I am an American and an unabashed consumer. When I walk into a grocery store, I expect to see a cereal aisle with every variation of Cheerio in every possible box size I can conceive. I buy 2-3 different types of cereal at one time with the expectation that one will probably become rat food. It's a way of life, being a consumer, but like many other Americans, I've had to put that momentum to consume on hold. I've had to learn to save instead of spend, and it has been a necessary, albeit difficult, adjustment. However, over the past few weeks a remarkable thing has occurred. For roughly 15 dollars a month I've found a place where the dream of consumption lives on, untrammeled by outside economic circumstances and immune to the collective malaise hanging over us all. I have, I believe, found a salve for the American psyche and it is called World of Warcraft.
WoW first entered my fiscal consciousness when I invited my friend to go out and grab a few drinks with me awhile back. There was a bar I knew of with 200 different types of beer, the cereal aisle of bars, that I knew he enjoyed. Excited as he was for the invitation, he confessed he was saving money for a trip, and that instead of going out he was going to play WoW. It was hard to deny the economic sense of his decision - spend 50-100 dollars for a hangover and a forgotten evening or play till your heart's content for a nominal monthly fee - but at the time it seemed like a sad alternative to boom time bacchanalia.
A year later and I'm a true believer. Spending money in the pursuit of ever cooler and more exclusive things is part of what defines me as a young American. I don't mean that as a personal criticism either; I'd rather that be my defining cultural characteristic than hanging out in cafes and smoking cigarettes(not that I have a problem with French people). What I'm trying to say is that buying rare retro games is in my blood, but it's also just a hobby. I can live without it if it means having a little more in the bank or mattress, depending on how shaken your confidence is. But I realized that even in the midst of an economic crisis, I needed to find an outlet for this deeply American tendency of mine. So I've redirected my consumptive urges towards Azeroth with great success. I have replaced clothes shopping with armor sets, nights on the town with instances and the desire to make copious amounts of money with mining and the auction house.
As a shopping experience WoW is surely unparalleled. I can easily spend an hour each day window shopping on wowwiki for all sorts of accessories and limited edition, or epic in WoW speak, gear. Of course loot lust is a well documented phenomenon, but I was initially skeptical whether the same burning desire I have for obscure dvd's would translate into some colored textures on a character. I also wondered if I would ever be able to get the rare items that make the game so cool, given that I could only devote a handful of hours each week to the game. Well it turns out you can get glowing weapons well before level 80 and that's pretty much all I needed to know to get hooked. I won't be stomping around on a mammoth anytime soon, but did you care that your first car wasn't a Ferrari when you were 16? You'll definitely see the Jones's as well, with their fantastically baroque weapons, armor and unusual mounts, but like any good consumer these are merely inspiration.