With all the muttering at the moment about whether or not Cataclysm is any good, we’re facing a situation where many of us – perhaps all of us – are going to see in-game friends and companions leaving World of Warcraft, likely forever. I know that Rebecca’s and my own guild has seen one person leave in the last few months, and many of our readers will be facing the same situation.
Tamarind of Righteous Orbs is one of them. He’s recently seen a close friend quit the game, and it inspired him to write a thoughtful post not about the in-game reasons why, but the feelings and thoughts that the disappearance of a fellow player leave, particularly if it’s likely you’ll never interact with them again once they’re no longer in WoW.
It also made me realise just how fragile the connections we make in Azeroth can be. I suppose there’s an extent to which all connections are fragile – I mean how many times have we promised to stay in touch with colleagues and then never bothered, not because we didn’t give a damn but because it actually takes quite a lot of effort to maintain a friendship with someone when your lives aren’t naturally in harmony. So really there’s no difference between somebody stopping playing WoW and, I don’t know, moving to another city or giving up the football game or the poker night, or whatever. It’s just the intangibility of it all makes it seem worse somehow.
I suppose it’s because there’s more self-delusion involved in the real world examples – you can tell yourself that if you’ll just overcome the habits of a lifetime and do it right this time you can compensate for natural social inertia, but when WoW is the thing that brings, and binds, you together there’s no sense of control at all. And that person will be gone. If you’re very lucky you might have, gasp, a real name or, gasp, an email address but you’re so defined by the fact that he thinks you’re a belf in a sissy robe and you think he’s an angry bear I don’t know how far it is possible to transcend the limitations of Azeroth.
I’ve never really seen anyone address the sense of loss that almost invariably accompanies long-time involvement in an online game. I still miss the guildmates I played with back in Classic, from the guild that dissolved when we all vanished onto alts in TBC. And given that I first met the girl I love in World of Warcraft, it’s a scary thing to think that, had the situation been different, we might just have drifted apart or been separated by events in the game.
It’s sad but it’s true – all the developer changes and gradually aging content will have a cost in terms of friendships that fall apart and confidants we never see again.
What do you think? Do you make an effort to keep in touch with people who leave in game? Or are there still humans out there somewhere who you never knew outside their big shoulderpads and glowy epics who you wish you could have stayed in touch with?