The other day I spent an hour with a Ukrainian. I think. He didn’t respond when I talked to him (in character as my dwarven warrior) but when I waved goodbye and was promptly attacked by three giant spiders simultaneously he helped me battle them off. Encouraged, I asked him again if he would help me find incendite ore, but he wouldn’t reply, merely hanging around silently, staring mutely at my character. I left; he followed. After a while he invited me to group with him (a click an icon kind of command, not verbal) and when I accepted (click yes) and went on into the caves to search for incendite ore he happily accompanied me and helped me fight spiders so I could mine the ore.

Now I have a nine-year-old who enjoys playing World of Warcraft, so when I meet players who don’t seem to like typing, I assume they’re nine years old. There’s another reason not to type though, or at least not to type in English, as I realised when my new found friend (a dwarf like myself) after about half an hour of pleasant spider-killing and incendite-mining said his first word: “???????” Aha! Even I know enough Russian to know that that meant he was Russian! I replied with a smile (an emote, though reported in English so presumably less effective than the more trans-lingual wave) and typed “nastarovje”, hoping that meant cheers. Ten minutes of spider-killing later, my mute dwarven friend typed “Ukrein”, which I presume meant he was from the Ukraine. Unfortunately the attack of four spiders simultaneously distracted me from writing the “Norway” I had intended.

We died in the end, of course. I had completed my quest anyway, and typed, as simply as I knew how, “I home now”, following my oral experience where those with little English, no matter what their mothertongue, understand a fake, thick, Norwegian-accented English far more easily than my native Australian. Then I had my dwarf say goodbye in a voice emote, which meant that she waved and merrily said “so long now!” in a Scottish accent (I hear trolls speak with a Jamaican twang, but I haven’t heard that any species speaks Australian). I don’t know whether my Russian friend understood me, but he waved as well, and when I took out my hearthstone to return to my dwarven home, he took out his, as well.

I probably wouldn’t have met a Ukrainian on the US servers. Not that I really know anything more about Ukrainians than I did last week. Other than that they’re just as good at killing large spiders as I am.

12 thoughts on “the ukrainian dwarf

  1. torill

    Oh, a WOW story! 🙂 My favourite genre at the moment.

  2. vika

    Aww, the cyrillic is coming through as question marks Now I’m all curious. 🙂

  3. Jill

    Vika, I can’t figure out what the HTML entities should be, and WordPress won’t accept the actual Russian characters, but it’s the first word in the title of this page. I think it simply means “Russian”, doesn’t it? How do I do it in HTML? And Torill, YES, I know 🙂

  4. dr. b.

    I love a good WoW story. I can definitely relate to the 9 year old dwarf who never says much other than “Kewl” or “w00t”. Perhaps I will one day find my own Ukranian dwarf! WoW, the narcotic of academics everywhere!

  5. Jill

    Ah yes, it does seem to be a favourite of academics… Torill, did those academic friends of yours ever set up the Academics Guild? I wonder how that would go down 😉

  6. Martin

    Opium for the masses, I say!* Or rather, EverCrack, as they used to call EverQuest, back in the day.

    * (No I don’t)

  7. vika

    Ha, yes, that just means “Russian.”

    Posting Cyrillic characters is kind of a pain, but perhaps you could get around that by setting your pages’ character encoding to Unicode (UTF-8 or UTF-16)? I don’t know if that would work at all, but might be worth a try.

  8. J. Nathan Matias

    World of WarCraft: Globalism, one dead spider at a time.

    Seriously though — this sort of connection can actually be very powerful, and games help people connect in unusual ways. This happened to me once when I ran into a sociologist online who was doing research on MMORPGs in-game. But even if you don’t get to know a person well, a weak tie can still be valuable.
    See “The Strength of Weak Ties” by Granovetter, which was one of the most groundbreaking sociological research in the 70s and 80s.

  9. torill

    It just struck me, Jill, you might very well have met a Ukrainian on an American server. Or perhaps more likely: a chinese or mexican gold farmer. They prefer the US servers and the Alliance side because those have more users, and most of the users are Alliance. I have occasionally run into lev ?? players who do not communicate with words, only with deeds.

    I don’t think your Ukrainian was a gold farmer though. They would not have wanted to aid anybody else in making gold or points, they would have pulled aggro on you and then mined and killed spiders while you were trying to reunite body and soul.

    And that’s globalism too: the difference between those who play for fun and those who play to deliver a service.

  10. Anon

    Since some of the reference I point to has to do with sexuality, I won’t be in the least offended if Jill decides to remove the comment.

    torill’s earlier comment about stories got me thinking about Susie Bright’s tale spinning (if you’ll pardon the spider pun) based on a news story. Basically, two American football cheerleaders are alleged to have been having sex in a semi-public washroom. They have been charged with various crimes. Susie shares her version of the romantic and erotic motivations for what would otherwise be merely of interest as a political story (I mean, why charge them with anything? Making out in a washroom stall is only second to U-Hauls on second dates as a lesbian stereotype.)

    Susie’s blog entry is at

  11. Alex

    My comment is a little out of thread’s subject, just a tech note.. to show russian (generally, any language other than english) characters use unicode macros, like this:

    English: PREVED, Russian: Превед

    In most cases it works 🙂

  12. […] So the question of whether or not someone can speak English becomes a litmus test of whether or not you’re a legitimate player or a farmer or a bot. [This reminds me of when I discovered a silent player was actually Ukrainian] Filed under:General — Jill @ 13:36 [ ] […]

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