2020's Alterac Valley Standoff. Or: Why I Keep Coming Back to World of Warcraft

*Please note that this post contains some cursing and other offensive language, taken as direct quotes from players of World of Warcraft.




If you were to ever doubt the rivalry between the Horde and the Alliance, player factions of Blizzard’s MMORPG World of Warcraft, allow me to explain the events of November 21st, 2020. It was the last day before the conclusion of the Alterac Valley of Olde event, a challenge in which players collected badges for participating in the PvP (player vs. player) battleground, Alterac Valley. A win against your opposing faction—in my case, the Horde—would net you about twenty badges. A loss, merely ten. Thus, it was in everyone’s best interest to finish each battle as quickly as possible, so as to maximize their badge gain in the shortest time possible, especially with only twelve hours left in the event.


At 10:00pm my battleground began as most do on the Misha server: with the Horde quickly overrunning the Alliance and pushing us back into our base with the goal to bypass us and kill our boss. They were succeeding in that goal remarkably well. Or, to put it more plainly, they were kicking our ass. Except, oddly enough, after the first fifteen minutes the Horde became stuck at our bridge, unable to get any further. The battle turtled, a term used to describe a strategic focus on defense that results in a slow, drawn-out fight. It’s perfect for most Saturday nights when you’re just looking to game for the fun of it… not so much when the timer is ticking down on your seasonal event. The chat blew up with discussion, everyone voicing the same thought: We’re not going to win this and we won’t get any badges until the battleground ends… so shouldn’t we just let them win?


It was the logical move, the one that ensured everyone got what they were really after. Yet, even as we thought it over, I knew precisely what the response would be.


“Fuck that,” someone said.


“Fuck you,” came the expected response.


The group quickly divided, many yelling for everyone to lay down their weapons (metaphorically) so we could move on already, the rest still holding the Horde at bay. For every minute that passed tempers rose, with players begging their allies to think about their early mornings tomorrow, others saying if they weren’t willing to die hundreds of times then they weren’t true Alliance. One healer announced that they would not heal anymore, you’re on your own, assholes. In response a warrior threw himself into the mess of Horde with, “no one will need heals bc I’LL PROTECT US ALL.”


Me? I found myself siding with the pro-fight group. Did I want the reward for finishing the event? Yes. Did it make the most sense to just lose and start another round? Yes. Was I exhausted from a long day and ready to call it a night? Yes.


Would I deliberately let the Horde take this base? Absolutely not.


“I’d just loooove to see their chat right now,” someone said, referring to the Horde group and the expected fury that we simply would not let them cross this bridge. I laughed so much I got ganked.


In time the nay-sayers grew disgusted enough to actually leave. Others took their place, looked at the mess they’d zoned into, and hesitantly asked what the hell was going on.


“We’re winning :)” was the response.


We weren’t, but to everyone’s shock we were pushing them back. Maybe the Horde lost good players to their own frustration. Maybe they just got sick of holding the line. Whatever the reason, over the next twenty minutes we slowly inched towards the graveyard and when we finally took it back, the glee in the chat was something to behold. We healed up and raced down the mountain, all of us Caps Lock yelling about how we’d win this yet.


No one believed it. We ran into another Horde group a few seconds later and were promptly massacred.


Still, the stalemate had moved to just beyond our base and the small victory invigorated the team. “Anyone know how long we’ve been here?” someone asked.


“Idk. An hour, hour and a half I think.”


“Years,” was the counter. That was quickly deemed the correct response.


“I don’t remember what the outside looks like!” wailed a third player and with half a mind still on the fight, we joked that we were outside. Duh. Don’t you see the mountains?


To be honest, I lost track of things for a while. I fought. I died. I did a happy shimmy whenever my addon announced a kill shot. The team started talking about how we were family now, bound by this glorious battle, and while we were swearing virtual blood oaths a small Alliance group—unbeknownst to the rest of us—snuck south to take the Relief Hut. It wasn’t planned and, frankly, it shouldn’t have worked. When we saw the health of the Horde boss beginning to go down all of us stopped, just standing around like shell-shocked fish in their proverbial barrel.


“…are you shitting me?” the guy next to me said and yeah, that about summed it up.


No one believed it until the VICTORY screen popped up and if I’d been on headset, I think I may have ruptured an eardrum. “FUCK YOU ALL WHO COMPLAINED. WE DID IT. WE FUCKING DID IT. FUCK YOUUUUU!!!” There was “dude” and “I love you” and “i salute you all omg.” Amongst the cursing at those who’d tried to get us to give up, I saw more congratulations and well wishes than I ever have in a battleground, despite playing WoW on and off since its release. And in a game known for its toxic encounters, particularly in PvP, I’m unlikely to see that much goodwill again.


The team disbanded two hours and eighteen minutes after it had formed. I got my badges and the reward mount, as well as over 800 honorable kills and 2,000 honor. I’ve played this game for over a decade, but it was only that night, during a year that had tested us all and made virtual communication feel that much more meaningful, that I truly appreciated the words,


“For the Alliance!”



 

Citations


Blizzard Entertainment. "The Alterac Valley In Game Map." WoWWiki. https://wowwiki-archive.fandom.com/wiki/Alterac_Valley.


Blizzard Entertainment. "The Alterac Valley." WoWWiki. https://wowwiki-archive.fandom.com/wiki/Alterac_Valley.