel somewhat relieved to report that I’m not yet that far gone.