A couple of
days weeks months ago, my co-host and friend posted about his hopes and expectations for SWTOR from the perspective of being part of a gaming couple with a history of playing MMOs. I used to have a similar perspective, and recent posts from Oestrus and Soph reminded me to dig out this post that has been languishing, half written, in my drafts for a good 3 months.
Back when I started playing WoW, my partner and I shared an account. I played my little holy priest during the day, and he’d play his druid on another server when he got home from work. Eventually it became clear that a second account would be needed. Despite the fact that his character was more progressed, I kept the original account. Ho hum.
I really liked that priest, okay?
This was back in the day before RAF, before the Burning Crusade. When the expansion finally hit, I started playing again and the two of us levelled a pair of draenei clothies together. Him pew-pewing on his mage, me initially playing healer. Our characters had an odd sibling relationship, RP wise. My new priest was far, far older and in reality I was the younger. The day I got to DPS for the first time ever in a dungeon was a Scarlet Monastery run, probably the Library. I loved it. I’d been ‘healing’ as shadow spec in order to challenge myself a bit, but actually getting to DPS? Magic. I remember the smile on his face as he saw me finally ‘get’ why he enjoyed DPS.
Those two characters ended up going all the way from goofing around in the Deadmines to raiding the Black Temple as part of one of the best raiding guilds on the server. I tended to stick with one character and he rolled a multitude of alts. Dynamics changed as I became the one employed and he had more free time. Differences of opinion over guild dynamics and officering developed. While I never approached anything tanking duo of You Yank it You Tank it with him, a pretty cool questing rhythm developed, and those two characters had ways of dealing with just about anything and everything. Having a mage around was handy for food, travel, and having a priest around was great for those moments when blink goes horribly wrong and you end up falling off a cliff. Not that my partner ever did that. *cough*
Wrath of the Lich King rolls around and we levelled together again. There was much grinning and fun as we boarded the boat to Northrend. I saw most of Northrend with him, but with the dynamic of our relationship changing and the unrest in the guild (as well as a death in my family), things were not the same. When Cataclysm happened I was buried deep in enthusiasm for the game, and the friends I’d made through Twitter and WoW Insider, and the partner was extremely dissatisfied with the game and the guild we were in.
Of course, I am no longer in a relationship with him. I won’t go into the details, it’s never easy when a long relationship ends, but I never expected it to impact on how I viewed World of Warcraft. In some ways it feels like I’m going through a messy break up with WoW, as the split with my ex was pretty amicable (it was time, as it were) and for reasons unrelated to gaming.
I have noticed, over the past couple of years, how often bloggers talk about WoW as if they were in a romantic relationship with the game. One phrase I see a lot in my reader is ‘Cheating on WoW’ in reference to trying out other MMOs. The language used to referring to a break in playing is often uncomfortably close to that of an unhealthy, addictive relationship – or even a casual one that is more about convenience and the short term fix than long term results.
When I initially started this post I was going to trace my relationship with the game and how it tied into my relationship with my ex-Fiancé. Even though we’ve been broken up for going on 6 months or so, there are still characters I don’t log into because they give me extremely mixed feelings – memories of both happy and sad moments. Levelling through Outland is particularly hard for me because that was the expansion we actually played ‘together’ all the way. My characters tend to stall in Nagrand, and sit there looking lonely. And in many ways levelling through the old content of TBC and Wrath is a reminder of the all the guild ups and downs I had with a guild called Athanatoi. The momentous highs of server first Illidari Council, the frustration and impetus as our GMs slowly ran the guild into the ground, and all the officers burned out one by one.
The joy of rediscovering the game in Trial of the Crusader, of all places, where I started raiding as an Elemental shaman. Realising I still loved playing and that my new guild was awesome. Getting to play with Catulla of Flavor Text. The sadness I felt at any in guild bickering. These are things I wonder if I’ll ever get back because I can’t seem to find a social guild where I fit, or a regular rhythm of play that really allows me to connect with SWTOR or Rift in the way that I used to in WoW.
The Dating Game
So I have brief flings with other MMOs, I take them out and have fun when it’s convenient for me, and I pack them all away, with the lack of emotional investment, when they’ve become too mundane to sparkle once the initial lust has fallen off. It’s not so much cheating on WoW, but the casual drifting between games to find that virtual ‘home’, that place of safety that I once had. However in games, as in relationships, ‘safe’ doesn’t make ‘enduring’ any more than the initial sparkle of lust did.
I won’t deny that I enjoy the freedom of my newly solo experience, and in many ways I’m not alone in game – there is always twitter. Twitter and the blogosphere is my guild chat and forum, respectively. Yet the connections made there range from fleeting to lifetime friendship, but there is none of that sense of close knit community. This is another parallel with the ‘dating game’. You try your best to make the most of what the game offers you, but relationships with other players and guilds only give out as much as you give – and managing expectations in relationships (mmo or dating) is one of those difficult things that takes time to achieve.
This is one of those phrases that gets thrown around the online dating world a lot. ‘Expecting’ something can be a self-fulfilling prophecy because you sub-conciously act as if a particular thing is pre-determined. Or you expect the unreasonable. Or you don’t expect enough. You can’t go into a guild or a game with no-expectations, because at the end of the day you want the game (or relationship) to be a part of your life and for that to occur successfully certain criteria/needs/wants have to be fulfilled. It’s just sometimes an MMO or a relationship fits in ways that you don’t expect.
I guess what I am saying is that you can’t expect that shiny guild to be perfect on the inside. You can’t expect everyone else to jump to fill your needs and wants. You can’t expect that woman you’ve just met to be a perfect match. Relationships with people and games are so tied up in compromise that if you don’t compromise, you end up never playing at all.