Photo Credit: SunnyDayStarryNight at Flickr
In the years since I’ve become disabled and unemployed, I have developed a bit of a gaming habit. Now, I know this isn’t the best or wisest use of my time, but there have been many days when I have relied upon the distraction therapy that the games provide me. I don’t tend to think about how badly I hurt while I am immersed in my online world. If that makes me weird, then weird I shall be!
Though I have played many over the past 20 years, there are two to which I return on a regular basis. My first love was and still is The Sims franchise. My beloved mother-in-law started this obsession on my 30th birthday when she gifted the original Sims game to me. I have owned almost every game, expansion and stuff pack made for every Sims game, including The Sims Online. We are now on The Sims 4, and I continue to adore my “digital doll house,” and every family that I have created and played has left fond and lasting memories. In fact, one of my favorite families has inspired in me some creative writing, a sappy, sometimes awfully gooey love story which is still in progress. If Sims fan fiction interests you, you can catch up here. Keep in mind, if you do visit, that the story has not been updated in quite some time.
My second favorite game, which was actually encouraged by my enduring love of The Sims Online, is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. In 2008, The Sims Online, which by then had been transformed into EALand, had shut its servers down for good. TSO was my very first massively multiplayer online role playing game, or MMORPG, and I was heartbroken when it went offline. Enter World of Warcraft. Hubby has always been a Blizzard fan, having played the first Starcraft years before. It was he who got me immersed into the cartoonish but beautiful world of Azeroth. I began my subscription for the first time on April 1, 2008, just four months before EALand’s eventual demise. My first character, a blood elf hunter named Evilwendy, still lives and is still actively played to this day, though she has switched her allegiance from the Horde to Alliance, and has become a void elf in her older years. I still truly love playing her, despite the fact I am still not very good at it.
WoW is an extremely social game, but only so much as you allow it to be. You can join a guild or fly solo, join groups to raid dungeons or simply quest on your own. Early on, as a new player, hubby and I were involved in a guild of about 200 other players, a few of which we are still in contact with today. Eventually, hubby quit playing and left me to wander in my newfound habit alone. I joined up with another guild around the end of my second year playing, and met lifelong friends. Three people in particular, guys that I have kept close contact with both in and out of game, have become who I call my “brothers from other mothers.” We all spent many a night playing and chatting on Skype, building cherished memories. We still laugh about epic battles and the prized loot to this day.
Evilwendy and the “Prized Loot”
About a year later, the guys all quit playing at the same time. I played for what felt like an eternity alone, not wanting to give up our guild or my “kids” on that server. But I was lonely and after I decided they really weren’t coming back, I switched servers and allegiance, and created my first Alliance character. On the new server, it was just like starting over from scratch. No money, no guild, no friends. Although I joined a new guild, I had a rough time making friends. So in 2012, I took a 9 month hiatus from World of Warcraft.
In mid 2013, around 8 months or so into the expansion known as Mists of Pandaria, I returned to Azeroth. I missed my characters and the old content my brothers and I had once done together. But I also revisited my newer Alliance “toons,” as we call them, and joined a different family guild. I quickly fit into the new group of people, and made a whole new family of friends. We have been playing together ever since. My best girlfriend, who goes by Brandy in game, lives in Azeroth (and Louisiana!) To date, my character count on my current server stands at fourteen, and of those, three are at top level. I’m not sure it says much about my life, but it sure says volumes about my level of pain that I would play so often. As I stated earlier, the distraction therapy really helps me not think about hurting so darn much.
The fact is, the Internet has changed how people interact with one another. Some think their phones and mobile devices have liberated them, while other see themselves as slaves to them. No one can deny that tops of heads are the first thing people are likely to see in a room full of electronics, instead of faces. We no longer make eye contact with those to whom we speak, but vie for attention with phones and iPads. That being said, I would not have met my husband without the Internet. I was a late bloomer of sorts, not having my first computer until my mid 20s, but the Internet has held me captivated ever since. It was instrumental to my survival in the years after my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. People from all over the world, from all walks of life, folks that I would have never been able to contact or have any interaction with at all, that is the direct result of the Internet. Love it or hate it, the ability to go online is a lifesaver for those who either cannot socialize normally, due to disability or phobias, or who are away from their friends and families.
I believe my life is better, enriched by the people I have come to know over the course of 20 plus years online. It does not matter to me at all that I have never met the majority of my online friends face to face. I did manage to meet a small handful of people face to face, including my husband, that I had met online, and there are still a few I’d love the chance to see. But the friendships I have now are more than sufficient for me. They are my family, and I am theirs. Even hubby has a dear friend that he met over 12 years ago in a Christian forum. She and her husband have been so very important to both of us. We have watched their children born and grow up in pictures, celebrated successes and mourned failures together. During one of the roughest years of our married lives, it was our online family and friends who helped the most. We have played together, prayed together, laughed and cried together. We have celebrated the birth of children, the loss of loved ones, and everything in between. We have that one precious thing in common. We are nerds. There, I said it! We. Are. Nerds. I’m so not ashamed of that title any more. Whatever has brought us together bonds us, in many cases for life. Blood may be thicker than water, but you can’t make lemonade with blood. I’m just saying.
I think the photo at the front of this post says it all. “I don’t need to ‘get a life.’ I’m a gamer! I have lots of lives.”
Author’s note: This post was originally written, posted, and for some reason removed and reverted back to draft form. The reason for this is unclear, but I have not done a good job of remembering my original post. I sincerely apologize for this problem, and have taken steps to avoid this occurring in the future.