How has WoW changed your life?
When I first started playing this game, I was not exactly in a happy place. I won’t get into the reasons why as looking back on it they sound somewhat trivial, but I had an overwhelming feeling of loss of sense of self. Too many things in my life had changed, and I wasn’t happy about most of them. And so while I downloaded WoW on a whim one day, looking back on it I had a very set goal.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved imagination. While I had plenty of amazing toys as a kid, my absolute favorite thing to do was make up different worlds and characters within them to in which to play. Some of this would be at school during recess where my friends and I made up a game about a secret world beyond a gate (that I think might have been between two posts of a basketball net) that could only be opened with a special key. For the life of me, I can’t remember the details of this world, but I remember it kept us occupied for at least a year. When I got home from school, I had another world that I made up in the woods behind my house, and I would spend hours playing out there alone. I was that kid running around in the woods, pretending that the fruit from the mayapple was magic or that the leaves from jewelweed had the power to cure more than the mosquito bites my legs often had. Fallen trees became elaborate bases, and the space between where the roots from them pulled up the earth became entrances to caves where vicious geredins (which I remember being something like goblins) lived. I’m not kidding when I say that this world occupied me for years, though it wasn’t something I ever remember telling anyone other than my brother about.
Growing up means you often stop “playing pretend” and so as a teen I would write instead, whether it was terrible poetry or fantasy stories about characters I made up. I remember one afternoon when I was a senior in high school when my boyfriend came over and we took a walk in the woods. I started telling him about the games I played back there, and he surprised me by saying something along the lines of, “That sounds fun, why did you stop?” And then he picked up a stick and pretended it was a sword, and suddenly we were running through the woods, pretending we were on an adventure, even though we were “too old” for that sort of thing.
Going to college in a city made such possibilities feel even more remote for me, though I was lucky that D.C. still had some good woods that I could go running in and feel some kind of peace. I wasn’t playing anymore, but I would still tell myself stories as I vaulted over trees or danced across rocks in creeks. A friend and I had an idea for a video game that we worked on building the world for, and I wrote pages and pages of stories about it before my course load got too demanding and I had to focus on that instead. But I was still okay, because I was studying graphic design and I could be creative, if in a different way.
After college, I moved to New York and fell in love with Brooklyn, where I was perfectly happy to embrace the life of…Okay I don’t want to call myself a hipster, but it’s more or less accurate. I heard about this game called World of Warcraft, and it sounded interesting but dangerous. I knew that games like Everquest had the tendency to suck the life away from people, and I was trying to establish myself in this new place and make new friends. I went out to punk shows. I played old school video games at an awesome bar called Barcade. I adopted the most amazing dog in the world and spent time in the dog park with her. I snowboarded a lot, getting me into the mountains and out of the city. I was really happy. I could be creative at work and then go write in my livejournal about my real life adventures when I got home.
But then things happened. I moved to a place I didn’t like. Life changed a lot and not in ways that made me happy. I was feeling really lonely, not because I lacked friends, but because I felt like I lost some part of myself. At the time, I couldn’t quite figure out what that was.
So when I downloaded WoW for the first time, it wasn’t that I was looking for a massively multiplayer online game to play. I just wanted an RPG to escape to, and low and behold, I could actually play on my Mac. I zoned into Teldrassil for that first time and just spent five minutes staring at it. It looked so familiar to me. It looked like that world that I had imagined so many years ago. It caught my imagination from the start, and I knew whatever else, I wanted to be able to write about that world.
After restarting as a tauren to play with my friend, I set about finding myself an RP guild. I didn’t realize then that RP on Argent Dawn was dying. After a few months of searching, I found myself a guild that I felt I could get along with after spending a month lurking on their forums. I went to their RP events as I worked on leveling up my druid, though I had trouble RPing on her. I could still write stories about her adventures and I did. When my guild decided to do some Blood Knight specific RP, I rolled up a paladin too, even though I never like that class. I came up with a personality for her that I could deal with, and started attending the events, even though I still felt shy and like I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. After an event one night in Brill, I went to Undercity, thinking I would check the AH there for some gear before logging off for the night. I happened to run into some people from my guild, still playing in character and got into a conversation with a death knight.
Almost four years later and we’re still writing that conversation.
Suddenly, I had a character to write about again and a world to play in that wasn’t real. I’ve written thousands (really) of pages about this character and this world. I’ve made up my own lore for things that Blizzard hasn’t fleshed out. I have an entire cast of characters with their own personalities and stories. And best of all, I have someone to share all of this with. As much fun as it was playing alone all those years, having a person to bounce ideas off of and write with has been amazing as well.
I happier now because I have a creative outlet again. I have somewhere to send my mind to when I can’t sleep because I’m stressed out about grown up things like bills and money. Dealing with loss has been easier for me because I have somewhere to send that grief that isn’t just internalizing it. As much as I love raiding and questing and collecting random things, I doubt I would still be playing this game if it weren’t for both my amazing friends and the world that my imagination has to play in. It’s not so much that it’s changed my life as that it’s given me back something that I hadn’t realized I lost. It’s let me be myself again.
Post script: While many of the responses to this topic are amazing, there’s one I want to mention in particular. This post on Confessions of a Grown Up Gamer is a must read. It made me cry, but it shows exactly what is right with World of Warcraft.