blood plaguesBlood Plagues and Endless Raids took a chapter for me to warm up to it. For whatever reason, Anthony Palumbi begins his homage to World of Warcraft with an icky story about driving to meet his guild mates for the first time. But once I got past that part, I enjoyed this gaming memoir quite a lot.

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I am, or used to be, a very dedicated player of Everquest, both one and two. Though it never had the mammoth popularity of WoW, Everquest had quite a few things in common with the mega-hit including some game dynamics and gamer-speak. So, I found myself nodding along most of the time.

You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate this memoir. Palumbi explains every slang term and technique that pops up. He also delves deeply into game morality, relationships in MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games), addictions, game burnout, the notable players and even how WoW entered popular culture. It is an informative and, for readers like me, a nostalgic treat.

Even though, in-game, Palumbi and I would have moved in entirely different circles. He’s a raider, you see. This means he’s into end-game content which in the old days took 40 or so players coordinating, in sometimes very complex ways, to master. I, on the other hand, prefer to wander around and see what there is to see. I like to fish and chat and have fun. Palumbi likes to PvP, strut his stuff in his rare gear and order the main tank around.

Beneath these differences though, there runs a love for gaming and the social-ness of it. He, and I, don’t have that anymore. People have moved on, had families and gone to different games. When I log onto EQ2, there’s not a single person on that I know anymore. It is very sad in some ways.

“Those who match up through games have come to know each other very well long before meeting in person. … WoW romance served, ironically, as a kind of return to romantic tradition, with separation or impossibility as a core component.” loc 467. Have I mentioned that I met my spouse in-game? Let me tell you the tale.

So, I was wandering beneath the trees of Kelethin (a newbie zone for wood elves) and I was stuck in a perpetual corpse run loop. This was back when death had a cost- you’d die and lose every piece of equipment on your body unless you could go back to the scene and click your corpse. My friend had made me a nice leather piece of armor and I didn’t want to admit to him that I died and lost it, so I was looking for myself, literally. But, I was near Orc Hill and, well, I had died maybe half a dozen times looking for that tunic.

In the midst of this bloodbath, I get this ‘tell’ out of the blue (in WoW they’re called ‘whispers’) by this guy who goes “Hey, do you need some help?” And I experienced a moment of utter panic because I had always been told that people online were dangerous. But I threw caution, and my pride really, to the wind and said, “Yeah, I do.”

So these random guys helped me find most of my corpses and, as I logged on over the next couple of weeks, I met the rest of their friends. One of whom is the man I ended up marrying.

As many people as the games brought together, they also drove people apart. “Choosing a game over another person’s feelings felt strange enough on its own; to have one of my best real-life friends applauding this decision was disconcerting. At the same time, it was rewarding to hear that kind of praise from someone who’d always been so much better at games.” loc 661. I knew people who dropped out of college because of MMORPGs, lost their jobs or their relationships. Another sad reality, but true.

Palumbi also delves briefly into the gender divide on video games and how females are treated differently than their male counterparts. I honestly think that most people assumed I was a guy playing because it was more common. The last thing my future husband said before he flew out to meet me was “You are really a girl, right?” and I had to laugh. Because, REALLY, I am. So, I dealt with some harassment and discrimination because of my gender, but not a horrific amount. Sometimes it seems like I was in the lucky minority.

Highly recommended for current or former gamers or anyone who wants to understand a spouse who plays. Some further reading: You’re Never Weird on the Internet or Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.

Thank you to NetGalley and Chicago Review Press for a free digital copy of this book. And thanks for reading!

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