Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flying Solo

Disclaimer: This post will contain short stories, personal reflections, and in-game experiences in order to convey the message intended. If you wish for a more controversial, theorycrafted, or general topic you are welcome to return on a day that I touch one of those subjects. not that day.

I'm quite positive that my story today won't reach many out there. What I mean is that some won't be able to empathise with my side, while others just might. But that's ok, because this story is about one man's perspective playing a game he loves. Glean from it what you may, you are welcome to stay and participate.

I play this game alone. Yes, my two main characters belong to a guild, and yes there are some really wonderful people in that guild that I've had some terriffic and stimulating conversations with. But really I play this game alone. To explain further, I have NO real life friends that play WoW. There may be some past acquaintences that play the game, but I'm sure I don't know about it. Additionally, I do not consider any person that I've met while playing WoW to be a real friend.

Friend and Friendly are definately two different words with two vastly different meanings in my book. Friendly involves being open, warm, inviting, courteous, helpful, polite, and generally nice to others. Sharing times and moments of success or laughter with other gamers is a good way to pass an evening, I believe. So often those in your guild are friendly to you, and you reciprocate the sentiments because that's what guildies do. Being friendly is a skill many, wonderful players have. Many a night has gone by where I've encountered a dozen or more truly friendly people. The game is filled with all kids of friendliness for me, that is indisputable in my case.

As I said, I don't consider anyone I play WoW with as a Friend. Friend to me carries a significant weight and meaning. There's not one other player who has held me in their arms when a family member died. Nobody has offered to watch my children while I go to yet another doctor who can't seem to help me fix my back. (Granted, most don't live near me, but that's not the point). I'm pretty sure that nobody I have every played with would be willing to die for me. Whatever definition you or I choose for a Friend, for my part I can say that I do have many true friends that are a part of my real life. It's just that currently, none have the habit of embarking on a virutal life in the same realm that I have chosen.

Definitions aside, it's always been an interesting journey playing this game alone. Interesting in that some of my experiences occured precisely because I don't play with anyone I know or anyone who I consider a friend. I'm a hard nut to crack as is, I just don't like letting people into my life until I feel that they are really serious about being a real friend to me. As a result I close myself off to a lot of people, sometimes to my detriment. Often I have seen two people questing together and can't help wonder if they always do that. Are those two real life friends? Maybe they are even married? When I see people like this bouncing around Azeroth I can't but help feel a little jealous for not having the opportunity to share my experiences with someone else.

I've gone on quests with guild-mates before, but somehow it always seemed like working in my back yard on a Saturday...instead of watching College Football. I've had to, out of courtesy and necessity, shared with a few guild-mates my physical handicaps because it's affected how active I can be with others. But even those times when people display simpathy for my condition, I may feel gratitude for thier kindness but I know they still can't be my friend. I have friends in real life who have come to my home to lift me off the floor when I can't get up. There have been others who have taken my children to the park because I can't get up and play soccer with my kid. I can't tell you how much I wish that they could enjoy this game with me, where we could be the two people to run around Azeroth together getting high on falling from the tops of mountains or raiding the lair of a particularly nasty bear.

I am happy to have real life friends who care for me and laugh with me. I'm happy to have friendly folk in WoW that I can play with. But oh how I wish that I could have a friend play the game with me. I play because I don't move around so well. I mean, I could watch TV a lot, but I don't. I already read A TON each year, so I'm still educating myself. Sitting at the computer for a couple hours a day is a relief to me, it's something I can do. I just wish that I could do it with someone else I knew.

Two Friends
I lied. I am not alone. My kids play with me...sort of. I only have one account, so they sort of just watch me play. But it's still a lot of fun. Last night I was in Pit of Saron, and upon approaching the final boss both me and my youngest son began chanting the opening words of Scourgelord Tyrannus together. It was innocent, fun, a diversion and a good moment with a boy I love. It may be cheating, to consider a son a friend, but since no other friends my age play this game, he's about the closest thing I get to playing with some kind of friend. And I love it.

I don't resent not having a real life friend to play with. I don't really care if it seems childish to want to have a playmate. Actually, I think it's probably natural. I've seen and heard stories of people in-game becoming real friends with others, I think that's great. I don't think it could ever happen with me, but that may come from my personality's unwillingness to let people into my life to such a degree that they could even approach friend status. Unless I met some of my guildies in real life, they will never be friends. I'll continue to play with these friendly folk, and be friendly in return. Perhaps one person, one day will surprise me. Maybe I'll strike up a conversation with someone who will one day become my best friend. I'm not completely closed to the idea.

If you have friends you play with, good for you. I really envy you and your friends. It's got to be a great thing to share such a unique, common interest. Thanks for stopping by and reading some of these words today. It was very...friendly of you.


Tesh said...

Great article, Gronthe.

I'm a confirmed soloer in WoW, but I've played Puzzle Pirates and Guild Wars with a "real life" friend. It really is different.

I'd rather play with my wife, though. She tried GW, but it just didn't click. Alas, we're stuck with board games. ;)

Still... great point on the difference between "friend" and "friendly".

Gronthe said...

@ Tesh: Thank you! My wife will play super mario brothers on the nintendo (one of the really old versions) she bought for herself, but that's about it. She won't play board games, and she'll play only one card game, Phase 10.

I reckon there's a bunch of soloers out there. Hence the better the virtual world is when people actually are "friendly".

Chris said...

Love the article. I actually have met some really cool ppl playing the game and wish we all lived closer together so that we could have the chance to become real friends. As you say, real friends do come from physical relationships in the real world.

An example is that all "best friends" I have today, all of whom live in other states, happened from surviving college together and bonding in ways that just can't happen in the virtual world. Today we stay connected virtually, but that alone would never lead to the type of friendships that happen when you spend time in the physical world.

Gronthe said...

@ Chris: Thanks :) Glad you enjoyed it. There really are a lot of great people out the in the virtual world that you or I could be real friends with. I think that's why some guilds go so far as to create RL meet-and-greets, to create those bonds that only come from those "physical relationships in the real world", as you put it.