The dating game

World of Warcraft

WoW’s strict naming conventions and rudimentary character customisation options make it hard to create a hero who stands out. My first choice of dynamic go-getting name, Falcon Eaglehawk, broke about nine of Blizzard’s rules. One word, less than twelve letters, OK... Danger. Danger is taken. McDanger? McDanger works. McDanger is a Night Elf, because Gnomes and Night Elves are the only two races with more female players than male. And it’s hard to design an impressively manly Gnome. McDanger is a Rogue, because it’s the sexiest-sounding class.

McDanger has blue skin, because it’s cooler than pink; blue hair, because it looks younger than white; and long hair, because it looks faintly luxuriant. Beyond that, there wasn’t much I could do to make the yellow-eyed man with the sword-sized ears any more attractive. I ran into a minor problem as soon as I entered Teldrassil, the leaf-ceilinged forest home of the Night Elves. Half the Night Elf classes mandate robes, so there are as many elf-men in dresses bouncing about as actual females. I ran into one of the latter, a fellow Rogue, and asked if she’d seen any Nightsabers. After a long pause, she said that she hadn’t. That was about the limit of my small-talk repertoire, so I attempted to invite her to a group with me, but she was already in one.

Dancing plays pretty much the same role as in real life, in fact

I moved on – most of the people I’d spotted were levels 4-6, and I reckoned I could catch them up quickly. I stabbed a lot of innocent Thistleboars and Nightsabers, ignored a lot of man-elves in dresses, and was soon a stealthing, backstabbing level 4 Rogue. I was creeping through a cave in search of spider eggs when I came to a crevasse too wide to jump. On the far side, spider eggs, and a pony-tailed elfess in a fetching toffee-coloured dress. It took me a while to find another way around, but she was still there when I did. “Hi,” I said, elbow-deep in the squelching unborn young of the Webwood arachnid.

“hey :D”. This is what emoticon lexicons describe as a ‘Big, potentially goofy smile.’ I suddenly noticed her name, Daemalia, and realised she was the same Rogue I’d failed to strike up conversation with earlier. This time she was free to group, we both got the horrible sticky spider eggs we were after, and we actually hung out in that cave, stabbing its inhabitants, longer than necessary. I also had a much more polite way of bringing up the subject of real-life gender.

“I have a confession. McDanger isn’t my real name.”
“I hope not :D”
“It’s Tom.”
“Hey tom, I’m Laura”
Laura was from Finland. We taunted spiders for a bit, throwing knives at them from a high rock.
“So, Tom, how old are you?”
“26, you?”
“23 :D”
“Ah, I remember the heady days of 23, my whole life stretching before me.”
“Haha, stop... you’re not that much older”

The real advantage of games as a social medium is what you actually do in them while you’re talking. Somehow this conversation was much more enjoyable for being repeatedly interrupted by angry, footstool-sized bilious green spiders trying to chew our legs off. Knives flew, backs were stabbed and organs ripped from corpses.

“So, are you just out of uni?”
“Never even been :D going to polytechnic in the fall”
“What are you going to study?”
“culture and music”
“Awesome. Single?” Again, I’d given up trying to find a subtle way to ask this.
“yep :D” The ever-present big, potentially goofy smile. “you?”

And that was virtually that. We danced around in a moonwell (she like Alizee, I Michael Jackson), had an epic battle with a Satyr boss, and exchanged MSN details. My little social experiment had gone better than I had anticipated.

I’d always known there were more girls playing online games than most men assume, but I hadn’t expected the ones I met to be so friendly, sociable and unfazed by my impolitely direct questions. As for McDanger and Daemalia, as I said, what happens from here is probably too personal to generalise about.

Jul 21, 2008